Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy 194th Birthday!

Today, July 14, 2011 is the 194th anniversary of the founding of St. Luke's. By happy chance, at Morning Prayer this morning, among the hymns suggested by Marion Hatchett in his liturgical index to the Hymnal 1982 was 533, "How wondrous and great thy works, god of praise!" This text was written by Bishop Henry U. Onderdonk.

If we think of the founding of the parish, we naturally think of Col. Nathaniel Rochester. Henry Onderdonk deserves remembrance as well. Onderdonk was the priest sent by Bishop John Henry Hobart to assist Rochester and the many others who wished to found a parish in Rochesterville. At the time, Onderdonk was the Rector of St. John's Church, Canandaigua.

Onderdonk was an interesting figure in the early life of the Episcopal Church. He espoused "high church" views. In his day, "high church views" meant a valuing of the tradition of the church, worship strictly according to the Prayer Book, an an emphasis on the leadership of the ordained, in particular, bishops. It was opposed to the "low church" view which emphasized the principals of the reformation, especially those of John Calvin.

Onderdonk was elected assistant bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1827. His election was vehemently protested by a group of a low church sympathizers from Pennsylvania and elsewhere whose candidate had narrowly lost. It was, I believe, the first official protest of the election of a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The ten points of the protest and the response of the consecrators denying the objection can be found at Rochester figured in all this because the protesters produced copies of letters by which Dr. Onderdonk appeared to be interfering in the election of a rector for St. Luke's.

Onderdonk was consecrated and eventually became the Bishop of Pennsylvania in 1836, but his detractors never let up. In 1844 he was accused of alcoholism and he was suspended from the ministry by the House of Bishops. They reinstated him in 1856, two years before his death. The veracity of the charge against him has always been in doubt.

Ironically, Onderdonk's brother, Benjamin, was Bishop of New York from 1830-1861, so our bishop until the creation of the Diocese of Western New York in 1839.

Just some interesting historical tidbits!

How wondrous and great thy works, God of praise!
How just, King of saints, and true are they ways!
O who shall not fear thee, and honor thy Name?
Thou only, art holy, thou only, supreme.

To nations of earth thy light shall be shown;
their worship and vows shall come to thy throne:
thy truth and they judgment shall spread all abroad,
till earth's every people confess thee their God.
(this is a paraphrase of "The Song of the Redeemed," Canticle 19 in the Prayer Book, which is Revelation 15:3-4)

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