Project Canterbury

Bishop Bury: Late Bishop of North and Central Europe
A Memoir

By Sophie McDougall Hine

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1933.

Chapter V. A Busy Bishop

ONLY those who visited Russia both before and since the Great War are really competent to write about the problem of that country as it presents itself to the world to-day, said one reviewer of Bishop Bury's book, Russia from Within. The Bishop knew the Tsar, he was in Russia during the war, he visited it a number of times between 1923 and 1926, and he knew intimately the Anglo-Russian colonies concentrated in Moscow and what is now Leningrad. He was always careful, in speaking or writing about Russia, especially post-Revolutionary Russia, to avoid anything that might be interpreted in the slightest degree as espionage, and so react on private individuals whom he had met in Russia; and he insists more than once in this book on Russia on the necessity for keeping quite distinct in the mind two points: (1) Russia as a land of individuals, nine-tenths of whom--the agriculturists--he said, have never bowed the knee to Communism; and (2) the present Soviet administration. But he was ever an optimist with regard to the country which he would say had always been nearest his heart, after his own, 'I must warn you,' he said, in a sermon on 'Have they Destroyed Religion in Russia?' 'against a number of books written by people who spend a few weeks in Russia, and on their return write and speak with a light and airy knowledge of that country.'

He was particularly referring here to the various tourist schemes then being promoted for propaganda purposes. Speaking from his own experiences at that time, he said in the same address:

'Persecution cannot destroy religion. In Russia it has only made it more potent. The people have been driven into private gatherings for prayers and services; the children are being instructed behind shut doors (and this in every part of Russia). As in days long ago the blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the Church, and Russia is nearer to God in her distress.'

One of the earliest members of the Entente Cordiale and of the French Touring Club, Bishop Bury knew France (as we have already seen) better than any other country in Europe, and it has the largest number of English chaplaincies. He always found he had so little leisure when in the French capital that he used to say, 'Paris is always associated for me with the word strenuous.' Here is a description of one of his visits:

'My Sunday consisted of half an hour's drive to Christ Church, Neuilly, for the eight o'clock service, followed by breakfast with the chaplain and his wardens. Then I went by car to the Embassy Church for the Institution of the Rev. W. Marshall Selwyn, and the usual morning service in a very crowded church. After luncheon with him I motored back to Christ Church, Neuilly, for a Confirmation at three, and again in a crowded church, and then looked in at the chaplain's reception at which sixty-five of his people were present, with each one of whom of course I had a word or two. Then I drove hastily off to the Confirmation at S. George's at 5 p.m., with a large congregation in every part of that beautiful church and a particularly delightful service, and again had a few words with the candidates and their friends afterwards. Last of all I went off to the Latin Quarter and took an evening service at eight o'clock in the little American chapel to which I have given the name of S. Luke's in the Garden. The service, like those of its predecessors, was full of life, reality, and a true spirit of encouragement to us all. Finally I sat down to a little supper at ten o'clock at the end of a day of which, as I said last year, our American friends would say some Sunday. The rest of my time in Paris included a Reception and address at the Salle Jouffroy; Confirmation and First Communion for the dancing girls; dinner and address to the pensionnaires at the Ada Leigh Homes; Reception and address on Eastern experiences at the American Ladies' Club; Reception and address at Versailles; dinner with Mr. Allen, the minister of the Wesleyan Church in the rue Roquepine, and address to his Young People's Guild, which crowded their large room in every part; and other personal visits and interviews; and yet, when I departed, I had still to leave Maisons Laffitte and Chantilly for a later visit. I was all the time the grateful guest of Dr. and Mrs. Conkling.'

After this visit, Bishop Bury went to Boulogne, and his chaplain there wrote: 'The Bishop arrived to spend three days with us, looking tired after his busy time in Paris, but radiating indomitable optimism.' However, it was after this particular round of activities that the Bishop had to seek medical advice, for, as he said, and he always used the simplest and easiest words to express himself, 'I have tired myself out.' He had an attack of influenza and fever (this was in the spring of 1923) and had to cancel some of his arrangements and return to London. His doctor gave him a 'searching diagnosis,' as the result of which he was assured that he was quite sound in lungs and in every other way, but absolutely tired out in every muscle and organ of his body. He was ordered a complete rest of at least three weeks, and he had to take it at a little country cottage in Sussex. In September of this same year he wrote:

'I think I may now venture to say that I have quite regained my health and strength once more, and I do feel thankful indeed for the good Sussex air, and the restful time I have had since early in June, though I have not spent it in idleness, but doing a very fair amount of reading, getting chaplaincies' papers into order, keeping my correspondence going, addressing meetings, and lending a hand to the clergy, both in London and in this neighbourhood.'

Some holiday--his American friends might well have said.

In the autumn he was once again in the full stream of his activities, as the following report will show:

'BERLIN--Bishop Bury visited this chaplaincy on the 13th of October, remaining in Berlin until Monday the 15th. He arrived late on Friday night, the I2th, and was met at the station by Mr. George Liebig, the people's warden, as our chaplain has been confined to his bed with serious illness for some time. Both the Ambassador and Lady d'Abernon being absent from Berlin, the Bishop was unable to follow his usual custom of staying at the Embassy. Mr. Liebig had therefore engaged a room for him at the Central Hotel. Saturday was busy, an eleven hours' day for the Bishop, who had many business calls to make, including a visit to our chaplain, Mr. Pocock, at the surgical nursing home where he was staying. On Sunday the 14th the Bishop celebrated Holy Communion at nine o'clock, and again at eleven o'clock, preceded by shortened Matins. This service was out of the ordinary for two reasons: in the first place the Bishop mentioned that this was the first time during his twelve years as Bishop of North and Central Europe that he had taken all the services alone, unassisted by other clergy, and secondly, after the Nicene Creed and before the sermon, the Bishop publicly instituted Mr. George Liebig, the people's warden, as Diocesan Lay Reader. At 3.30 p.m. the Bishop held a Confirmation service, postponed from last spring on account of his illness at that time. He was occupied with a host of business matters until a late hour on Sunday evening, and left Berlin on Monday morning at eight o'clock. Altogether two strenuous days, probably as busy as any two days even our busy Bishop has ever put in anywhere.'

Bishop Bury always tried to show the influences at work in all our chaplaincies in France in bringing us and our French Allies more closely together.

'With our very distinctive nationalities,' he says, 'we must always find it a little difficult to understand each other thoroughly, and yet it is one of the greatest needs of our present time that we should do so. It is an obsession with the French that they must make themselves secure, and it is ours to sympathize, but at the same time bring home to France the undoubted fact that if she can rely throughout upon her British Ally she can feel absolutely confident that no European country would dream of facing that combined front with a light heart. A real alliance between ourselves and France would also practically mean that the whole English-speaking world was also with us. It is for that true entente that our chaplains are steadily and conscientiously working in all the fifty chaplaincies in this most interesting country."

No task gave Bishop Bury greater pleasure than the preparation of the itinerary for his periodical visitations of his Diocese of North and Central Europe. Here is a specimen, a circuit compressed, as will be seen, into little more than a month:

April 24th, leaves London for Calais.
April 25th, leaves Calais for Little and Croix.
April 28th, leaves Croix for Antwerp (Address, Avenue Van Put 31).
May 2nd, leaves Antwerp for Brussels (Address, British Embassy).
May 8th, leaves Brussels for The Hague.
May 10th, leaves The Hague for Utrecht.
May 13th, leaves Utrecht for Rotterdam.
May 15th, leaves Rotterdam for Hamburg.
May 17th, leaves Hamburg for Berlin (Address, British Embassy).
May 20th, leaves Berlin for Zurich.
May 23rd, leaves Zurich for Chateau d'x.
May 25th, leaves Chateau d'x for Territet
May 26th, leaves Territet for Lausanne.
May 27th, leaves Lausanne for Geneva.
May 28th, Geneva for London.

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