October 1, 2012

Hale: In love the life of heaven we found

"I was installed in the ministry of this church on the evening of Wednesday, October 1, 1856," wrote Edward Everett Hale in his memoir (the chapter entitled "A Church in the War"). "I have remained its minister until the year when I am writing these lines, but I lately sent in my resignation, which will take effect on the 1st of October, 1899." In his decades as minister of the South Congregational Church in Boston, Hale was also an editor of several periodicals and authored several works included "My Double, and How He Undid Me" (1859) and "The Man Without a Country" (1864).

But, mostly, Hale was a strong-willed reformer, advocating abolitionism above all else. When the Civil War started, he recognized, "The South Congregational Church is simply one cell in the organized life of this nation. The cell need not exist if the nation ceased to exist." To protect his country, then, he threw himself "into every effort" he could find. From his pulpit, he encouraged eligible men to enlist and, he vowed, if the flow of enlistments stopped from his congregation, he would sign up himself. He oversaw women who "sent their sewing-machines to the vestry" and worked to sew various articles for soldiers.

Both during and after the war, Hale emphasized religious tolerance, education, and uplifting the downtrodden. Perhaps there is no better way to show his interest in supporting others than with his poem "In Love the Life of Heaven We Found":

I went to learned men and asked the way.
The learned men were lost among their books;
They bade me stand aside, for such as they
For such as me had neither words nor looks.

I went to churches, where beyond my sight
Priests and their servants served great mystery;
Their waves of incense filled the arches' height,
Their waves of music swelled in harmony.
But I stood all alone: and he and he
Who led the great procession had no care for me.

I left their church, and sought the street instead,
To find a cripple crouched upon the ground.
I took him to my home and called for aid,
From palace and from hovel, all around.
His wounds we tended and his hunger fed,—
And lo! in love the life of heaven we found.

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