Thursday, May 11, 2006

Exclusivity

In a recent post, former OALC member "Stylux" said: "the exclusivity issue, in my view, is quite normal and expected of faiths, companies, groups and even governments in general. The local gardening club does the same thing when it tries to get you to come to meetings by offering a tip on how to grow great petunias."

The next poster begged to differ, arguing that the garden club invites you in on their secret, while the OALC does not.

What do you think? Was your Laestadian church's exclusivity a deal-breaker, or just a quirk? Or something else entirely?

33 comments:

  1. Many Trails Home5/12/2006 07:11:00 AM

    I beg to differ with Anon's response to Stylux. I don't believe that OALCers refrain from saying "God's Peace" to "worldlies" from a sense of exlusiveness but rather because they don't want to make the worldlies uncomfortable. Often worldlies don't know how to respond. Another story: When my children and I were attending a family reunion in the UP of Mich, we visited an aunt nearby. I was off getting gas when some OALC neighbors dropped in. They made the "God's Peace" rounds, and when they reached my son (age 10 or 12) and said, "G's Peace," he couldn't understand them. "Kapeesh?" he replied, and my sister said, "Oh, that's G's son from California." No further explanation necessary. But she chastised me for not explaining the "God's Peace" ritual to him; I just forgot.

    Next, I would say that they are very willing let you in on their "secret" - the "keys" to the kingdom, acquired through forgiveness of sin, OALC-style, of course. They are very eager to accept any worldlies who want to become "Christians." Let's not bash for bashing's sake.

    Of course, I also believe that exclusivity is a damnable thing. It closes everyone else out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But it really does not hurt us directly (unless we believe it also); I believe they are the ones who suffer most from that particular false belief. This is always the way it is. Poisonous beliefs poison the believer most. The way they suffer, as I see it, is by perpetual fear that they will fail, not measure up, slip up somehow, not in fact deserve God's grace. How could they not? Where is the peace?

    Wishing "God's Peace" to every living person on this, God's beautiful creation. MTH

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  2. The Federation wasn't explicitly exclusivist (thinking only their members will get to heaven), although there was sometimes a lazy way of wording things that made them seem that way. In response to MTH, my experience was that the Heideman group, the LLCers, and some OALCers would refuse to greet Federationists with God's Peace. Since the Federationists greeted each other with God's Peace, they were familiar with the custom, so lack of familiarity doesn't explain all the cases where some LLLers would refuse to greet with God's Peace.

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  3. Exclusivity... presumably defined as the doctrinal position that only the members gain salvation... is as old as religion itself. I personally expect churches to hold this view and find no particular offense in it. One of the great things about pluralism in this country is that we can move on to another with the same promise and in this regard with no loss. We ultimately get to choose.

    To anonymous... I understand that on one level it is silly to compare the garden club to the elders but it is still a good analogy with the respect to organizations and how they keep membership. I was a member of the OALC from birth for nearly forty five years and never felt that the church held any secrets. I agree with "Many Trails" on this and in that it was always pretty clear what one had to do to be saved. Perhaps you could help me out and let me know how this secrecy manifested itself. One of the major changes during the reformation was removing the hierarchal levels between parishioners and God. It was no longer necessary to pass through a bishop or priest to reach God. This still remains in most Protestant denominations and is true for the OALC. As for greeting with "God's Peace" it has also been my experience that this was shared with insiders as well as outsiders. This practice, though, was curtailed if the OALCers felt that it made the outsider feel uncomfortable. I asked my wife (never a member) and she said that has been her experience.

    With regard to the effects of "exclusive" thinking, I partly agree with "Many Trails" in that it robs the thinkers of the benefits of interaction with so many people. "Damnable"??? Perhaps a little strong. I look at people who attend churches and often ask the question.. Does it work for you? And in most cases it does on a very profound level. I don't know how to define a full life for them as this is a question that is so personal. To live life and not experience Mozart is certainly to miss something significant. But that is for me.

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  4. Many Trails Home5/12/2006 04:43:00 PM

    Well, so you object to my use of the word "damnable." A bit strong, yes, but I refuse to retract it. In fact, I think more misery and family unhappiness and strife have resulted from this one concept. I do not believe it is of God, and therefore I do indeed think it warrants the term "damnable." So there. May love and peace be our primary goals and may we see all humans as brothers. MTH

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  5. I am the anon who claims that the OALC church members will not share "their secrets". Was that bashing for bashing sake? I am not familiar with many OALs sharing their faith with the non members, rather they are very tight lipped.
    Perhaps they don't wish to make others feel uncomfortable. I will buy that, but only to some extent.
    Perhaps they don't want to make you feel uncomfortable, because you are going to Hell? After all, if you are worldly, that is your fate. I find that I am invited back to the church, but my spouse would never be invited.
    There are many churches that are using the exclusion card. The Catholic church does not let non Catholics take communion. I don't think Christ would have agreed with that. Many churches will not let women speak in the church.
    It all boils down to exclusion.
    It is wrong, in my opinion.

    Oh well...it is only man made rules and we could get worked up forever.

    I have researched the splits of the laestadian churches and I am not familiar with the Federationists. Would the last writer explain who they are?

    God's Peace to all...

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  6. Back again on this interesting issue...

    To MTH... I can think of all sorts of things that cause family misery and unhappiness. But being in a religion that espouses "exclusivity" is not one of them. Help me out here.

    To Free.. I read the website to which you referred and I couldn't help but think about the difference between tolerance and agreement. It is a matter of whether I am going to act on a principal or not. So often, I believe that because I am not in a state of agreement then I am intolerant. This had led to the current popularity of the 'phobic language in our culture. I can hold that your views are wrong and will lead to perdition and yet tolerate you and your church. If you make it a requirement that I agree with you in order to satisfy the tolerance mandate then you have destroyed the free market of ideas.

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  7. One person should love another person regardless of each person's beliefs about religion.

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  8. We have gotten a bit far afield...

    I can (and do) agree with both statments below and still believe that my religion is the only true one.

    "You see, if the OALC taught (as the ELCA does, just for example) that having close, loving relationships with non-OALC Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, nonbelievers is not only OKAY but ENCOURAGED, it would be fabulous for my family"

    "One person should love another person regardless of each person's beliefs about religion"

    The problems raised in the above comments are large and tragic and cause much pain. At the same time they are not a function of a doctrine of exclusivity. They are a function of a fear of the world in general.

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  9. Of COURSE we should love one another regardless of beliefs, but, as my mother said (an OALC member), love has nothing to do with it. How does one counter that?

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  10. "Christ is just as available to Dalia Lama as to you and me!"

    I love it! These discussions with people who have left the OALC does my soul good. I do have siblings who have left, but they would have problems with non Christians having eternal life.

    I have read some of Spong's works.
    I have a hard time buying into some of his statements. E.g. not believing in the virgin birth, etc. It is amazing how hard this is for me.
    I left the OALC church and started going to a traditional church. I have been reciting the Nicene Creed for years.

    However, it was Spong who fully made me understand the trinity.
    Jesus is Love, God is within Jesus as the holy spirit and the holy spirit is within us. This is my interpetation anyway!

    As free2beme points out...the Bible Passage,
    "No one comes to the Father but through me" has been misused.
    I believe that fully. If Jesus is love and God is love..And both have the Holy Spirit...
    Could it be that whoever Loves all
    is saved through that Love?

    Did Jesus die on the cross to show us where not loving one another leads? Did he die to save us from our sins? Or did he know we could never fully love one another because we are not capable, so he died to save us all-the ultimate sacrifice-so we would have eternal life? Would God the Father really do this to his own Son?

    Can everyone, even the non Christian have eternal life?

    It is good to question and to debate.

    God's Peace

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  11. Sisu:

    I'm sorry I don't understand your comment. Could you please try restating your comment?

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  12. amerikkalainen5/13/2006 09:04:00 PM

    I've also seen "unbelievers" or non church people greeted at my church. I have an uncle who has been coming to church with my aunt for years and years and is particularly offended if he is greeted accidentally. I have a story that is sort of funny--I have a significant other who is an athiest but who is from Finland originally and he comes to church with me sometimes. He says he comes mostly for the brownies and to speak Finnish with the old people. He's not old but was brought up partially in Finland with Finnish-speaking parents. Anyway, we went to a congregation out of town where people did not know me (so would certainly not know him) and so they would automatically greet him. Knowing how he feels about churches in general rather than laestadians in particular I was shocked to hear him give God's Peace back, but didn't stop him. Later, I asked him why he did this. He said he thought the greeting was nice for people if they did believe in God in their heart to want to give that kind of peace to someone else, though he does not believe that God exists. He does think Laestadians of my type are very nice people and have nicer-than-average children, look happy and optimistic, and seem to be living healthier and more productive lives than most. The exclusivity? He thinks its a defense mechanism to keep people in the fold, and would only be harmful if they were unloving to the children who decided to leave. He believes its okay to raise children in the faith if that is what they believe but only if you allow them a choice to opt out if its something they decide not to accept as a young adult. Unfortunately, that is what has seemed to happen to many of you here...and its sad.

    Another funny story about my Godless Finnish fiance and the Apostolic Lutheran Church. I took him to services where my mother grew up and where I have many many relatives and friends. It was visiting time, and when I left him to find a bathroom I did not return straightaway as promised as I began to talk to a cousin. Admittedly, I returned nearly 40 minutes later and begin to apologize to him. He said no problem, he was talking to a kindly little old man, who started him in a conversation. He began the conversation by greeting my athiest friend, who greeted him back. He said, I am not sure, but you look like a _____maki. He said no, he is not. The old guy puzzled, and said, well, you sure look familiar, but I can't place your family yet. To which my fiance replied, "I am a _____onen." (This name does not exist in our entire church group nationwide.) The little old guy brightened and replied, "Oh, the ____onens! Aren't they from the UP?"

    "No, they're from Finland" my fiance answered.

    "Why, yes!" exclaimed the old man. Of course they're from FINLAND, but aren't they all living in the UP?"

    This is probably only funny considering I am from the only major Apostolic group that does not have a European counterpart, and so people from the more rural areas especially are quite unaccustomed to a Finnish visitor.

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  13. The greeting of God's Peace is given openingly to greet people at church. However, in my community,
    the OALC church members will greet each other while out in the community with this greeting.
    It is not usually shared with the non-members. I left the OALC and only one woman, who is OAL will greet me with this beautiful saying. My own OAL cousins will greet the OAL people with the "God's Peace" greeting, but will "exclude" me and my siblings, who have left. Perhaps it means, "I believe in what you believe and it gives common ground." It does hurt to be excluded, but that is the price one pays for leaving I guess. In my opinion, it is not what Jesus would have wanted.
    To CVOW-Regarding the Catholic communion issue. I attend a Catholic church, but I have not joined and I do not take communion.
    I like the tradition and the time to pray. I feel men have put the restrictions on "Communion". Jesus only said to "Do this in rememberance of me."
    I do have a hard time with kneeling in front of the cross. It is funny how some things from the OALC still linger. How have you reconciled this?

    God's Peace!

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  14. Free..

    "Tribal boundaries are powerful dividers of human life. They are the source of some of humanity's most inhumane behavior. Yet in the biblical portrait of Jesus we see him relativizing those dividing lines and calling people to enter the experience of nontribal humanity."

    The quote above touches on the very significant fact that Christianity changed the way people thought about the relative importance of blood relations. (And food for another discussion is that at the time this was a very liberating doctrine for women in general) This was one of its great contributions to humanity and I agree that this was for the better. The big issue for me is avoiding the slide into relativism and this is why I believe in the importance of exclusivism. Help me out with this one.

    I will frame the question this way. Let's say that I belong to church A and down the street is church B. We both believe in a just God and are the same in every respect save one. That one is that church B incorporates clitorectomies into their rituals and church A is vehemently opposed to it. This is actually a contemporary issue as you may well know. I want to be able to say that my church is better and that in my mind we are going to be saved and members of church B are not. If you remove exclusivism from my options then how do you avoid having the practice of church B to be no worse or no better than my opposition to it??

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  15. Stylux, it is pretty hard to compare a clitorectomies to a hand shake which greets one another with God's Peace. I would like to receive the latter!
    PS-I finally finally joined the "Blogger"-instead of signing...
    God's Peace

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  16. S.O.

    So it is... I was discussing the topic of exclusivism as defined in the previous blogs and not the greeting that we are all so familiar with. The great thing about this blog is that we can meander all over the manor and still have it printed.

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  17. Free,

    An appeal to a natural law of some type or even to evolving standards does not get us out of the box. Whence comes the right. My question remains... I am willing to agree on a definition of "saved" and then ask for the right to be an exclusivist. I find relativism to be a reason to tolerate anything until that thing offends my sense of natural law.

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  18. A great example of being exclusive is in the offering of the handshake to only members of the Flock! I think if you really are open to outsiders joining your group, then you would greet everyone the same way and offer them God's Peace. Or at least explain why you are saying God's Peace to see if the new person is receptive to receiving your offering.

    God's Peace!

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  19. There will always be exclusivism where people believe in something. Someone will always be excluded or feel excluded for some reason, and there's nothing to do about that unless beliefs of any kind are all abandoned.

    For example, my church believes that communion requires unity in faith, and thus, those who are not fully united with us, cannot celebrate communion with us. And likewise, we cannot participate in communion in churches that are not in communion with us. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it should always be. But this doesn't mean we think others automatically will perish. We cannot see the quality of other people's relationship with God. So, others are "excluded" from communion because they are not united with us in the fullness of faith, but they are not automatically excluded from salvation.

    My church also "excludes" women from the priesthood because a priest is an icon of Christ, acting as a sheperd of the flock, making it a task women cannot take because women cannot become men. It's always been like that and will always be like that. However, women are not excluded from speaking at church, they can read prayers, scripture readings and occasionally even give sermons with the blessing of the bishop. They can write religious litterature, give lectures at seminars, participate in discussions etc. There are different tasks for everyone, and everyone is always "excluded" from some tasks. That's all based on the beliefs my church holds, and it just has to be accepted as it is.

    However, in my opinion, from the religious point of view, there is excluvism that is destructive to one's spiritual well-being, and that is exclusivism in which you pretend to see what's inside of other people judging from their membership or non-membership of a certain group, their appearance etc. This kind of exclusivism makes one take the place of God.

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  20. First, to Anonymous 5:17 AM, I attended Catholic Mass for many years before joining, as I pondered the similarities and differences between my upbringing and what I saw now. As I mentioned before, I found much more common belief than I did differences. I suppose that's not too surprising since Luther was a Catholic priest, and much of the foundation of Lutheran protestantism came from those roots. I've always sort of chuckled about the fact that much of what Luther protested has come to be resolved in the Catholic church, so it seems he was just about 400 years ahead of his time. I think faith in God has evolved in this fashion more times than we realize, as the ancient writings and records are incomplete and vague to say the least. Those old voices crying in the wilderness may have often been heralding change was a'comin, but the timeframe it took to happen may have been blurred.

    As an OALCer, I was sort of told that of all of the "worldlies", the Catholics were the worst -- they drank, they gambled (played bingo in church, for goodness sake), and probably danced in the aisles of the church! Once I got married and began attending, first on on an occasional basis and later exclusively, I just didn't find offensive behavior at all. The only difference between a Catholic and a Lutheran with regard to drinking is that the Catholics do it in FRONT of their friends! (That's a joke. Lighten up!) I found the creed to be the same, and I found the basic truths the same. I found that the Catholics and the OALC were almost unique in presenting the body and blood of Christ as the true form, rather than "representing the body and blood" as many of the protestant churches do. The Catholics take a more formal approach to the service, but that's ok with me -- I like traditions.

    I remember also being told as a young OALCer that Catholics "worshipped" statues -- which is just ridiculous and is a great example of not letting facts get in the way of a good story. The Catholics do bow and genuflect in church -- something that many protestant churches do -- just not the OALC and others. I have no problem with that at all. I am not worshipping a statue or an altar or the host -- I am only worshipping God and those physical things help me to focus my thoughts. I have to admit that I am not a Marian -- I revere Mary as the mother of God, but do not pray to her. Many Catholics believe that Mary and other saints can intercede on their behalf to Jesus, and I am skeptical about that. I don't deny it, but perhaps I have an imperfect understanding of that yet. That's OK too -- I'm still plodding along on my journey and have new things revealed to me every once in awhile!

    If you want to understand the Catholic faith -- not the stories but just the facts -- enroll in an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). It is a program of study to help those wanting to join the RC church, or just to find out about it. It is often led by a priest, a deacon, or just lay people. I have taught in this program for many years, and I learn lots about my faith in every session, as we listen to each other and share our faith journeys.

    OK, long bunny trail again -- sorry. Back to exclusivity... While I can and do respect and honor other people's beliefs regarding faith, there are certainly differences that make me attend church and worship where and how I do. I understand that others want to express their faith in other places and ways. That's just fine -- I don't think we have to wear the same uniform in order to enter the gates of heaven! Because I choose to believe in certain way and you choose to believe in another does not shake the basic foundation of Christianity, or of a more basic belief -- e.g., the Jewish faith. We believe in God and are trying to worship and follow that God in our imperfect ways -- and that's what's important. The details pale in comparison to that basic belief.

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  21. Has anyone ever left the church not exclusively because of the doctrine but basically to get AWAY from their own family?

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  22. amerikkalainen... nice story.

    A comment on the greeting... I have seen OALCers greet and not greet non-OALCers and have witnessed non-OALCers being offended and not offended. I am both greeted and not greeted today. None of the above combinations are the least bit offensive to me. Have at it however you do it.

    Regarding Catholic communion... I have heard that it is both acceptable and non acceptable for non-Catholics to partake of communion but I must say that I have done so. I have done this all over the world in various cathedrals and venues and have done this while thinking my own thoughts. I have never been challenged and have always been treated well. Perhaps nobody knew. At any rate if the local body did not wish it and told me so, I would refrain... rituals being what they are.

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  23. I'm sure many non-Catholics have taken communion at a Mass. You don't have to give the secret handshake or anything, after all. It's between you and God ultimately, if you know it's not correct and do it anyway, and I wouldn't stop you. The bottom line is non-Catholics are not supposed to go to communion -- you can go up and when in front of the eucharistic minister cross your arms over your chest and you will receive a blessing. Also, yes it is true that Catholics are not to go to communion in a non-catholic church. The only exception is if an RC or Orthodox Catholic is in a community where there is no church of their own, but there is the other, they may go to communion if the priest allows it.

    Free, I do not recall that song -- it must have been introduced after I left, as I was a "lukkari" or songleader in my OALC church.

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  24. Many Trails Home5/16/2006 05:33:00 PM

    Hi All, fascinating postings. No, I don't remember the song; in fact, can't remember any penitent prodigals returning in my time, so maybe we had no call for it!

    Re communion in RC churches: I have done it with some discomfort, knowing their stance and also afraid I'd screw up the ritual somehow. Also, at our local Mission, I'm afraid that someone who knows me and knows I am not an official Catholic would take offense, and I am not intending to give offense. But at the Camaldolese Hermitage, things are much more relaxed, they bake their own coarse communion bread, etc, and I fully enjoy that experience. Speaking of adventures: I was given my first (and only) rosary while accompanying two bus loads of carismatic Catholics on a pilgrimage to the holy sites in Portugal and Spain, with our own Marian priest who performed masses for us in all these places. Do I have stories to tell . . . But my experiences convinced me that all Christians are Catholics at their core, they just don't know it and/or won't admit it (how's that for rattling some cages!) They are 95% the same and fight endlessly over the 5% difference. Not that I think we should all become Catholics, by any means. I'm not into "papism" myself, and have huge issues with hierarchies of all sorts. But it's the beliefs I'm talking about. I think we should be straight up about that.
    Many blessings to you all. MTH

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  25. Many Trails Home5/16/2006 05:38:00 PM

    PS: Speaking of hymns, here's something that always perplexed me: How is it that the OALCers feel so holy singing songs by writers who went to hell? Did God inspire the writers and then ditch them? Or if the songs are not inspired, then why are they singing them? Virtually all the hymns are written by "worldy" people, with rare exceptions such as "Onward Christian Soldiers." Has anyone else seen the irony in this? MTH

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  26. I remember when my sister was about to get married and her husband to be's family was over at my folk's house. The groom's sister saw me and said "God's Peace!" and then she remembered I had "given up my faith" recently and she actually gasped and brought her hands to cover her mouth.

    Recently, I called that sister and she said "oh hi, God's Peace" very naturally and then (because they think it is wrong to greet an "unbeliever") I said, "I could say that back to you, you know." She said she wished I could. I didn't push it because I knew she would feel extremely uncomfortable had I actually said "God's Peace" back to her.

    Changing the subject, has there been a discussion on this site regarding "sacred" language? You know, the words that your church used that have a different meaning to most of the world than the way your church uses it. Examples "worldy" "Unbeliever" "Unchristian" "self righteous" etc.

    I call them "buzz words" because they bring about a certain reaction or thought without me even thinking over what the word really could mean.

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  27. I know a new thread has been started, but I want to say thanks to all who have made comments about the catholic church and communion. I do attend a catholic church. I do not take communion. But, now that I know I can go up and cross my arms for a blessing, I will maybe start doing that. A Lutheran minister shared with me that some Catholics may be offended if a non Catholic took communion. It was suggested that we should not try to offend others of a certain faith. I agree.

    I, also, like the thought process that maybe all Christian are catholic at the core. The catholic church was the first-!!! Although, I am still struggling in my journey with what faith I will join.

    Oh...And how is the song "Onward Christian soldiers" not written by worldly people?

    God's Peace!

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  28. Many Trails Home5/22/2006 11:33:00 AM

    "Onward Christian Soldiers" was written by Martin Luther, and since we are "Lutherans," I guess he is considered "saved." MTH

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  29. Isn't that one of the songs banned by the OALC, one they are not allowed to sing in church?

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  30. norah said...

    "Onward Christian Soldiers" was written by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1864.

    From www.cyberhymnal.org: Baring-Gould had one of the most bril­liant, ec­lec­tic minds of Vic­tor­i­an Eng­land. Born in­to the land­ed gen­try, he at­tend­ed schools in Ger­ma­ny and France, then went to Clare Coll­ege at Cam­bridge. He learned six lan­guag­es, en­tered the min­is­try at age 30, and pas­tored in York­shire, Es­sex, and Dev­on­shire.

    He al­so found time to write over 100 books, in­clud­ing 30 nov­els and a mam­moth 16-vo­lume Lives of the Saints. His works cov­er a huge range of top­ics: the­ol­o­gy, folk­lore, so­cial com­ment­ary, trav­el & his­to­ry. One ac­count of his life states, “At one point there were more books list­ed un­der his name in the Brit­ish Mu­se­um Lib­rary than un­der that of any other Eng­lish writ­er.” But he was not just an au­thor: he was an ar­chae­ol­o­gist, ar­chi­tect, ar­tist, teach­er and a col­lect­or of Eng­lish folk songs. His fam­i­ly es­tate at Lew Trench­ard, near Dart­moor in Dev­on­shire, is now a ho­tel.

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  31. MTH, I think the song by Martin Luther that you may have been thinking of is "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

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  32. Many Trails Home5/23/2006 12:12:00 PM

    Wow, this site is some education. Well then, what hymn am I thinking of? It seems to me that the hymn was even in the Catholic hymnal(!!) with Luther given the credit for the hymn even there. I found that quite astonishing. Will check it out further. MTH

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  33. Many Trails Home5/23/2006 04:25:00 PM

    Right-o, Sisu. Thanks for the correction. MTH

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