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Bishop Phillips BROOKS

Male 1835 - 1893  (57 years)

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  • Name Phillips BROOKS 
    Title Bishop 
    Born 13 Dec 1835  Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 23 Jan 1893  Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • (1) "Phillips Brooks," Encyclopædia Brittanica, 2010, © 2010 Encyclopædia Brittanica, Inc.:

      Phillips Brooks, (b. , Dec. 13, 1835, Boston, Mass., U.S. - d. Jan. 23, 1893, Boston), American Episcopal clergyman renowned as a preacher.

      A member of a wealthy old Brahmin family of New England, Brooks attended Harvard University (1851-55) and taught briefly at the Boston Latin School before attending the Episcopal Seminary at Alexandria, Va., being ordained there on July 1, 1859. The following month he began his ministry at the Church of the Advent in Philadelphia, where his impressive personality and eloquence won crowds of admirers. Three years later he became rector of Holy Trinity in the same city. Except for a year of travel abroad in 1865-66, he remained there seven years, during which he finished the lyrics of his famous Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (music by Lewis H. Redner). In 1869 he accepted the rectorship of Boston's Trinity Church, the nation's stronghold of Episcopalianism, and retained that position until he became bishop of Massachusetts in 1891.

      In Lectures on Preaching (delivered at Yale University in 1877), Brooks offered his most influential assay of his profession, defining preaching as "the bringing of truth through personality," by which he meant a kind of radiant optimism. His own eloquence was matched by his commanding, handsome figure, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing (in his prime) 300 pounds. His charismatic preaching became so renowned that he was invited in 1880 to preach at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Royal Chapel at Windsor before Queen Victoria. In 1890 he conducted an acclaimed series of services at Trinity Church, New York City. Several volumes of his sermons were published during his lifetime and posthumously.

      (2) Adams, Lucy Neeley, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" <>:

      It seems strange, but singing the same Christmas carols year after year is delightful. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of them. It never ceases to be meaningful as I picture the many visual images in the words. I accept its beauty with joy in my heart and the simple beat of its music.

      However, there was a day when I sang the carol and tears flowed. I dabbed my cheeks with a tissue, as I sang with new enthusiasm and greater joy. Something had changed. It was the first time I had ever sung this endearing hymn in a very special place-the REAL little town of Bethlehem. . . . My husband and I sat with friends who had traveled together from our home church in Tennessee. It was evident that everyone was deeply touched by the Spirit of God. We sat in the Church of the Nativity that is built over the spot where it is believed that Jesus was born. Hearing about Bethlehem was not the same as being a part of it. Reading about the birth of Jesus was not the same as worshiping in Bethlehem.

      This was probably the same reaction experienced by Phillips Brooks, the composer of this famous Christmas carol. He was the minister of Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia and had visited Bethlehem in December of 1865.

      Several years later, when he wanted a new song of Christmas for the children to sing at his church, he reached back in memory for inspiration from his Holy Land visit. The poem he wrote painted in words the sights and sounds of that little town of Bethlehem he had visited.

      What came from his pen was a Christmas carol that has lived to become a worldwide favorite:

      "O little town of Bethlehem,
      How still we see thee lie.
      Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
      The silent stars go by. . . ."

      Then he asked the church organist, Lewis Redner, to compose a simple melody for the children to sing on Christmas Eve. Mr.Redner sat down at the piano to find just the right tune to carry the descriptive words.
      But nothing he wrote seemed to fit. On the night before the Christmas Eve service he felt defeated, so he went to bed. During his fretful sleep it seemed that he heard music. Immediately, he got up and wrote down the melody just as we sing it today. When he joyfully presented it to Rev. Brooks he said: "I think it was a gift from heaven." The children sounded like a choir of angels as they sang the new carol written just for them. We are blessed to continue singing it over one hundred years later.

      The minister of Holy Trinity, Phillips Brooks, was born in Boston, in 1825 and educated at Harvard. He was a beloved and respected evangelist. After serving several Episcopal churches in Philadelphia and Boston, he was appointed Bishop of that area.

      This giant of a man, who stood 6-feet 8 inches, also had a big heart that endeared him to old and young alike. There were toys in his office for the many children who visited him. It was a familiar sight to see the beloved bishop sitting on the floor playing a game with a group of children.

      He never married but other people's children became like a family to him When he died unexpectedly in 1893, at the age of 58, everyone was overwhelmed with grief. It was a child who put his death in a beautiful light. When told by her mother that Bishop Brooks had gone to heaven, she simply said, "Oh Mama, how happy the angels will be."

      Within the beauty of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of God's promises from the prophet Micah: "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the little towns of Judah, but from you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (Micah 5:2, GNB).

      The last verse is a prayer. In fact, it is such an awesome Christmas prayer that we sing it with evangelistic fervor:

      "O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
      Decend to us, we pray.
      Cast out our sin, and enter in,
      Be born in us today.
      We hear the Christmas angels,
      The great glad tidings tell.
      Oh come to us, abide with us,
      Our Lord Emmanuel!"

      (3) Dunbar, Newell, Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, Boston, MA: J. G. Cupples, 1891, pp. 23-40:

      THE Right Reverend Phillips Brooks, S. T. D., Bishop of Massachusetts, and today doubtless the greatest preacher in America or in England, if not of Protestantism and of the world, was born in Boston, December 13, 1835, and is consequently now in his fifty-sixth year He is in the full vigor of a regally-endowed manhood, and likely to be able to devote many years to come to the causes of religion and of education, which he has held so dear. The original home of his family was North Andover. That his parents were devoted to Christianity, appears from the fact that of their six sons four, including him, became Christian ministers. When he was a boy, the family attended St. Paul's Church, in Boston, of which the rector was that admirable pulpit-orator, the Rev. Alexander Hamilton Vinton, whose polished eloquence, it is not unnatural to suppose, may have had considerable influence in arousing in young Brooks's heart that predominant ideal which so often makes the boy in a great sense father of the man. Dr. Vinton afterwards for a second time, as will be seen later, exerted a beneficent influence upon his young friend, and at a critical point in his life. Dr. Vinton, by the way, preached the consecration-sermon at the consecration of the new Trinity Church, Boston.

      Young Brooks fitted for college at the Boston Latin School, and in 1851 was admitted to Harvard University, by which famous institution he was duly graduated in 1855, being then in his nineteenth year. It is on record that at about the time of his graduation - that critical period in the lives of educated youth - he was in doubt (as so many such young men are) what profession to adopt. When still a senior he consulted the President of his University on the point, and that learned gentleman, with all the omniscient insight of a very wise man, said: "In deciding the difficult question of a choice of profession, I think, we may always be helped towards a solution of the problem by eliminating, in the first place, the impossible vocations. This saves much trouble and loss of time, as it at once narrows the field, and restricts the mind to fewer points, from which to make its selection. Now, in your case, for instance, owing to the impediment in your speech, you could never be a preacher, and we may as well therefore at the outset lay aside all thought of the ministry." Just what profession collegiate infallibility recommended its young applicant for advice to adopt, need not be recalled here: the irony of subsequent events has extracted the interest from the rest of the little oration. The advice given was no doubt sound, judging from the standpoint of probability, and weighing what seemed to be the chances. Moreover, the speaker, beyond a doubt, gave it with reluctance, as his preferences must all have been in favor of the pulpit. This very funny story, however, would never have risen up and lived to be told against him, if, classical scholar as he was, he had not been temporarily oblivious of the paradoxical case, upwards of two thousand years ago, of a certain somewhat famous man in Athens, named Demosthenes. The wreck of his prophecy only furnishes one more proof, what unforeseen and wonderful things a great personality, in "dead earnest," unaccountably manages to achieve.

      In spite of the well-meant advice of the sagacious but human President, the future preacher decided to make the ministry his life-calling; and, in order to prepare himself for it, betook himself to the Episcopal Divinity School at Alexandria, Va., graduating here in 1859. Many are the recollections of his noble character and promise cherished by those who were his classmates here. Here it was that he wrote his first sermon, on "The simplicity that is in Christ," of which he himself - his sense of humor being keen, even when he himself is the victim - recounts that a classmate's criticism of it was, "There was very little simplicity in it, and no Christ."

      If graduating from college is the Saarbr??ck in a young man's career, graduating from his professional school is his Sedan. The perplexing question of establishing himself, and of making a start, then confronts him. In this respect, indeed, the young minister has the advantage over the young lawyer and the young doctor. Unless the latter have some means of subsistence apart from their professions, the outlook for them is disheartening, indeed: in all probability, it will be years before their position is secure, and their practice remunerative. The "starting" clergyman, on the other hand, as soon as he has secured a parish at all, at once secures with it a living, and a place for making himself felt. But with a young man of large possibilities, how great the importance where and what that first parish is! If it be off by comparison somewhere in the backwoods, with a scant, commonplace and insignificant congregation, in all human likelihood, to be sure, he will work to the front, and win the position suited to his powers, in time; but it will probably take him years to do so, and when the opportunity shall have been conquered, youth will have fled, and the momentum and keenness of his first onset have been dulled. The "position in life to which it had pleased Providence to call" Phillips Brooks, and the character of his friends and acquaintances, were such that he could unquestionably somewhere have obtained a parish composed of intelligent people, if a small and comparatively uninfluential one: indeed, it may be said that the intellectual grade of nearly all Episcopal parishes is high. But it was just at this point that Dr. Vinton rendered the essential service spoken of above. He had, in the meantime, become the rector of the large, wealthy and important Church of the Advent, in Philadelphia; and through his influence young Brooks was in 1859 made his assistant; thus, without tedious preliminaries, at once stepping into a first-rate position in a great and populous city. His preaching and character at once made themselves felt, and he was shortly afterwards, in 1860, installed in the same city in a church of his own, the Holy Trinity. His fame as a preacher grew, and came to extend far beyond the warmhearted Quaker City, and indeed beyond its State. In Philadelphia, he remained ten years, and departed thence greatly regretted, leaving behind him a memory such as it has been given to but few men to create. Whenever he returns thither on a visit, his welcome resembles that of the prodigal son.

      When young Brooks was seeking his first parish, his native city of Boston-in regard to whom, her critics have not been slow in pointing out how frequently she has failed to know her greatest-somehow or other did not seem burning with anxiety to furnish him a foothold; but when the noise of him had gone abroad in the land, and it began to be said that Phillips Brooks of Philadelphia was the greatest preacher in the Episcopal Church, if not indeed in the country, Boston - if somewhat tardily-opened her eyes and heart (not forgetting her pocket), and concluded to take him in. Indeed; it has been further remarked by those extremely keen-sighted persons, her critics, that after driving her unrecognized geniuses from her door on penalty if need be of starvation, once let them become of mark elsewhere, and-thrifty Yankee that she is with eye ever roving for the "rising sun" - she hastens to welcome them back. In 1869 the rector of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, received and accepted a call to and became the rector of Trinity Church, Boston.

      His new parish, like the one he left, was a strong and influential one. Its church edifice, with "its battlemented tower, like a great castle of the truth," was at that time a conspicuous object in Summer Street. It was destroyed in the "great fire" of 1872. The parish at once proceeded to erect a new place of worship. The plans for it were drawn by that architect of sweetness and light, Mr. H. H. Richardson, - whose untimely death was a loss to American art, - and by all odds the most complete, thoroughly-built and beautiful church-building in the United States, with a seating capacity of over two-thousand, situated on Boylston Street in the choicest residential portion of the city, and costing over a million dollars, was the result. For architectural beauty it will compare with many of the famous places of worship, hallowed by time and by sacred memories, of green England. As one regards it in the bright morning or in the early evening light, fancy adds the softening of outline - the mellowing and metamorphosis of tints - the more daring spread of the ivies - that are to come with the years, and the heart, yielding a sigh of deep content, confesses to itself: "It is enough!"

      The new church was taken possession of in 1877, and from that time to this has been the home of Phillips Brooks's eloquence. The audiences it has contained have grown with the fame of its rector, till today it often scarcely suffices to admit the throngs that seek entrance. In 1886 he was elected Assistant-Bishop of Pennsylvania, but declined. The offer of a Professorship in Harvard University was also at one time made him; but neither did he accept this. He has at various times been a quite extensive traveler, having visited no inconsiderable portion of the earth's surface, including India, Palestine and Japan: it may be added that he cherishes the hope of extending his travels before he dies still further. In England his visits have been numerous, and he has made many friends and created a deep impression there. He preached at Westminister Abbey; at both the Universities; before the Queen, and before many of the first people in the Kingdom. It was and is the opinion of Archdeacon Farrar, that his equal as a preacher and as a man does not exist amongst the clergy of the English Church. At the death of Bishop Paddock in 1891, he was almost unanimously elected Bishop in his stead by the Diocese of Massachusetts. According to the very singular, and it is thought wholly unprecedented, arrangement existing in the American Episcopal Church, however, in that church a diocese practically cannot elect its own bishop, the election not being valid until it has been ratified by a majority of all the bishops in the Church. The objections urged against him, the long contest over the matter, and all the sorry tale of innuendo, recrimination and partisan strife, need not be recounted here. They are fresh in the minds of all, and are now happily ended. Even as you are reading this little book its title has been justified, and Phillips Brooks is in fact Bishop of his native State.


      Phillips Brooks
      Birth: Dec. 13, 1835, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
      Death: Jan. 23, 1893, Massachusetts, USA

      Brooks has been called "the greatest American preacher of the 19th Century." He attended the Boston Latin School, Harvard University (where Phillips Brooks House was named after him) and Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. He became an Episcopal priest in 1860, and became Rector of the Church of the Advent, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was known for his support of freeing the slaves and allowing former slaves to vote. In 1869, he became Rector of Trinity Church in Boston. In 1872, he helped design the Trinity Church building which today stands in Boston's Back Bay. In 1891, he became Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts. Brooks wrote about his horseback journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he assisted with the midnight service on Christmas Eve, 1865: I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior's birth. (bio by: Sue Modolo)

      Burial: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Originally Created by: Sue Modolo
      Record added: Dec 13, 2004
      Find A Grave Memorial# 10076162


      Phillips Brooks
      Birth: 1835
      Death: 1893

      Memorial Site: Westminster Abbey, Westminster, Greater London, England
      Plot: St. Margaret's Church

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Record added: Jan 02, 2001
      Find A Grave Memorial# 19270
    Person ID I15649  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 

    Father William Gray BROOKS,   b. 12 Oct 1805, Portland, Cumberland County, ME Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother Mary Ann PHILLIPS,   b. 17 Mar 1808, Andover, Essex County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F7033  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

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    Phillips BROOKS
    Phillips BROOKS