This Week in Christian History: Mayflower, Pope Celestine, 'Sweet Hour of Prayer'

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(Photo: Pilgrim Hall Museum)"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth", by Jennie Brownscombe offers an early 20th century perspective on the 1621 event. Courtesy Pilgrim Hall Museum.

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week in Church history. They include the creation of a beloved old hymn, the election of a pope, and the beginning of a historic journey.

'Sweet Hour of Prayer' Published — Sept. 13, 1845

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This week marks the anniversary of when the lyrics to the classic hymn "Sweet Hour of Prayer" were first published.

A blind English preacher named William W. Walford crafted the words, which were published on Sept. 13, 1845, by the New York Observer when a man named Thomas Salmon submitted them.

Later on, composer William B. Bradbury of New York added the melody to the hymn and had it published along with other tunes in the song book Golden Chains.

"Sweet Hour of Prayer" was a hit soon after its publication and remains so to the present day, with hymnary.org stating that the song has gotten into over 1,100 different hymnals.

Mayflower Sets Sail — Sept. 16, 1620

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)An 1882 painting of the Pilgrim ship the Mayflower, which in 1620 sailed from England to North America.

This week marks the anniversary of when the ship the Mayflower began its journey to North America, leaving England with 102 passengers including businessmen and the Pilgrims.

While originally intended to go to Virginia, a mixture of stormy seas and navigational problems led to them ending up in modern day Massachusetts instead.

"Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt," noted history.com.

"The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony's profits."

Some claim that the anniversary of their departure was Sept. 6. The reason for the different date is because at the time the Pilgrims were still using the old Julian calendar, which listed the date as the Sept. 6, rather than the Gregorian one, widely used today, that noted the day as Sept. 16.

Celestine Elected Pope — Sept. 10, 422

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(Photo: oca.org)Pope Celestine I, who served as Bishop of Rome from 422 until his death in 432.

This week marks the anniversary of the election of Saint Celestine to the position of head of the Roman Catholic Church on Sept. 10, 422.

Succeeding Pope Bonaface I and reigning as Bishop of Rome for about 10 years, Celestine was most noted for his attacks on heretical Christian teachings.

"His pontificate is noted for its vigorous attack on Nestorianism, the unorthodox teaching of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, which stressed that Christ's human and divine natures were independent and which denounced the Virgin's title Theotokos (God-bearer)," noted Britannica.

"Celestine also refuted the doctrine of Pelagius (fl. 405–418), which minimized the role of divine grace in man's salvation. In 429 Celestine dispatched the French bishops SS. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes to combat Pelagianism in England."

The Orthodox Church in America described St. Celestine as "a zealous champion of Orthodoxy" who had "an excellent education" and was familiar with philosophy.

"The virtuous life of the saint and his authority as a theologian won him the general esteem and love of the clergy and people," stated OCA.

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