Project Canterbury



preached by

Dean at the
American Pro-Cathedral Church
of the Holy Trinity
23 Avenue George V

June 18, 1950


(printed by request)



Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:3.

THESE are the words which Paul wrote from his prison in Rome to his friends in Philippi. I believe no more touching words have ever been written, and these would be mine to you, as we part for a while to meet again in the fall.

I am talking principally to the family this morning, this beloved fellowship of which we are so proud and of which, in so short a time, we have become so fond. Our other friends, whom we are happy to have visiting with us this morning, will just have to listen in on what is essentially a talk in the bosom of the family.

When we first came to Europe three years ago I told the Bishop, and he quite agreed with me, that I should want to go home for a while every summer. Life over here is so interesting and attractive one could just go along indefinitely with no other thought. But our American churches over here are, or ought to be, representative of American thought, culture and religious life. If they are not, there is no particular reason for them. Christianity itself, both Protestant and Catholic, is [2/3] certainly adequately represented in Europe. It is only as we contribute our own particular American interpretation, insights and practices to the richness of Christian thought and life over here that we are serving a special purpose. It is only as I refresh my own contacts from time to time with the sources of American thought and life that I feel I can represent anything.

Some day we shall have world citizenship. Some day the barriers will fall and we shall have the kingdom of humanity. The Bible teaches that, and the progress of civilization demands it. Already the forward march of mankind is pushing barriers down all over the world. We are aware of all the movements, Schuman plans and others, struggling today to associate men in common co-operatives and brotherhoods bigger than nations, and they are all to the good. But it must come step by step, and it does no good to stand apart in splendid isolation, prematurely, as a world citizen. We must contribute the best we have to contribute as Americans, as French, as Britishers, and through the contribution of our common goods the world citizenship will come.

Let me review for a few minutes what we have tried to do together in this mother church of American Christianity in Europe. I, for one, get very tired of hearing that Americans have no culture, no spiritual life. The enemies of all culture and spiritual life like to make out that we are a brutish mammon of money, materialism and vulgarity, whose highest interest is represented by the comic strips and the movies, that we are bent upon "cocacolizing" the world. Many seem to feel that the [3/4] American way of life is nothing anybody else is interested in, that we are as decadent as ancient Rome and doing the same thing as Rome did in trying to protect her decadence when spiritual vigor had failed her, by buying her safety, by pouring out bribes and armament money all over the world.

Now we know that this simply is not true, though some of our most intelligent European friends seem to be affected by this slander. We know that the heart and soul of our country are sound. We know that there is just as much interest in and practice of culture with a capital "C" today in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, in the arts of the mind, music, painting and the theater, as there is in any capital of Europe. We acknowledge deeply our indebtedness to this Old World and our continuing inspiration by her; we know that at one time we may have been a rough and boorish country, too busy building to cultivate the graces of life; we know that there are still many frontier places at home, that America, thank God, has not stopped growing up. But we reject the idea that America today is a barren waste of materialistic vulgarity. We know that that is either wishful thinking, inferiority complex jealousy, blind ignorance, or contrived falsehood. To paraphrase the title of one of André Siegfried's books, America has come of age.

These churches in Europe, of which this Cathedral is the head, are the symbols and shining examples of America's spiritual maturity. They contradict those who say she has no soul. These churches are exports of her soul and certainly, in this great ideological struggle going on, are of [4/5] equal or superior importance to the exports of her money and her matter, which are taken for granted. Europeans don't have to be convinced that America is rich and industrious. They know that. They have to be convinced that she has a soul. This is the business of this church and the friends of this church. This is the business that all the Americans of the American Colony in Paris ought to be interested in.

Who knows how far and wide the influence of this lighthouse of America's soul set in this capital of Europe, the example and influence of this beloved fellowship, in your charitable works, in your worship and support of this church, in your honorable and constructive living as representatives of this church, who knows how far and wide these things have spread among those who are watching America and Americans now as never before—for any hints of decadence, for any hints of irresponsibility and stupidity—for any hints that that person was fully justified who coined the phrase: "The sunny Riviera for shady Americans?" We know that there are some of our countrymen who travel about over here of whom we are not proud, whom we should hate to think represent us in the eyes of Europeans, but here is a lighthouse which you are keeping burning, to show to all who have eyes to see, that the soul of America is clean, kind and compassionate.

But there is something further that we have contributed here to the practice of our Christian faith itself. Christian union is like Mark Twain's comment on the weather: "People are always talking about it, but nobody does anything about it!"

[6] Here we don't talk about it; we do something about it! When I go home I not only learn; I inform. When I hear my brethren talking about the theories and difficulties of Christian unity, I just say, "nonsense". "You don't know anything about it unless you have tried it." And it works! Just call people to Christ in broad and affectionate terms. Don't erect yourself any barriers that He himself never erected. They will come to Him, in fellowship, with their friends of every turn of mind and color of personality. They will love and follow Him in their own way, in their own language, and according to the infinite variety of type and taste which God has put into human nature to be our glory and His joy. These endless ecclesiastical maneuverings, halts and starts, bickerings, bargainings, flirtations and rejections, theological hairsplittings and churchly compromises, as if Christianity were the Treaty of Versailles and not the Kingdom of God, these things must be a weariness to the gentle Christ and His comprehensive gospel. Can we not remember that He struggled with these things and died because of them? We have a family here which is like any other family. We do not all have the same color of hair, turn of mind or expression of religious personality, but we are united in our desire to know Christ and to show Him, to make His church a place of beauty and repose and exaltation, to use it as a well of water in the deserts of our day. This is what I can take back to America.

Now, in this all too brief time that we have had together, I look forward to increasing growth and power for next year. So many are discovering again the strength and the joy of believing. So [6/7] many are rediscovering the power of their faith and what it means to their lives just now when all life is difficult. I have been impressed by the numbers of honest and decent young people who are gay, but not frivolous and futile, who are open-minded, but not scoffing at faith before they have given it a hearing or a trial; I have been impressed by the numbers of young people who have been worshiping with us and sharing our fellowship. They have made my heart glad. I have been impressed by the numbers of men who are not ashamed of their faith, who are coming to think there may be something more in it than sentimentality. I have been impressed by the numbers of new people who are being drawn to the beauty of Christ's family, to take the place, sadly enough, of some nominal people who are just names on lists, and confirmees who long ago proved unprofitable servants. They are the hardest ones, not the youths, not the elders, but those in the middle years of life who have a nominal connection, who are names on a card-index file, but who neither renounce their faith nor practice it. New Christians at least are not lazy, and I am thankful for them.

And finally, I am thankful for you all—all who have worked, and helped, and been kind during these first few months. As you come to the love feast at the altar this morning, the communion of all faithful and united hearts, I pray God's blessing upon you until we meet again, and I leave you with the words of Paul:

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all [7/8] making request with joy, For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Let us pray:

"Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us, especially the beloved fellowship of this American Cathedral, to Thy never failing care and love for this life and the life to come; knowing that Thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; and beseeching Thee to continue Thy protection to them, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."

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