Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.
Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, telling tribulations, inspirational progress, and everything in between.
Here are just a few things that happened this week, September 2-8, in Church history. They include the appointment of a prominent Methodist bishop, the wedding of famed evangelist Billy Sunday, and the rise of an influential Medieval pope.
‘Father of Methodist Missions’ Made Bishop – September 2, 1784
This week marks the anniversary of when Thomas Coke, considered by many to be the “Father of Methodist Missions” was appointed bishop over the nascent Methodist movement in America.
Methodism founder John Wesley appointed Coke to the position of superintendent, which by 1787 came to be known by the term “bishop.”
During his time as a leader in the Methodist church, Coke traveled extensively, serving as first chairman for the 1782 Irish Conference and making several trips to the United States.
“Coke was rightly called Father of the Methodist Missions. His pamphlet An Address to the Pious and Benevolent Proposing an Annual Subscription for the Support of Missionaries (1786) was the first Methodist missionary tract,” explained Boston University’s School of Theology.
“Beginning in 1792, he led in sending pioneer missionaries to most islands in the West Indies, as well as to new missions in Sierra Leone, Nova Scotia, Ireland, and France.”
Billy Sunday Gets Married – September 5, 1888
This week marks the anniversary of when famed evangelist Billy Sunday married Helen Amelia “Nell” Thompson, having proposed to her on New Year’s Day 1888.
Sunday was still a professional baseball player at the time of the wedding, his first official revival meeting not taking place until January 1896.
The marriage took place in Chicago, Illinois where the two had met in 1886 at a church youth group. A few days later, Sunday traveled with his new wife to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to continue playing for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.
“He had been playing excellent baseball in August, and after his wedding he continued his dramatic play in the field and on the base paths, making good contact at the plate and running out infield hits,” noted the Society for American Baseball Research.
In a 1913 book, author Theodore Thomas Frankenberg argued that an “account of the career and achievements of Rev. W. A. Sunday” would be incomplete “unless it made full recognition of the part Mrs. Sunday has had in both.”
“So nearly coincidental are the Christian ministry and the married life of Mr. Sunday that a separation of the two is almost impossible,” wrote Frankenberg.
“It is doubtful if either of the couple realize the amount the other has contributed to the success of the work.”
Gregory the Great Becomes Pope – September 3, 590
This week marks the anniversary of when St. Gregory the Great was consecrated head of the Roman Catholic Church, whose writings greatly shaped the church throughout the Medieval era.
Pope Gregory was known for his support and personal practice of monastic living, with the musical genre “Gregorian Chant” named in his honor.
“Gregory’s moral theology shaped medieval spirituality and in his writings offered a practical wisdom for the Christians of his day. Several of his works, including the Moralia on Job (579–596) and his handbook for rulers, Pastoral Rule (591), were extremely popular,” explained Britannica.
“… the importance Gregory placed on the Eucharist defined the medieval church. These teachings would be underscored in the Counter-Reformation, when Gregory’s view of the church, emphasizing penance, works, and the sacraments, was reemphasized in response to Protestant reforms.”