Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The Vegetable Sermon & Human Cloning

Thomas Fairchild (1667-1729) was an English nurseryman and pioneer gardener. The author of The City Gardener led a movement for gardening within the city of London at a time when the rapid rise of smoke pollution presented a serious problem. Fairchild was the first to experiment with hybridization of plants. Before 1717 he placed the pollen of Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) on the style of a gillyflower (Dianthus caryophyllus). The next year, the new hybrid flower (a type of carnation) came into bloom looking like neither of its parents alone, proving the sexual reproduction of plants. But Fairchild worried about backlash at such an attempt to take God's power over creation into his own hands. Once announced, the flower became known as "Fairchild's Mule."

Fairchild seemed to feel bad about the hybrid as well, establishing an endowment at St. Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, in the Hackney section of London for the preaching of an annual sermon on either "The wonderful works of God in Creation" or "On the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, proved by certain changes of the animal and vegetable parts of creation". Known in Shoreditch as "The Vegetable Sermon", Fairchild's bequest was observed until the 1990s.

It might seem like overkill to fund an annual sermon to make ammends for creating a hybrid flower, but there is something to Fairchild's act that makes me wish for some similar humility on the part of those working on human cloning. But it seems at times as if once a thing becomes possible, it becomes inevitable as while an individual might be able to control a given urge, as humanity it seems that all things possible are done sooner rather than later. As a species, we place no limits on our own actions, even if as a man or woman we may.

What do you think? Should we show a bit more humility in how we pursue the possible? Or am I seeing this all wrong?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 5/04/2009 10:40 AM, Anonymous B C said…

    I feel you have something there, perhaps if we where more humble about our progress we would be more appreciative of our advances. Or at least be more cautious of its uses. However I feel that the humble part should happen before the end result, not after.

  • At 7/03/2009 5:40 PM, Anonymous a catholic democrat from ohio said…

    I was doing a search on the ‘vegetable sermon’, and I found your journal. I then read a few of your essays and enjoyed doing so. I commented on another one, but I wanted to add this note to your sincere question, by quoting: Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s Gannon Lecture, Fordham University

    “The essential question in the technological challenge is this: In an age when we can do almost anything, how do we decide what we ought to do? The even more demanding question is: In a time when we can do anything technologically, how do we decide morally what we never should do?”


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