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‘This Fragile Earth, Our Island Home’ and the Legacy of Howard E. Galley

Earth.space.com

This morning on Twitter I discovered that someone was trying to steal credit for the most distinctive phrase in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

It was an honest mistake and it’s since been corrected. But it was in an article by the official Episcopal News Service, and I couldn’t let it stand.

Howard E. Galley, Jr. wrote Eucharistic Prayer C late one night in 1974, upon returning to his office at the Episcopal Church Center (“815”) after leading an evening group for Church Army trainees at the General Theological Seminary in New York. I was one of his students in that yearlong training course. After graduation and a lengthy internship, we were commissioned as Evangelists with a national preaching license.

It was a busy year for Howard; a satisfying and productive year. His main job was shepherding an entirely new version of the American Prayer Book. The English version of the BCP, first published in 1549 shortly after the death of King Henry VIII, is a classic of English literature which has guided the worship and nourished the souls of Anglicans worldwide for centuries. The original Book has only two equals: the Authorized King James Version of the Bible and the collected works of William Shakespeare.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

Howard Galley was up to the task.

His job title at Church headquarters was “Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision.” The coordinator was a diplomat, priest-scholar and liturgist named Fr. Leo Malania, whose day job was serving on the faculty of the Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island, New York.

What this meant in practical terms was that Leo had a big clean office at “815,” where he showed up occasionally when the Standing Liturgical Commission had a meeting. As his assistant, Howard Galley did all the day-to-day work, in a smaller office piled with papers, charts, journals, magazines, correpondence, books and workbooks and notebooks.

Leo was the star; Howard wrote the script. Leo would breeze in from Long Island, shoot his scenes, and leave. By all accounts he was a great actor in this lengthy production, from roughly 1968 to 1980. It was the most important work in the Episcopal Church during the 1970s, and no one could have led it but him. He was a former assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a renowned liturgical expert with international contacts at the highest levels of scholarship in the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, Orthodoxy and other top church bodies. His was the name that ultimately carried the day.

But the actual coordinator was Howard.

So imagine how plucked I was to discover this ENS article today, attributing Howard’s finest writing to some retired bishop named Atkinson at a church in Virginia. I never heard of this guy before, but I was not surprised to see someone else credited for Howard’s seminal work.

I fired off a tweet when I saw the article, and soon was contacted by the ENS reporter, Lynette Wilson. She told me she had based her article, which is about stewardship of the Earth, on something she was told concerning the authorship by someone at that church in Virginia. Apparently this Bishop Atkinson was so taken by Howard’s phrasing of Eucharistic Prayer C and the theology embedded in it, and spoke of it so often, that in time local people started attributing the prayer to him. The bishop must have been a wonderful teacher.

But he did not write that prayer. Howard did, after one particularly good night at the National Institute for Lay Training at General Seminary, which he served as dean.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

As one of his trainees I was present with about 10 other people, the first time Mass was celebrated a few days later using Howard’s revolutionary new prayer. When worship was done, we were in awe of what he had written and asked him lots of questions about it. All we knew beforehand was that the Rev. Bill Coulter, another NILT faculty member and the only priest, would celebrate using a new prayer; then out tumbled this fabulous new thing with so many features – including responses from the congregation – that had never been done before in Christian history.

Howard was kind of shy about it, but he told us when and how it came to be. He even attributed our good group meeting a few nights earlier as his inspiration. He’d sat in his office at “815,” looked out the window and saw a big, beautiful moon over the city. Five years earlier, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had first set foot on that moon – an epochal event in human history.

In 1969, in living rooms across America and around the world, we watched live television coverage from the moon, and everyone saw for themselves that we live on “this fragile Earth, our island home.”

Howard consecrated that moment five years later and claimed it for God.

I could say much more about that year in my life and Howard Galley’s place in it, and someday perhaps I will. Now, however, I just want to get down these basic facts. Because I don’t ever want to see again, in a publication of the Episcopal Church or anywhere else, one more false claim about the authorship of Prayer C.

I know of two other living witnesses to this account: the Rev. Anthony Guillen, Hispanic/Latino Missioner of the Episcopal Church, who like me was a Church Army trainee that night; and Patti O’Kane, the longtime partner of Howard Galley’s best friend and associate, Sr. Brooke Bushong, also of the Church Army, who later became a deacon in the Diocese of New York.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

Much of the background here, including the misattribution of authorship, is due to the low status of lay ministers in the Episcopal Church. The Standing Liturgical Commission would never have hired Howard Galley as coordinator of Prayer Book Revision; that important post had to go to a member of the clergy – because no one who was not ordained was considered capable or legitimate. This is the “Bishops’ Church,” after all; that’s what “episcopal” means. Prestige is the sole province of clergy in this church (and in most others), with one result being collateral damage to Howard Galley’s essential contribution in compiling that revolutionary Book.

I’m not interested in sour grapes; this is just a fact of life. But I will not allow Howard’s name to be forgotten or his contributions to be trashed, especially by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

I am apparently the Last Man Standing among the old Church Army crowd. So I have an obligation to my friend and to other lay ministers to set the record straight and preserve Howard’s legacy.

He was quite a character; by far the best teacher I’ve ever had, and that includes some really good ones, especially Sr. Brooke and Fr. Bill. The fourth member of the NILT quartet was Capt. Tom Tull, a former missionary in Alaska who was “young and dumb” in 1974. Tom came into his own years later as an AIDS activist and minister in San Francisco. We all had that in common, frankly, but that’s another story.

If Leo Malania was a movie star, Howard Galley was a headliner on Broadway. I’ve never seen a human being hold a crowd’s attention like Howard could, night after night, anywhere but a Broadway theater. He was electrifying; loving, gentle, incredibly smart, faithful down to his bones. And he was also, by age 45 or so when I first met him, the very picture of a divo.

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger

That’s Italian for “a god.” But unlike a rock star or Broadway headliner, Howard wrote all his own material and gave a different performance every night.

That’s just what teachers do. But even the best ones aren’t enthralling every time out like he was.

We all think we know what female divas are about, in opera or the theater; lots of ego, massive self-centeredness, ordering people around. That’s the popular stereotype, but the actual goddesses of the theater – Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, maybe Irina Menzel – are spellbinding.

They don’t stop the show; the audience stops the show to go nuts over them. They say Merman held the last note of “I Got Rhythm” for 32 bars without a breath; of course the audience rioted!

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn't be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

But Howard was a man. I compare him to Jason Robards in Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, which was playing at the Morosco Theatre that year, with its long stretches of monologue for the two protagonists. (Colleen Dewhurst was every bit as strong as Robards, her ex-husband; if anything she stole the show because her character starts out at a disadvantage to her drunken, eloquent, loudmouth bellower of a man.)

JasonRobardsColleenDewhurst.MoonTVmovie

Every night with Howard was like going to Broadway. There I was, a 22-year-old hick from the sticks, staring open-mouthed at this teacher who was so thrilling and demanding, vulnerable and full of faith.

(If this reminds you of anyone you know, please don’t mention it until after the webcast.)

Now I will end this, by reprinting the three comments I left on the Episcopal News Service website this morning. I’m trying to set the record straight and create a larger internet presence for my great teacher, who died in 1993. I can’t find a single photograph of Howard anywhere online, so this will have to do.

He was a great man. So let me add right now, if anyone from that era deserves a place on our liturgical calendar in future years, it won’t be Leo Malania or any of the thousands of others who contributed to prayer book revision. It will be Howard Galley, a devout Catholic who was a thorough Evangelist.++

Ceremonies

___

Comment #1 on Episcopal News Service’s website:

Howard E. Galley, Jr. of the Church Army wrote those words, not Bishop Atkinson. I was present the first time they were used to consecrate bread and wine at the Eucharist, in a classroom at General Seminary, New York, in the summer of 1974. The Rev. Bill Coulter celebrated for my Church Army training class; Capt. Galley, Sr. Brooke Bushong and Capt. Tom Tull were there along with six lay ministry students, including Anthony Guillen, who was later ordained and became Hispanic/Latino Missioner at 815. Howard told us after Mass how he came to write that prayer, late one night at 815 after one of our evening classes. He wrote it all in one sitting, then refined it with Brooke and a few other friends a few nights later at a bar in Brooklyn Heights.

He was Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision and General Editor of the new BCP, the day-to-day staffer who kept the wheels turning for the Standing Liturgical Commission in the runup to the General Convention of 1976, at which the Draft Prayer Book was provisionally approved for three years before winning final approval in 1979. Howard Galley wrote that prayer and no one else.

On his behalf I respectfully request a correction.

___

Comment #2:

What Bishop Atkinson must have done was to quote Howard Galley’s phrase (and perhaps celebrate Mass using it) so often at Emmanuel, Greenwood, that in time people began to think he must have written it.

Besides Fr. Guillen, I have another witness who was present during the creation of this prayer: Sr. Brooke Bushong’s partner Patti O’Kane, who still lives in Brooklyn Heights and can supply details about Howard, Brooke and others meeting for a drink a few nights after he composed the prayer. He read it to them, and they were the first persons to ever hear it; he asked for feedback and they gave him some. A few days later Fr. Bill Coulter gave it its world premiere in a little room at GTS.

___

Comment #3:

Historical footnote, for the record: Howard knew within a couple of weeks that “this fragile earth, our island home” was a hit; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon only five years earlier. And Howard knew that the environmental theme also resonated quickly; the first Earth Day happened in 1970. But the thing he was proudest of in that prayer was that it’s the first in Anglican history to invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary as part of the consecration.

By far his proudest moment in the overall, decades-long process of Prayer Book revision was winning final approval for the most important provision of all: the rubric on p. 13 terming the Holy Eucharist “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.” For the first time since the Reformation, Sunday Mass was restored to its rightful place in Anglican worship.

This Church owes Howard Galley and everyone associated with Prayer Book revision the highest honor we can bestow. People think that what the ’79 Book did was get rid of “thees and thous,” but that was the least of it. The Commission, Bishops and Deputies gave us back our Communion with Christ, and we must never forget what they did. This Book made history because it made us Catholic again, in practice as well as thought.

So now you know.

So now you know.

9 Responses

  1. I have that book Galley wrote– for several years, in fact. I bought it when I first became Episcopalian, because I figured it would help me understand the BCP better . And it just now clicked in my head “oh, DUH, THE Howard Galley.” I may be slow, but I eventually do get it.

  2. Bishop Robert Atkinson, former bishop of West Virginia, loved Galley’s great Eucharistic prayer, commented on it often, and certainly would never have claimed it as his words.. Long before I became a priest, I did a profile of him for a Virginia newspaper where I was a reporter; at the time, I worshipped at a church in Virginia, although I lived in West Virginia, where Atkinson had been the bishop. He was a very kind and gentle man, truly concerned for the welfare of the earth and all its inhabitants.

  3. Thank you, Georgia. That helps fill in the blanks. I felt sure it must have been something like that. The revised ENS story (after the correction) talks about how Bishop Atkinson’s care for the environment sank deeply into that parish; that’s how this whole controversy got started, when someone who didn’t know better quoted the phrase but attributed it wrongly – to a reporter.

  4. Thanks for including me in this historical correction, Josh. I do indeed remember this event and have shared the story on several occasions. At the time I was young and full of myself and had no idea what a historical moment it was. I also did not fully appreciate the greatness of Howard Galley but I did love to “sit at his feet” in class and listen in awe to this incredible teacher par excellence. I learned so much about liturgy from Howard and of course enjoyed all of his stories about the process of prayer book revision and some of the characters and their role in it, like Massey Shepherd, Boone Porter and Canon Guilbert. If I recall correctly we were invited to Canon Guilbert’s apartment for a reception one night of the Standing Liturgical Commission.

  5. Anthony! Good to hear from you. Thank you for mentioning Shepherd, Porter & Guilbert! I remember the latter a bit differently; yes, we were at his apartment, which was big and very nice. But it was just us and Mrs. Guilbert, which would have been a dozen people or more, not the SLC, and they fed us dinner – the reason being (I mean, think back to what poor, innocent rubes we were then) so we could become accustomed to attending a dinner party with people who were richer and more important than we were; because, as Howard & Brooke said, we needed to become accustomed to dealing with people from all social classes – including our betters! In other words this was a training exercise, a delightful one, which Canon & Mrs. Guilbert were so gracious as to give us.

    It was for the same reason that our faculty took us to Broadway (“Moon for the Misbegotten”) and to Mamma Leone’s restaurant – so we’d learn how to act in public! You were 19 or 20 and I was 22; I’d sure as heck never been to Bway!

    Of the dinner I remember two other things, besides that upper middle class, very spacious Midtown apartment in a prewar building: my attempts at social conversation, because after all we were supposed to practice the art of chatting without making ourselves look like total fools. I asked Canon Guilbert if he was related to the only other person I’d ever heard of whose name was also Guilbert – the television actress and semi-regular on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Ann Morgan Guilbert. “Why yes,” he said, “she’s my sister.” So score one for me, for learning to be an Ingratiator.

    Then, emboldened, and considering his national position as (drumroll) Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer, I quoted the Declaration printed in every book above his signature, that he had “diligently compared” the printed volume with the Standard Book, if this implied there was such a thing as the Standard Book; and if so, how he performed his duties. (Josh trying to engage a Great Man in discussing his work.) “Why, yes,” he replied, “there most certainly exists a Standard Book, which I did diligently compare, and do compare with every new edition.” (So there, little boy!)

    “Well, your Excellent Greatness, where is this Standard Book, that we might compare it also (to see that you are doing your job)?” He laughed and said, “Over my dead body. It is guarded by seven angels with four faces and 12 arms, each one wielding sharp swords. If you can get past them, perhaps you may inspect the Standard Book, but not before. As to its location, I am sworn to secrecy. Not even Mrs. Guilbert knows where it is kept, though being a good husband, there is otherwise nothing I do not tell Mrs. Guilbert.” And she agreed she didn’t know where this tome was.

    I later deduced that it could only be kept in a safe hidden in a secret passageway behind a moving bookcase in the attic of the J.P. Morgan Library.

    However, years later I learned how important a Custodian of the Standard Book actually is, when the Church in New Zealand went to publish its famous prayer book. They lack both a custodian and a standard book, and actually had to reconstruct the manuscript from floppy disks retrieved from some church bureaucrat’s wastebasket, though several pages were lost forever, and experts can point out what’s missing. They had no one to oversee the entire process, while C.M. Guilbert was appointed by General Convention to be Leo Malania’s supervisor. That’s how seriously we took Prayer Book revision, and how unseriously New Zealand did.

    How gracious Mrs. Guilbert was to us that night, opening her home to such a ragtag bunch of Church Army yokels. I’m sure afterward her husband teased Howard to “Watch out for that little one from Indiana, he’s got quite a mouth on him.”

  6. Thank you, Josh. I love that you are always on duty…people like me, admire people like you. Len/Loenardo, Guatemala

  7. Thank you again Josh. I appreciate being reminded about the dinner at the Guilbert’s. You remember so much more than I do. But as you said I was just 20 and you were older and wiser. I think about our year together at GTS and our Church Army training from time to time and give God thanks for allowing this young, rebellious, confused young kid from a small town in Texas the incredible opportunity to be at GTS in 1974 in the midst of so much change and upheaval in the life of the church. I remember going to visit Presiding Bishop John Hines at the Church Center in jeans with a jean jacket and a tie. I remember walking into the lobby of the Church Center and looking around and thinking to myself that someday I hoped to work in that place. It took a few years but I finally had the opportunity. And then there was Ellen Barrett who worked with us in our public speaking and conversations with Pauli Murray in the refectory. And being a part of the security team at the first public Eucharist of 3 of the Philadelphia 11 at Marble Collegiate Church. And of course I would never have imagined going to Broadway – not once but four times if I remember correctly. “Raisin in the Sun”, “Godspell” and “Moon for the Misbegotten” but I cannot remember the fourth one if there was one. Anyway, thank you again for reminding me of two of the most incredible persons who shaped my life: Brooke Bushong and Howard Galley.

  8. Anthony, glad you came back! The fourth Broadway show was “Thieves,” a comedy with Marlo Thomas and Richard Mulligan, directed by Charles Grodin; “Professor” Irwin Corey and Dick Van Patten were in it too. It was funny, but also the weakest of the shows we got to see, and I think we all knew it at the time; I remember Bob wasn’t too impressed, and of course he grew up across the Hudson in Nutley and (compared to you and me) was an old Broadway hand.

    Somebody on the faculty had decided that if we were going to see Eugene O’Neill, we should also see a comedy. The pickings were slim that season, but at least I got to see “That Girl.”

    I think my favorite outing of all was going to Mamma Leone’s, with its 12-course opulence. This of course was designed to teach us country bumpkins how to dine in a fancy restaurant. I’m sure Bob told us solemnly not to fill up on the bread; he always had tips like that, showing off his NY street smarts since we didn’t have any. Remember learning to ride the subway? I do!

    What days those were.

    I also got to see a fifth show on Bway – house seats for “Pippin” with John Rubenstein, Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh and Irene Ryan, who stopped the show. My date was a composer whose publisher also owned the rights to the music from that show, so Pete wangled some free tickets for us. I loved it.

    Pete, the late Avon Gillespie, also figured in to the most important thing that happened to me that year; I accidentally found out that he was married, with a wife and daughter back in Ohio. That caused me an instant crisis; I loved him, but I didn’t want to be a home-wrecker. I cried my eyes out, all by myself in my room in Dodge Hall, for hours and hours that night, praying to God about it, trying to think everything through ethically; I was a mess. After about three hours of this, God broke through and gave me a word. “I love you just the way you are.” Stopped me cold. Who was I to be hearing the voice of God? (I didn’t actually hear anything; that’s only in the movies. Instead God planted that thought in my head, in a different voice, very quiet, referring to himself as “I,” which I would never, ever have presumed to use if I were merely thinking my own thoughts.)

    He’s since done the same thing two more times: “I do want you in the Church,” after I’d been away for many years, and ten years ago, the calling to put the Daily Office online. That last time he actually had a sense of humor about himself. I got the idea and was yabbling away at him about it when he said, “That’s a fine idea! I nominate you.”

    I’ve been stuck with it ever since. 🙂

    Josh

  9. P.S. Don’t turn me into your big brother, I was only 22.

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