MY WELL-BELOVED CLERGY AND LAITY OF THE DIOCESE OF FOND DU LAC:
THE kindly Providence of God allows us again to assemble in His name, to learn of each other's estate and the progress God has vouchsafed at our hands, to renew and re-kindle our sympathies in each other's welfare, to hear the reports of the officers of our Diocese, to take counsel concerning the future, and, by mutual encouragement, to arouse ourselves to greater zeal in Christ's service.
As your Bishop, I need your aid and your sympathy, and would therefore acknowledge how universally and cordially it has been accorded me throughout the Diocese by the Laity, and I would thank the Reverend Clergy for the response, which, by many acts of sacrifice in continuing at their posts or in the refusing more advantageous offers, they have made to my leadership. It is because we have been so possessed with the spirit of concord that God has so graciously blessed our united labors, and we see everywhere the Churches growing, new fields opening, and, what is far better than material improvement, a development in the spiritual life.
It is natural and fitting in speaking of those here united in one Diocesan organization, to refer to him who holds the chief place as your Bishop among you, who is the spiritual head of the Diocese, the source of jurisdiction, the overseer of the overseers, the angel or messenger from the Lord, upon whom the weight of responsibility rests of ordaining, confirming, administering discipline, guiding and directing the flock. I would thank my fellow-laborers, clerical and lay, for their loving cooperation with me, their generous support and sympathy in my labors, and the many assurances of loyalty which I have received. It is not commonly recognized, save by those intimate with the Clergy, how full a Bishop's life is of care and responsibility. Upon him rests the duty, which I conceive to be one of the gravest belonging to my office, to examine Postulants and Candidates seeking admission to Holy Orders. It has been from a too facile admission into the Sacred Ministry, of those ungrounded in Catholic theology, loyalty to the Prayer Book, and in the self-denial which clerical life demands, that so many of the evils to the Church and to parishes have arisen. In obtaining Rectors for vacant parishes, as I have so often been requested by vestries to do, and in fitting up Mission stations, my endeavor has been to obtain for the Diocese, intelligent, zealous, spiritually-minded churchmen. If I have kept some parishes waiting for a considerable time, the choice eventually made has justified the delay.
The visitations of the Diocese, many as they have been, represent but a small portion of my work, which involves a large correspondence relating to questions of discipline, matters of spiritual advice and counsel, and many Diocesan business affairs, in relation to church building and the obtaining of Missionaries, and the more difficult one of obtaining funds needful for their support. Besides there is the oversight and building up of the institutions left me by my predecessor, the development of the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity, that most useful instrumentality for extending Christ's work by devoted women, my work on the Executive Committee of Nashotah House, and my duties at the Cathedral. Every day is a busy day, filled with many duties, which can find no place in a published journal. This I am saying not to evoke your sympathy, which has been most generously accorded, but that it may be better realized how the Bishop's life and work touches, at all times, all the various interests of his Diocese. Do not let a parish think because it sees its Bishop perhaps but once a year, that his labors are not telling for the benefit of that parish every day throughout the year, and that its particular interests may absorb a great deal of his time and involve a great deal of his labor, though they do not see him. A Bishop ought to be the heart of his Diocese, and so far as I can, with the abilities which God has intrusted me with, I desire to be this.
Next to the Bishop are the Priests and Deacons, who are set over the laity in the things of the Lord. In the cooperation between all the members of the Mystical Body which our Church so wisely preserves, the vestries by election make known their willingness to receive such a minister as their pastor. By the action of the Bishop in accepting or instituting him, he receives his spiritual jurisdiction and henceforth ministers to them in the things of the Lord. We have an active, earnest, increasing body of devoted Priests, and there is a growing appreciation of their lives of sacrifice, and a loving cooperation on the part of the laity to the counsels of those who watch over their souls, as they who shall give an account. Besides the resident Clergy, we have co-workers, of which the General Missionary is the head. If the Bishop and his councillors, to use an illustration, represents the engineer corps, and the Priests and Deacons the artillery and infantry, the General Missionary and those under him represent the cavalry. It has been a great aid to me to have had so able an officer. His own report will tell you something of the kind of work he has been able to do. Parishes have been supplied when vacant, new missions opened, old ones revived. He has a corps of students and lay readers under his care, by whose assistance permanent and temporary work has been carried on. Each year a new scheme of summer work has been inaugurated, and in various places special efforts have been made by what are lately coming to be called the preaching of missions, to build up and extend the Church. In the work he has been greatly aided by the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity. Founded only eight years since, the Sisterhood has grown in the respect and esteem of the general Church, and we should be grateful as a Diocese that it has now a permanent home in our midst.
Along with these fellow-laborers whom we have mentioned, there is an efficient corps of Lay Readers, and a noble body of Wardens and Vestrymen, officers of the Women's Auxiliary, Sunday School teachers, and all the other parochial helpers in the Church.
It may be well hereafter, when we are larger, that as an army is divided into its various corps, so we should divide our Diocese into various Archdeaconries. As our numbers increase, the natural centers will emphasize themselves and we shall see how this can best be done. What we want especially now, is to develop our Diocesan spirit, to recognize we are all one body, to become better known to each other, to enter cordially into each other's interests, to rejoice in every brother's success, to generously support one another's efforts, to have a common aim and policy, to be of one mind, to be animated with one spirit, and so united in the same sacramental life and in the strength of Christ's intercession, and His near coming, to work and to labor for the welcome home and the speedily approaching triumph day of Jesus Christ.
Let me next speak of the field of our labors. We are Churchmen, and the interests of the Church in every portion of the world must be dear to us. Yet God has placed us here in this portion of Wisconsin, and here we have special duties to perform. Thinking of our country, its vast interests, its great problems, its unknown destiny, we must realize that above our duty as citizens is that of Churchmen, and as Churchmen, our most commanding duty lies in that portion of Wisconsin called the Diocese of Fond du Lac. You all know its extent. It embraces 27,000 square miles. It is about as large as the States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts combined. The population is about 600,000. The Diocese, organized December 1st, 1874, which had 1284 communicants, has now thirty-two Clergy, and over 3000 communicants.
Probably no Diocese in the country is more largely and diversely foreign than this. Three-fourths of the people are of foreign birth or parentage. Germans, Belgians, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Bohemians, Russians, Hollanders, Polocks, Irish, Welsh, Finns, and Icelanders are resident here, besides our Indians, the Oneidas, Chippewas, Menominees, Winnebagoes, and Pottowatamies. The Church, in the power of Her Divine Master, can supply their needs if she be but brought in touch with them. They are found distributed in every kind of industry; in mining, lumbering, agricultural, and manufacturing towns; on the seacoast, on the frontier, in the interior; in places where the outward circumstances of life are rude, or where their environment is as refined and cultured as in the East. Our mission as a Church is not merely to supply the wants of the remaining American-born element in our population, but to bring ourselves in contact with all those with whom we are one by a common humanity, and a common need of pardon and grace.
In order to accomplish our mission in the first place, we must believe that we can do it, for with God nothing is impossible, and His servants have the promise that mountains of difficulty, if they have faith like a mustard seed, will be thrown into the sea.
There are indeed those who bear the name of Christians, who, under the influence of jealousies resulting from an unhappy divided Christendom, in small ways seek to persecute us. It is quietly made known to persons about to join our communion that if they do so, it will be to their pecuniary or social disadvantage. About us also are those who misunderstand us, who mistake the renovation of the present century within the Anglican Communion for innovation, and who do not realize that by restoring the ancient accessories of worship, the work of the Reformers is being established, not destroyed.
There are about us, not a few intelligent persons, as yet indifferent, but not unfavorable to our message. They see that the Church, with its Apostolic ministry and Sacramental system brings light and life to men; that belief in God is not a mere dogma imposed by external authority, but that He is a Being filling them with Light, and that religion is a Christ-derived life, which unites them to the Incarnate One and transforms them into His likeness. Many men there are who need but a helping hand or an assuring voice to embolden into public profession their already incipient faith. We shall best aid such, and all those about us, by our lives, as we bear witness, by the joyous consciousness of our own realized union with God, to Christ's indwelling in His Church.
Speaking of our equipment as a Diocese, there is first of all your Cathedral. It is not a parish Church. It is the Mother of all the parishes. You must all feel at home in it as belonging to yourselves. You must cultivate this feeling and teach it to your children. It is a Mother Church and should be a source of blessing to all the Diocese.
Here should reside the Bishop and a body of clergy, when endowment would allow of it, who in addition to local parochial duties could supplement and aid the Diocesan clergy as the General Missionary now does. Besides these, some of the parochial Clergy, taken from the Standing Committee, delegates to the General Convention, members of the Board of Missions, should be connected with the Cathedral as honorary Canons; so that connected with the Cathedral there should be an elected body of clergy representing the Diocese and keeping the Cathedral in sympathy with it.
The property has during the past year been legally transferred to the Bishop for the purpose of organizing a Cathedral. No action is required on the part of the Council, as you have already provided for such organization, by Canon VII, Section 3, of our Diocesan Canons, viz.:
I. "The Bishop having elected and designated St. Paul's Church, Fond du Lac, as his Cathedral Church, and the realty thereof having been secured to him and his successors in office for Cathedral uses and purposes, the said Church is hereby recognized as the Cathedral Church of the Bishop and Diocese of Fond du Lac, under the name and title of St. Paul's Cathedral Church, Fond du Lac."
II. "The Bishop and persons, clerical and lay, appointed by him to assist in the care and management and work of the Cathedral, may adopt such a constitution and body of statutes as may seem to them expedient and not inconsistent with the Constitutions and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States of America, and the Constitutions and Canons of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, having authority to procure such a civil corporation as may be deemed necessary, subject to the approval of the Council." As soon as my labors allow, I hope, with their assistance, to draw up the Statutes, and submit them for your consideration.
Next to the Cathedral comes your own Parish Church and its organization. It is my duty on my visitations to see how the building is kept, whether it needs repairs, how it may be improved, and whether, though poor it may be, the people are trained to reverence it as God's covenanted place of meeting. For let us remember that the church is not a building for men to meet together in, but the place where God has fixed His Name, covenanting Himself to meet with those who assemble in His Name to worship Him.
In the improvement of our old churches and in the erection of new ones, let this truth be observed, and our Churches will teach the Faith once delivered to the Saints more eloquently than our words.
In connection with all our church buildings, where it is difficult on account of the church's size and the expense for heating it, to keep the church open, I hope there will be added a small chapel or the vestry enlarged so that it can be used as such. A room fourteen by sixteen is large enough for vestry purposes and for a small altar which can be shut off by a curtain or folding doors. Thither the Priest should daily resort to offer the Holy Sacrifice or recite the Divine Office. He does this officially as Priest, as representative of his people, and he must not be discouraged if only a few are present.
It may not be always possible, but whenever means will allow there should be some rooms set apart for Sunday School and parish work. One great disadvantage of having a Sunday School in the church is that the children learn habits of irreverence. God's house is always God's house whether the service is going on in it or not, and it is ever to be treated as such.
It should also be a part of the parish equipment that there should be a Sunday School library for the children, and a lending library for adults. I would ask my brethren to look carefully over their Sunday School library books, and eliminate from them all those which do not teach Church doctrine or are unprofitable in the way of religious instruction. It would be a noble gift to the Diocese if some generous Churchman would found a Diocesan Lending Library, furnished with religious literature for the use of the laymen of the Diocese.
In speaking of the commissary department, there are four things we specially need for success in Church work.
First. An organization with all its members loyal to its Head.
Second. A knowledge on the part of the laity of the history and principles of their Prayer Book, and what as Churchmen we are called on to do.
Third. A deepening devotion to the cause of Jesus Christ, which will surpass all other enthusiasms.
Fourth. Necessary clerical aid, and the means necessary for the Church support. We need several additional self-denying Catholic-minded Clergy and about $25,000 to put the Diocese on a living foundation. We need $10,000 for the Episcopal Endowment Fund, and $10,000 for the establishment of missions.
In respect to this we all have a duty both to the present and the future. It is by countless sacrifices of life and treasure through eighteen centuries, that we have entered into the heritage of the Church's Creed and Gifts. We owe it to those who are to come after us in like manner to do something for them. Every Churchman, though his means be small, can make some gift by will to aid in establishing some good work that will live after him, and plead for him when he is gone. We have no right to say in Church matters, "Let the next generation take care of itself." We are bound to provide for it as we have been provided for. We, who know the struggles in our own Diocese, and the pecuniary dangers which threaten certain localities ought with some generosity to seek to provide for those who are to come after us. And there are three things I wish to bring before all the laymen of this Diocese. No matter how small your means may be, you ought to leave something to the Trustees of the Diocese for the support of the Clergyman in the parish where you now are.
We need also in the Diocese a boys' school. This we must leave till some generous layman will endow one for us.
You have in some of your parishes special objects of charity, like Cadle Home; but then the noblest work perhaps in the state, and which has the most direct bearing upon the preservation and strengthening of the Church, is Nashotah House.
While worthy people are giving their thousands to colleges and philanthropic causes, which do not profit the cause of Christ, why cannot some Churchman be found in our Diocese who will endow with like liberality this School of the Prophets?
What I desire to impress especially upon you is this duty of providing as God's stewards for the future in respect to your parishes, and then to look beyond your parishes to the Diocese as having the first claim upon your charity.
There should be a growing pride in taking care of ourselves as a Diocese, and outgrowing the necessity of depending upon external support. Let the luxury of giving be once experienced, and men will retrench other luxuries to enjoy it. The laity rightly desire to see that when money for any work is needed, that it is well expended and the works instituted likely to be permanent. And surely the investments which will return us most satisfactory interest, are those made for Him Who will not let one cup of cold water given in His Name pass without its reward, and Who will, taking every offering of time, talents, or money, into His own hands, make them fruitful by His own benediction, and bestow upon their offerers an eternal reward.
Having spoken of our Diocesan organization, our field of labor, our present equipment, and the means needed for increasing its efficiency, let me speak too concerning the methods of our holy warfare. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual. Opposed as the Church is, by ignorance, indifference, worldliness, the unwisdom of a materialistic philosophy, the withering rationalism of unbelief, and the hostile jealousy of sectarianism, she must arm herself with the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity,--with an adamantine faith through which God works the seemingly impossible, with the unconquering hope that never faints, and with the triumphant love that takes all enemies to its heart, for Christ's dear sake, Who died for them.
For our increase in apprehension of the verities of the Faith, the clergy must cultivate the art of giving clear, explicit, and dogmatic instruction to their people, remembering, however, that while the Church teaches authoritatively, she does not teach autocratically, but paternally. She does not seek to crush the reason or enslave the human will. She has no need to keep the people in ignorance, no desire to practise upon their credulity. She would speak after the example of Her Divine Head, with the loving voice of parental authority, and so present the truth that the hearer, discerning it for himself, the Gospel becomes a revelation within him. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
Let me suggest to the clergy the advantage at times of giving courses of instruction on dogmatic truth, or of reading the sermons of others like those of the late Lenten course of Dr. Dix, and occasionally after sermons, personally, or by others distributing after the service a tract or leaflet, bearing upon the topic or duty inculcated, and offering to make special appointments with any who desire further information on the subject.
The importance of systematic catechizing of the children cannot be overestimated. Many a parish has been built up by the diligent cultivation of this practise. Some well-known catechists have found the exercise more beneficial to the people themselves than to the children, and, letting catechizing take the place of a sermon in the afternoon, have had their churches crowded by an eagerly attentive congregation.
Catechizing is an art for which all have not equal gifts. No gift can be more easily developed by diligent labor; and "genius," it has been said, "lies in a thorough mastery of details."
I would suggest as useful books in catechizing, Sadler's "Church Teacher's Manual," "Notes on Catechizing," by Knox Little, and "Outlines of Church Teaching," by C. C. G.
If our laity are to be well grounded in the essentials of the Faith, the clergy must resort to some other methods of instruction than those merely of sermons and catechizing. There are various ways by which they can give class instructions. They can be better given out of the church than in it--in some Sunday School, or Rector's parlor, or house of one of the parishioners. The method should be that familiar kind of instruction which allows of question and answer. My own method in a city parish was, after a dogmatic instruction of about half an hour's length, to have half an hour or more for social intercourse, and then to conclude with a short liturgical service, and where a neighboring chapel or oratory afforded the opportunity by the saying of Compline, or the singing of some metrical Litany.
If in a parish there cannot be a lending library of Church books, there might be, with a little effort, a Church book club; and an interest awakened in the books which had been read by a meeting at which the contents of them might be discussed and commented on by the clergyman.
Blunt's manuals, his "Key to the Prayer Book," or "Sacramental Teaching of the Church," Dr. Dix's "Lectures on the Prayer Book of Edward VI," may be found useful. And I would especially commend the reading of the lives of eminent Churchmen of our day, the Life of James Lloyd Breck, of Charles Lowder, and of Bishops Selwyn and Hannington.
One of the most productive ways of developing Diocesan unity, and promoting reverent presentation of the Church's worship, is an annual meeting of our Diocesan choirs. In quite a number of our churches during the past year, vested choirs have been introduced. I should be glad if arrangement could be made for the meeting of these and other choirs together in the coming Autumn. If the clergy and laity desire it, I think we have sufficient material to make our choir festival a successful one. I would gladly offer the use of the Cathedral, if it should be thought best to select it for this purpose; and I have no doubt that an arrangement could be made with the Cathedral Choir Master for uniform training of the choirs, if the matter is put in the hands of a committee to aid him in the necessary details of the work.
In this holy warfare of ours, laity and clergy must most cordially co-operate. They must seek in the aggressiveness of love to bring the Church and its ministrations in touch with the whole community, wherein they reside. Let them not wrap themselves up in a forbidding exclusiveness, but show by their sympathy with all that touches the interests of their fellowmen, that there is nothing so truly liberal as the Catholic Faith. For the Catholic Church holds that Christ died not for the salvation of a predestinated few, who were in time to be effectually called, but died for all mankind. She believes that whosoever has been baptized, has been brought into a covenanted relation with Christ, and is in a state of salvation, and that however miserable the effects of schism are, schism is not criminous save where it is wilful; and the Spirit of the Divine Grace is found mercifully operating apart from ordained instrumentalities, even as Jordan was wont, in fertilizing blessing, to overflow its banks.
While humbly acknowledging our own personal deficiencies, let us approach others in the spirit of the Divine charity. We have inherited as Churchmen the Faith uncorrupted by the modern additions of Roman error, unimpaired by the negations of Protestantism. The faith of an undivided Christendom is enshrined in our Book of Common Prayer. The Apostolic Ministry in its integrity and the fulness of its order has been preserved. The Holy Sacrifice is offered on our Altars, the graces of Baptism, Ordination, Confirmation, Absolution, Matrimony, and Viaticum are the spiritual heritage of the Church's children.
None of the good gifts which the Lord ordained for the essential or well-being of His Church have been lost, and it is, dear brethren, as we use the Church's gifts and live the Church's life, that we become effectual Missionaries in Her service.
In closing this address, let us bring ourselves face to face with Jesus Christ. If we are to do any good work for God, the first work to do lies within ourselves. The Word, to be victorious, must sound forth from those who have been transformed by it.
Much indeed is said in our days and in some quarters about character and conduct, but the character we must seek to cultivate, is Christian character.
The Church has her own ideal of it, and the processes of its attainment. It is to be seen in the supernaturalized lives of the Prophets and Apostles, and in her Calendar of Saints. As we study them, the way of attainment is made manifest. All life is connected with organization. All the gifts of God come through ordained instruments. The Church is a Spiritual organism. The Sacraments are the ordained instruments of life. Without their use the full development of Christian character is not attained.
As useful instrumentalities in developing higher forms of Christian life among us, I would commend to your consideration and adoption where practicable, those special efforts which are known as Parochial Missions, and the Quiet Days kept in parishes for meditation and union in intercessory prayer. There are many things I would like to speak to you about, such as the increasing care in observing the seasons of the Church and her requirements respecting days of abstinence and fasting, the not marrying in Lent, the reverence within the churches, the restoration of family prayers, the seeking of personal guidance in the spiritual life, the devotion of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and the more fervent and reverent pleading of the Holy Sacrifice of the altar. It is impossible to dwell upon them as the heart would wish. Radiant in His Beauty, though undiscerned by mortal sight, our Lord is in the midst of us. In the buoyancy of a rekindled faith, with a keener insight of spiritual truth, with a firmer grasp of the supernatural power, with an unfaltering confidence in assured victory, and in the energy and productiveness of a Love which makes us all one in Him, let us go forth to labor with fresh zeal for the consummation of the Kingdom of our dear and blessed-making Lord.