December 22: Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this commemoration

Born in Virginia, in 1840, Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon was the child of pious, and affluent, Baptist parents. Precocious in schooling, she received an M.A. in Classics, thereby earning one of the first graduate degrees awarded a woman in the South. She had a gift for languages, learning first the Biblical and Romance languages—and then later, and famously, Mandarin.

Lottie Moon’s piety lagged behind her learning, and through her teens she remained indifferent to her Baptist heritage. During a revival at age eighteen, she experienced a powerful conversion and devoted the rest of her life to Christ.

After college, Moon taught school in Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia, one of the few occupations open to educated women in the South. Another vocation became available to her when Southern Baptists began to appoint women as foreign missionaries in 1872, and the following year, at age 33, Moon accepted an appointment in China.

Moon settled in Northern China and continued her work of education for girls. She soon became restless in teaching and she began evangelizing among adults, particularly women. Her supervisors disapproved of her initiative, but Moon quickly gained credibility because of her ease in relating, woman-to-woman.

Lottie Moon’s ceaseless correspondence with Baptist women in the United States, seeking their support and encouraging would-be missionaries, was instrumental in the denomination’s burgeoning missionary movement. She appealed to women for a special offering for missionaries at Christmastime in 1887. Her influence led to the formation of the Women’s Missionary Union in 1888, which continues the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as a hallmark of Southern Baptist practice.

On arriving in China, Moon remained aloof from the Chinese, thinking them her cultural inferiors. Over time, however, she found a deep respect for Chinese culture, adopting not only their language but their dress and customs. As she wrote, “It is comparatively easy to give oneself to mission work, but it is not easy to give oneself to an alien people. Yet the latter is much better and truer work than the former.”

Lottie Moon died on Christmas Eve, 1912.

Collects

I O God, who in Christ Jesus hast brought Good News to those who are far off and to those who are near: We praise thee for awakening in thy servant Lottie Moon a zeal for thy mission and for her faithful witness among the peoples of China. Stir up in us the same desire for thy work throughout the world, and give us the grace and means to accomplish it; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II O God, in Christ Jesus you have brought Good News to those who are far off and to those who are near: We praise you for awakening in your servant Lottie Moon a zeal for your mission and for her faithful witness among the peoples of China. Stir up in us the same desire for your work throughout the world, and give us the grace and means to accomplish it; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Ruth 1:15–19a

2 Corinthians 5:16–21

John 1:29–33

Psalm

148:1–6

Preface of a Saint (2)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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12 Responses to December 22: Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912

  1. Dan Martins says:

    We kept this commemoration last night at our regular Wednesday Eucharist at St Anne’s, Warsaw, IN. The consensus of those attending and offering feedback was that Lottie Moon was a truly remarkable woman with many admirable qualities well worthy of emulation by disciples of Jesus. Weighing only 50 pounds at the time of her death, she can almost be said to have literally “poured out her life” in the service of the gospel. She was indeed an heroic witness. We also thought it odd for a Southern Baptist of her time and place to be included in an Anglican sanctoral calendar. She would find the very concept of such a thing–to say nothing of her own inclusion–amusingly irrelevant at best, and probably odious, due to her own Baptist theology. Does it not seem just a bit disrespectful to “honor” her in this way? Could we with a straight face include her in the Litany of the Saints–“Blessed Lottie Moon, pray for us”? I would suspect not.

  2. Celinda Scott says:

    Thanks, Fr. Martins, for the additional information about Lottie Moon. You raise an interesting question about inclusion in the calendar of someone in a church not in full communion with us. I’m wondering if she would indeed find it “odious” to be included (or simply “strange”). Her devotion to mission work (and her own growth in acceptance of another culture) may outweigh scruples about being thought of as a “saint” in the Anglican calendar, since reading about her has the possibility of broadening our own sense of mission. If a main purpose of the calendar is to show good examples of Christian life and mission, I’d think it doesn’t make any difference–at least to us, and possibly to her–that she was a Baptist. I would never have heard of Lottie Moon if it hadn’t been that she’s proposed for HWHM.

  3. Michael Hartney says:

    Hallelujah – Lottie Moon makes it into The Episcopal Church calendar!
    But why? Revered by Baptists throughout the South I have never heard of a particular devotion to her in our Church. I doubt that Baptists will be reciprocating with an Episcopal Church missionary in their calendar (if they even have a calendar).

    Title: Why is she a Missionary in China? Shouldn’t she be a ‘Missionary to China’?

    Readings. If she stays, these readings seem to fit.

    Bio. 1st paragraph: ‘earning one of the first graduate degrees awarded a women in the South..’ Here ‘South’ is capitalized. I have commented before about this inconsistency. If it stays capitalized then other references to the South in other bios should be consistent.

    • Scott says:

      As a Southern Baptist, I am delighted to see the work Lottie Moon has done being honored your faith tradition.

      Just two points of clarification. While Lottie Moon, like most people deserving honor, would have thought she didn’t deserve to be honored, she would have certainly thought of herself as a saint–as she would have thought of all those with faith in Christ as saints.

      Secondly, while Baptists don’t have a liturgical calendar, there are some Anglicans and Episcopalians who are particularly esteemed in Southern Baptist circles. C. S.Lewis is perhaps the easiest and most ready example. Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters are particularly poured over by Baptists of all stripes–especially Baptist youth.

  4. Karl Stevens says:

    Is she on the calendar at the request of a Chinese constituency within the church or out of the desire to correct the imbalance between male or female saints? If her inclusion is to honor worldwide Christianity, wouldn’t this be best served by adding a Chinese saint? If to correct the imbalance between men and women, aren’t there plenty of women saints from the medieval and renaissance periods whom we aren’t honoring whom we could include in her place? Once again, I’m worried by the weighting of those we honor in favor of the 19th and 20th centuries.

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  6. Celinda Scott says:

    What cynicism expressed above about inclusion in general. Just what is a “pressure group?” Are people who call themselves progressives, or Evangelicals, or Anglo-Catholics, or ecumenicists, etc. simply pressure groups? — Good idea, though, to include Chinese saints as well as missionaries to the Chinese. And do add more people from the 10th century and others (although I suppose medievalists, who could offer some names for inclusion, could be thought of simply as one more “pressure group”).

  7. Dan Martins says:

    I agree with what I perceive to be the gist of Celinda’s first comment. I am personally enriched by having learned about Lottie Moon, about whom I was ignorant despite Southern Baptist roots on my mother’s side. Indeed, if Southern Baptists could conceive of such a thing as a sanctoral calendar, Lottie Moon would be a slam dunk for theirs. But can there not be some distinction between someone who is considered “worth knowing about” and someone to whom we accord the peculiar veneration we reserve for those who inhabit our calendar? So the question, as in the case of so many of these new proposals, comes down to whether the purpose of a calendar is, as Celinda puts it, is “to show good examples of Christian life and mission.” I would argue that, while we do indeed find such examples in the calendar, this is not the “main purpose” of a calendar. The main purpose of a calendar is, as I understand it, to express a consensus of a particular community or stream within the Church Catholic around those whose witness and example are particularly formative on that community’s ongoing worship and piety. To choose a random example, Jackson Kemper is, I think, appropriately commemorated in the Episcopal Church, but I certainly would not commend his commemoration to the Anglicans in, say, Southern Africa, much less to non-Anglicans. So, yes, Lottie Moon is a great “saint” for Southern Baptists. For Episcopalians, not so much.

    • Sarah V. Lewis says:

      Dan Martins’ comments lead me to wonder whether a book honoring non-Anglican North American Christian worthies might be in order. Perhaps it could be called “Enriching our appreciation of other Christian lives in the world around us.” Is HWHM is trying to accomplish too much in a single work?

      When a Bexley Hall student in Rochester, NY, I learned a great deal about the history & people of several other faith traditions in a mandated CRCDS course. At the same time I brought to the attention of our class an awareness of the contributions of the Episcopal Church to our common history. I do believe we need a broader awareness & deeper appreciation of Christ at work in the larger Church, of which we are a part. I am not sure that HWHM is the best venue for this.

  8. John LaVoe says:

    Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912
    .
    Where earn Master’s?
    .
    (“one of the few occupations open to educated women in the South”) I think you can leave off the words “in the South.” Teaching was one of the few occupations open to educated women in the North, too.
    .
    (“Another vocation became available to her”) We tend to use “vocation” as is it were equivalent to “career field.” Theologically, I don’t think that is quite accurate, and in terms of this bio she doesn’t appear to have given up teaching, regardless of the other things she expanded into. Bottom line, I’d say teaching was part of her larger Christian vocation, and she didn’t change vocations so much as continue to grow into the fullness of it.
    .
    (“…when Southern Baptists began to appoint women as foreign missionaries in 1872, and the following year, at age 33, Moon accepted an appointment in China.”) Some things don’t need to be completely spelled out, in this case the arithmetic. We know when she was born. This could be simplified to something like, “A year after…” etc. or “In 1873, a year after Southern Baptists…” etc.
    .
    (“Her supervisors disapproved of her initiative, but Moon quickly gained credibility because of her ease in relating, woman-to-woman…”) Nothing is made here of the conflict with supervisors. I wold think it sufficient to skip that piece and simply say, “Moon quickly gained….” etc.
    .
    Para 6 (after beginning work in China in para 4): (“On arriving in China,…”) I found it disconcerting to begin a paragraph late in the write-up with the words “On arriving in China” after having so much already said about her work in China. It seems the point could be made by saying something like, “Moon herself wrote,’It is comparatively easy to give oneself to mission work, but it is not easy to give oneself to an alien people. Yet the latter is much better and truer work than the former.’ Over time she discovered a deep respect for Chinese culture, adopting not only the language but the Chinese dress and customs of the Chinese people.” (That is, omit the sentence referring to “inferiors.”)
    .
    In the collects, I don’t believe it proper to refer to God’s “mission.” A mission is usually something assigned, and I doubt anyone assigned it to God. The Church has a mission, missionaries have a mission, and Baptized Christians have a mission. In the collect, perhaps “missionary work” (or something similar) could be substituted for “your [God’s] mission.”

    Also, the plural form (“peoples”) generally applies to a plurality on a national or other fairly clear, widespread, identifiable basis for the plurality. I didn’t think her work warranted the reference to the plural form of people. The word in the singular seems to fit, but the plural strikes me as overreaching its normal usage, despite the fact that distinctions could be drawn among various groups within China. (The collect is specific in that “peoples” refers to those among whom she worked.).

    O God, in Christ Jesus you have brought Good News to those who are far off and to those who are near: We praise you for awakening in your servant Lottie Moon a zeal for your mission and for her faithful witness among the peoples of China. Stir up in us the same desire for your work throughout the world, and give us the grace and means to accomplish it; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
    .

  9. Nigel Renton says:

    Lottie is an abbreviation of “Charlotte”. The title should be shown as ‘Charlotte (“Lottie”) Moon’. Then the first line should show her as ‘Charlotte (“Lottie”) Digges Moon’.

    (Wikipedia shows her middle name as “Digges”, and I found another source that uses that spelling. That seems more likely than “Diggs”) This should be checked

    Line 1, first paragraph: add “Albemarle County,” after the first “in”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: add “on December 12,” after “Virginia”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: if confirmed, correct spelling to “Digges”.

    Line 5, first paragraph: I suggest substituting “Hebrew and Greek” for “the Biblical”, and “French, Spanish, and Italian” for “the Romance languages”. Some readers will not know what “Romance” means here. I think it unlikely that she learned Portuguese; the other three are listed by Wikipedia.

    Line 1, 7th paragraph: add “, aboard a vessel in Kobe, Japan, on her way back to the U.S.to recuperate from illness.” after “1912”.

  10. I’ve known of Lottie Moon all my life. Southern Baptists have always collected money in December for a special Lottie Moon Christmas offering. Adults, young people, and children in various groups across the United States save all year and make their contributions in memory of Lottie Moon’s mission work.

    Lottie’s middle name comes from the Edward Digges family. Edward was the fourth son of Sir Dudley Digges (1583-1638) and his wife Mary Kempe of Kent, England. Edward was one of the colonial governors of Virginia (1655-56). In various places in history the last name is spelled differently; sometimes it is Diggs, sometimes it is Digges, and in later years became Deggs. (Since there were no spelling rules in those days and many could not read and write in the early times, we assume they sounded it out.) I’ve always been told that Lottie was kin to the Digges family through her mother, but I do not know the whole story. If anyone knows this, I would love to hear from you. (Deggs was my mother’s maiden name and we know that Edward’s family are my mother’s kin.)

    Concerning the comments preceding mine, I believe if we accept the love of Christ into our hearts and share it truly with others, the Lord will not care about the denomination. And the person who is trying to “correct” the writing needs to find something else to do besides criticize. If he wants to grade papers, he needs to be a secondary English teacher as I was for fifty-five years. I sometimes feel I’m grading essays in my sleep! Nobody appreciates snobbish, rude comments from anyone.

    Respectfully,
    Lois Ladd Swinney
    (Mother – Helena Pearl Deggs Ladd)
    cameo7@earthlink.net

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