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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 XXIV.


IT was in this year that the illness began from which the Bishop never fully recovered. Just as the prospects of the diocese looked brighter than at any time since the foundation of the see, and all were looking forward to greater progress still, the mysterious la grippe, which had wrought such havoc in other lands, made its presence known in this distant western diocese, and violently attacked among the very first the Bishop, one of those who could least be spared from active life.

The Bishop's illness commenced at the beginning of February, and though he was able to be out two or three days at the beginning of March, he broke down again on March 5th, and was sent to bed again. He forced himself through a visit to Yale, and an ordination at S. James', Vancouver, on March 27th, and then got away again till April 8th for a few days' rest.

From this time onward, although the Bishop was by no means strong, the record of work shows little if any diminution from that of preceding years. Indeed, the Bishop seems to have gone over the greater portion of the diocese, including three visits to Nelson.

Of visits to Kamloops, Lytton, Ashcroft, Donald, Golden, Vernon, Penticton, Surrey, and other places, it will not be necessary to say more than that they resembled the past visits which have already been described.

An interesting visit was also paid to Nelson, where the Bishop introduced the Rev. A. J. Reid to his new flock, and where vigorous signs of Church life showed themselves. Nelson is an important centre of a large and growing mining district.

The Bishop, later in the year, paid two other visits to this remote portion of his diocese, and had the satisfaction of seeing his plans rapidly and successfully developing.

One other incident in the itinerary of this year deserves more than passing mention, viz. the great Indian gathering at Hope. In itself the gathering was similar to those which took place at Pootanie in preceding years, but it had a special interest through the presence of the venerable Bishop of Columbia, Dr. George Hills, then on the eve of departure from the diocese he had ruled so indefatigably for thirty-five years, and of the Rev. J. B. Good, who was the Indian missionary in charge at the time of Bishop Sillitoe's appointment. Not only was it a great delight to the Bishop and Mr. Good to renew acquaintance with their old friends of the interior, but it was a great source of both delight and profit to the Indians to see once more among them those who had been in very truth their first fathers in God. It was a witness to them and to all of the continuity of the Church's work, and of that unity of faith which binds men together in every land in one "Communion of Saints."

It was shortly after this that the Bishop went out to meet Bishop Hills at Mission to speak on behalf of the diocese of New Westminster the words of farewell to its former chief pastor, and present him with an album, which would bring some of the old faces from time to time before his eyes.

It was a great comfort to the Bishop at this time to feel that his efforts in supplying ministrations to every part of the unwieldy diocese had not been altogether unproductive. Although by no means over-manned, the diocese was at this time better equipped with clergy than at any time since its formation.

The return of three former workers in the diocese, in the persons of Mr. Small, Mr. Edwardes, and Mr. Croucher, was a telling instance of the magnetic attraction possessed by New Westminster. Two new clergy were also admitted to the priesthood on March 27th, the Revs. E. F. Lacey and F. Yolland. Besides these, the Rev. A. J. Reid (as we have seen) came to take up the new work at Nelson, the Rev. A. R. Macduff from Lahore to work at Ashcroft, the Rev. A. A. Dorrell to fill the long-vacant vicarage of Trenant, and the writer of the present sketch to work at the cathedral and do other work in the city of New Westminster.

This other work included two new efforts upon which the Bishop had long set his heart, the evangelization of the Chinese and the establishment of a new district church in New Westminster.

The work among the Chinese, difficult and slow as it necessarily is, had been long crying out for support. In Vancouver and New Westminster the placid, persevering, long-suffering Celestials had been gathered in considerable numbers, and scattered in smaller communities over the province, working in the cities as laundrymen, cooks, market-gardeners, and store-keepers, in the country places as miners, and along the Fraser taking their part in the important industry of catching and canning the salmon. There was, perhaps, on their part no consciousness of the need for mission work--indeed, there was little visible sign of their belief in any religion whatever--nor was there any great enthusiasm among the Church people of the diocese on behalf of a mission. Rather, sad it is to say, there was a sort of unchristian conviction that such a mission was a mistake and a needless waste of money. But, nevertheless, upon the Bishop's heart the responsibility weighed heavily, and he was glad indeed to find some one ready to take up the work.

Of that work it is not needful to write at length. Disappointing in some respects, small and feeble, perhaps, it has nevertheless done something to teach Church people the practical value of missionary work, to make known among the Chinese that the Church cares for their souls as well as for those of whites and Indians, and, at any rate, to be a kind of standing protest in the face of the world against a Christianity which regards the Chinaman as outside the pale of evangelistic work.

The centre of this work naturally gravitated to Vancouver, where the Chinese most do congregate. Here a school, for which the nucleus already existed in a class established by the Rev. H. Hobson, Rector of Christ Church, was organized, from which a Chinese catechist from Honolulu, Mr. S. Ten Yong, worked in a large circle, including the two principal cities of the mainland.

The work in connection with the West End Mission in New Westminster was easier and more immediately productive. The ground had lain as it were fallow, and the response of the people to the efforts made on their behalf was spontaneous and generous. Twice this year the Bishop came up to the little church to administer the rite of Confirmation. By the end of the year the necessity for enlargement had become pressing. To complete the mention of the work now, we may add that by the Easter of 1893 the church had been enlarged to three times its former size. By the end of 1893, from paying half the stipend of the clergyman in charge, it undertook the whole; and at Easter, 1894, only a month or two before the Bishop's death, it was constituted a new parish, under the name of S. Barnabas'.

To go back to 1892, we find the Bishop making one other effort towards supplying a religious education for boys. New premises were secured in Vancouver, and energetic efforts made to ensure success. But, apparently, success was not to be. So far the history of the diocese has shown that until the people generally care a great deal more for religious education than they do at present, it is hopeless to attempt to compete with the public school system. Perhaps some other way will have to be found to make religion a part of an ordinary education, which need not involve the costly experiment of separate schools.

At any rate, this effort shared the fate of its predecessors, and died a natural death in the course of a few months.

Another matter, however, which had long been on the Bishop's mind, was brought to a satisfactory consummation. This was the constitution of Holy Trinity Church, New Westminster, as the Cathedral Church of the diocese.

A committee had been appointed in October, 1891, to draw up the constitution and agreement between the Bishop and the Vestry of Holy Trinity Parish. After long and thoughtful discussion, and much labour in studying the constitution of other cathedrals, the task was brought to a happy conclusion, and on September 28, 1892, the Vestry of Holy Trinity Church passed the following resolution, accepting the conditions laid down by the Bishop:--

"RESOLVED that this vestry consents to the said constitution and ordination of Holy Trinity Church as the Cathedral Church of this Diocese; and agrees to the conditions set forth in the said agreement, and authorizes the Rector and Churchwardens to sign the same on its behalf."

The following is a copy of the deed of constitution:--

"To all to whom these presents shall come,

"ACTON WINDEYER, by Divine permission, Bishop of New Westminster, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, greeting.

"Whereas it hath ever been by authority of Holy Scripture and of the Primitive Church, an ancient custom to establish new Bishoprics in populous cities, more easily resorted to by the inhabitants of the Dioceses, or in the seats of civil governments, or ancient capitals, of states or provinces,

"And whereas, upon the division of the Diocese of British Columbia, a new see was created under the name or title of New Westminster, which said city of New Westminster was then the sole city within the limits of the new diocese, and was, and still is, the seat of the County Government of the District of New Westminster, and the original capital of the Colony of British Columbia,

"And whereas Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent and Vestry, they hereunto consenting, appropriate and attach to the see and Bishopric of New Westminster, the Rectory and Rectorship of the said parish church of the Holy Trinity, reserving always to us and our successors our Episcopal rights,

"Moreover, it is hereby expressly provided, that certain conditions contained in the resolution of the vestry meeting held on the 28th day of September, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two before-mentioned, shall be formulated in an agreement, which shall be signed by us, and by the Rector and Churchwardens of the parish of the Holy Trinity, before thirty days next ensuing from the date of these presents shall have expired and the said conditions shall be faithfully observed and performed at all times hereafter, otherwise these presents shall be void and have no effect.

"In witness whereof we the said Bishop have hereunto set our hand and Episcopal seal on the fourteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two, and of our consecration the thirteenth.


"E.M.N. WOODS witnesses; [Seal]


Of this year's meeting of synod there is nothing which calls for special mention. It was held in New Westminster on November 16th and 17th, was largely attended, and harmoniously conducted. The principal reference in the Bishop's address was to the constitution of the cathedral which is described above.

It was a subject of congratulation to the Bishop that in spite of the drawback of his illness the diocese had made such progress both in the number of its clergy and the results of their work. This thought finds emphatic expression in the Bishop's summary of the year's work.

Profiting by this knowledge, and by the desire to make the diocese and its needs better known to the Dominion of Canada generally, the Bishop accepted an invitation from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of Canada to visit in the following spring the principal cities in the eastern provinces, to lecture upon the work and needs of the Church in the Far West. Of this visit we shall speak briefly in the next chapter.

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