Monday, November 30, 2015

Winston Churchill: British Political Icon And Honorary American Born On This Day In 1874

Ralph Waldo Emerson said "there is properly no history, only biography." You'll get some argument about that statement these days.  On the other hand, in the last century and a half there is the person of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. I think we would be hard-pressed to find a better illustration of history as biography in that time frame.

Churchill with his son and grandson in 1953

From his Wikipedia entry:

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD DL FRS RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill), and an artist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

The Lion at 10 Downing Street, London, in 1940

Churchill in 1895
For more information on Winston Churchill go here.  And here - thanks to Steven Hayward writing at Powerline Blog - is a teachable moment from the great political philosopher, Leo Strauss, on hearing of Churchill's death in 1965.  Finally, we cannot forget Churchill as a historian. He was both an extraordinary observer and compelling writer. New readers should start their journey with My Early Life: A Roving Commission, first published in 1930.  I have a feeling it will not be their last volume by Churchill. 

Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of the United States, I feel greatly honored that you should have thus invited me to enter the United States Senate Chamber and address the representatives of both branches of Congress. The fact that my American forebears have for so many generations played their part in the life of the United States, and that here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful. I wish indeed that my mother, whose memory I cherish, across the vale of years, could have been here to see. By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own. In that case this would not have been the first time you would have heard my voice. In that case I should not have needed any invitation. But if I had it is hardly likely that it would have been unanimous. So perhaps things are better as they are.

Opening paragraph of Churchill's Address to Congress, December 26, 1941 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

C.S. Lewis: He Saw Everything Else

C. S. Lewis in 1947                                                                                  Arthur Strong

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
"Is Theology Poetry?" (1945)

C. S. Lewis, one of the last century's leading scholars, novelists, and Christian apologists, was born on this day in 1898. Most readers likely know his name but many may not be familiar with the depth and breadth of his literary accomplishments.  I was introduced to the author through a gift. A close friend gave me a copy of The Four Loves as medication for some perplexing developments in a relationship with the girl of my dreams at the time. Eventually, she rekindled an old relationship and moved away leaving me with a satisfying, life-long literary relationship with Lewis. I trust her decision led to an equally happy association.

For readers who want to go beyond the Wikipedia link in the first paragraph, below is C.S. Lewis Life Story With A Purposea compelling hour-long biography incorporating the author's words and many of his stories. 

From this writer's perspective, if you cannot enjoy a Lewis book you simply haven't read enough of his work.  Readers of any age and ability will surely find something of interest among his more than eighty titles of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Choose...and enjoy.

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 1950



Saturday, November 28, 2015

William Blake: Revolution Unmasked

To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour

from Auguries of Innocence, William Blake, 1803

On this day in 1757 the British artist and writer, William Blake, was born in London.  He is without a doubt my favorite anarchist. In his own time he was so eccentric his neighbors and friends thought he was a madman. As an engraver and illustrator he was caught between the decline of the guilds and the rise of industrialization. It was a time when men saw the value of their labors swept away from the cottage and into the factory under the watchful eye of the manager. For workers, the loss of autonomy, the shift in control and production, and the helplessness in the face of change led to a revolt against the Age of Reason and a rage against technologies it spawned. Two centuries later he would be recognized as both one whose vision, imagination and sensitivity were unmatched in the age of Romanticism, and a truly unique influence in the history of the Western world.

There is one certainty about Blake's work and that is its complexity. He is by far one of the most interesting visionaries to come out of the West and its traditions. I hope you will take time to examine him and his extraordinary contributions to our experience. To explore his work appropriately is beyond the intent of this blog and capability of its author. For readers who want to learn more about Blake, to me there's no finer work available than Jacob Bronowski's A Man Without A Mask, published in 1944, and it's expanded version, William Blake and the Age of Revolution, published in 1972.

William Blake                                                                                    Thomas Phillips, English, 1807

I have learned much from the artist and philosopher, William Blake, in an effort to balance my life between intellect and emotion. So far it's been a beautiful, productive, and fascinating journey. These works have been a part of that experience:

In the following illustration Blake depicts his character, Urizen, [You rising] as reason shaping the world and its experience. This engraving is also interpreted as God the Father [and often God the Son] as divining existence. It is a prime example of the complex and often confounding world of Blake's imagination.

The Ancient of Days                                                                      William Blake 1793

Here Blake depicts Isaac Newton [and the Age of Reason] at the bottom of the sea shaping (the dividers, once more) the world of humankind on the earth. Newton has turned his back on the organic beauty of God's natural world.

Newton                                                                                    William Blake 1795

Here, the Angel of Peace descends forcibly out of heaven illustrating God's reason (the dividers) brought into the world in the form of his Son to reconcile Nature (the recline female nude) and a redeemed humanity

The Descent of Peace                          William Blake ca. 1815

One of Blake's most familiar pieces is his preface to Milton A Poem. The preface says much about Blake's philosophy opposing the Age of Reason as embodied in Greek and Roman thought and the dangers a reliance on intellect can bring to a world based equally on emotion. Furthermore, the preface is a perfect illustration of Blake's religious mysticism as well as his veneration of Milton.

The stolen and perverted writings of Homer and Ovid, of Plato and Cicero, which all men ought to contemn, are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible; but when the New Age is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right, and those grand works of the more ancient, and consciously and professedly Inspired men will hold their proper rank, and the Daughters of Memory shall become the Daughters of Inspiration, Shakspeare and Milton were curb'd by the general malady and infection from the silly Greek and Latin slaves of the sword. Rouse up, O Young Men of the New Age! Set your foreheads against the ignorant hirelings! For we have hirelings in the camp, the Court, and the University, who would, if they could, for ever depress mental, and prolong corporeal war. Painters! on you I call. Sculptors! Architects! suffer not the fashionable fools to depress your powers by the  prices they pretend to give for contemptible works, or the expensive advertising boasts that they make of such works; believe Christ and His Apostles that there is a class of men whose whole delight is in destroying. We do not want either Greek or Roman models if we are but just and true to  our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall live for ever, in Jesus our Lord.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills.

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Would to God that all the Lord's people were Prophets. Numbers xi, ch. 26

William Blake                                    John Linnell, English 1863

He who binds himself to a joy
Doth the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise

Eternity, William Blake, 1803


Blake portrait, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Newton, Tate Gallery, London, U.K.

Text:, Blake entry
Jacob Bronowski, A Man Without A Mask, Seeker and Warburg, London, 1944

Friday, November 27, 2015

Willis Carrier: Mister Cool

Ulrich Bonnell Phillips's Life and Labor of the Old South, published in 1929, is one of the most significant books on the history and geography of the American South. Although it's rarely found on reading lists beyond historiography classes these days, it's opening paragraph is still a defining statement about the region:

Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South distinctive.
.  .  .

The summers are not merely long, but bakingly hot, with temperatures ranging rather steadily in the eighties and nineties of the Fahrenheit scale.

The early 20th century single story Southern home, with its high-roof, wrap-around porch, and traditional "dog trot" breezeway, is a vernacular response to that baking heat. Homes of this type can still be found throughout the South, in fact, contemporary construction in the region often incorporates its features in vestigial form. But what has made the South so popular these days? I believes, in particular, the natural climate remains a significant draw, especially now that the social and political climate of the New South welcomes all Americans. Still, all Southerners must deal with the heat. And that brings us to the significance of Willis Carrier, an American inventor who made the South tolerable during the long, hot summers.

On November 26, 1876, a son, Willis H. Carrier, was born into an old New England family. By the turn of the century, Carrier developed a system of conditioning air in a stiflingly hot and humid Brooklyn printing plant. The new environment ensured stability in the paper and the perfect alignment of four-color printing. It was soon a huge success in several industries. By the 1920s, air conditioning became popular in retail trade and entertainment, especially the movie theater. It was a small jump from commercial systems to home systems, and by the 1930s, air conditioning began a slow but steady increase in usage until the post World War II era when it boomed. Carrier's application would have far reaching impacts on the American experience.

Willis Carrier in 1915

From an environmental perspective air conditioning made the South livable year round. One could work hard outside on a mid-summer Georgia day and find comfort in an air conditioned break at work and a cool, comfortable supper and evening at home. Today we take this comfort for granted, hardly giving it the time of day in the South unless a compressor dies.

If you call the South "home," take a moment today to thank Willis for his contribution, an invention you're going to appreciate perhaps as early as April of 2016 when the heat and humidity begin the steady increase to "bakingly" unbearable levels in the Southern summer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving 2015

Let us . . . proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings -- let us be humby thankful for inherited ideals -- and let us resolve to share those blessings
. . . let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.

John F. Kennedy, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, November 5, 1963


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Johnny Mercer: Still Too Marvelous For Words

Johnny Mercer Statue, Ellis Square, Savannah, Georgia                        

November 18, marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of John Herndon Mercer (1909-1976). For fans of the Great American Songbook, this is a significant event. Mercer won four Academy Awards for Best Original Song and had another twelve nominations.

Born into wealth in Savannah, Mercer often recounted how his Aunt Hattie hummed to him in his crib and "he hummed right back at her." It was the beginning of a musical career that would produce more than 1500 published songs, a few thousand more unpublished songs and song fragments, scores of poems and prose pieces, an unfinished autobiography, and a major chapter in the history of American music in the twentieth century.

In Mercer's Savannah, a rich Southern culture blended with a diverse and exciting port city. He spent his childhood fascinated by train and ship whistles, and the sounds and rhythms drifting from the black churches around town. He was thrilled by the chance to slip away from his mother's watchful eye and visit the black business district on West Broad Street - now MLK Boulevard - where he listened to race records. The family's summer home on the Vernon River, about ten miles south of town, immersed him in the natural world of Georgia's tidal creeks and salt marshes. By his teen years, he loved hearing the dance and jazz bands every summer at the famous Tybrisa Pavilion on nearby Tybee Island. He also began writing songs and skits for his student productions at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia.

When the family business failed in the late '20s, any hope of returning to Woodberry or attending college dimmed. He grew bored at home and shipped off to New York to become a Broadway performer. The demand for singers was weak, but he began tinkering with lyric writing when he wasn't singing or working odd jobs. Here is his first published song lyric:

Lyrics are meant to be heard, but it's not always easy to appreciate them without the poetry on the page, so here is a sample of that early genius as work:

Out of Breath (1930)

lyrics by Johnny Mercer
music by Everette Miller

Mine's a hopeless case,
But there's one saving grace,
Anyone would feel as I do;
Out of breath and scared to death of you.
Love was first divined,
Then explored and defined,
Still the old sensation is new;
Out of breath and scared to death of you.
It takes all the strength that I can call to my command,
To hold your hand.
I would speak at length
About the love that should be made,
But I'm afraid.
Hercules and such
Never bothered me much,
All you have to do is say "Boo!"
Out of breath and scared to death of you.

Yes, it's pretty simple, comic stuff but it had flashes of wordplay and bouncy rhythm. It was perfect for the Garrick Gaieties Revue of 1930.

One of the chorus girls left Johnny out of breath as well. Her name was Ginger Meehan and she was Bing Crosby's squeeze at the time. Eventually, Mercer won her over and they married in 1931 after Johnny secured a staff job writing lyrics. The following year his persistent work paid off when he partnered with Hoagy Carmichael, already well-known for his sensational song, Stardust. After several months the collaboration produced Lazybones, Mercer's first hit song. It was full of black dialect and all the stereotypical perceptions of the day.

By the time Lazybones became popular the New York music industry was in full transition thanks, in part, to the rapidly growing film industry in California. Films needed songs and with his prospects cooling in New York, Mercer traveled to Hollywood where he met his old friend, Bing Crosby, who had already made the transition to the West. The early years were a challenge for Mercer, but that changed in 1936. That year Crosby offered to sing one of Mercer's songs in the film, Rhythm on the Range. The film wasn't much. The song was a
runaway hit:

I'm An Old Cowhand

words and music by Johnny Mercer

I'm and old cowhand
From the Rio Grande,
But my legs ain't bowed
And my cheeks ain't tanned.
I'm a cowboy who never saw a cow,
Never roped a steer 'cause I don't know how,
And I sure ain't fixin' to start in now.
Yippy I O Ki Ay,
Yippy I O Ki Ay.

. . .

And I learned to ride
'Fore I learned to stand,
I'm a ridin' fool who is up to date,
I know ev'ry trail in the Lone Star State,
'Cause I ride the range in a Ford V-Eight

. . .

And I come to town
Just to hear the band,
I know all the songs that the cowboys know,
'Bout the big corral where the doagies go,
'Cause I learned them all on the radio.

. . .

Where the West is wild
'Round the borderland,
Where the buffalo roam around the Zoo,
And the Indians make you a rug or two,
And the old Bar X is a Bar B Q.
Yippy I O Ki Ay,
Yippy I O Ki Ay.

I think Mercer came into perfect form with this one. With a little help from his pal, Crosby, his name became associated with songwriting among Hollywood's shakers and makers. In these early years, he struggled through a few flop movies but he learned the ins and outs of Hollywood and continued writing poetry to music.

Mercer went on to great fame after  I'm An Old Cowhand. Movies, records, and radio brought his folksy, common sense, "free and easy, that's my style" personality into homes across America and made him a beloved next door neighbor. Mercer could be serious with a lyric but he was equally capable of making us laugh at ourselves and our circumstances. Here an outstanding examples:

I'd say almost every American can hum the title line of Hooray for Hollywood but it's the rest of lyric that really sparkles. Here's the song as it appeared in Busby Berkeley's 1937 blockbuster , Hollywood Hotel. If you don't want to miss any words, the lyric is below

Hooray For Hollywood

words by Johnny Mercer
music by Richard A. Whiting

Hooray for Hollywood!
That screwy bally hooey Hollywood,
Where any office boy or young mechanic
Can be a panic,
With just a good looking pan,
And any bar maid
Can be a star maid,
If she dances with or without a fan,

Hooray for Hollywood!
Where you're terrific if you are even good,
Where anyone at all from Shirley Temple
To Aimee Semple
Is equally understood,
Go out and try your luck,
You might be Donald Duck!
Hooray for Hollywood!

Hooray for Hollywood!
That phoney super Coney Hollywood,
They come from Chilicothes and Paducahs
With their bazookas
To get their names up in lights,
All armed with photos from local rotos,
With their hair in ribbons and legs in tights,

Hooray for Hollywood!
You may be homely in your neighborhood,
But if you think that you can be an actor,
See Mister Factor,
He'd make a monkey look good.
Within a half an hour,
You'll look like Tyrone Power!
Hooray for Hollywood!

Over three decades Mercer wrote the lyrics to hundreds of songs, collaborating with the country's top music writers, including Harold Arlen, Bernie Hannigan, Hoagy Carmichael, Harry Warren, Gene DePaul, Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern, Rube Bloom, and Matty Malneck. In 1971, Mercer appeared in what he called a "parlor evening" performance as part of the 92nd Street Y's Lyrics and Lyricists Series. At the end of the program, Mercer delivered an unforgettable medley of his "bread and butter" songs. I'd say most songwriters and performers would be pleased to have five songs in such a list. Mercer had twenty-nine. Regardless of your age and interest in popular music, you may be surprised at how many of these songs you recognize:

Lazybones (1933), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Goody, Goody (1936), music by Marty Malneck

Too Marvelous For Words (1937), music by Richard A. Whiting

Jeepers Creepers (1938), music by Harry Warren

Satin Doll (1958), written with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby (1938), music by Harry Warren

That Old Black Magic (1943), music by Harold Arlen

Accentuate the Positive (1944) music by Harold Arlen

Fools Rush In (1940), music by Rube Bloom

I Remember You (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Day In - Day Out (1939), music by Rube Bloom

Dearly Beloved (1942), music by Jerome Kern

Come Rain or Come Shine (1946), music by Harold Arlen

Tangerine (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Hooray For Hollywood (1938), music by Richard A. Whiting

Laura (1945), music by David Raksin

Dream (1944), words and music by Johnny Mercer

On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe (1946, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Harry Warren

Something's Gotta Give (1954), words and music by Johnny Mercer

One For My Baby (1943), music by Harold Arlen

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening (1951, Academy Award for Best Music, Oroginal Song), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Skylark (1941), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Autumn Leaves (1950), music by Joseph Kosma

I Wanna Be Around (1962), words and music by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt

Blues in the Night (1941), music by Harold Arlen

Charade (1963), music by Henry Mancini

Summer Wind (1965), music by Henry Mayer

Moon River (1961, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

Days of Wine and Roses (1962, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

That's plenty of "bread and butter" on one man's plate, but we need to keep in mind that he had seven more songs nominated for an Academy Award that never made it into the medley. What a talent. 

Mercer continued songwriting primarily for films and the stage into the 1970's.  He died in Bel Air, California, in 1976 several months after surgery for a brain tumor.  He was buried in Bonaventure Cemetery In Savannah.  With his passing, the state lost a favorite son and sentimental gentleman and everyone lost one of the nation's most important figures in entertainment in the last century. His impact was universal. He composed melodies, wrote lyrics, sang a wide range of songs, performed in films, kept the nation laughing with his comedy, and co-founded Capitol Records and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

We have come a long way from the advent of rock and roll in the mid-1950's and its dominance in the family tree of popular music. Still, the Great American Songbook, that generation of music beginning around 1930 and continuing into the early 1960's, has found a comfortable niche among music lovers around the world. Many songs in that now-tattered "book" belong to Mercer and stand in tribute to a man described as America's folk-poet and the finest lyricist in our history.

To learn more about Johnny Mercer see several Old Tybee Ranger posts that appeared in November 1999 commemorating the centennial of Mercer's birth.


Johnny Mercer: The Life, Times, and Song Lyrics of Our Huckleberry Friend, Bob Bach and Ginger Mercer, The American Poet and Lyricists Series, Lyle Stuart, October 1982.

Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, Philip Furia, St. Martin's Press, December 2004.

Portrait of Johnny: The Life and Times of John Herndon Mercer, Gene Lees, Hal Leonard, February 2006.

The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer, Johnny Mercer, edited by Kimball, Day, Kreuger, and Davis; Knopf 2009

Johnny Mercer Foundation

Johnny Mercer Archive, Georgia State University 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

My Great Uncle George - standing on the left with his fire brigade in Jacksonville, Florid - served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in World War I, the Great War. To him, this day was Armistice Day, the day marking the end of that war at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. I was ten when he died and didn't know him well, but much of what he was as a veteran is present in my house. His portrait hangs just off our foyer. The pocket Bible he carried is in a keepsake cabinet nearby along with his military issue binoculars and a gift from his unit, a silver-plated swagger stick made from machine gun shells casings and topped with the Seal of the U.S. Army. The last item is the flag that covered his coffin. To my knowledge, it's still in the original triangle fold made the day he was buried nearly sixty years ago.

As much as I value these mementos of George's life, they cannot surpass the value of his service in defense of family, nation, and faith. Today, all of the veterans of World War I are gone and the 1.5 million veterans of World War II are passing on at an accelerating rate. Still, we are left with millions of servicemen and women from the Korean conflict through Vietnam, the Middle East actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and full circle to those still standing in the trenches in Korea. They are all reminders that freedom is not free.

From the time I could hold a paint brush with serious determination - probably 1951 - I did my part to honor veterans. A week before the holiday, Dad and I went to the local cemetery to paint flag holders and install Old Glory on the graves of veterans of the Great War who had been member of my dad's lodge. The lodge had a seventy year history in my small town and scores of holders were scattered at random on the landscape. My instructions were simple: armed with primary yellow, blue and red paint, paint carefully, leave no spatters, paint EVERY marker. The worst offense, by far, was missing a marker, but Dad made sure that never happened.

On Veterans Day proper, there was a brief service from atop a small memorial building. At its conclusion, the crowds descended from the hilltop cemetery to either watch or march in what seemed like an endless parade down Main Street. It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration: flags, bands, fire trucks, politicians, the ladies' auxiliary, the soldiers. It was a most impressive event.

Ninety-seven years ago  the Great War came to an end with the signing of the Armistice Treaty by the Allied forces and Germany. For the next 34 years Armistice Day honored the service of veterans of that war. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day and its scope was expanded to honor all American veterans.

I am not a veteran. I'll never experience how military service shapes a person inside, but I do know that every veteran has paid a price that enables us to enjoy life in this bountiful nation. On November 11 - Armistice Day or Veterans Day - we should take some time to remember those who have served their country and its people. To all of them I offer my sincerest admiration and thanks on this day and every day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's Time To Make Your Christmas Punch


One thing you won't find in this recipe is the lady's stocking, soldier's sock, and a bit of soil returned from the unit's latest combat deployment. So much for authenticity.

Yes friends, the introduction means only one thing: it's that time of year to assemble and ferment your Chatham Artillery Punch, a great American holiday beverage best described as a nuclear rumtopf. You can find the traditional recipe for fifty servings here at one of my 2008 posts. 
Fermenting a batch for eight weeks will yield you a wonderfully smooth and deceptively powerful treat. A small serving, including some fruit, will go a long way whether you serve it in cups or pour it over ice cream. Either way it's delicious, but my native Savannahian friends would shun me for suggesting it with ice cream. 

I hope you enjoy making this historic refreshment and sampling it in moderation over the coming weeks as nature performs its magic.

N.B.  The Chatham Artillery survives today as the 1st Battalion of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment of the Georgia National Guard. Their latest service was in Iraq. Their annual banquet is moving into its third century.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints Day 2015

Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven         Fra Angelico, 15th Century, Italy

On All Saints Day, Christians remember the faithful who have passed on to the glorious company of the saints in light. It has been observed since the 4th century after Christ and remains a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. Over time, the original purpose of All Saints Day changed and, by the Middle Ages, "saints became the objects of prayers and petitions for merit before God." Seeing Christ "as the only source of forgiveness, [Martin Luther] cleansed the church of this abuse of the saints" but retained the holy day in the church calendar. He made his statement by nailing his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, ensuring that they would be seen by crowds of worshipers the following day. Today, the celebration of the beginning of the Reformation on October 31 often overshadows All Saints Day in the Lutheran Church, but the days are often celebrated concurrently during Sunday worship.

Our music for this day is Ralph Vaughan Williams's setting - Sine Nomine - for the processional hymn, For All the Saints, written by William Walsham How.

Most versions omit several verses that I believe are most relevant to our time. They are:
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Here is a prayer for today:

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one Holy church, the body of Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow the example of your blessed saints in lives of faith and willing service and with them at last inherit the inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ our Lord....