Friday, September 25, 2020

The year was 2000. We remember Welsh priest and poet, R.S. Thomas. The reading is from Thomas, "The Coming."

It is the 25th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 2000.

You woke up on the first day of the 2000s and possibly breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps because you thought the Y2K bug would upend society, or maybe because you were relieved that all the madness was over. The so-called Y2K bug stemmed from early coders using a two-digit format for years to save memory. The theory was that when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000, computers would only recognize the last two digits and revert to the year 1900.

According to some of the media and some prominent Christians, the glitch could knock planes out of the sky, erase bank account information, and even open supermax prisons with computer-based locking systems. Of course, nothing happened. And only 7% of the American population considered it a serious problem, but that didn’t stop cottage industries for survivalists, and an estimated 300 billion was spent on IT.

The year 2000 is, of course, known to more people as the year that the hand of God descended to assist Mike Jones tackle Kevin Dyson of the Titans and seal the Super Bowl victory for the Rams. While the team was being held hostage at the time in a midwestern city, we here in California claim the victory as ours, too.

In literature in 2000, we have several ongoing book series that released installments in this year: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth in the Harry Potter Series was published. George R.R. Martin published “A Storm of Swords,” the third installment in the Fire and Ice series. Not to be outdone, the duo behind the Left Behind series published both the 7th and 8th installments of their series. Perhaps they were left with time on their hands after all their Y2K predictions fizzled. According to the Almanac research team, the book of the year was Dave Egger’s “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.”

Several luminaries died in 2000. They included Obi-Won Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness), Walter Matthau, and early Tonight Show host, Steve Allen. And it was on this, the 25th of September in the year 2000, that the welsh priest and poet R.S. Thomas died.

In an obituary that year, the Deseret News called him “the priest haunted by the silence of God.” The fact that we know little of his personal life was by design. He wrote an autobiography to circumvent later researchers. It was written in 3rd person, in Welsh, and was entitled “Nobody.” Thomas was born in Wales in 1913 in Cardiff. He was educated in Wales and ordained in the Church of Wales in 1936. He served as a parish priest in a few desolate Welsh towns, and he seems to have preferred the solitude. He wrote poetry but was not recognized until 1955 with his “Song at the Years Turning.”

A self-described Luddite, Thomas bemoaned the effects of modernity on both his country and his church. Later in life, Thomas’ son recounted living in a home whose only electric appliance was a vacuum cleaner. The elder Thomas requested it removed as too loud.

Later in life, he retired from the parish and wrote many collections of poems. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1964 and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. Thomas’s works were collected for his book “The Collected Poems 1945-1990.” The Welsh priest and poet died on this, the 25th of September, in the year 2000.

The reading for today comes from Thomas himself; this is his “The Coming.”

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of September 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by the charter member of the Cameron “Buck” Williams fan club, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.

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