Phillips Brooks

Phillips Brooks

during the early 1890s.


Early life and education

Brooks was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1835. Through his father, William Gray Brooks, he was descended from the Rev. John Cotton; through his mother, Mary Ann Phillips, a very devout woman, he was a great-grandson of Samuel Phillips, Jr., the founder of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Four of the couple's six sons -- Phillips, Frederic, Arthur and John Cotton -- were ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Phillips Brooks prepared for college at the Boston Latin School and graduated from Harvard University in 1855 at the age of 20, where he was elected to the A.D. Club. After a brief period as a teacher at Boston Latin , he began in 1856 to study for ordination in the Episcopal Church in the Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria, Virginia.

Pastoral career

In 1859 he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary, was ordained deacon by Bishop William Meade of Virginia, and became rector of the Church of the Advent, Philadelphia. In 1860 he was ordained priest, and in 1862 became rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, where he remained seven years, gaining an increasing name as preacher and patriot. In addition to his moral stature, he was a man of great physical bearing as well, standing six feet four inches tall.

During the American Civil War he upheld the cause of the North and opposed slavery, and his sermon on the death of Abraham Lincoln was an eloquent expression of the character of both men. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Church, Boston; today, his statue is located on the left exterior of the church.

In 1877 the rebuilding of the church was finished, the architect being his friend Henry Hobson Richardson. Here Phillips Brooks preached Sunday after Sunday to great congregations, until he was consecrated Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. In 1886 he had declined an election as assistant bishop of Pennsylvania. He was for many years an overseer and preacher of Harvard University. In 1881 he declined an invitation to be the sole preacher to the university and professor of Christian ethics. On April 30, 1891 he was elected sixth Bishop of Massachusetts, and on the 14 October was consecrated to that office in Trinity Church. He died unmarried in 1893, after an episcopate of only 15 months. His death was a major event in the history of Boston. One observer reported: "They buried him like a king. Harvard students carried his body on their shoulders. All barriers of denomination were down. Roman Catholics and Unitarians felt that a great man had fallen in Israel." (Mrs. Edward S. Drown, in The Witness, March 21, 1940).

Influence and Legacy


In 1877 Brooks published a course of lectures upon preaching, which he had delivered at the theological school of Yale University, and which are an expression of his own experience. In 1879 appeared the "Bohlen Lectures on The Influence of Jesus". In 1878 he published his first volume of sermons, and from time to time issued other volumes, including "Sermons Preached in English Churches" (1883).

Today, he is probably best known for authoring the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem".

Awards and Historical Monuments

He is remembered in the Episcopal Church with a feast day on 23 January. Phillips Brooks is also a school in Menlo Park, California.

Brooks's understanding of individuals of other ways and thought, and of other religious traditions, gained a following across a broad segment of society, and was thus a great factor in gaining increasing support for the Episcopal Church. His influence as a religious leader was unique. The degree of STD had been conferred upon him by Harvard (1877) and Columbia (1887), and the Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Oxford, England (1885).

The Rev. A.V.G. Allen, an Episcopal clergyman and professor of ecclesiastical history at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, published several biographical works on Brooks. These included "Phillips Brooks, Life and Letters" (1901), a two-volume biography published at New York; and the one-volume "Phillips Brooks" (1907), also published at New York, an abbreviation and revision of the earlier work.

In addition, Brooks's close ties with Harvard University led to the creation of Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard, built 7 years after his death. On January 23, 1900, it was dedicated to serve "the ideal of piety, charity, and hospitality." The Phillips Brooks House originally housed a Social Service Committee, which became the Phillips Brooks House Association in 1904. It ceased formal religious affiliation in the 1920s, but to this day remains in operation as a student-run consortium of volunteer organizations.

A private elementary school in Menlo Park, CA— [ The Phillips Brooks School] —is named for him. So is Brooks School in his hometown of North Andover, Massachusetts, named for him by Endicott Peabody, founder of both Brooks School and Groton School.

External links


* [ Texts and bibliography] of works by and about Brooks



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