February 12: Charles Freer Andrews, Priest and “Friend of the Poor” in India, 1940

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Charles Freer Andrews, photograph by Howard Coster, 1935

About this commemoration

Affectionately called “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” by his friend, the Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Freer Andrews dedicated his life’s work to relief and justice for the oppressed and poor in India and around the globe.

Born in Birmingham, England in 1871, he converted to the Church of England while studying at Cambridge and was ordained a priest in 1897. An active member of the Christian Social Union since his college days, Andrews was inspired by the cause of social justice throughout the British Empire, particularly in India. In 1904 he joined the Cambridge Brotherhood in India and began to teach philosophy at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. His Indian students and colleagues, with whom he had grown close, referred to him as Deenabandhu, or “Friend of the Poor.”

Andrews openly criticized the racist mistreatment of the Indian people by British officials and, in 1913, he successfully mediated a cotton worker’s strike in Madras which had the potential to become violent.

He traveled to South Africa to help the Indians there in their dispute with the Government, and it was then that he met a young lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi. Andrews was impressed with Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence and with his knowledge of the Christian faith, and helped him establish an ashram, or Indian hermitage, devoted to the practice of peace. In 1915, Andrews helped convince Gandhi to return to England with him. He also aided Gandhi in his efforts to negotiate matters of Indian autonomy with the British Government.

Andrews’ work also took him to Fiji, where he advocated for indentured Indian workers and for the rights of oppressed sugar workers. He eventually returned to England, where he continued to teach about social justice and radical discipleship until his death in 1940.

Collects

I    Gracious God, who didst call Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself, after the example of our Savior, so that he might proclaim thy salvation to the peoples of India and the Pacific Islands: By thy Holy Spirit inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II    Gracious God, you called Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself, after the example of our Savior, so that he might proclaim your salvation to the peoples of India and the Pacific Islands: By your Holy Spirit inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Deuteronomy 15:7–11

Ephesians 2:13–22

Matthew 23:8–12

Psalm 113:2–8

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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14 Responses to February 12: Charles Freer Andrews, Priest and “Friend of the Poor” in India, 1940

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    Readings. Psalm: It begins at verse 2, why not include verse 1? At least then you have a whole Psalm.
    Hallelujah!
    Give praise, you servant of the Lord; *
    Praise the Name of the Lord.

    New Testament reading: This is perhaps the longest new New Testament reading in HWHM.,

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Not being able to correct misspellings, etc. is a continual issue for all of us on this blog. 😦

      Of course I should have typed: ‘Give praise, you servants of the Lord.’

  2. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    I waas totally unaware of the life and work of Charles Andrews, but now that we tell me about him, it sounds as if he is exactly te kind of (relatively) mordern witness to the Faith that we need the celebrate and preach about.
    The propers seem particulary apt.

    • Charlotte Corneil says:

      Leonel, I think you are right. Although I have known of him, I thought that the Anglican Communion might not want to recognize him. Obviously I was wrong. Three cheers for the Commission and Church. Andrews is such an excellent example of being the Church in the world. I specially liked the proper from Deuteronomy, generally one of my least favorite books.

  3. Celinda Scott says:

    I agree with all the comments above, and appreciate Charlotte’s about his “being the church in the world.” So interesting to know about his work with Gandhi in caring for the same people.

  4. Philip Wainwright says:

    ‘You called Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself’—lol as they say, until ‘after the example of our Savior’—really? Though he was in the form of God, didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped? Became obedient unto death, even death on a cross? Please revise.

  5. Celinda Scott says:

    Well, I have to agree with Dr. Wainwright, too. I hadn’t really read the collect, just the bio. Yes, he brought the church into the world. But no, he didn’t “proclaim salvation” to people in the sense of their being freed from their own sins. He helped free them from the results of others’ sins, and that’s extremely important, but it’s not the same thing. –I wonder what the collect writer was thinking when he talked about Freer’s “emptying himself after the example of our Savior.”

  6. John LaVoe says:

    Good commemoration. Thank you.

    A couple of questions about the collect. (Naturally.) First, it may just be my own acculturation and habits, but middle names strike me as awkward unless they distinguish one person from another with an otherwise indistinguishable first and last name. If we were praying for James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree, would all that be necessary or would God know who we meant if we just said James DuPree? (If we’d just heard the bio read, I suspect even some of us would still remember who it was — unless medically prevented.)

    Secondly, do the petition and the “so that” clause in this collect depart a bit from the commemoration? “… inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior;…” To be sure, I like those aspirations. Assuming “inspire us with like zeal” (addressed to Gracious God) means “give us a like zeal” (I think literally it asks God to act with zeal in granting what we ask), it needs at least some tweaking — otherwise it tells God, “and hop to it!” Beyond that, was Andrews’ concern to “bring together people of every race and class?” He certainly advocated on behalf of disadvantaged races and classes. But, was bringing them together “his thing”? I didn’t read the bio that way. As I read it, HELPING them was “his thing.”

    Finally, was it his object, or even his hope, “that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior”? That’s good evangelism, but I didn’t catch evangelism as the underlying motive expressed in the write-up; it was “relief and justice for the oppressed and poor in India and around the globe,” according to the first paragraph.

    It just seems like, while a fine prayer, it wanders a bit from the actual commemoration, whereas it wouldn’t be weaker or harder if we had a collect that had more to do with the “real” Charles Freer Andrews.
    Sincerely yours,
    “THAT JOHN LAVOE”

  7. John LaVoe says:

    About the Readings: Good selections from the New Testament, and tolerable selections from the Old Testament, especially towards the end of the psalm, but the the Deuteronomy reading seems inwardly over-focused for use with Andrews’ commemoration, who was outstandingy NOT self-absorbed in any degree. The reading actually specifies Israel as the locus (and extent) of its admonitions:

    7 : If there is among you anyone in need, a member of YOUR community in any of YOUR towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving YOU, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward YOUR needy neighbor.

    Even verse 11, the most far reaching in the whole selection, ends with an inwardly focused emphasis: (“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in YOUR land.”) We can live with this if it doesn’t get changed, but there have to be readings more magnanimous and inclusive in outlook. “Light to the nations” passages come to mind.

  8. Nigel Renton says:

    This entry should be in the calendar for the date of his death, not his birth. He could share with the Indian Pandita Ramabai on April 5.

    The long subtitle would be improved by omitting reference to the fact that he was a priest.

    Here again we have the “journalist” style, which ill fits this work. We don’t need a summary of his achievements at the start of the bio.

    Once again we have the “journalist” at work, thinking it clever writing to put many words at the start of a sentence before we read the subject. This style is fine once in a while, but please let’s not have two such gimmicks at the start of what is now the second paragraph.

    Imagine John 11, 34-35 paraphrased to (“Grieving over the death of his friend and aware of the sorrow being suffered by his surviving sisters, Jesus wept.”)

    To maintain the style of HWHM, the pattern of beginning with what we know of the birth of the saint should be maintained.

  9. Pingback: February 12 – Charles Freer Andrews : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

  10. Ivy says:

    Random thought…..in the movie Ghandi, there was a young English clergyman named Charlie who was Ghandi’s friend in South Africa, who then parted with him to work elsewhere. The material I read on the movie said Charlie was a fictional character. Although he was very young looking in the movie, it’s good to know that he wasn’t fictional at all. So glad I read this….made me happy today.

    Editor’s note: Ivy, thanks for your comment. Next time, please leave your last name, too. — Ed.

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