The speech is part of St. John's 150th birthday celebration this
year. On the third Sunday of each month through September, the
founding month, the church is holding a special event.
Reinhold Niebuhr was confirmed at St. John in 1906 and ordained
at the church in 1913; his father, Gustav Niebuhr, served as pastor
of the Lincoln church and administrator of St. John's Evangelical
Home and Hospital, now Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, from 1902
Mrs. Sifton has had a distinguished career in book publishing.
From 1993 to 2008 she was senior vice president of Farrar, Straus
and Giroux and editor-at-large of its subsidiary Hill and Wang. She
began her career at Frederick A. Praeger in 1962, became an editor
at The Viking Press in 1968 and was named its editor-in-chief in
1980. In 1983 she became publisher of Elisabeth Sifton Books and
vice president of Viking Penguin; her imprint won the Carey-Thomas
Award for Creative Publishing in 1986. In 1987-92 she was the
executive vice president of Alfred A. Knopf, then joined Farrar
Straus, with which she is still affiliated, although not full time.
In her work she has edited a number of nonfiction authors,
novelists, poets and critics.
A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Harvard
University Press board of directors and the Freedom to Read
Committee of the Association of American Publishers, she has also
served on the board of directors of Union Theological Seminary and
the French-American Foundation and the board of advisers to the
She is the author of several articles in The Nation and other
Her book, "The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Peace and
War," explores her father's work, friendships and the historical
context of the Serenity Prayer. The prayer, written in 1943, has
been distributed to military personnel and is used by 12-step
organizations. In its original form it reads, "God, give us grace to
accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to
change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to
distinguish the one from the other."
Sifton suggests that her father accepted relatively few
circumstances as "things that cannot be changed." He was a social
activist who worked tirelessly to alert the United States and Europe
to the danger posed by Hitler in the years leading up to World War
II, to the plight of Jews during and after the war, and to many
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A magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, Sifton also
studied at the University of Paris. The mother of three sons -- Sam,
Tobias and John Sifton -- she is now married to historian Fritz
Stern, who will accompany her. His work focuses on the complex
relationships between Germans and Jews in the 19th and 20th
centuries and on the rise of National Socialism in Germany during
the first half of the 20th century.
On May 16, Sifton will speak during the regular worship service,
which begins at 10:30 a.m. Following the service the music committee
of the church will host a salad luncheon. Both events are open to
the public. St. John United Church of Christ is located at the
corner of Seventh and Maple streets in Lincoln.
The 150th birthday committee at St. John, which has planned the
sequence of nine events, consists of Lynn Spellman, chair; Lois
Leonard; the Rev. Wallace Reifsteck, former pastor of the church;
Tonita Reifsteck; the Rev. Richard Reinwald, pastor of the church;
Cathy Sanders; Marita Schneider; Dr. James Wilmert; and Robert
[Text from file received from Lynn Spellman]