If January the 31st hadn’t been a Sunday, the name of one of the Episcopal Church’s best known Evangelical clergy, Sam Shoemaker, would be on the calendar that day. Sam was added to the Calendar at the last General Convention, and the church from which he retired, Calvary Pittsburgh, will be celebrating him this Sunday regardless of tables of precedence.

Sam was added because of his connection with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is certainly worth celebrating, but unfortunately the collect provided for his commemoration makes it very difficult to remember his other achievements, which were many. In particular he was an effective presenter of evangelical doctrines in print, and it is a pity that more of his work is not still in print. Amazon does list some, however—check them out.

Shoemaker has always been a hero of mine because for a whole generation he was virtually the only Evangelical left in the Episcopal Church after the departures of the late 19th Century, and yet he achieved so much. Those of us who sometimes feel we’re the only one left can take much encouragement from his ministry!

Celinda Scott, Pittsburgh’s most vigorous lay supporter of the Barnabas Project, shared some of her memories of Sam recently.

‘He was rector at Calvary when I moved to Pittsburgh with my recently re-married mother in 1957.  We were within walking distance of Calvary, and we all liked him very much.  My husband was in his confirmation class in 1961, the year we were married, and Sam officiated at our wedding.

I’d transferred to Cornell my junior year (1957-58) and Dr. Shoemaker’s sermons would come in the mail every week.  I loved them.  It was quite a shock as Barry (my husband) and I moved to various places in the midwest the first 11 years of our married life not to find Episcopal churches with the same warmth and Evangelical emphasis. ‘When we moved to Fox Chapel in 1983, there was a Shoemaker-inspired prayer group there even though Sam had died 20 years previously. After seeing Helen Shoemaker at the International Prayer Conference in Baltimore (1985, perhaps) and being in a prayer group with her I really wanted Pittsburgh to “have her back,” and worked—with others—the next few years on a Pittsburgh Homecoming for the AFP in 1989.’

Not everything about Sam’s ministry may have been as praiseworthy, of course, but that should be a given for Evangelicals. Not everything about anyone’s ministry is praiseworthy, but God can use us anyway.

Thank God for Sam, and may we Evangelicals who remain in PECUSA today witness as strongly as he did.

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