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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 XIX.

GENERAL SURVEY, 1885-1886.

ONE or two events of the year 1885 have been described at length, but the notice of interesting journeys and events has by no means been exhausted. For instance, we have an account of a nine hundred miles' drive into the Cariboo country undertaken by the Bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe from July to September. Inasmuch, however, as the ground has been covered once or twice before, and the narrative embraces only such now familiar incidents of up-country travel as forest fires, washouts, miry roads, and break-downs, together with the incessant recurrence of services, baptisms, and confirmations, which, of course, formed the primary object of the Bishop's visitations, we will leave the reader to imagine for himself this arduous, but no longer novel, journey.

Almost immediately after the return from this tour in Cariboo, took place the consecration of the new Indian church at Lytton on October 19th. We cannot do better than give Mr. Small's account of this festive event, cheering alike to the Mission priests, and to the Bishop, who was beginning to see his efforts on behalf of the Indians bearing fruit.

"You will be glad to hear," writes Mr. Small, "that our Indian church at Lytton--'entirely rebuilt by the labour of the Indians themselves--was consecrated by the Bishop on October ith, I really never dreamed, when ministering in the old dilapidated church a year ago, that within twelve months it would be my happiness to find a bright, clean, waterproof building, with a sanctuary which in decency would compare with many, if not most, of the churches in which I have ministered at home. Meshell, our interpreter, and the chief agent in the whole matter, has been most faithful in following out the directions given by Mr. Edwardes's practical and tasteful mind, and in the final arrangements, the completeness was due to the personal help and instruction given by him and Mr. Clinton. On the Thursday previous to the consecration, the Governor-General, who was passing through Lytton, received a deputation and address from the Indians in the unconsecrated church. His excellency's reply was eminently grave and practical, and in it he promised the Indians an organ for their church, to be sent by the C.P.R. when the traffic is opened through. On the day of consecration we had Mattins, followed by the Consecration Service and Holy Communion at 9 a.m. Many services and a Confirmation took place; and in the evening, after the Bishop had left for Kamloops, the congregation gathered again in church, and at this service six infants and children were baptized."

The Bishop's report for 1885 also refers to a few other interesting items in the year's work.

I. Of Columbia College he has to report that, owing to the disadvantages of inadequate and unsuitable premises, of too frequent changes of lady principals, and the competition of the Government free schools, it had been found impossible to maintain the institution as then established, but with the help of S.P.G., and the kind promise of another Sister from Ditchingham, he felt that he might purchase commodious premises at Yale, and hand over the education of girls to the Sisters with every prospect of success.

2. Another matter referred to was the departure for England of Mr. Justinian Pelly, after a stay of some months in the diocese. During his visit Mr. Pelly was most assiduously engaged for the Bishop in lay work of the most valuable character. In alluding to his departure, the Bishop speaks of it as a terrible loss, both to himself personally and to the diocese at large.

However, it was a consolation to feel that Mr. Pelly was carrying his unequalled interest in the diocese with him to England, and would there continue to labour for the same ends. There was a further occasion for congratulation in the fact that his place as a visitor would be taken by Canon Thynne, a consistent friend of the Mission from the outset, and now desirous of strengthening his ties with the diocese by engaging in mission work for six months among the miners.

The effects of visits such as this was of considerable value to the diocese in keeping it in touch with sources of assistance in the old country. At this stage of the diocesan history, the home organization, carried on under the direction of Mr. Mogg, was doing excellent work. Centres of interest were formed in various parts of England, and guilds established for the deepening of zeal in the workers. It was to assist in this movement that the Bishop desired to visit England, but the same cause which impelled him to undertake the journey--viz. the necessity of raising funds--also seemed for a long time to bar the way, for he could not afford the journey.

Under date of March 10, 1886, the Bishop writes as follows:--


"I am sorry to say that I have been obliged to postpone my visit to England. I hoped to have been able to start next month, but I am so badly off that I could only come by borrowing the money for my travelling expenses, and this I am unwilling to do.

"I have had to pay out so much for public purposes that I cannot save a penny; and, indeed, if I come this year at all, it will have to be by stopping at home and economizing to the last degree. And yet I ought to go and visit the Granite Creek mines if I go nowhere else.

"The winter is probably a better time than summer for week-night meetings, but as regards Sundays, they are difficult to be had between Advent and Easter."

To make matters worse, the year 1886 was a year of considerable strain upon the diocese.

On Whit Sunday, June ijth, the city of Vancouver was visited by one of those disastrous conflagrations which seem at some time or other to visit all towns on the American continent, and practically the whole city was left in ashes. Only six houses, it is said, were left standing, and a thousand people were left homeless. The loss included the church of S. James', which was in the charge of the Rev. H. G. F. Clinton, who lost books, clothes, furniture, and everything, with nothing insured, while the church itself was only insured for the sum of $750. It was a strange coincidence, with perhaps some hidden sign of blessing, that the fire occurred on the day that the Church was celebrating the coming down of the Holy Spirit under the outward symbol of tongues of fire. The necessity for rebuilding this church came as an added anxiety to the already overburdened Bishop.

During the year it became imperatively necessary to place the position of the diocese prominently before the lay Church people. To every known Churchman an appeal was sent asking what each would give, not to his own parish, but to the general work of the diocese. In writing to meet some objections to the appeal raised by some, the Bishop remarks as follows:--

"Amongst the duties of the Bishop are some which involve expense, as, e.g. the management of property, the legal costs of which amount to a large sum annually. There are three ways of dealing with these expenses:

(1) Let the Bishop pay them out of his own pocket;

(2) Let the parishes generally contribute to the payment of them; (3) Don't pay them at all. I need scarcely say that they have been dealt with hitherto in the first mentioned way. There is a simplicity about this solution of the difficulty which quite accounts for the complacency with which the parishes have hitherto quietly acquiesced in the arrangement I say the 'parishes,' because whatsoever help I have hitherto received in this direction has been altogether individual in its character, while my contention is that it should be parochial. ... I firmly believe that the successful administration of a diocese, specially in regard to its finances, depends in a most important measure upon the full appreciation and practical observance of this principle. It admits of a simple illustration. A citizen of New Westminster is required to pay municipal taxes, but his payment in this respect does not exempt him from the payment of provincial taxes, nor do these again set him free from the imposts levied by the Dominion Government. The municipality corresponds with the parish, the province with the diocese, while the Dominion stands for the whole Church, especially in its mission field; and every Churchman is liable under these several ecclesiastical organizations, as is every citizen under the corresponding political ones."

The necessity for doing something above what had already been done was obvious enough. The completion of the C.F.R. was bringing large numbers of settlers into the province, and from every direction urgent and touching calls were being received for the ministrations of the Church--calls which considerations of distance made it peculiarly difficult and expensive to answer.

Here is one specimen letter received from a prominent and influential layman at Donald.

"June 2, 1886.


"I am induced to trouble you thinking that you would be pleased to learn what I have to communicate, and hoping you may have it in your power to meet the views of the people residing here, both as affects educational and religious matters.

"All last year there were quite a number of families with their children at this place, yet not once were they visited by a clergyman. It has been decided by the C.P.R. that Donald is to be the most important station this side of Winnipeg. Large machine shops and round houses are to be maintained, and some three hundred and fifty or four hundred men will be kept here by the C.P.R. Many of these fill important positions, and members of all classes coming in have families, but the superintendent tells me that they object to this place as being unfit as a dwelling-place for their families, there being no schools, no churches, nor any facilities for bringing up their children in the way they should go.

"That this place should be so neglected is the cause of much comment. Should you feel like running up here to see the country and people, what I can do I will freely do to make you comfortable.

"Yours very faithfully,


Unremitting efforts to meet such pressing wants were made throughout this year, and, as the statistics for the year show, not by any means unsuccessfully. The number of clergy shows a gratifying increase, and, by performing double duty, the clergy made themselves go a considerable way in supplying the lack of Church privileges. As an example of this, we may take the case of Mr. Croucher, who had charge of Maple Ridge and Ladner's Landing, two settlements twenty-four miles apart. To minister to these two localities, he had for some time to use a little skiff totally un-suited to breast the rapid flood of the Fraser river. In December, 1885, Mr. Croucher nearly lost his life in his efforts to perform this double duty. Returning from Ladner's Landing, the tide running swiftly out, and the wind blowing strongly against it, the boat capsized, and after struggling for three quarters of an hour in the deadly cold water, Mr. Croucher's cries were heard by the workmen in a salmon cannery near, during a stoppage of the machinery.

Good, however, came out of this perilous adventure, for by the kind efforts of friends of the Mission in England, a steam launch was bought and sent out from England for the use of Mr. Croucher and the Bishop in their visits to the settlers along the banks of the Fraser. The Eirene, as this new aid to the mission work was called, proved indeed a messenger of peace among the settlers, many of whom were living in a state of practical heathenism.

Moreover, what the Eirene effected on the water, namely, a saving in every direction of time and power, the C.P.R. was the means of effecting on the land; for in spite of the need of economy, the Bishop was obliged to pay Sunday visits up-country for the purpose of Confirmations. Take for example the week from March 30th to April 7th,

"Leaving home on March 3oth, the Bishop reached Yale the same afternoon, and at Evensong held a Confirmation in S. John's Church of three girls belonging to the Sisters' school, and five Indians, and later in the evening addressed a gathering of Indians in the Indian church. The next day he reached Kamloops, travelling by train as far as Savona's, and the remaining twenty-five miles by handcar. On Saturday, April 3rd, two persons were confirmed in the temporary church at Kamloops. The following morning the Bishop celebrated and preached, and left in the afternoon by handcar for Savona's, where he held service and preached in the evening. On Monday morning Lytton was reached at 9 a.m. Flags were flying, and people were dressed in their best and brightest garments. The Indians were found already gathered in church for a Confirmation, the watchmen representing the different tribes being present to receive the Bishop at the church door. Twelve men and six women were confirmed; and in the afternoon the Bishop, accompanied by the Rev. H. Edwardes and Mr. William Meshell, drove down to the S. Paul's Mission House, where he was received by the Rev. R. Small and the Rev. E. L. Wright. On Tuesday, the 6th, there was a Confirmation of three men and five women, and two infants were baptized. On Wednesday the Bishop baptized eighteen adults. Thursday was devoted to an inspection of the Mission premises and the examination of the pupils of the school. On Friday the whole staff of the Mission House, with the pupils, accompanied the Bishop down the river by canoe to Keefer's Station, where the Bishop took train, and reached home in the evening. During the journey the Bishop confirmed twenty men and sixteen women, and baptized eighteen adults and two infants."

In the year 1886 two meetings of the Diocesan Synod were held--one in March, and a second in November, previous to the Bishop's departure for England.

On the morning of November 3rd the Bishop celebrated Holy Communion in S. Mary's Church, Sapperton. A large number, both of clergy and laity, had assembled to say "Good-bye," and to pray for God's blessing on the journey. The parting, thus appropriately made, was soon over, and the Bishop sped on his way over that great highway of Canada, the C.P.R.

Thus the Bishop temporarily left his diocese, thinking anxiously of all he had to accomplish before seeing once more the glorious peaks and canons of the Rocky Mountains.

Quebec was reached in time to sail by the Parisian on November igth; and at length the welcome coast of England came in sight once more, and Liverpool was reached on the first Sunday in Advent, November 28, 1886.

The visit itself we must pass over, as every reader knows what the visit of a colonial Bishop is like--an endless series of appeals, sermons, and lectures, with but the merest fraction of time for rest. The great outstanding features of his stay were the annual meeting of the Mission in London, at which the Marquis of Lome spoke, and the ever-memorable Jubilee Service at Westminster Abbey, at which the whole Empire lifted up its heart to God for our Queen's glorious and happy reign.

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