“Woodbine Willie” is a strange name for an Anglican priest. The nickname was given to
G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929) by the battered troops of the British forces to whom he ministered in World War I.
The name came from the “Woodbine” cigarettes he gave to the troops. Woodbine Willie grew up among the desperately poor. He had two great passions: the church and social reform. He never winced and, oh, how he was loved by what were then known as “the common people.” He was a fighter for social justice and human rights, but he also advocated civil conversation, what he called “a plane” upon which people of differing views and good conscience would come together to resolve a problem. Think about the current national debate in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown.
“There is, and there must be, a plane upon which we can think and reason together upon questions arising out of our wider human relations, social questions, that is, apart from and above party prejudice and sectional interest. If it is not so, and there is no such plane, and we can not think of these big questions outside the prejudices and passions that arise in party strife, then it is safe to assert that there will never be any solution of the problems whatsoever. The idea that politics in the true sense – that is, the art of managing our human relationships on a large scale – must remain a separate department of life, distinct from morals and religion, is ultimately irrational and absurd, and is an idea with which no responsible teacher ought to have anything to do. – Sermon, “The Church in Politics: a Defense”
Tomorrow night, Tuesday, Feb. 5, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska will do its best to provide “a plane” for reasonable discussion of the epidemic of gun violence in America. 7:00 – 8:30 PM. Hope and pray that it be an evening where we step back to discuss “the big questions outside the prejudices and passions that arise in party strife.”