Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky

There are few men and women in the Church Calendar more unusual than Bishop Schereschewsky. His story serves as a reminder to me of how it is not how we plan our lives that matters, but how we respond to the changes which present us with new opportunities for faithful service.

Schereschewsky, born in Lithuania in 1831, was studying to be a rabbi, which would not have been at all a bad thing. However, he became interested in Christianity and began reading a Hebrew translation of the New Testament. He moved to the United States and began studying for ministry in the Presbyterian Church, which would not at all have been a bad thing. After two years at a seminary, he decided to become an Episcopalian and finished his studies at General Theological Seminary. After ordination, he went to serve as a missionary in China and would, I suspect, have been quite content to serve as a mission priest and a translator of Scripture, and that would not have been a bad thing at all. However, in 1877 he became Bishop of Shanghai, and serving in that post would not have been at all a bad thing for him to do for a very long time. Stricken with paralysis, he resigned his see in 1883 and set about the difficult task of continuing his translation work. Before his death in 1906, he had completed his translation of the Bible, typing some 2,000 pages with the middle finger of his partially crippled hand.

Life, as someone once said, is what happens while we're making our plans. Whatever Bishop Schereschewsky had planned for his life, his response to the changes that came was one of faithfulness. As someone who had been an outsider when he first heard the Good News, he gave himself to the work of sharing that Good News with other outsiders.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Yesterday I preached about downy and hairy woodpeckers. Well, not exactly: I preached about God's delighting in diversity, and these two woodpeckers were simply examples of that wonderful diversity. If God delights in diversity - and I'm convinced that God does - should not we - created in God's image and called by Jesus to be his brothers and sisters - delight in diversity as well? We often seem to treat difference as threat, whether ethnic difference or religious difference. There is an Anglican Chapel in ToyTown with a membership that includes a number of our former parishioners. There are real differences between our congregations: they use the 1928 BCP and we don't; we have a women priest associate and they don't; we welcom partnered LGBT members and I'm pretty sure they don't. These differences are important, but I continue to be thankful that our former members and others have found a new home. I continue to act on my own convictions in those areas of difference and to seek areas of agreement with these sisters and brothers. And I continue to pray for the grace to refuse to see these differences as threats.