Project Canterbury

Pioneer Church Work in British Columbia
Being a Memoir of the Episcopate of Acton Windeyer Sillitoe, D.D., D.C.L.
First Bishop of New Westminster.

By the Rev. Herbert H. Gowen, F.R.G.S.

London: Mowbray, 1899.

Chapter XII.


THE inability of the Bishop, through the financial situation, to pay his usual up-country visitations, was to a large extent atoned for by the splendid volunteer mission to the railway camps carried on during the year by Father Hall and Father Shepherd of the Society of S. John the Evangelist, which, to our regret, we are unable to describe here. The diary for this year shows every day fully taken up by labours of more or less importance. Here an ordination by which another missionary district obtains the services of a resident priest; here and there a confirmation, sometimes attended with no little difficulty, as, for instance, that at Trenant in July, after which there was a row home which occupied no less than seven hours against the Fraser at its fullest and strongest. Temperance work in New Westminster also occupied a good deal of time with very happy results, while the two successful concerts given by the Choral Union afforded testimony to the reality of the association's first year's work. The diocesan conference, the clerical synod, the clergy retreat, and the first meeting of the diocesan synod were, each in its respective way, evidence of a very real growth in the organization of diocesan work; while that the extremities were not allowed to suffer from lack of attention is shown by visits paid to various places up and down the river. A fortnight's camp at English Bay enabled the Bishop to minister to the spiritual needs of Granville and hold confirmations there. Chilliwhack was visited September 10th, and Yale had its turn in November.

Maple Ridge, too, was visited a few days before Christmas on the occasion of the opening of the new church of S. John the Divine.

Besides these visits paid within the diocese, the Bishop was also enabled to take a short trip to Victoria to confer with his brother Bishop of Columbia, and also to make a long-promised excursion into the sister Church of the United States for the purpose of assisting Bishop Paddock in his convocation. Arriving in Seattle on June 2ist, Bishop Sillitoe spent a very busy week literally overflowing with engagements, not only bringing encouragement and friendly greeting to his fellow-Churchmen "across the line," but also learning much himself, and imparting valuable information respecting the needs of his own diocese. The Bishop came back deeply impressed with the reality and power of the work going on in the sister diocese, while not failing to note the points--few in number, it is true--in which our American cousins seemed to lay themselves open to criticism. One thing comes in for lavish and unstinted praise, viz. the energy and business-like zeal with which the "Women's Auxiliary" was engaged in furthering the work of the American Church.

It was the Bishop's privilege this year to entertain the Governor-General of Canada (the Marquis of Lome) and the Princess Louise, and the fact of his having once been chaplain to Her Royal Highness' sister, the lamented Princess Alice, made the visit one of great interest and pleasure on both sides. This royal visit extended from September 29th to October 1st, and the Bishop omitted to show their excellencies few of the beauties of the royal city.

We come now to the Bishop's first annual report, in which there is proof that he has obtained a real grasp of the work with him and before him, in spite of the almost killing worry consequent on slender resources. The growth of Church principles is evidenced on every hand, and the clerical staff during the year contained one clergyman whom the Bishop had received from the ranks of the Methodist ministry and another whom he had received from the fold of Rome.

The report opens as follows with a reference to the synod:--

"I congratulate you most heartily upon the accomplishment of this important work of organization, and I am most thankful for the relief it affords me from the burden of much of my responsibility. Hitherto I have been obliged by circumstances to fulfil the duties of a multitude of offices entirely foreign to the spiritual oversight of the diocese, which is my proper function, and to which I would gladly devote all my time and energy. Now, I may hope, and increasingly more and more, to transfer the care of financial and other secular matters to the hands of trusty laymen, willing and more competent than myself to deal with them. The distance which separates us prevented a full representation of the laity of all our parishes at the first meeting of the synod, but it was a source of much satisfaction to me that all our clergy were able to be present."

Of the clergy he had to say that as the losses just balanced the gains, the staff remained just as in the preceding year; but he confessed an incalculable obligation to Father Benson for sending the two mission clergy, "who, besides their special mission work among the railroad hands, gave us much brotherly help in many of our parishes, as well as at the meeting of synod, and also conducted a retreat for clergy, which, in its results, was perhaps the most far-reaching of all their work."

Of finances the Bishop wrote at length, giving a full account of all the difficulties mentioned in a previous chapter, but at the same time cordially recognizing the great assistance given to the diocese both by private friends at home and by the great Church societies, the S.P.G. and the S.P.C.K.

In educational matters he gave an encouraging account of Columbia College for girls, which although not yet self-supporting had gained ground during the year, while advance was marked in the opening of the new Mission School of All Saints', Nicola, into which Mr. John Clapperton and other laymen threw great energy and heartiness of support.

The negotiations for the opening of a boys' school in New Westminster failed at the last moment, and the Bishop had to consider the subject de novo.

In Granville, whether due to the bracing sea air or not, there was a life and vigour prophetic of the future position of the Church in Vancouver (as Granville was subsequently called), and S. James' Church, Granville, began to be known as an example to the diocese for taste and orderliness.

In Yale, where the irreligion and public depravity had been a byword throughout the province for many years, the Church, under Mr. Horlock's supervision, had become influential and powerful; and the opening of a reading-room and club in connection with the Church supplied a very urgent want, and kept many from yielding to temptation.

In Barkerville, where Mr. Blanchard had been called to minister, there was an earnest congregation, about whom the incumbent could write in a tone of cheery optimism, and who certainly did their part well in raising money for the support of the Church's ministration.

In the Chilliwhack district, Mr. Gilbert kept both S. Thomas', Chilliwhack, and the new church at Cheam supplied. At Trenant the debt on the church was paid off, and Mr. Bell's work found abundant encouragement; while the dedication of the church at Maple Ridge has already been recorded.

At the same time, the Bishop, after speaking of the work already accomplished, was careful to point out the new work ready for the "labourers" who had yet to be found. He says--

"I have used all my influence with the S.P.G. the last three years to induce them to help us at Kamloops, but so far in vain, and I am disposed to wait no longer, but to send forth a labourer at once in faith that the Lord of the harvest will provide him his hire. It is an enormous field that would tax the energy of two men, but if we cannot provide two, we must find one who will do the work of two, and I hope he will be forthcoming."

Of the need for a special Chinese Mission the Bishop says--

"Our responsibilities towards these heathen sojourners are in no wise diminished. There are about seven or eight thousand of them in our midst, and no endeavour whatever is made to evangelize them. I have again applied to S.P.G. on their behalf, but even without this aid I feel that something must be done. A native Chinese missionary, at present working in San Francisco, has offered himself to me, but an engagement with him will involve the responsibility of $930 or $1000 a year. I am still considering whether or not to incur this obligation."

The Indian work had been a subject of deep anxiety to the Bishop, especially since the loss to the diocese of the Rev. J. B. Good, but the visit of the Fathers had already suggested to him a plan for the future if only the men and the means were forthcoming.

He was able to state that through the generosity of a lady in England he hoped shortly to appoint a priest to take charge of the Fraser River Indian Mission.

"Of the Lytton Mission I can only say that work is necessarily suspended during the vacancy in the post, excepting such ministrations as Mr. Whiteway is able to afford in the town of Lytton itself. Every effort is being made to find a thoroughly efficient man for the mission; in fact, I hope two men may be appointed, the society having consented to a division of their grant for this purpose.

"In association with this work there is a good prospect of a branch of the sisterhood of All Hallows', Ditchingham, being established in the diocese, with the object of supplying an industrial education for Indian girls. With this and a similar institution for boys, we shall take the first step towards dealing in a practical way with the problem of Indian improvement. . . ."

The report, which, all things considered, is most encouraging and hopeful, concludes with a humble acknowledgment of the abundant grace and mercy of Almighty God, and also of the generous support and co-operation of clergy and laity within the diocese, and hosts of friends outside. The Bishop had so far got acquainted with his work that he knew not only the fields of labour, but the characteristic difficulties of each, and he cheerfully braced himself with the Christians' impregnable armour to face and conquer them.

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