On a recent post I asked the question "The Greatest Man in the 20th Century is Who?" The post revolved around the practice of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City, where church leaders chose the most influential man of each of the past nineteen centuries and honored them by placing a handmade statue underneath the communion table. Already knowing the men listed for the previous nineteen centuries, we called the church to ask them about their decision regarding the most influential man of the 20th Century. Reverend Harry Pritchett was the 8th Dean of St. John's in New York. He is now at The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. Barbara, my assistant, called Dr. Pritchett and disovered him to be a very gracious man who offered the following information.
At the turn of the century, Rev. Pritchett and his church committee chose to depart from listing a single person considered to be the most influential man of the twentieth century and decided instead to name individuals, male or female, whom they felt were the most humanitarian of that century. There was some disagreement on this departure, but eventually the committee came up with four names representing the greatest humanitarians of the 20th Century: Ghandi (advocation of peaceful protest for humanitarian rights), Susan B. Anthony (advocation of women's rights), Martin Luther King Jr.(advocation for peaceful protest for racial equality), and Einstein (for his contribution to technology and his writings).
These four individuals are memoralized like the men chosen for the first through the nineteenth centuries, with a carving near the others. This carving is approximately three to four feet high, just like the previous statues, but is unique in that four individuals are included in the single carving representing the 20th Century instead of each person being given their own figurine. Dr. Pritchett emphasized that the first nineteen individuals named were not necessarily chosen because of their faith, but for their influence in their respective century. Some were Christians, some were not. Of those who were Christians, sometime their influence was not necessarily due to their Christian faith. The same could be said of the four representing the 20th Century.
Many may not agree with Trinity's choice of individuals to represent the previous one hundred years, but nobody can fault the church's desire to recognize great men and women who have given of their lives to make our world a better place.
In His Grace,