Project Canterbury

Pioneer Work in Algoma

By Eda Green

London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1915.

Chapter VIII. Present Conditions.

ONE of the things which most strikes an Englishman on arriving in Canada is the position of the Church. At home, however much indifferentism may be growing, the Church of England is still the Church of the nation. In towns her 'temples' are the finest and the most numerous of those for public worship; in every village the church, often ancient and beautiful, is the centre round which the village gathers. In Canada all is different. From Montreal (where on the principal 'place,' as the French would say, the Roman Catholic Church, built on the model of St. Peter's at Rome, with figures, more than life-size, of our Lord and His twelve apostles standing out against the sky-line, completely overshadows St. George's English Church) to the smallest villages through the country, with very few exceptions, the Roman, Presbyterian, and Methodist Chapels are generally the largest and best equipped, and the Church of England comes fourth.

We said that the Romanists have large endowments by means of which they can advance their work. How comes it that two other bodies have pressed in before our own? Many of the early settlers were Scotch, and carried to the new land their Bible and kirk government, and the Methodists have drawn their strength partly from the 'Connexion' in the States, and partly from Cornish miners and others. Both of these sects have been trained in their old homes to give of their substance, and not to expect, as the old emigrant did, that it was an Englishman's prerogative to have his church provided free, gratis, for nothing. Is not that what we, from our endowments, have grown to expect? Take a country village of farmers, and faint labourers, with two or three public-houses and a general shop. Would you find them able to build their church, and pro vide for repairs, lighting and heating (no small matter in a country where the thermometer often registers 200 to 400 below zero), besides paying the whole stipend of their clergyman? Would the vicar and churchwardens of an average agricultural parish in England find the weekly offerings suffice for this? And yet this is what people at home seem to expect from colonists: nay, more, for in Canada there are no squires, no leisured wealthy class, so the money given from the Hall must be left out of the reckoning.

Moreover, as we have said, there is very little cash. For months farmers may not know what it is to see a dollar bill; they can exchange their grain at the store for groceries, but can get no money. We have heard of some, even in prosperous districts, who have only had £16 in cash in twelve months.

And who are most of the emigrants? Young men sent out because professions and trades at home were full, shipped off because there was no room for them in England--given money enough to start with, and sometimes barely that. How much do we expect them, straight away, to give to support their Church? They were not taught to do it here; now they have not the power, even if they care; and too often they think it does not matter if they have no services, and then there is the more need for others to care on their behalf. Do we at home find rough lads, or even polished ones, always zealous and generous pillars of the Church?

It is so easy to say 'Oh! the Church in the Colonies should be self-supporting,' while we sit down and enjoy the benefits of the gifts of our forefathers; benefits, let us remember, in which our emigrants were entitled to share equally with us. Is it not bare justice that where our clergy are provided for us, we should discharge the debt which would otherwise have been ours, by providing ministrations for the people we have crowded out? Shall we let the new lands our race is filling up become practically heathen, and let the flag bearing the triple cross fly over those who make the Cross of Christ of none effect? Or can we, who belong to the historic Church of England, feel proud of ourselves if we let those who go out from among us, baptised, and most of them confirmed, members, be dependent for any spiritual help on Roman Catholics, and non conforming sects? They may be quite satisfied, and though at first they miss the church bells they soon find it too much trouble to go any distance on Sunday, and either work on that day as all through the week; or, if they rest at all, spend it in lounging about smoking and idling; whilst those who care, and who, by way of not forsaking the assembling of themselves together, join the nearest Christians in their worship, get attached to those who have provided for them what their own Church has not, and so they and their children are lost to the Church of their fathers.

And if you say they should not be drawn away, listen to Bishop Sullivan, who wrote: 'One of our greatest difficulties lies in the profound ignorance of the majority of our people on all questions of Church history and teaching. They know next to nothing of the Church's distinctive doctrines, and hence are easily open to the inducements offered by other communions to cast in their lot with theirs. The Church in England is largely responsible for this, in leaving her children so unable to give a reason for the faith that is in them.'

The empire of England has not been given to her in order that her sons may make money and let faith and character go to the winds, that they should toil, week in week out, keeping no Lord's Day holy, worshipping only their own 'getting,' and offering no praise to God who gives them all.

Canada is a country of gigantic enterprises, which 'boom' for a time, and then sometimes cease entirely. It is not merely that companies or individuals fail, as they do all the world over, but that the resources and needs of a place are often temporary. The shifting populations thus brought in are difficult to deal with.

For instance, a new railway is started to branch off from an old one. At once a large population collects, with all the requirements of a new town, and in a few months some quiet spot becomes a busy unlovely crowd of wooden houses, and galvanized iron sheds, and alas! drinking and pleasure saloons for the men when off. There is no church. Whose business is it to put that up? that of the Church--which means locally the diocese represented by the Bishop--but the Bishop or his executive have no funds available to build churches to order, and by the time the money is collected for one, and the building accomplished, it may be that the bulk of the population has moved on to some new centre of industrial work. For this reason, in a new place, very small and simple buildings are often put up to be used as churches. If the place goes down, these are sufficient for the remnant left after navvies or miners have departed. If it develops into an important centre, and the people can build a better church, the first room may be useful for a Sunday school.

These, with other very serious problems, faced Bishop Thorneloe when he became the third Chief Pastor of Algoma in 1897. The diocese had absolutely no men of wealth, but a rapidly increasing population of workers in lumbering and other commencing industries and in prospecting for mines; at least one parish no miles long, without a single church, and with only one clergy man to minister to its spiritual needs; a diocesan debt of £1,000, and increasing at the rate of £400 a year, with interest to be paid thereon; notice just given by S.P.G. that its grants, one of the few certain sources of income, would be reduced ten per cent. each year: the impossibility for the struggling settlers to raise enough to support their churches, and the Bishop responsible for the payment of the stipends of the clergy, not knowing from quarter to quarter whether there would be any funds in the Diocesan Treasury with which to meet the claims. Such were a few of the difficulties to be surmounted! But, as we shall see, 'difficulties are the stones out of which God's houses are built.' The Bishop at once resolved not to let the debt grow larger. He began retrenchment by increased economies in the management of the diocese, by doubling up certain missions, and by reducing the grants made to others. He urged the people to the utmost of their power to make up the sums thus withdrawn so that the clergy might not suffer by their small incomes (then generally £120 a year) being diminished. The Evangeline was also sold. More railways and steamboats were available than heretofore; consequently the yacht, though a great convenience and rest for the Bishop, was an expense, and could be done without.

The S.P.G. grants of £850 a year had provided for the necessities of fifteen missions, and the reduction of these, in compliance with the Society's policy of withdrawing from older dioceses to help new fields, pressed hardly on Algoma, still only gradually being opened up. To meet this reduction the S.P.C.K. offered to give £1,000 if the Bishop could raise another £9,000 in five years, to be invested as a Clergy Sustentation Fund. It seemed an impossible task, but the offer could not be refused, and the venture was made. When Dr. Sullivan died, it was very generally felt that a memorial of some kind should keep alive the memory of his strenuous episcopate. This Sustentation Fund was chosen as the most suitable object, and thenceforward worked as the Bishop Sullivan Memorial Sustentation Fund. S.P.G. subsequently generously gave £1,100 and the remaining £7,900 was collected partly in Canada, partly through the English Association. The Archbishop is anxious that the capital of this fund should be still further increased. Meanwhile the settlers responded well to the call for self-support; fifteen missions now receive no help from diocesan funds and are raised to the dignity of rectories according to a rule of the diocese which confers that dignity upon missions as soon as they guarantee £160 per annum for the rector's stipend, together with a house. These fifteen are Sault Ste. Marie (St. Luke's and St. John's), Port Arthur, Fort William (St. Luke's and St. Paul's), Bracebridge, Byng Inlet, Cobalt, Gravenhurst, Halleybury, Huntsville, New Liskeard, North Bay, Parry Sound, Sudbury. Of course the churchwardens who are responsible must have some guarantee, and for this the envelope system is in use. Each householder promises to contribute yearly a certain sum. He then receives so many small envelopes bearing one number: every member of the household puts his offering at each service into the alms-bag enclosed in one of the envelopes. After the evening service the churchwardens enter in a book, against house number one, the sums found in the envelopes with that number. At the end of the year, if the total falls short of the sum promised, householder number one is gently but firmly requested to complete his pledge. As an example of giving, and one not exceptional, one parish, having only thirty-five Church families, gave in one year £300 for Church work, all its members being hard-working people, but endowed with the keen sense of independence often found in Canada. In 1913-14 the diocese raised £18,180 for Church purposes, and this amount works out at an average of about eighteen shillings a head for every Church member, including children.

Accrued interest on the diocesan debt had in a few years increased it to £1,400. While this liability remained the Bishop could not of course feel justified in entering on new fields, albeit those fields were sorely needing the ministrations of the Church; and it was more than hard to stand by longing, but helpless, to supply them. Preaching at Dr. Thorneloe's consecration, Dr. Sullivan said: 'I speak that whereof I know when I say that the ordinary labour, cares, and anxieties attendant on the episcopal supervision of such a jurisdiction, weighty though they be, are trifles light as air compared with the utter heart-sickness that comes of seeing doors opening for the building up of the Church of Christ, but no means of entering them; fields whitening to harvest and no labourers to gather the golden grain--nay, having strong men, with tears running down their cheeks, begging for, the Church's ministrations for themselves and their children, only to receive the chilling reply, "I cannot."

Formerly Eastern Canada did her share of missionary work through societies; but in 1902, at the General Synod in Montreal, the Canadian Church took the grand step of embodying the societies and making the work that of the whole Church, under the name of 'The Missionary Society of the Canadian Church.' She estimated the amount needed for Home and Foreign Missions, and apportioned to each diocese its share in these, again, the sum is divided among the parishes, which are expected to raise their allotted quota. This is quite separate from what they give towards local stipend, and in the instance of our 'upland valley,' amounts to £2 5s. a year. The diocese as a whole in 1914 contributed £57 for the M.S.C.C.' The Churchwomen of Canada work through the Women's Auxiliary and raise a truly noble sum. Algoma is the only diocese in Eastern Canada which receives a grant from the M.S.C.C., and is also the only one in which the Women's Auxiliary is permitted to work for parochial needs; here the women constantly undertake repairs or improvements to the parsonage houses and in many other ways help local work. This position recognises the great need and serious demands of this Missionary Diocese.

Two years after the above great step was taken by the Canadian Church, it was decided at the Triennial Council of Algoma to ask the Provincial Synod to take the necessary steps to form the Diocese of Algoma into an independent Synod. This petition was laid before the Provincial Synod at Montreal in 1904, and the request was received with much appreciation, as showing the advance in the diocese, and the courage of the Bishop, clergy, and laity in accepting the task of self-government. The change came into effect in 1906. One condition only was made, that the Diocese of Algoma should give a written assurance that it will not cease its efforts to augment its Bishopric Endowment Fund until it yields at least the minimum income of $3,000 (£600) per annum, agreed to at the time of the setting apart of the Missionary District of Algoma. This condition has not yet been fulfilled.

The Synod consists of the Bishop, clergy, and lay delegates--the latter being male communicants of at least one year's standing, and of the full age of twenty-one years, who shall be elected triennially at the Easter vestry meetings. The management of the Mission Funds is entrusted to the Executive Committee, which consists of the Bishop, six clerical and seven lay members, with the Archdeacon, the Bishop's commissary, and the clerical secretary, as ex officio members.

Algoma has suffered much in England from the fact of being included in the Eastern Ecclesiastical Province of the Canadian Church, though on all hands its conditions are acknowledged to be those of Western Canada. For this reason, this diocese was for many years debarred from receiving any help from the large special funds raised by various societies, on the ground that Western Canada meant technically the Province of Rupert's Land. Algoma thus fell between two stools. On the one hand, in being granted her own Synod, she relinquished entirely the old position of 'privileged child of the Canadian Church'; on the other, she was not allowed any share in the Western Canada Funds being poured into the prairie dioceses. This was at last seen to be unjust, and for the last few years S.P.G., in addition to stopping the reduction in its grant for general mission work, has made grants from its Western Canada Fund, as well as for new churches. In 1914, the Synod decided that in view of the greatly increased cost of living it was imperative that the existing stipends should be raised by £10 a year all round 'if the state of the Mission Fund allows.' As if in response to this venture of faith, came the welcome news that a special grant of £200 a year had been made for this very purpose by S.P.G. Help is also received from S.P.C.K., from the Colonial and Continental Church Society, and the A.W.C.P. has at intervals given two sums of f200; but with the M.S.C.C. grant, and £700 or so a year from the English Association, the Executive Committee is still hampered and bound by lack of funds; (1) from giving stipends equal to those in other dioceses, and (2) from entering into new fields.

As soon as the £10,000 for the Sustentation Fund mentioned above was in hand, the English Association, at the Bishop's request, attacked the debt which he had found burdening the diocese, and cleared it off. They subsequently raised a sum of £600 (to which, later, the Pan-Anglican Committee added £500) to form a Loan Fund for Divinity Students. These grants are repaid by the students after their ordination, so that the Fund is not depleted.

The Superannuation Fund presented the next claim. Several of the clergy had worked for thirty or forty years and should be able to retire, but they have had no. possible means of saving out of their very small stipends, and resignation means starvation. By the conditions on which Bishop Sullivan founded the Fund, none of the interest can be used till the capital is £5,000, and it must reach £10,000 before the whole interest is available. Thanks mainly to the English Association this Fund has now reached £5,000. To complete the other £5,000 and to ensure a substantial increase for the general fund for stipends are the two pressing financial needs.

In his charge to his first Synod, the Bishop said: 'We are this day face to face with needs and opportunities which lay upon us a tremendous responsibility. The time is critical. On every hand fields are whitening to harvest. Growing settlements along our new lines of railway, in Muskoka, in Parry Sound, in Thunder Bay: pioneers scattered over neglected areas in the Manitoulin Island and on the shores o Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay: crowds of miners and prospectors in the Cobalt silver-mining region, and farmers in the newly settled fertile belt of Northern Temiscaming, multitudes attracted by the phenomenal developments in and around Port William and Port Arthur: . .. all demand increased attention from the Church. And in addressing ourselves to this work we are confronted by the keen competition of other bodies of Christians threatening to loosen our hold upon our people or even to detach them from the Church of their fathers if we fail to supply adequate ministrations. The representatives of other Christian bodies outnumber ours in almost every field. From the beginning of our history, but especially of late, we have been so hampered by straitness of means, by the burden of debt, by the withdrawal of grants, and by other special hindrances of various kinds, that we have utterly failed to keep pace with the country's growth. What we have done, great as it is, is only a fraction of what we might and should have done. And now, when we are setting forth upon our free and responsible career, . . . we should be continually saying to ourselves the future of this diocese under God will be simply what we make it. It is a crisis with us. We are bound to be alive. It is a time for new resolves and a fresh start. The inauguration of self-government should arouse us to apostolic zeal, and fire us with an enthusiasm which would carry all before it, for the extension of God's historic Church, and for the glory of the great Head of that Church, our Lord Jesus Christ. Never again should we justify the reproach that the old Mother Church of England is the last religious body to enter new fields and the slowest to provide for her children. It should be a glowing ambition with each of us, but especially with every clergyman, to bring the influence of the historic Church to bear not merely upon every Churchman, but upon all the floating elements of population and upon every waste fragment of humanity to be found anywhere within the borders of our Dominion. Let us never forget that the soul of Imperialism is the religion of Jesus Christ; that the Church, the Christian Empire earnest, pure, compact, united, an imperium in imperio--alone can give permanent reality to the Civil Empire; and that if we are ever to realise the vision of Revelation and bring not merely all British subjects, but all nations and peoples and languages and tongues into one, it can only be accomplished by our first uniting them into one grand spiritual empire, under the headship of the one Sovereign Lord and Master--Jesus Christ.'

In these latter days Canada has poured out her sons with both hands to help the Motherland in the War; one zealous Churchwoman in Algoma gave all her four sons, and only wished she had eight to give, and we read how for us 'the Canadians saved the situation.'

This devotion of the people to the Empire, and the devotion to the diocese of the Archbishop, at the cost of all personal claims, for the sake of building up the kingdom into the headship of the One Lord, makes a double call at present to the Church at home to do all in their power to help to realise the vision.

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