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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 XV.


THE Bishop was fortunate throughout his episcopate in the possession of a strong Home Committee, which was ever at work presenting the claims of the diocese before the English public, and sending out help in men and means. In 1884 the work of the diocese had so increased in extent and interest that the Home Committee decided upon the printing and issuing of a quarterly paper, which should contain the latest news from the seat of work. To these quarterly papers for the history of the next few years the writer of this memoir is very largely indebted.

The visit of Archdeacon Woods to England in 1882, and his long tour of deputation work, were of the greatest service in arousing interest in New Westminster among the English parishes, and his return in 1883 left the committee without any one to carry on what had now become a necessary work, viz. that of pleading personally for the wants of the diocese. To quote the report--

"The committee had to face this difficulty, and, after careful consideration, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to employ a clergyman who should devote at least half the year to travelling as a deputation for the mission, and doing the other necessary work in connection with the Mission Guild."

The clergyman appointed to this important office, the Rev. H. H. Mogg, was, as a former worker in British Columbia, enabled to speak from personal observation, and to describe the needs of the diocese the more readily from having himself felt them.

It would be difficult to say to what an extent the work of this committee lightened the labours of the Bishop. Certainly there was ever the most loyal co-operation; on the one hand, the single desire to carry out consistently and cheerfully the wishes of the head of the Mission; on the other hand, the readiness to trust to the proved judgment and tried affection of friends at home. The Bishop's committee consisted of personal friends, and the friendship, which in many cases dated from before his consecration, continued unbroken till death--aye, and beyond.

While on this head, it may be mentioned that this year, mainly through the untiring energy of an English worker--Miss Lansdale--a mission-boat was sent out for conveying missionaries from place to place, and for visiting and holding services on board ships in the harbours. The funds had been collected in the autumn of 1884, and the boat was built at Bristol--a good, strong, seaworthy sailing-boat, about seventeen feet long, fitted with sails, oars, centre-board, and all the necessary gear, and manageable, if necessary, by one man.

While this important aid to the missionary work of New Westminster was on its way out, the Bishop was energetically engaged--although the winter was far from over--in the oversight of the districts immediately around the see city.

The Bishop paid an interesting visit to Surrey from the end of July to about August 9th.

Mr. Bell's parish was about twenty-seven miles long by about fifteen wide, and embraced two municipalities. Of Trenant, the western municipality, we have frequently heard already; the eastern portion was called Surrey--a poor district, but one in which the Church was making great advances. The services hitherto had been held in the Town Hall (let not the reader form his idea from the English equivalent of this), but, by dint of great self-sacrifice, the building of a church had at last become feasible, and one part of the Bishop's purpose in coming was to lay the foundation-stone.

This was done with full masonic rites, and Christ Church, Surrey, was auspiciously begun for a scattered flock, many of whom had not been inside a church for many years.

Baptisms and Confirmations were also administered by the Bishop, and when his visit was over, the people laboured so enthusiastically on their church that on September 2gth--the Feast of S. Michael and All Angels--it was ready for opening, just seven weeks from the laying of the foundation-stone.

About this same time a desire, long entertained by the Bishop, was carried out in the inauguration of a Mission in the Spallumcheen and Kamloops district. The importance of the step had been pressed upon the S.P.G. from year to year, but at last the progress of railway construction compelled action, and the Rev. D. H. W. Horlock was removed from Yale, which was now a rapidly decaying place, with a daily diminishing population, to take charge of the Kamloops Mission.

The Mission extended from Clinton on the north to Okanagan on the south, and embraced Cache Creek, Savona's, Grand Prairie, and Spallumcheen. One hundred miles in one direction, and seventy-five in the other, it was sufficiently large to fully task the energies of three men, especially as the railway was running through seventy or eighty miles of it. Kamloops was fixed upon as the head and centre of the Mission.

The first service was held in the temporary church at Kamloops on September 7th, when the Bishop officiated. Mr. Horlock entered upon the permanent duties of the mission a fortnight later, and his first coadjutor was found in the Rev. A. Shildrick, transferred from Maple Ridge. A new worker was also promised in the Rev. H. Irwin, expected early in 1885.

It will be seen that the diocese was gradually attracting to itself a staff of clergy more adequate for the work the Bishop had before him; but in a diocese every day becoming more populous and important, and a hundred and sixty thousand square miles in extent, even thirteen clergy was not an extravagant provision.

Under these circumstances, it was a bright day for the Mission and the Bishop when, in October, the staff was reinforced by the arrival of the Rev. H. Edwardes for the Indian Mission, Lytton; three Sisters from the Community of All Hallows', Ditchingham, for school work at Yale; and Miss Boyce for school work at Nicola. The prospects of the Indian Mission now looked rosy indeed, and the new impetus given to it will be appreciated when we come to the Bishop's account of the Indian gathering this year at Lytton.

But in spite of the brighter outlook in many directions, financial anxiety had not ceased to paralyze, to a large extent, the Bishop's activities. The following letter addressed to the Secretary of the Home Committee will show the Bishop's position in this respect:--

"New Westminster,

"November 3, 1884.


"For my own part I am afraid that my report this time must be a melancholy one. We held our quarterly Executive Committee meeting last week. Our bank balance amounts to £147, including all special donations, which of course ought to be reserved for their particular purpose. We required, however, £146 10.s. for actual stipends, and the committee decided that it was better to appropriate the special funds rather than leave the stipends unpaid. We, therefore, paid the stipends in full, but bills to the amount of £75 had to be laid over. The simple fact, therefore, is that the diocese at this moment is insolvent. Understand particularly that I am not finding fault with you. I am aware of the circumstance that you have drawn no salary as organizing secretary during the year, and I require you to publish this circumstance with the rest of my letter. I am finding fault with no one except it be myself for not using my own pen to better purpose; but I abhor writing begging letters, especially to individuals, though I suppose I must descend to it, if money is not otherwise forthcoming.

"On December 31st a similar amount will be due for stipends, the bill will have to be paid, and we ought to replace the special donations which have been appropriated. Further than this, we are under engagements to pay £50 towards a church at Mud Bay now nearly completed, and £50 towards new buildings for Lome College. I have exhausted local effort for this year, and must depend, therefore, wholly upon home contributions being remitted in time. . . .

"Ever yours sincerely,


Meanwhile, not only were those outside the diocese called upon to bestir themselves, but Churchmen within the diocese were also invited to rise to the needs of the occasion. At the request of the Bishop, Archdeacon Woods undertook to organize what has since become a most important part of the diocesan machinery--the Diocesan Mission Fund. The Archdeacon put forth an appeal for prompt help, reminding Churchmen that grants from outside were only for a time, and might at any time fail or be withdrawn.

We may conclude this general review of the work of the year with a reference to the meeting of synod on November 20th. The Bishop preached a very able sermon at the opening of synod from the text, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," and afterwards delivered his address, in which he dealt with the general condition of the diocese, the appointment of attorneys for S.P.G., the need of canons dealing with the solemnization of holy matrimony, the subject of periodical collections within the diocese for various public objects, such as S.P.G., S.P.C.K., and the Diocesan Fund, and the need for a proper arrangement of the boundaries of parishes. All these subjects were duly discussed, and such others as were brought up by individual members of the synod, various committees appointed, and a very good and useful session brought to a conclusion in one day.

From all these details of diocesan organization and work, which it was necessary to mention, we may now turn to the more interesting subject of the Bishop's journeys, in the spring and summer to Lytton for the great Indian gathering, in the autumn to Cariboo.

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