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William Palmer Ladd and the Origins of the Episcopal Liturgical Movement

  • Michael Moriarty (a1)


The liturgical movement in the American Episcopal Church owes its origin to William Palmer Ladd (1870–1941), a pragmatic New England Yankee whose ideas helped reorient the church's worship and self-understanding, and came to fruition in the current liturgy, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.



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1. Mortimor, Charles [sic] Guilbert, “From the Prayer Book's Official ‘Watchdog,’ ” Open (n.p., n.d., 1971), p. 2.

2. Ladd was born 13 May 1870, in Lancaster, New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1891 and spent 1893–1896 studying at Paris, Oxford, and Leipzig universities. He took his Bachelor of Divinity degree from General Theological Seminary, New York, and was ordained deacon in 1897 and priest the next year. He served as rector of St. Barnabas Church, Berlin, New Hampshire, from 1897 to 1902. Ladd received an M.A. from Harvard in 1903 and a D.D. from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, in 1919. He married Ailsie Taylor of London, England, in 1915; they had two sons and two daughters.

3. Ladd, William Palmer, Prayer Book Interleaves: Some Reflections on How the Book of Common Prayer Might Be Made More Influential In Our English-Speaking World (New York, 1942; 2nd ed., Greenwich, Conn., 1957), pp. vii–viii.

4. See Hughes, Kathleen, ed., How Firm a Foundation: Voices of the Early Liturgical Movement (Chicago, 1990);and Tuzik, Robert, ed., How Firm a Foundation: Leaders of the Liturgical Movement (Chicago, 1990).

5. Among French Roman Catholics, Prosper Guéranger (18051875);among Anglicans, Palmer, William (18031885);among Lutherans in Bavaria, Loehe, Wilhelm (18081872);among Danish Lutherans, Grundtvig, Nikolai F. S. (17831872);among American Calvinist churches, the Mercersburg theology of Nevin, John W. (18031886) and Schaff, Philip (18191893). On the American frontier, the Disciples of Christ, formed in 1831, achieved the first success since the fourth century in making weekly communion the norm for worship.

6. See O'Connell, Marvin R., The Oxford Conspirators: A History of the Oxford Movement 1833–45 (New York, 1969);and White, James F., The Cambridge Movement: The Ecclesiologists and the Gothic Revival (Cambridge, U.K., 1962).

7. See Davies, Horton, Worship and Theology in England, vol. 4: From Newman to Martineau, 1850–1900 (Princeton, N.J., 1962), pp. 114138.

8. Ladd, , Prayer Book Interleaves, pp. 19–20.

9. Ibid., p. 166.

10. Ibid., pp. 166, 128–129.

11. The modern phase of the liturgical movement was introduced into the United States from western Europe in 1926 by Virgil Michel, O.S.B. (1890–1938). See Marx, Paul B., Virgil Michel and the Liturgical Movement (Collegeville, Minn., 1957).

12. Ladd, , Prayer Book Interleaves, p. 167.

13. Ibid., p. 45.

14. Ibid., pp. 113–114.

15. Ibid., pp. 157–162.

16. Shepherd, Massey H. Jr., Foreword to Ladd, Prayer Book Interleaves (Greenwich, Conn.,1957), p. iii.

17. Ladd, Prayer Book Interleaves, pp. 22, 148, 164.

18. Ibid., p. 23.

19. Ibid., p. 167.

20. Ibid., p. 141.

21. Ibid., pp. 20–21.

22. See Dearmer, Percy, The Parson's Handbook (London, 1899; many eds. thereafter by Oxford University Press).Dearmer was one of the first members of the Christian Social Union, founded in 1889, which was part of the Church of England's attempt to meet the challenges of the industrialization and urbanization of modern society. See also Dearmer, Nancy Knowles, The Life of Percy Dearmer (London, 1941).

23. Hebert, A. G., Liturgy and Society: The Function of the Church in the Modern World (London, 1935). Ladd admired Dearmer's and Hebert's concern for the social implications of liturgy, but not their Anglo-Catholicism.

24. Ladd, Prayer Book Interleaves, pp. 166167.

25. Ibid., p. 59.

26. Ibid., p. 16; see also pp. 15–17,59,99–100, 154, 159, 164.

27. The American Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1789 and revised in 1892, 1928, and 1979.

28. Shepherd, Massey H. Jr., “The Berakah Award: Response,” Worship 52 (07 1978): 304.

29. Ladd, , Prayer Book Interleaves, p. 159.

30. Ibid., p. 82.

31. Ibid., p. 4.

32. Ibid., p. 155.

33. Ibid., p. 50.

34. Ibid., p. 51.

35. Ibid., pp. 180–184.

36. Ibid., p. 82.

37. Ibid., p. 32.

38. Ibid., p. 82.

39. Ibid., p. 70.

40. Ibid., p. 148.

41. Ibid., p. 155.

42. Ibid., p. 157; see also pp. 146–147, 149–150.

43. Ibid., p. 82.

44. Ibid., p. 51.

45. Ibid., p. 55.

46. Ibid., pp. 55–57.

47. Ibid., pp. 34, 156.

48. Ibid., p. 156.

49. Ibid., p. 164.

50. Ibid., p. 8.

51. Ibid., p. 51.

52. Ibid., p. 66.

53. Ibid., p. 110.

54. Ibid., p. 157.

55. Ibid., p. 76; see also p. 92.

56. Ibid., p. 76.

57. Ibid., p. 75.

58. Ibid., p. 80.

59. Ibid., p. 74.

60. Wedel, Theodore Otto, “The Theology of the Liturgical Renewal,” in The Liturgical Renewal of the Church, ed. Shepherd, Massey H. Jr. (New York, 1960), pp. 35.

61. Holmes, Urban T., “Education for Liturgy: An Unfinished Symphony in Four Movements,” in Worship Points the Way: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., ed. Burson, Malcolm C. (New York, 1981), p. 121.

62. Johnson, Sherman E., “Massey Shepherd and the Episcopal Church: A Reminiscence,” in Worship Points the Way, pp. 910.

63. Shepherd, Massey H. Jr., The Living Liturgy (New York, 1946), p. 124.

64. Guardini, Romano, The Spirit of the Liturgy (New York, 1935).

65. Casel, Odo, The Mystery of Christian Worship, ed. Neunheuser, Burkhard, trans. Hale, I. T. (Westminster, Md., 1962).

66. Shepherd, , Living Liturgy, p. 124.

67. Shepherd, Massey H. Jr., Letter to the Rt. Rev. Kirkman G. Finlay, Bishop of Upper South Carolina, 26 April 1938, Shepherd Papers, Record Group 237–1–1, The Archives of the Episcopal Church USA, Austin, Texas.

68. Shepherd, , Living Liturgy, pp. 124125.

69. Ladd, , Prayer Book Interleaves, pp. 68–72.

70. Ibid., p. 133.


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