An Extraordinary Man Of God

I Stand by the Door: The Life of Sam Shoemaker, by Helen Smith Shoemaker (Harper & Row, 1967, 222 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Peter C. Moore, director, Council for Religion in Independent Schools, New York, New York.

This is a risky book to read, because it was a risk to know this man. A man thrice defeated for high office in the Episcopal Church, a man with an almost hypnotic effect on idealistic young men, a man variously described as a mystical pietist or an unscholarly enthusiast, Sam Shoemaker was unquestionably one of the most controversial clergymen this century has produced.

His wife, Helen, best known as the founder and executive director of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, has revealed for us the many threads interwoven in this colorful life. Sam’s Maryland boyhood, his school and university career, his student Christian work in China and back at Princeton, his twenty-eight years as rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York, his deep involvement in the Oxford Group (now known as Moral Re-Armament), his nine years as Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh—all this is presented with vigor, humor, and great warmth, often in words from his own notes and diary.

The effect is to force the reader to come to terms with a style of Christian living and witness with which most people, even most Christians, are unfamiliar. One sees in Sam Shoemaker a number of extraordinary combinations: a free-wheeling response to the Holy Spirit, which made him so appealing to those dissatisfied with the institutional church, coupled with a deep appreciation of the historic structures through which God continues to work; an intense concern that individuals come to a personal commitment to Christ, ...

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