Today we remember Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, whose name is a mouthful, and not well known, although he has a place now on the Episcopal Church's calendar of remembrances.
Kennedy was of Irish descent, but raised in Leeds, an urban center in the north of England. A priest of the Church of England, he served as an army chaplain in World War I, and it is out of that experience that most of his writing was done. His prose and his poetry are examples of theological reflection, well before the time we ever used those words together.
His writing was not universally well received. His language was at times rough, and he was constantly criticized for a less than systematic theology. Kennedy was actually a prophet, who used his experience of the war to call the church to a renewed understanding of God. Here's a small sample from his book The Hardest Part.
It's always the Cross in the end--God, not Almighty, but God the Father, with a Father's sorrow and a Father's weakness, which is the strength of love; God splendid, suffering, crucified--Christ....There's the Dawn.
Of the soldiers with whom he served, he said,
They do not, and will not, believe in [God Almighty] the monarch on the throne; they do, and will, believe in the Servant on the Cross.
The more I read of Kennedy, the more I consider him to be the Bonhoeffer of our tradition, and a full generation earlier. It is Bonhoeffer who famously said, "Only the Suffering God can save."
I thank The Rev. Dennis Wienk for giving my access to Studdert Kennedy's work. It has enriched my own theological reflection, and, even more, my relationship with God.
Here's a link to some of Kennedy's poetry: Kennedy Poetry