January 3: William Passavant, Prophetic Witness, 1894

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About this commemoration

William Passavant was a Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor who left an uncommonly rich legacy of service. He was driven by a desire to see the consequences of the Gospel worked out in practical ways in the lives of people in need. For Passavant, the church’s commitment to the Gospel must not be spiritual only. It must be visible. For him, it was essential that Gospel principles were worked out in clear missionary actions.

Passavant was a parish pastor at heart and served in that capacity for much of his ministry even while pursing other duties. Passavant was the founder of numerous hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable organizations, principally in Western Pennsylvania, but the reach of his efforts extended from Boston and New York in the east to Chicago and Milwaukee in the mid-west. Many of these institutions continue to this day.

On a visit to Germany, Passavant came into contact with Theodor Fliedner, the founder of the reconstituted deaconess movement among German Lutherans, and in 1849 he invited Fliedner to come to Pittsburgh and bring four of his deaconesses to serve in the hospital there. A year later, in 1850, the first American Lutheran deaconess was consecrated by Passavant and thus began the renewed deaconess movement among American Lutherans.

Passavant also knew the importance of education and was the founder of a number of church schools scattered across the mid-west, principal among these being Thiel College, a Lutheran-affiliated college in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

In addition to his charitable, philanthropic, and educational work, and his guidance of the early years of the deaconess movement, Passavant was also a cutting-edge communicator of his time. He founded two church newspapers, The Missionary and The Workman, both designed to interpret the church’s mission, in consonance with the Lutheran confessions, for the purpose of provoking the desire of the faithful toward loving service to those in need without concern for race, color, creed, or national origin. Later generations of Lutheran communicators look to Passavant as one of the trailblazers of their vocation.

Passavant died on January 3, 1894.

Collects

I Compassionate God, we offer thanks for William Passavant, who did bring the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need and provide for the theological education of future ministers. Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless; through Jesus the divine Physician, who hath prepared for us an eternal home, and who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

II Compassionate God, we thank you for William Passavant, who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need and provide for the theological education of future ministers. Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless; through Jesus the divine Physician, who has prepared for us an eternal home, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 29:17–24

Revelation 3:14–22

Luke 13:10–22

Psalm

147:1–7

Preface of  God the Holy Spirit

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 January 3: William Passavant, Prophetic Witness, 1894

  1. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    Paragraph two – more specific examples of some of the surviving institutions and where – shat towns or cities – they are. Was his involvement in the Deaconess movement also influential in the adooption of Deaconesses by TEC?

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Collect: The collect reads like a laundry list of Pastor Passavant’s deeds. It could stand a re-write, IMO.

    Readings. This set seems quite good, and are of a good length.

    Bio. He was born when and where?
    2nd paragraph: Typographical error (in the printed edition also) : pursuing, not pursing.

    • Philip Wainwright says:

      Yes. The collect shouldn’t repeat the details of the bio but give thanks for the willingness of the commemorated person to be used.

  3. Nigel Renton says:

    Line 1, first paragraph: after “was” insert “born in Zelienople, Pennsylvania on October 9, 1821. He attended Jefferson College and later Gettysburg Seminary.” Delete the rest of the first sentence. Move the rest of the paragraph to begin the fourth paragraph.

    (Once again, we have biographies written to show a conclusion of a person’s service at the top, instead of following the linear chronological order of events. I have consistently recommended that we always begin with what we know about a person’s date and place of birth and early years, before summarizing his or her achievements.)

    Line 6, third paragraph: substitute “set apart” for “consecrated”. Because we use “consecrated” only for bishops in The Episcopal Church, the use of the word here would be confusing to many readers.

    Line 1, fourth paragraph: insert all the text after “He” from the first paragraph. Begin the rest of the fourth paragraph with the word “He”.

    I have searched in vain for the place of Passavant’s death. It should be added to the final sentence.

  4. Celinda Scott says:

    Personally interesting to me because he was born in Zelienople, not far from Pittsburgh–we often pass by the exit for it. And that the town was named for his mother, Zelie (this from Wikipedia). Question: does he have a connection with Passavant Hospital, founded in the 1840s in Pittsburgh, and later moved to the North Hills? I couldn’t find out for sure on line.

    • John LaVoe says:

      Passavant Area Hospital has been built on and continues to thrive because of the generous support we receive. These donations have allowed us to continually update our equipment, provide new services, and establish new healthcare programs for our patients and for the communities we serve.

      We are fortunate to have so many supporters in our service area who have followed in the footsteps of our very first benefactor Mrs. Eliza Ayers, who in 1875 donated the property on East State Street to Reverend William Passavant.

  5. John LaVoe says:

    William Passavant, Prophetic Witness, 1894
    .
    In general, I could live with this as is; there’s certainly nothing offensive about it. Critically speaking, it reads more like an introduction of the guest of honor at a presentation awards banquet than is our usual format in HWHM, especially the first paragraph, which proclaims a litany of ideals he held, but no specific factual or biographical information other than “Pennsylvania” and “Lutheran.” The 1st sentence in the 2nd paragraph is also without cognitive content: i.e., pastor’s heart, other duties, (who knows what, where, why, when or how so?). It mentions a visit to Germany, but the only fact mentioned was who he met there (by accident or on purpose is not said). The phrases “reconstituted deaconess” and “renewed deaconess” sound like they refurbished the old ones and then sent them back out, re-soul’d, to the retail outlet.
    .
    It’s probably pointless to mention again, but the title “Prophetic Witness” doesn’t seem meaningful to me. Just because someone makes a contribution in an important way to ministry, doesn’t make the person a prophet. And, since every Christian is called to witness, the second word doesn’t add a whole lot to the phrase, either. (Truth be told, “PROPHETIC WITNESS” sounds to my ears too much like the” Witness Protection” program, run by the Justice Department, — this one could be run by Church Courts under the new Title IV Canons: Prophetic Witness Protection Program?)
    .
    “Provoking,” in the phrase, “for the purpose of provoking,” is an odd word choice. In my mind it leans to the negative, as in “he provoked a fight” or “…a riot,” etc. “Stimulating” comes to mind as a possible substitution. (I was provoked to say that.)
    .
    “Later generations of Lutheran communicators look to Passavant as one of the trailblazers of their vocation.” — I’m sure the word “vocation” can be used in secular ways, as in “vocational training” or “vocational schools,” or “he found his vocation in recycling pick-up.” I just don’t see how one person can be the trailblazer of someone else’s (or some group’s) vocation. (“He’s a great psychiatrist. Freud was the trailblazer of his vocation”(?)) Re-wording the sentence would be an improvement. (“Later generations of Lutheran communicators credit Passavant as pioneering the field of religious journalism.”)
    .
    THE COLLECT:
    (1) “Compassionate” sounds apropos. “God” is a common noun; the fact that we’re monotheists makes us think of it as a name. How we address God here could be improved upon.
    (2) “that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals” – Somehow, this seems to discount the proportion of work involved. THEY helped HIM? I’m willing to be THEY did the WORK. How about, “… Passavant, who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might serve your [JFL: i.e., God’s] needy ones in orphanages and hospitals, and who provided for the theological education of future ministers….”
    .
    “Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless;…” — I’ve commented previously that while one or two prayers in the style of, “make us do what he/she did,” a year’s round of “make us do what everyone on the calendar did” will drive us nuts. No one can imitate a whole calendar’s rota of outstanding individuals’ very varied and superlative achievements. (Not many would be on the list, in the first place, if they were all copying some other predecessor.) Good spiritual direction would, I think, have us pray instead for the KIND of grace that allows us to do IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES, AND WITH OUR GIFTS, ABILITIES, AND CALLINGS, as zealously as so-and-so did in hers (his). I’m a bit disgruntled (bah humbug) at the idea of a scientist in the barren ice fields of Antarctica having to pray “…that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless;…” It invalidates the integrity of that person’s calling, which he or she could be living with full faith and to a heroic degree – or else it makes them liars before God for not meaning the words of the prayer (but mouthing it anyway, with total indifference, as an empty and meaningless formality). If this objection can’t be acted upon, at least change the petition so it’s clear that THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE is meant: ““Inspire YOUR CHURCH [or YOUR CHURCH’S MINISTRY] by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants … ETC.”
    .
    READINGS: Isaiah is an excellent selection. Psalm 147:1-7 is short and sweet, and mentions outcasts, broken hearted, and downtrodden in the context of divine praise. It’s a good choice.
    Revelation 3:14-22 is surprisingly (even shockingly) chiding in its tone for this commemoration:
    15 …you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.
    16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
    17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
    18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
    19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
    I would recommend the letter to Philadelphia, Revelation 3:7-13, as being much less scolding in nature, and much more a proclamation of encouragement:

    7 …These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens:
    8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
    9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying–I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.
    10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
    11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
    12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
    13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
    .
    The Gospel selection, Luke 13:10–22, ends well from 18-22. The opening section, — Jesus’ healing/ exorcising of the woman unable to stand straight for 18 years leading into the controversy about working on the Sabbath, — seems like it overshadows his teachings about the Kingdom of God being like the mustard seed and the yeast, and the summary of Jesus’ teaching on his way to Jerusalem. I’d suggest staying with 18-22 and eliminating (or making optional) verses 10-17.

    Compassionate God, we thank you for William Passavant, who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need and provide for the theological education of future ministers. Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless; through Jesus the divine Physician, who has prepared for us an eternal home, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

  6. Celinda Scott says:

    Thanks, John, for checking into Passavant hospitals. He must have founded (or been instrumental in their founding) quite a few of them. The one you mention is in Ohio, I think, and the one I know of is near Pittsburgh.

  7. Celinda Scott says:

    Correction of my post above: the one from whose website you quoted is in Illinois. Its historical timeline begins as you mention:

    “1875: Mrs. Eliza Ayers donated property to the Rev. W.A. Passavant’s Lutheran Association for Works of Mercy for use as hospital. Two Lutheran deaconesses assigned to Jacksonville to care for patients.”

    Scrolling down to the bottom, one sees that it’s in Illinois.

  8. Pingback: January 3 – William Passavant : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

  9. Pingback: Wind Chimes: 03 Jan 2013 | Hear what the Spirit is saying

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