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My First Year in Canada

By the Right Rev. Ashton Oxenden, D.D.
Bishop of Montreal, and Metropolitan of Canada

London: Hatchards, 1871.

Chapter IX. Status and Prospects of the Church

I FOUND the Church, on my arrival, pretty well organised, with its Dean and Canons of the Cathedral, an Archdeacon, and four Rural Deans, besides some six or eight Honorary Canons. The staff of clergy amounted to about seventy. It had also its Synod for some years past, although its affairs were principally managed by a "Church Society." This society was however merged in the Synod shortly before my arrival. Thus I found the Church with its admirable and solid framework fully elaborated; and for this I am mainly indebted to the zeal, energy, and practical wisdom of my valued predecessor, Bishop Fulford. I have since added another Archdeacon to our staff.

The old Church Society seems to have clone its work well for the time being. Still however it was but an imperfect organisation, and gave place to the Synod, which is the legitimate ruling power in the Church. The Church Society was suited to the days of the Church's pupilage; but the Synod belongs to a riper and more perfect system. The one was but a voluntary association within the Church; whereas the other is the true representative Body of the Church itself.

The Diocesan Synod meets annually, and its sitting's are generally extended over three or four days. The Bishop presides, and the members consist of all the licensed clergy, and lay delegates from the various parishes or missions, the whole number being upwards of two hundred.

The Provincial Synod, including representatives from the clergy and laity of the several dioceses, meets once in every three years, at Montreal. It consists of an Upper House of Bishops under the presidency of the Metropolitan, and a Lower House presided over by an elected Prolocutor The acts of this Synod rule the whole church of the Province.

The first Bishop of Canada, Dr. Mountain, was consecrated in 1793. Montreal was formed into a diocese, and Francis Fulford was consecrated its first Bishop, in 1856. The See is made over to the Bishop by Royal Patent, and he is regarded for all legal purposes as 'a corporation sole,' in whom is vested most of the Church property of the Diocese.

Each of the other Canadian Bishops is elected by the clergy and laity assembled in Synod, But the Bishop of Montreal, being also Metropolitan of the whole Province, is elected by a somewhat different process. The Synod of Montreal meets, and with it the House of Bishops; and no election can be made by the Synod, unless the name is first sent down to them by the assembled Bishops,

The last election was nearly leading to a catastrophe. The Bishops named several for the office; but one after another was rejected, either by the clergy or by the laity, whereas it was required that both should be consentients. A party in the Synod was anxious that some clergyman of the Diocese should be exalted to the Episcopate, and another party was equally determined that the office should be filled by a stranger. At one time, it seemed as if any solution whatever of the question was hopeless, until at length a compromise took place, and a reconciliation between the contending parties was happily effected.

The meeting of the Synod this year took place on Tuesday, June 2ist, and we continued in session three days. It began as usual with a solemn service in the Cathedral, and a celebration of the Holy Communion. In the afternoon we met in the Synod room, where the names having been called over, and the officers appointed, I delivered an opening address, and the Synod was fairly launched. Knowing the difficulties which had previously existed, I looked forward to its meeting with some degree of apprehension; but all went off far better than I anticipated. The speaking was short and to the point; and although a little party spirit every now and then showed itself, it readily gave place to what was for the common good.

On one or two occasions the gauntlet of discord was thrown down; but after a few explosive words things went on calmly again. For example, the introduction of the epithet Protestant, in framing an address to the Irish Church, was the signal for the discharge of a little oratorical artillery. A few pungent words were uttered, and then all rallied round the standard of peace. One speaker gloried in the term Protestant; another had rather have his third finger amputated than that the word should be expunged; whilst a third contended, that the Irish Church was not Protestant, but Catholic. In our difficulty, when it seemed as if some trouble must ensue, one of our moderate and wise laymen, who has more than once before come to the rescue on such occasions, and will, I trust, do so yet again, stood up, and by a short, but well-timed amendment succeeded in satisfying the combatants on either side, and made each feel that his own idiosyncrasy was truly represented. It was indeed pleasant to see how a little brotherly and Christian concession commended itself to all.

The most important measures were the adoption of a Report on the future management of our missions; also the selection of a certain number of clerical, and an equal number of lay, delegates, to represent our diocese at the next Provincial Synod; and the appointment of thirty members for the Executive Committee, in whom is vested the management of all the fiscal affairs of the diocese. These elections were made by ballot; and the latter by the separate votes of clergy and laity.

This arrangement of voting by orders is necessary in this case, and is also resorted to on other special occasions, on the application of any three members of the House. This is an important safeguard in cases where the peculiar interest of either order is at stake; but, as it has a tendency to array one body against the other, it is a privilege which should be used very sparingly, and certainly not for party purposes. There exists at present a good feeling between the clerical and lay members of our communion; and it is my earnest and heartfelt wish that this feeling may be strengthened; for without it the Church cannot really prosper.

The annual meeting of the Synod is important, as affording an opportunity for ventilating questions, and for the expression of opinions, affecting the welfare of the Diocese, and also for the framing of canons for the due regulation of its Church work. And this is done in a manner so consistent with Church order that there is no room for discontent.

Besides the Synod meeting, we had in the course of the winter another of scarcely less importance. It was the Annual Missionary Meeting--not Missionary according to the English meaning of the word--but in a Canadian sense, as it was for the furtherance of general Church objects in the various missions of the Diocese, and to give information as to the progress of the work. The meeting was a very successful one; the room was crowded; and the speaking was unusually interesting and effective. Some of our leading laymen took part in it; and we had upon the platform Bishop Stevens, of Philadelphia, an able and eloquent representative of our Sister Church in the United States. The collection was larger and the numbers greater than on former occasions; and it gave, I trust, a little spur to Church energy for the year.

And now what shall I say as to the prospects of our beloved Church? When I consider what the Canadian Church was but a few years ago, and what it is now, I do indeed rejoice and feel thankful. The present Dean of Montreal recollects the first Anglican Bishop, and was himself ordained by him. He began his Episcopate with only five clergymen in the whole province: now we have about four hundred and fifty in the Province, and upwards of seventy in this Diocese. But we want more; for there are fields here ripe for the harvest, if we had but labourers to occupy them. There are at this moment new Missions which ought to be opened, and which others will snatch from us if we do not seize our opportunity; and there are clergymen working hard who are sadly overtaxed, and need help. I also long to employ one or two Travelling Missionaries, regularly to visit the Lumber Districts during the winter; but we lack both men and funds. May some reader of these pages be stirred up either to offer himself for the work, or to give me the means of sending others! Souls may thus be won, and members may be gathered into the Church.

Our Church system is fairly launched in its integrity. We have an able and devoted body of clergy, and a laity who feel a real interest in its welfare and prosperity. May God be with us, pouring out His Spirit upon each Mission, each minister, each member of the Church, and we shall then be blest, and be made a blessing to this land!

The Ecclesiastical Province, over which the Bishop of Montreal presides as Metropolitan, consists of the Dioceses of Huron, Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, and Quebec. But it is likely that the following will ere long be added; Frederickton, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Rupertsland, and Columbia.

The Church in the Diocese of Montreal derives no special advantages from the State, beyond the miserable pittance of 3500 dollars per annum, recovered with some difficulty from the Clergy Reserves, when they were secularized in 1855. She also retains six or seven Rectories, made over by Royal Patent. These however, as has been already shown, have scarcely any advantages over ordinary missions, and have no special salaries attached to them. The Rectory of Montreal is an exception, having the sum of three hundred pounds paid annually by the Government; but this will be forfeited at the death of the present Rector.

The income of the Church is derived from the following sources:--

1. From the small sum saved from the wreck of the Clergy Reserves;

2. From certain local Endowments;

3. From an annual Grant from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which is gradually decreasing, and will eventually be withdrawn;

4. From the Voluntary Contributions of Church members.

From these sources, the wants of the Church are with difficulty supplied. When a mission is formed, the pecuniary capacity of the congregation is ascertained, and they pledge themselves to make up a certain sum, the remainder being supplemented by the General Church fund.

When a locality contributes but a third of the sum needed, the post is called a Mission; when one-half, it is a Parish; and when it becomes self-supporting, it is then considered as a Rectory. In the two first cases the Bishop appoints the clergyman, whilst in the last the Congregation nominate him, and it rests with the Bishop to confirm the nomination if he approves.

The clergy are at present very inadequately paid, their incomes rarely exceeding 600 dollars, or a hundred and twenty pounds sterling. It would be greatly to the advantage of the Diocese, and to the credit of the Church, if a worthier stipend were accorded to those who 'labour in the word and doctrine,' If the clergy were thus relieved from the distracting cares of a straitened income, they would labour not only with more comfort, but with more power.

I have held three Ordinations during the past year, and have ordained seven clergymen. My first ordination was held in the Cathedral; my second at Hemmingford; and the third at Trinity Church, Montreal.

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