Project Canterbury

Bishop Montgomery: A Memoir

By M.M.

[London] The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1933.

Chapter IX. S.P.G. life

One of Bishop Montgomery's first ideals was to raise the income of the Society. When he came it was about £88,000; before he left it had risen to £151,000.

Much of the development of the Society's work was made possible by the new house in 15 Tufton Street. The foundation stone was laid by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, now King George Vth, on Saturday, April 27th, 1907. He was accompanied by the Princess of Wales, now Queen Mary. This house was dedicated in 1908 and became to thousands of workers at home and abroad the headquarters of their activities. The bishop aimed at making the chapel its spiritual centre, and from it flowed the inspiration derived from continual prayer and intercession and communion.

The literary work of the Society was placed on a very high level by the appointment of the Rev. Charles Robinson as Editorial Secretary. This remarkable man, member of a remarkable family, made the S.P.G. world-famous by raising the tone of its higher literature, especially by The East and The West. It was the first attempt to publish a high-class quarterly review devoted to the biggest religious world problems. In 1908 the Secretary started the Home Workers' Gazette, editing it largely himself. He also wrote many missionary books. All the profits from these books went to the Society. The only book which he wrote for his own profit, which is perhaps the most beautiful and which has had the largest circulation of any of his books, is Life's Journey. The story of this is interesting. The bishop wrote this as one of the Lent Books at the request of Messrs. Longmans. It was written during his summer vacation in 1915, and handed over to Longmans in September. His publisher came to him in misery, saying it would not do. It was too stern and searching a work at a time when the public wanted something tender and comforting. What was to be done? How could he produce such a book in six weeks? But he did. He went away for two separate weeks and rewrote the whole book.

The Pan-Anglican Congress was the bishop's special "child." He preached the annual S.P.G. sermon at St. Paul's in 1903, when he first mooted the suggestion of a world-wide conference of churchmen and women. It took five years to prepare for this. The Board of Missions was first approached and asked to accept the responsibility, but it was terribly difficult to get up any enthusiasm. They were all frankly bored. One prelate actually got up and said that if this project materialized it would be the ruin of the Church of England!

After some months the board was induced to appoint a committee which should take all responsibility for the congress, financially and otherwise. Finally a committee of keen men and women was formed. Bishop Montgomery and Dr. Eugene Stock were appointed secretaries and later the Rev. A. B. Mynors. A large staff grew up under him. The committee first asked for subjects from round the world. These were tabulated and again sent round. The subjects were then arranged, and this was done splendidly by Dr. Palmer, Bishop of Bombay. Papers were then written on all the subjects. These were disseminated and discussion meetings held on them before the congress met. Enthusiasm rose to a great pitch and money flowed in. Even London was stirred and the daily papers were most cordial.

When the congress met, six halls were engaged for the meetings daily for eight days. The Albert Hall, two halls at the Church House, the Holborn and Kensington Town Halls. At night meetings and services were held simultaneously in St. Paul's, in the Church House, and in one or two other places. All were crammed every day, and it was calculated that some seventeen thousand people were present each night. The inaugural service was held in the Abbey, the concluding service in St. Paul's, when a thank-offering was presented.

There was also a Pan-Anglican Women's Committee under the chairmanship of Mrs. Creighton. This committee arranged hospitality for about five thousand overseas members, organized all sorts of preliminary meetings, and was an indispensable factor in the success of the congress. Finally, when the congress was over, they organized visits to country houses all over Bngland for those who wanted to see English home life.

The Pan-Anglican Congress was opened on Monday, June 15th, 1908, and the final meetings were held on June 23rd.

From first to last it was due to Bishop Montgomery's initiative and organization, and few who were present at the concluding meeting in the Albert Hall will forget the moment when he got up to speak and the whole vast audience rose to its feet to acclaim him.

The bishop considered that it was impossible for any secretary to be a guide in policy and to be able to grasp world problems if he did not travel and study them for himself. Five times during his term of office was he sent forth to represent the Society or the whole Church of England on special missions: to Canada in 1906, to the Far East 1910-11 for seven months, to India 1914 (at the cost of a severe illness), to the United States in 1908 and 1917. These travels are described in another chapter.

It was during his term as Secretary of S.P.G. that the bishopric in Persia fell vacant. Knowing the difficulty of getting a man to fill such a post, and with all his missionary instincts aroused, Bishop Montgomery wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury offering to resign his post at S.P.G. and go out to Persia. His wife was away from home at the time. Hearing from her husband of his offer, she at once wired to the Archbishop: "If Henry goes out to Persia, I go with him." The Archbishop promptly wired back: "Have scouted Henry's generous offer. We cannot spare him."

The family rented a large house and garden at Chiswick in order that their sons, Donald and Bernard, might attend St. Paul's School as day boarders. The day after they landed a commission was obtained for their eldest son in Baden Powell's Mounted Police, and he went out to South Africa a few months before the Boer War ended. When the troop was disbanded, Harold refused to return and enlisted in the police force. Here he lived a very rough life till he was old enough to get into the colonial service in British East Africa. He steadily rose in the service till, at his father's death, he became the senior provincial commissioner in Kenya.

Bishopsbourne, Chiswick, was a great contrast to Bishopscourt, Hobart; but at least the air was pure and fresh after London, and it was a haven of rest to the bishop when he returned in the evenings wearied out with his office work. Here he delighted to entertain the office staff, and here too missionaries from abroad were eagerly welcomed.

A little room at Bishopsbourne was set apart as a chapel, and on Sunday evenings, when too tired to go to church, the bishop held service and read aloud one of his Visions. These services were much valued by his next door neighbour and friend, Cecil Bovill.

The bishop's youngest son, Brian, was born at Bishopsbourne, and from there his daughter, Una, was married to her old play-fellow, Andrew Holden, then a prominent member of the Egyptian Civil Service. Winsome was married later from New Park to Major Holderness of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Every summer the family spent two months in their Irish home, and how the bishop enjoyed that holiday! The mornings were spent in writing, the afternoons in long rambles over his beloved Donegal mountains. The boys and girls were allowed to invite their cousins and friends, and the old house was filled to overflowing with large parties of young people.

In 1908 Donald and Bernard left England. Donald went to join a firm of Solicitors in Vancouver, where in 1906 his father had paved the way for him during his visit to Canada; and Bernard went to India to join his regiment, the Royal Warwicks, of which he became colonel in 1929. Both sons distinguished themselves during the Great War. Before his death the bishop had the joy of knowing that his five sons were all doing well in their respective careers and all his children married except the youngest. He enjoyed to the full the love and reverence of his children, for he was a most tender and loving father and husband, and his home life was little short of ideal.

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