Saturday, August 4, 2012

Your Olympics/Episcopal trivia of the day

Everyone seems to be talking about Ethelbert Talbot these days. Well, actually, they're not talking about him by name. It's just that I saw this mention of how the Olympic Creed was inspired by a sermon. A little more digging revealed that the sermon in question was by the Rt. Rev. Ethelbert Talbot, then-Bishop of Pennsylvania, in London in 1908 for the Lambeth Conference, which happened to coincide with the Olympics.
The games were very contentious, with many American protests against British rulings. Talbot was aware of this and it concerned him. He was invited to preach at St Paul's Cathedral on July 19, a service to which athletes and officials of the games were specially invited. In his sermon, he said,
“We have just been contemplating the great Olympic Games. What does it mean? It means that young men of robust physical life have come from all parts of the world. It does mean, I think, as someone has said, that this era of internationalism as seen in the Stadium has an element of danger. Of course, it is very true, as he says, that each athlete strives not only for the sake of sport, but for the sake of his country. Thus a new rivalry is invented. If England be beaten on the river, or America outdistanced on the racing path, or that American has lost the strength which she once possessed. Well, what of it? The only safety after all lies in the lesson of the real Olympia - that the Games themselves are better than the race and the prize. St. Paul tells us how insignificant is the prize, Our prize is not corruptible, but incorruptible, and though only one may wear the laurel wreath, all may share the equal joy of the contest. All encouragement, therefore, be given to the exhilarating - I might also say soul-saving - interest that comes in active and fair and clean athletic sports.”
And from this was drawn what is now called the Olympic Creed:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
The good bishop, there, became Presiding Bishop, the last bishop to take the office due to seniority. There's also a fabulous story (in both senses of the word) in his Wikipedia article from his time when he was the missionary bishop of Wyoming and Idaho.
When he arrived in his see, there were only four clergy in each of the two states. In the ten years in the West, he established 38 churches and built St. Matthew's Cathedral in Laramie, Wyoming. This was still the Old West and the story is told of his encounter with bandits while riding in a stage coach,
“Surely you wouldn’t rob a poor bishop?” said Talbot.
“Did you say you were a bishop?” asked the bandit.
“Yes, just a poor bishop.”
“What church?”
“The Episcopal.”
“The hell you are! Why that’s the church I belong to! Go along, driver.”
And with that, I'm going to watch the women's triathlon which I recorded from early this morning. Fight well.

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