Project Canterbury

The Church on the Prairie

By H. H. Montgomery, D.D.

[London:] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1910.

Chapter III. The Response to the Appeal for Men

The response in the Diocese of Saskatchewan had to be made in a different way from that in other dioceses. The reason was a simple one; the need for instant action was more imperative. Rupert's Land, Qu'Appelle, Calgary, all with great claims, all having suffered from our inattention at home, were not now in so extraordinary a position as the Diocese of Saskatchewan. Probably thousands of Churchmen had been already lost to us in these regions. The railway had been running through these regions since 1885-6; the Church had been slowly covering the ground. But in the Diocese of Saskatchewan the immigration was coming like a bolt from the blue, like a flight of locusts upon the prairie. Such abnormal circumstances had to be met by abnormal methods. Archdeacon Lloyd proposed to the Bishop that fifty of the best laymen that could be found in England for the work of shepherding the people on the simplest lines should be obtained from England, and that England should be asked to pay for them for three years at least. These men were to be promised nothing but sufficient to support them, no promise of ordination unless they proved themselves fitted in due time. There was to [15/16] be no lowering of standards for ordination; no one was to be ordained priest without a year or two at a recognised theological college. Meanwhile an integral part of the scheme was the provision of at least five travelling clergy for these fifty catechists. The clergy were to spend their time inspecting, helping, giving the Sacraments to the catechists and to the people. During the worst winter months, when little could be done, these men were to be withdrawn into Prince Albert and be instructed in Bible and theology. Such was the scheme, a bold one, very unconventional, but adapted to the remarkable state of things on the prairie. It needed necessity to make the diocese depart so far from the usual, orderly methods of training for years before they were sent out. In my own opinion, after personally visiting the diocese, I consider that the diocesan authorities were justified in their action. Something strong and without loss of time had to be done if we were not to see the history of many a district in the East reproduced in the West and in spite of warning. The Anglican Church must not be wiped out of existence in this newly rising Empire of white men. We must employ the material we have and give our people the ministrations of their Church. A meeting was held at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, at which representatives of the S.P.G., of the C.C.C.S. and leading Churchmen were present. It was determined that the Archbishop should be requested to issue a letter to the public asking for help. The Bishop of Qu'Appelle was present at this meeting and spoke; Archdeacon Lloyd [16/17] was there with all his hopefulness. We appealed for at least £20,000, and this sum was raised afterwards to £30,000. The C.C.C.S. appealed for money for churches, for supporting catechists and for the training of students, in all for some £40,000. Our own committee allocated sums for what are called the Prairie Dioceses as follows: for Rupert's Land £3,000, for Qu Appelle and Calgary £6,000 apiece, for Saskatchewan £8,000. These sums were to be spread over three years: the general idea being that twice as much would be needed in the first year than in the second and third, since the men would need passage money, outfit .and the expenses of a house at first, none of these items needing repetition afterwards. Thus Saskatchewan might spend £4,000 the first year, and £2,000 in each of the two successive years.

Meanwhile we were all busy in trying to obtain the men. All applications were submitted upon our part to Archdeacon Lloyd in the first instance, in order that he might judge whether they were such as would be acceptable to the Bishop. In due time twenty-one were passed by the Board of Examiners, and the day came for the formal and solemn dismissal of these men to their work. We use a form of service which is published by the S.P.C.K. and dismissal is by solemn laying on of hands.

Here are the names of the first set of catechists: Messrs. Harold Coulthurst, C. S. Garbett, C. W. Morris, A. J. Richards, E. G. White, S. L. White, C. R. Parkerson, A. E. Butcher, H. P. G. Crosse, S. C. Deacon, F. H. Smith, J. Willoughby, H. A. Edwards, [17/18] A. Greenhalgh, E. M. Hadley, H. F. Rew, G. Thorn, H. B. Walston, F. A. T. Eller. In addition to these the Rev. A. J. Oakley was sent out.

Thursday, 18th April, 1907, was a day full of interest at the Society's office. At 5 P.M. the catechists, for whom we have been permitted to pay stipends, began to arrive, and tea was served to them. At 6.15 p.m. evensong commenced in Lambeth Parish Church. At 7 P.M. the Service of Dismissal began, the Archbishop of Canterbury having arrived in robes. His Grace would not conduct the service, but said he would speak to the men at the conclusion of the dismissal and give the final benediction. The well-known form of service we use was then proceeded with, the Secretary of the Society officiating. The following points were made in the course of the address, the text taken being, "Be strong in the Lord". (1) You go to a young nation. Expect to find the faults of youth; have a strong sense of humour, not because you do not care, but because behind all else you have hope in God and can wait for results. (2) Refuse to be ticketed as belonging to any party or society. You are Churchmen, working under the authority of the Bishop of Saskatchewan and his Council. We do not pay your stipends. The money is given to the Bishop. He pays those whom he thinks fit. (3) Beware of the time on board the ship. Don't talk of what you are going to do. Be reticent. Listen much, but keep your own counsel. Be unselfish. There is no place like a ship for the detection of character. (4) Don't pretend to be theologians, for you are not. We have given you the names of many [18/19] 6d. books, editions of first-rate books; lend them, read them. It is easy for men to ask you questions to which there is no full answer. Many questions contain untrue assumptions though unknown to you. Refer such persons to those who know. You are a humble catechist and scholar of Christ. (5) Don't talk of England or compare Canada with it. Then Canada will take you to her heart. (6) We shall think of you entering for the first time the bar of a hotel to get a congregation. You will feel a coward; remember who enters with you and overhears all. (7) Be real and not sanctimonious. (8) Let us often hear from you. Letters are kept for ever. Your letters will be of intense interest a century hence.

At the conclusion of the service the Archbishop uttered grave words of advice and hope, reminded them of the church in which they were, that Hannington and others had been consecrated there for mission work. Those who were before him were going away carrying the good name of the English Church to build foundations which should abide.

After the service the men had tea in Westminster, and spent a happy hour at the office. Then the Secretary and the Rev. H. Livesey accompanied them to Euston, the train leaving at 12.10 midnight. The Bishop of Liverpool celebrated the Holy Communion for the whole of Archdeacon Lloyd's party (S.P.G. and C.C.C.S. men) on 19th April at St. Nicholas' Church, and the steamer started in the afternoon.

So a party of about fifty workers were on their way to fill the terrible gaps in the organisation of this diocese.

[20] At Montreal they were placed on a train with their baggage and Archdeacon Lloyd accompanied them to Saskatoon, where they were to receive their tents, ponies, carts, cooking utensils, etc., and start on their great venture in faith. Unfortunately the tents were left behind at Liverpool by mistake, and on arrival at Saskatoon the men were quartered in the small parish hall of St. John's. It was a dreadful crush, but as quickly as possible thirty men were sent off to their stations along the lines of the Canadian Northern Railway till tents and ponies arrived. But twenty men were compelled to wait till their ponies had come from British Columbia; so a camp was made, and while they were waiting a rough-and-ready divinity school was established. Cooking, camping, practising reading the services, etc., filled up the time. Some of these men had to be sent 250 miles to begin their work, literally to push their way into it single-handed. No time for shyness here; every man must feel that upon him rests the honour of the diocese, and that not only Canada but the mother country was watching him and praying for him.

No diocese, I think, could ever before have had its numbers increased so suddenly as in this case. A few months later the Bishop could thank God for so much aid in money and men. Listen to his own words:--

"We are now able to gather our people together for worship, to visit them in their scattered homes, and to give them the ministrations of their own Church, which hitherto some yearned for in vain, and some, alas! forgot, or in resentment at our delay forsook. We are [20/21] able, I say, to do this in almost every part of the diocese, where two or three people are to be found. This time last year we numbered twenty-six clergy, and nine licensed catechists. Now our list shows thirty-two clergy and sixty-three catechists, an increase in clergy of 6, or 24 per cent, and in catechists 54, or 600 per cent. What this means in the way of new missions and fresh centres for worship I must leave you to picture yourselves. But it does not mean less work or a smaller number of services for each worker, but that the work can be more thoroughly done, that a far larger number of congregations will have their services regularly and that a number of places which we could not hitherto reach are reached. For example, I could only give Humboldt last year a service about once in three months, although the people there had shown their desire by building a church. Now they have their services every Sunday, and the resident catechist holds service in two or three places near. East of Humboldt we could do nothing, though Watson, Clair and Paswegin wrote to me repeatedly, that they were gathering for service among themselves, and besought me to send them a clergyman, if it was only for the administration of the Lord's Supper occasionally. Now they have their regular weekly service, and will have an administration at least once a quarter. It is the same for that vast country west of Saskatoon and south-west of Battleford, filling with settlers, and with two railways under construction. The people there will have their services read by licensed catechists and also the occasional visit of a clergyman.

[22] "It is a magnificent start for a heart-stirring enterprise, and should call forth our unanimous thanksgiving to God and to His servants who have thus come to our aid. But it is somewhat of a critical experiment, and we should enter upon it with humble reverence, and earnest prayer for God's guidance and blessing."

No one will suppose that there were no faults in the machinery or that the catechists received their stipends always with punctuality, or that they have all proved to be archangels, or could all stand the tremendous strain. One or two have retired as unfit. This is not to be wondered at, for nothing is more difficult than to decide whether a man who has done good work in England will do equally well in a completely new environment. We have made mistakes both ways. But on the whole the Bishop and Archdeacon are more than satisfied. The men have really risen to the occasion and have put all their force into their bewildering work. I call it bewildering, because one must have the eye of a general for this increasing multitude of people to be shepherded. When Archdeacon Lloyd was placing the men along the line of the track, leaving one here and another there, they would sometimes say to him, "What is the name of that place?" His answer at times was, "I don't know; it didn't exist when I was here last". On another occasion the Archdeacon wrote to me that he must take a waggon, fill it with stores and drive for days, dropping provisions for the men to keep them alive, for he knew that in certain places they would find it hard to get anything. One of the bright features of this venture has been the splendid [22/23] self-devotion of the Bishop and the Archdeacon and, I may add, of their wives. They have denied themselves the ordinary luxuries of life for the sake of the work; have worked night and day and worn down their strength and have never complained. This it has been which has nerved our young workers to put up with almost any hardship; they knew that, however much the machinery suddenly improvised might creak at times, there was no doubt that the chief engineers were doing their utmost; no men in the diocese were working harder than the Bishop and the Archdeacon and the superintending clergy.

It is time now to note the kind of districts which have been carved out.

The areas of the superintending clergy are called "driving centres"--a new name for a novel situation. Some of these "driving clergy" have four catechists under them, some seven and some nine.

There are three classes of parishes or districts in the diocese: (1) "A Mission" is where only the minor part of the stipend is found by the people. (2) "A Parish" is where the major part of the stipend is found by the people. (3) "A Rectory" is where the whole is supplied locally.

Under present circumstances, and as a general rule, a catechist is supplied to a mission, a deacon to a parish, and a priest to a rectory. There is a further piece of organisation which will give pleasure to those who watch this great venture. There are deaconesses to be placed in humble dwellings, called felicitously "Lambeth Palaces," whose duty it will be to canvass [23/24] systematically all parishes and missions, inviting every man, woman and child belonging to the Church to support the Church. Nothing is neglected to foster the fullest amount of self-help.

Wonderful indeed is the influx of human life which needs the attention of all Churchmen. I turn to the record of the Land Office at Moosejaw in the Qu'Appelle Diocese, and note that in twelve months ending August, 1908, there were 5,520 applications for 160-acre farms representing an acreage of 883,200. Or if you turn northwards to Edmonton, 4,137 applications were made in the same time, representing an area of 661,920 acres. Of these prospective farmers how many may have been Churchmen from the Motherland totally unaccustomed to support their clergymen? Most of them will sorely need the companionship of a godly man to lead them in worship; best of all, if the minister be a priest. It is pathetic to hear that a pioneer will religiously try at times to keep Sunday, when there is no service, by the little outward signs of difference. The baby is dressed up in his best; Sunday clothes are worn; best of all the service is read and hymns are sung. Would that the old custom of family prayers could thus be revived upon the prairie.

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