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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers George Berkeley, 1753, and Joseph Butler, 1752, Bishops and Theologians.

George Berkeley was born in Ireland and educated in Trinity College, Dublin. Though his first publication was in mathematics, it was his works in philosophy that would earn his reputation as a significant thinker. Berkeley became known for a philosophy called “immaterialism,” which holds that material objects only exist in our perception. Thus comes his well-known quotation, “To be is to be perceived.”

Around 1714, Berkeley went to England, where he mixed ongoing academic work with travel throughout Europe. He was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1721, and began work on founding a theological training college in Bermuda several years later. Moving to Newport, Rhode Island, Berkeley bought a plantation and waited for funds for his college. When funds were not forthcoming, he returned to England in 1732. He donated his plantation and library to Yale College.

In his later years, he was devoted to humanitarian work, serving as one of the original governors of The Foundling Hospital. Berkeley died on January 13, 1753, and is buried at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford.

Along with Berkeley College at Yale, both Berkeley Divinity School and the City of Berkeley in California are named for him.

Gracious God, help us to use our intellect in your service and give us zeal to spread the gospel, both in word and deed. Amen.

The English Church in the eighteenth century was besieged by deists, nonconforming evangelicals, and most of all by indifferent or lazy clergy of her own. Joseph Butler was an outstanding example of the other side of the coin. Operating well within the structures and traditions of the established church, he forged a positive Christian apologetic which has outlived the attitudes of his opponents. He is credited with breaking the force of deism in England, without compromising his reason, and with saving many from fanatic evangelicalism, without surrendering his warmth, personal piety, or social concern. His masterpiece, the Analogy of Religion, is still considered one of the most reasoned and convincing defenses of Christian faith and ethic.

Butler first established a reputation as a preacher at the Rolls Chapel, London, where his famous Fifteen Sermons were delivered and published. He wrote the Analogy of Religion under very different circumstances, as rector of the small parish of Stanhope in the north of England. He was elected Bishop of Bristol and served most admirably in that post for twelve years before accepting the bishophric of Durham, in which position he died. Bishop Butler was a great pastor, who served the minds as well as the bodies and spirits of his people.

We thank you, O God, for the teaching of your servant Joseph; may our witness be as faithful. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Holy God, source of all wisdom: We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler, who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world. Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service, for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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