Friday, February 03, 2006

Altar Call

I gave a presentation today on the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple (1881-1944) for my class on Lesslie Newbigin. It was short & somewhat rushed - probably not as good as some of the other presetations given - but hey, by the time my turn came, we were running out of time.

Anyway, when I got finished, my friend Andrew asked me - "So where was the altar call?" And the truth was, as I finished with the concluding anecdote, I got a little choked up myself - I almost started to tear up. Here is the story as it was included in Richard H. Schmidt's "How Shall I follow Christ, William Temple, 1881-1944"

"Temple ventured often onto university campuses where a sophisticated philosophical skepticism was much in vogue. He would preach every night for a week or longer. Attendance normally increased each night. Temple's intellectual vigor and spiritual passion revived the church on many campuses. In one memorable incident at Oxford in 1931, reported by his biographer F.A. Iremonger, Temple challenged his hearers on the final night of hte mission with the words of a familiar hymn.
'They are tremendous words,' Temple said. 'If you mean them with all your hearts, sing them as loud as you can. If you don't mean them at all, keep silent. If you don't mean them at all, keep silent. If you mean them even a little, and want to mean them more, sing them very softly.'

Silence filled the room as every eye looked at the text of the hymn. Then 2,000 voices sang, in a whisper:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

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