The word lagniappe is among the most enjoyable in North American English. Originally a Quechua term from the Andes, it came to the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico through cultural exchange with French-speaking Creoles in what is now Louisiana. Today, it means “something extra,”—a gift one receives from a merchant, such as the thirteenth doughnut in a baker’s dozen or a bundle of cilantro at the grocer. Mark Twain considered lagniappe “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.”
Public Domain Day is the relatively new occasion when books and other pieces of creative work enter freedom from copyright each year on January 1. For most books published in English, this now applies to authors who died before 1924, as well as to copyrights filed before that year. The host of items that became part of the public domain on New Year’s Day this year include George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, and A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young, as well as the works of Una Pope-Hennessy, Lead Belly, Margaret Mitchell, Richard Strauss, and Osbert Sitwell.
Newly-digitized works of Anglican and Episcopal history are a tiny minority in the group that are now free to read for all with internet connections, but they are a lagniappe of richness with which to begin a new year.
History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church
By George F. Bragg
Baltimore: Church Advocate Press, 1922.
This primary source on African American history in the Episcopal Church is by one of the most prolific authors of letters to the editor in the entire history of The Living Church. George Freeman Bragg (1863-1940) was the long-tenured rector of what was then called St. James First African Church in Baltimore, and a tireless activist against racial discrimination inside and outside the church. The book includes narrative chapters, parish histories, brief biographies of African American leaders, and wonderful photographs.
Journal of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America Held in the City of Detroit from October Eighth to October Twenty-fourth, Inclusive, in the Year of Our Lord 1919, with Appendices
New York: Printed for the General Convention, 1920.
The 46th General Convention of the Episcopal Church was the first to take place in Detroit, and one of the farthest west in the United States when it took place. GC46’s proceedings were published the following year in a 616-page compilation (another 200 pages of this volume are a new edition of the Constitution and Canons). Particular matters of interest at General Convention 1919 included episcopal jurisdiction in the Danish West Indies, which had recently been purchased by the United States; empowering Episcopal bishops to receive Orthodox Christian congregations under their jurisdiction; omitting the Gloria in excelsis at two occurrences in the Book of Common Prayer; declaring full communion with the “Orthodox Eastern Church;” and sending greetings to Congregationalists.
The first issues of Anglican Theological Review appeared a year after the United States had entered the First World War, with the following explanation: “Only one excuse can be offered for the appearance in America of a new quarterly periodical limited to a discussion of theological students of the Anglican Communion. The excuse is simply that the field is vacant, and needs to be filled.” The first volume of ATR, under the editorship of Samuel Mercery and Leicester Lewis of the former Western Theological Seminary in Chicago, is now available for free download. Prominent articles include work in New Testament bibliography, editor Lewis’s “Troeltsch vs. Ritschl: A Study in Epochs,” F.J. Hall on the Immaculate Conception, Vida Dutton Scudder on “The Social Teachings of the Christian Year,” and several investigations by Dickinson Miller on the problem of evil. As further issues of ATR enter the public domain (a process the periodical can hasten at no charge) the venerable periodical’s treasures of earlier generations will be made available to more readers.
Dean Inge (1860-1954) was one of the most prolific of twentieth-century clerical writers, with an absence in modern readership comparable only to his former prominence among literary churchfolk. Inge was Dean of St. Paul’s, London from 1911 to 1934, a tenure that placed him in national and international view for his “outspoken” attitudes on modern life; these opinions included a visceral hatred of democracy (which he called “absurdity”), and advocacy for nudism (about which he wrote an entire book). This group of eleven essays is slightly less provocative, expressing concern at the contemporary English birth-rate, investigating the thought of John Henry Newman and Roman Catholic Modernist theologians, and exploring mysticism and the writings of Charles Gore.
As parts of the global Anglican and Methodist families move closer to one another in local covenants (in New Zealand and the United Kingdom) and with a full communion proposal in the United States, the biography of John Wesley himself continues to drive headlines in church life. Wesley famously insisted that he died in the Church of England, in which he had been a devout and enthusiastic communicant. As the movement he helped to begin outgrew the existing ecclesiastical structures and met with official disapproval, he acquiesced to the reality of schism. Wesley the Anglican is the outgrowth of a series of lectures at the General Theological Seminary in New York, exploring “Wesley the Human,” “Wesley the Churchman,” and the evangelist’s travels in North America as well as many threads of his thought and writing.
Richard J. Mammana is archivist of the Living Church Foundation and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a parishioner at Christ Church, New Haven and the founder of Project Canterbury, anglicanhistory.org.