God direct my thinking today

by chuckofish

Yesterday on the Episcopal Church calendar was the lesser feast day of Sam Shoemaker, (1893-1963), who was an Episcopal priest instrumental in the Oxford Group and founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.


Lest we forget, Dr. Samuel Moor Shoemaker was the rector of the Calvary Church in New York City, which was the U.S. headquarters of the Oxford Group. Bill Wilson attended Oxford Group meetings at the Calvary Church and Sam was instrumental in assisting Bill Wilson with the writing of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (nickname: The Big Book).

In 1917 Sam Shoemaker was sent to China to start a branch of the YMCA and to teach at the Princeton-in-China Program. Feeling discouraged there in 1918, he first met Frank Buchman, who told him of the four absolutes, honesty, purity and unselfishness and love. Shoemaker would later speak of the meeting as a major influence for the start of his ministry, that being the time when he decided to let go of self and let God guide his life.

Bill Wilson would later give credit to Sam Shoemaker whom he referred to as a co-founder of AA.

” It was from Sam Shoemaker, that we absorbed most of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA’s way of life. Dr. Silkworth gave us the needed knowledge of our illness, but Sam Shoemaker had given us the concrete knowledge of what we could do about it, he passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated. The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else.”

Rev. Shoemaker wrote over thirty books, at least half of which were circulating before AA’s 12 Steps were first published in the Big Book in 1939. Shoemaker’s contributions and service to Alcoholics Anonymous and as a minister of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church of America have had a worldwide effect. The philosophy that Shoemaker codified, in conjunction with Bill Wilson, is used in almost every country around the world to treat alcoholism.

God bless these amazing guys who started AA! Truly their coming together and working out the AA system was a miracle.

There is, by the way, a good made-for-tv movie called My Name is Bill W. (1989 Hallmark Hall of Fame) starring James Woods and James Garner. It is based on the true story of William Griffith Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, M.D.,  the co-founders of AA.


James Woods won an Emmy for his portrayal of Wilson. I don’t remember if Sam Shoemaker is featured as a character–they no doubt soft-pedaled the spiritual side of the story. I think I will see if I can find it to watch. I remember thinking it was excellent at the time.

Holy God, we give thanks to thee for the vision of Samuel Shoemaker, who labored for the renewal of all people: Grant, we pray, that we may follow his example to help others find salvation through the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A lot of material for this post is lifted from http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/sam_shoemaker.htm