July 27: William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909
July 27, 2010 12 Comments
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About this commemoration
“First presbyter of the Church,” was the well-deserved, if unofficial,
title of the sixth rector of Grace Church, New York City. Huntington
provided a leadership characterized by breadth, generosity,
scholarship, and boldness. He was the acknowledged leader in the
House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention
during a period of intense stress and conflict within the Church. His
reconciling spirit helped preserve the unity of the Episcopal Church in
the painful days after the beginning of the schism, led by the Assistant
Bishop of Kentucky, which resulted in the formation of the Reformed
In the House of Deputies, of which he was a member from 1871 until
1907, Huntington showed active and pioneering vision in making
daring proposals. As early as 1871, his motion to revive the primitive
order of “deaconesses” began a long struggle which culminated in
1889 in canonical authorization for that order. Huntington’s parish
immediately provided facilities for this new ministry, and Huntington
House became a training center for deaconesses and other women
workers in the Church.
Christian unity was Huntington’s great passion throughout his
ministry. In his book, The Church Idea (1870), he attempted to
articulate the essentials of Christian unity. The grounds he proposed
as a basis for unity were presented to, and accepted by, the House of
Bishops in Chicago in 1886, and, with some slight modification, were
adopted by the Lambeth Conference in 1888. The “Chicago-Lambeth
Quadrilateral” has become a historic landmark for the Anglican
Communion. It is included on pages 876–878 of the Book of Common
Prayer, among the Historical Documents of the Church.
In addition to his roles as ecumenist and statesman, Huntington is
significant as a liturgical scholar. It was his bold proposal to revise
the Prayer Book that led to the revision of 1892, providing a hitherto
unknown flexibility and significant enrichment. His Collect for
Monday in Holy Week, now used also for Fridays at Morning Prayer,
is itself an example of skillful revision. In it he takes two striking
clauses from the exhortation to the sick in the 1662 Prayer Book,
and uses them as part of a prayer for grace to follow the Lord in his
I O Lord our God, we thank thee for instilling in the heart
of thy servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love
for thy Church and its mission in the world; and we pray
that, with unflagging faith in thy promises, we may make
known to all people thy blessed gift of eternal life; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart
of your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love
for your Church and its mission in the world; and we
pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may
make known to all people your blessed gift of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of Baptism
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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