Phillips Brooks, 1835 - 1893

portrait of Phillips Brooks


Born: 13 December 1835, Boston, Massachusetts
Died: 23 January 1893, Boston, Massachusetts

Though both parents came from long-established Puritan families they had joined the Protestant Episcopal Church, four of their six sons would become priests in that denomination. Phillips attended Boston Latin School and graduated from Harvard in 1855. He was unsuccessful as a teacher at Boston Latin so entered the Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria, Virginia. He was ordained a deacon in 1859 and priest two years later. He was rector at Church of the Advent until 1862, then served the Church of the Holy Trinity until 1869, both of those parishes in Philadelphia. In 1865 he took an extended European vacation and was moved by a visit to the tidy village of Bethlehem, three years later he wrote a poem about it for a Sunday School program and had it set to music by the church organist. That carol was O Little Town of Bethlehem. He was then called to Trinity Church, Boston which was to embark on building a new building and incorporated several important liturgical changes including bringing the altar out from the back wall and eschewing a formal pulpit. The sanctuary, complete with mosaics commissioned after Brooks' death, has been called "an American Hagia Sophia", high praise. At six feet, four inches (1.95 m) and 300 pounds (136 kg) he was an imposing man but he had the spirit of a poet rather than a scholar and the sanctuary was routinely filled to hear his sermons, delivered from the chancel steps or a simple lectern. He was elected the sixth bishop of Massachusetts in 1891 but died in 1893, fifteen months after his installation. His feast day in the Episcopal calendar is 23 January.

Biography from Wikipedia and Hymns and Carols of Christmas

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