The annual speech of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Christmas Day 2018 began with an extended reference to Eric Milner White, Founding Father of OGS and sometime Dean of Kings College Cambridge. Dean Eric Milner White wrote the famous bidding prayer to the Traditional ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’:
“Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.”
Listen to the Queen’s Speech here.
Here’s an extract from the Oratory’s Necrology, detailing the life and ministry of Eric Milner White:
As the new Dean of King’s College Cambridge in 1918, Eric responded to the spiritual devastation wrought in Britain by World War I. From a concept used in 1880 by Bishop Benson of Truro, he developed the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, which was first offered inKing’s Chapel on Christmas Eve 1918. It stands as a lasting tribute to his talents with music, prayer and scripture, and to his heart as a pastor.
Eric went up to King’s College Cambridge to read history, and graduated in 1907. After training at Cuddesdon, he was made deacon in 1908 and ordained priest in 1909 for Southwark. He served curacies before returning toKing’s as chaplain in 1912 and as a lecturer in history. He was an army chaplain during the war, and early in 1918 resigned his commission to become Dean and Fellow of King’s.
In 1913, Eric was one of the three founders of the Oratory, becoming Superior in 1924, and remaining in that position until 1938. In 1936 the Oratory began to address the question as to what it really was. In 1938 the General Chapter defined the word “profession” as not having the implications that it has when used in the traditional sense of taking vows in a religious order, but that it means self-commitment before God and within the fellowship of the Oratory to the way of life described in the Rule. Eric could not accept that this represented the meaning of the professions which he had made in the Oratory, and in 1939 he resigned, which was confirmed in 1940. He continued to live the rest of his life by the Oratory rule, and his Oratory friendships were never broken.
In 1941 Eric left King’s to become Dean of York. He had both an aesthetic and a practical interest in the great stained glass of Britain, and was responsible for a wealth of orders of service and occasional prayers. Archbishop Davidson expressed a belief that Eric was responsible for more ordinations than anyone else in the Church of England.