MY WELL-BELOVED CLERGY AND LAITY:
WE bid you welcome to your Cathedral City, not only in our own name, but in that of all your brother Churchmen in Fond du Lac; who gladly extend to you their hospitality, and who rejoice in the opportunity afforded by the Council of increasing our Christian fellowship.
So few are the opportunities, resulting from our large extent of territory, for us to meet together, that attendance at the Council is worthy of all the expense and the effort it entails. Attendance is a duty and a privilege of high importance, if for no other reason than that we might look each other in the face and learn of each other's estate, and help each other by words of mutual sympathy and counsel. These Conciliar meetings should be much prized by us. Especially in this Diocese, struggling for its life, is there a pressing need for the Clergy and Laity to know each other, and to cultivate a spirit of brotherly interest in each other's labors. We are not only working in a common cause, but we are working together as one Diocese, which has its own special burden to bear, and its own special mission to fulfil. Banded together by adversities and trials and common hopes, we come to feel that in the well-being of every little tentative mission in the newest lumber town, as well as in every strong and prosperous parish by lake or developed agricultural country, we have an interest.
I fear sometimes that we think of the annual gathering as if it were like the meeting of a corporation whose business must be done, and that we do not recognize it as the gathering of a family united by the enduring ties of grace. We are apt to make easy excuse for an absence--to think that our presence is not needed. We do not realize how important in a small Diocese like ours, every Priest's and layman's presence is. We come together not merely as business men to hear the reports of our committees; but as Churchmen to give them our interest in the common work committed to us. We come as brothers in arms, in the highest cause ever committed to men, to take counsel for the future; we come as disciples of the Master that the impulses of our spiritual life may be quickened. It is not I, your Bishop and Apostle, who thus bids you welcome, but the great Head of the Church.
The Council should give a new impulse to the Diocese which should be felt in every parish and at every Church fireside. Gladdened by each other's presence, the delegates should go to their homes to find eager hearts asking what was done at the Council, what new plans were proposed for their cooperation, what words of cheer were spoken. It is a most blessed privilege to work for the great cause. It is a noble heritage we Churchmen possess. Ye, dear brethren, are the body-guard of Christ, ye have been chosen to be His coworkers. Not only upon the Clergy, but upon the Laity, rests the anointing of the Lord. You are all sharers in the great commission. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Ye all are knights of the Cross and follower of the true King. "Oh, My priests and sons," He seems to say, "come ye apart and gather near Me, that ye may learn of My wisdom and be made stronger by My life." May our Council this year, through the Intercession of that dear Lord, whose sacrifice we have pleaded at the Altar, and by the guidance of the Holy Ghost we have invoked, bind us closer together in brotherly love and send us forth freshened for our work.
Dear brethren, there are many things I would like to speak to you about, but I want especially in these first years of my Episcopate to emphasize the need of greater activity in Church work. Speculative and theological matters and burning Church questions, I have vigorously put aside. Matters which concern the general Church she can settle at her Triennial Convention. The sound of disputing which ruffles the surface of our Church newspapers do not find an echo in our midst. We are by the very presence of our mission work in large measure shut out from them. Gladly let us remain so. We are fortunately too small a Diocese to attract much attention. We are too much absorbed in the practical work of evangelization to indulge in the luxury of controversies.
The Apostolic and Catholic faith we have inherited, protected by the Creed, set forth in the Sacraments, enshrined in the Prayer Book, is our guide in doctrine. The worship revealed as it is in heaven of the Eternal High Priest, the Lamb that was slain, we strive, in spirit and truth, to make real on earth.
Drawn together, dear brethren, by God's loving Providence, let us, Bishop, Priests, and Laymen, work together with one heart and mind. Where unity and love is, there God is. As we give ourselves to Him, He will give Himself to us. We have a great, a magnificent work to do. Let us go forward this year with renewed resolutions, with higher aspirations for holiness. Seek first of all God and His Righteousness. Let the offerings of the Holy Eucharist increase. See if in Lent and Advent they cannot be daily. Be discouraged at nothing. Hope for everything. God will put all the resources of His goodness and love and power at our disposal if we will but give Him our littleness and cast our nothingness and our desires into His Heart and Will.