Jan 1, 2024

Anniversaries to remember in 2024

interesting and significant anniversaries in half-century increments

[Image of Ambrose, public domain, from John Lord, Beacon lights of history. New York: James Clarke, 1886.]

Each year CHI staff sift through church events for interesting and significant anniversaries. By looking at anniversaries in fifty-year increments, we paint a picture of the sweep of church history.


In December 374, rioting churchgoers in Milan demanded Ambrose for bishop. Milan’s church had been torn between Arian and Orthodox factions. A government official, Ambrose would go on to become one of the greatest churchmen of his age and a strong defender of orthodoxy. He was recognized as a doctor of the Latin church.


An Arian king executed an Orthodox consul in October 524 on trumped up charges. Boethius had written theological treatises before imprisonment, and his masterpiece, Consolation of Philosophy while in prison. Earlier that same year, Bishop Simeon of Beth Ashram in Arabia, had reported martyrdoms in the southern regions of the Arabian Peninsula.


At the suggestion of Pope Adrian I, magistrates of Rome, carrying the banners of the city, greeted Charlemagne three miles from Rome in April 774. Northern emperors had become crucial supporters of the papacy.


Theodosius died in May 1074. A founder of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Kiev Caves), he had labored with Anthony of the Caves to introduce monasticism to Russia.


In September 1224 Francis of Assisi had a vision of a Seraph. Filled with joy, he discovered that wounds like Christ’s had appeared on his hands, feet, and side—the first recorded instance of stigmata.


March 1274 witnessed a death in the monastery of Fossanova. The victim was Thomas Aquinas, possibly the most famous Dominican theologian, author of Summa Theologica and Summa contra Gentiles. In September, Bonaventura, the notable successor of St. Francis, also died. He had been a minister general of the Franciscans and a powerful preacher. His writings breathe a warmth of spiritual passion and avoidance of scholastic nit-picking.

Meanwhile, on the world stage, the Second Council of Lyons convened in May with the goal of reunifying the Roman and Greek churches. Attended by approximately five hundred bishops, it was unsuccessful. Although Orthodox delegates agreed to recognize papal claims and recited the creed as edited by Rome (with the filioque clause), any union was fiercely rejected by the majority of Orthodox clergy and laity.


In March 1324, Pope John XXII excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV of Bavaria for exercising imperial rights after the pope had ordered him not to. Once dependent on northern emperors, the papacy had now grown powerful enough to dictate terms to them.


In November 1474, composer William Dufay died in Cambrai. He had pioneered developments in the singing of masses. The church’s wealth was enabling it to become a great patron of the arts.


Chivalry was past its prime, soon to be spoofed by Miguel de Cervantes in his 1605–1615 novel Don Quixote. Knights had incorporated Christian ideals of kindness, courage, and honor into an informal code. The chief exemplar of that code in the sixteenth century, Chevalier de Bayard, died in battle in April 1524. Considered the epitome of a Christian courtier and one of the finest soldiers in France, he was described as a “knight without fear and without reproach.”


King Charles IX of France died in May 1574, allegedly haunted by superstitious terrors because of the Huguenots he had ordered to be massacred in the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Protestantism had risen from the Reformation and been fiercely resisted by the Catholic Church and Catholic rulers, Charles IX among them. However, Protestant movements and missions would continue to spread around the world.


In March 1624, the town council of Gorlitz, Saxony, summoned Jacob Boehme to give an account of some of his writings that were considered heretical. Boehme’s writings survived the censorship, however, and continued to influence mystics down to our day. That was not an age that encouraged freedom of thought as Antonio Homem learned in May. A Christian theologian from Coimbra University, he was burned at the stake in Lisbon, Portugal. A Jew by ancestry, his family had been forced to convert to Christianity in the sixteenth century and the Portuguese Inquisition accused him of Jewish sympathies and secret Jewish worship, in part because he had recited some of the more Jewish-sounding Psalms from the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible.


The arts suffered irreplaceable losses in 1674. Dürer’s painting, The Coronation of the Virgin, burned in a palace in Munich in April, where it had been in the possession of Elector Maximilian of Bavaria. In September, Thomas Traherne died. His poems, considered worthless at his death, were rediscovered long afterward, and recognized as among the best by a seventeenth century minor poet, brimming with childlike delight in God’s works.


The Continental Congress of the nascent United States assembled for the first time in September 1774 in Philadelphia. After electing its president, its first official business was to take a vote to open each session with prayer. Episcopal preacher Jacob Duché was selected to deliver the invocations which began the following day. Halfway around the world that month, Protestants were on the move. Moravian women and children, accompanied by a few men, arrived at Astrachan, Russia, having fled an insurgency that threatened to destroy their colony at Sarepta on the Volga, where they had settled to plant the gospel.


In March 1824, Brazil adopted a new constitution that retained Roman Catholicism as the nation’s official religion, but permitted all other religions—evidence of the increasing influence of powerful Protestant nations. Protestantism was gaining traction throughout Latin America. In September, James “Diego” Thomson, Scottish Presbyterian and colporteur of the British and Foreign Bible Society, arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with 800 New Testaments to distribute, the first significant Protestant influence in that Catholic nation.

In April a towering musical work, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass), premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In May the American Sunday School Union, organized out of the Sunday and Adult School Union, ratified its new name and constitution. Its purpose was to use Sunday schools as a means to instill Christian and democratic values “wherever there is a population” in the United States. 


Single women were now active in missions. In January 1874, Kate Youngman and Mary Park opened Graham Seminary in Tokyo (named for Julia Graham, head of the Presbyterian’s foreign missionary office). They would form networks to evangelize among the Japanese. Later Youngman would work with victims of leprosy. In September Florence Young attended a prayer meeting in Dunedin, New Zealand. Terrified at the thought of Christ’s Second Coming, she suddenly realized that the promise of Isaiah 43:25 applied to her: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” Thereafter she was able to serve the Lord with gladness, and eventually founded and operated the South Sea Evangelical Mission.

Indigenous and minority leaders also were becoming a force in the church. For instance, in March Mathura Kath Bose was ordained in Calcutta. He would go on to minister to the Chandal people of Gopalgunge near the Ganges, winning many to Christ. He lived on a meagre income, having relinquished opportunities for commercial advancement by becoming a Christian. In August V. S. Azariah was born. He became one of the greatest soul-winners and church builders India has ever known. In November, James Theodore Holly was ordained the first bishop of Haiti at Grace Church, New York City. This made him the first African American raised to the office of missionary bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Two laymen active in the “Golden Age of Hymns” died this year. William Sandys, an English lawyer had composed “The First Noel” and popularized Christmas carols. Edward Mote, an English cabinetmaker, had penned the lines to the hymn “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.”

Meanwhile, in March, Protestant missionary John Luther Stephens was murdered in Ahualulco, Mexico, by a mob stirred up by a local Catholic priest. Stephens had recently begun work at this “outpost,” where he taught night schools and found many listeners for impromptu sermons and lessons.


The church loses notable men every year. Three that passed away in 1924 were Sabine Baring-Gould, who died at Exeter, England, in January. An Anglican clergyman, he had authored a highly-regarded Lives of the Saints and two popular hymns: “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Now the Day Is Over.” In May, death claimed William Haas, who perished of a “fever.” He and his wife had done much to create Baptist Mid-Missions, recruit personnel, and establish a station at Bangassou, Central African Republic. Huang Naishang, who had labored as a pastor, Bible translator, YMCA director, newspaper editor, reformer, educator, and advisor to various Chinese governments died in September. As he lay dying, he asked his wife to hold up a picture of Christ for him to see and then to place it on his chest.

In June, a timid Ji Wang was baptized secretly in Taiwan. Eventually a Presbyterian missionary convinced her to get religious training in order to evangelize the tribe among whom she lived. She agreed and before her death in 1946, five thousand head hunters had been baptized because of her ministry. Across the ocean in the United States, Maria Buelah Woodworth-Etter died in September. For many years she had been a tent evangelist, revivalist, and faith healer, widely regarded as a precursor of Pentecostal evangelists. Continuing the trend toward more prominent roles for women in the church, Mabel Dean and Hattie Salyer arrived in Egypt in October to begin a mission work.

In July, Eric Liddell demonstrated his muscular Christianity by winning the Olympic four-hundred-meter race in Paris after he had rejected an opportunity to run in the one-hundred-meter race because its heats were held on a Sunday. He believed it was a violation of God’s Sabbath command to run on Sunday.

As the year closed, modern technology gained a foothold in the church when Lutheran theologian and author Walter Maier founded the radio station KFUO, “The Gospel Voice,” at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. Another kind of modernism had appeared in January in the Auburn Affirmation, which many believers considered an erosion of fundamental Presbyterian beliefs because it made room for “Christian” ministers who doubted or denied biblical doctrines such as the Virgin Birth.


Protestants increasingly saw the importance of working together to evangelize the world. That is how Paul Wei Han, physician, scientist, and educator, the first president of the Yang Ming Medical College, came to represent Taiwan’s Christians at the Lausanne Conference in July. Gathered by Billy Graham, over one hundred and fifty evangelical leaders attended.

That same month, Chinese troops massacred Christians of the A-Hmao ethnic group who had worshiped secretly in a cave at Xinglongchang. Their leaders had defied the Communists by saying if forbidden to worship openly they would worship secretly and if attacked on Sunday they would multiply their meetings to every day of the week.

Defiance of another sort was on display when fifteen hundred people crowded the sanctuary of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia to witness the ordination of eleven women in defiance of Episcopalian policy. (The General Convention of the Episcopal Church would approve the ordination of women two years later.)

April recorded the death of beloved Baptist leader and educator George Morling in Sydney, Australia. Morling College would be named for him. December saw the death in India of equally beloved Evelyn “Granny” Brand, who had conducted an extraordinary work in the hill country. She had wanted to complete tasks begun by her husband and herself years earlier, following his premature death, but mission authorities would not let her. So upon her “retirement” she moved to the hills and worked there independently with great success for twenty-four years more until her death.

Tags anniversaries • Christian history • events

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