Nov 20, 2023

Henry Manning


Working the docks at the port of London was a dangerous job with no benefits and lousy pay. But if you are poor and have no other options, you take what you can get. Every day at the docks, a surging crowd of desperate men showed up, scrambling to be chosen for a few hours to unload cargo ships. When, on August 14, 1889, dock owners announced another wage reduction, workers walked off the job. By the end of the month, 100,000 dock workers were out on strike. By early September, the strike had reached crisis stage. Dock workers and their families were now starving to death. The desperate workers turned to a local priest, Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892), who had previously advocated for the rights of workers. Father Manning was seen as fair and impartial to both sides. He put forward a settlement that satisfied both parties and averted a catastrophe. Negotiating a labor agreement isn’t work we typically associate with a priest, yet it was the catalyst that brought many to Christ. Several leaders in 20th century England credited Manning with introducing them to real gospel living. Manning began his ministry with the Church of England. His first clerical assignment was assisting an Anglican priest who had become ill. When the ailing priest died, Manning served in his place 17 years and married his predecessor’s daughter. Their marriage, however, was short-lived, as she died four years later. In mid-career, he became a Catholic priest and eventually an archbishop and cardinal. Not your typical priest trajectory. One of Archbishop Manning’s prayers follows here:

O Holy Spirit of God,take me as your disciple,
guide me,
illumine me,
sanctify me.
Bind my hands,
that they may do no evil,
cover my eyes,
that they may see it no more,
sanctify my heart,
that evil may not dwell within me.
Be my God,
be my guide.
Wherever You lead me,
I will go,
whatever You forbid me,
I will renounce,
whatever You command me,
in your strength, I will do.
Lead me, then,
into the fullness of Your truth.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.