MY DEAR BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND LAITY:
THE good providence of God has again assembled us in Council together to offer the Holy Sacrifice in thanksgiving for all God's blessings to us as a Diocese, to take counsel for its development, to encourage one another in the profession of a common Faith and to go forth with hope and renewed zeal for the kingdom of God. These conciliar assemblies are not, we believe, like secular gatherings of conventions, but are meetings under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, which should bring a blessing to each and to all of us.
The value of the conciliar meeting is not to be found in the business we transact so much as it is in the spiritual profit, enlightenment, and joy that comes from this manifestation of Church fellowship. We are all one in Christ and in His Holy Church and as the years go on we become more and more united in Him. We cannot but be encouraged when we see the great development that has taken place in our Diocese and the increasing influence it is exerting by its faithfulness and high ideals throughout our Communion in the West. As we grow in this oneness and devotion to our Lord, will His blessings, in increasing degree, be vouchsafed to us. In the spirit of our diocesan spiritual ancestors let us renew our devotion at this time and take courage and go forward.
In the review of the past year, it is my duty, though a sad one, to refer to those clergy who have been gathered to their rest. Never before in my Episcopate have we lost at one time three such noble, devoted, and earnest priests as Father Franklin R. Haff, Father Cornelius Hill, and Dr. Walter Russell Gardner, our late Archdeacon.
Father Haff had been connected with the Diocese from its foundation. He was one of the very few left from that noble band of missionaries who came out from Nashotah. There he had been trained by Breck and Adams in the missionary spirit and in sound theology. He was a conservative high churchman. He belonged to that devoted band of men who in times of much agitation supported the great James De Koven. Those were times when men thought it little to walk forty or fifty miles through our forests to hold divine service. The life in those days of a missionary was a heroic one. It is on the self-sacrificing and prayerful lives of those early pioneers and true athletes of Christ, that the Church work in Wisconsin is founded. They left behind them noble records and inspiring examples. As they now rest with Christ, we believe their prayers still go up for us as we, however imperfectly, strive to follow in their footsteps.
Not unworthy of record among these devoted servants of Christ is the name of the Rev. Cornelius Hill. He was the oldest and last of the Oneida Chiefs and from an early age had taken his seat in the Indian Councils. He bore the name of Chief Onon-Gwat-Ga, or Great Medicine, and was one of the most influential in the tribe. He became converted to Christianity, studied at one time at Nashotah, was the interpreter in the Church for many years until the day of his death; was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood by myself; at one time was sent to the General Convention from this Diocese and was ever a most earnest and devoted and faithful Christian and Churchman.
It is owing, in no small measure, to his example and teaching that the tribe has so progressed in temporal civilization and in its spiritual life. There is, as it is well known, no remaining party of heathen on the reservation. The Indians are for the most part loyal and devoted children of the Church.
By their zeal and devotion they are, in many ways, an example to us white Americans. I cannot speak of Father Hill's loving loyalty to myself without much feeling. His name will ever be cherished amongst his people and held in high regard in our Diocese.
The Rev. Walter Russell Gardner, D.D., I had known from the time of his candidacy for the ministry, when he was a student at the General Theological Seminary. He was a graduate of Brown University, also receiving his B.A. and M.A. degrees from it. He afterwards pursued studies at Oxford, amongst other things, a course in Syriac. He did a wide work while in England, and his work was highly esteemed and appreciated. He was associated with me for a number of years in the Cowley Brotherhood and its work in Boston. He came out here and acted under Bishop Brown as general missionary. He was for seven years President of Nashotah House and laid the foundation of its new growth and development. He did there a splendid work and is held in much regard and affection by the students who were under him. His latter years were spent in a devoted work in the Mission of St. Agnes-by-the-Lake at Algoma.
Dr. Gardner was a most modest man concerning his own attainments, and few knew the depths of his real scholarship and learning. He was one of the most real Christians I have ever known in my life. There was a sincerity, reality, heroic devotion that made him an exceptional priest. Many a time he performed his missionary travels, as I well know, at the risk of his own life, and thought little of walking miles to his mission at Jacksonport at the end of Door county to hold his services. It was a great principle with him that the best work a priest could do was often in the smaller and obscure places.
His heroic life, however, was marked by great trials and sorrows, which he bore with wonderful. Christian fortitude and humility. The reward of the eighth Beatitude certainly was his. He, with the others gone before, we can doubt not, watch over our Diocese and pray for its welfare.
Let us here, in accord with the custom which we have in the House of Bishops after reciting the names of those who have passed hence, unite together in prayer.
The Lord be with you,
And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Almighty and Everliving God, we humbly beseech Thee, for these Thy servants, whom Thou hast called to rest from their labors, pardon and peace and advancing felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We bless Thy holy name for all Thy servants, who, having finished their course in faith, do now rest from their labors. And we yield unto Thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all Thy saints who have been the choice vessels of Thy grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching Thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their steadfastness in Thy faith, and obedience to Thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical Body of Thy Son, may be set on His right hand, and hear that His most joyful voice: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
"The grace of our Lord," etc.
Our Church meets in Council at Richmond in October. Your prayers, and especially remembrances at the Altar, are requested for its well doing and wise legislation.
Let us hope that the Church will declare, for the indissolubility of the marriage bond between baptized persons. We believe that the civil courts, which recognize the validity of life-long contracts, would recognize the life-long contract of marriage made by Churchmen. Whether the civil courts recognize it or not, the Church by her discipline should do so. But the most effective discipline would be for the leaders in Church society, never to invite married divorced persons to their entertainments, or be present where they are invited as guests. Thus society must take this matter of divorce in hand, and its action in checking the evil of divorce would be far more effective than any Church Canon.
Most necessary also is it that there shall be established in the Church a court of appeals on the subjects of doctrine and worship. The proper court of appeal should be the House of Bishops. To them has been especially committed the guardianship of the Faith, and it would seem that no individual Bishop would have a right to delegate his authority to any other. The whole body of Bishops on these matters should act together, and their action would command the respect of the Church.
We are in the presence of a strange condition of affairs when a considerable number of clergy feel it to be within their liberty to deny the facts of the Virgin birth of our Blessed Lord, and the resurrection of His crucified body from the'tomb. No one would wish to restrict the present liberal limitations of Church teaching allowed within our communion, but it is recognized by all conservative Churchmen that the denial of the facts as stated in the creed is beyond the allowed utterances of doctrine. To go at the root of the evil all our Theological Seminaries should be placed under the supervision of the Bishops of their respective departments or provinces, who should supervise the text-books used and the general course of teaching.
Our General Convention has grown to be unwieldy; and it would be wise legislation to reduce the number of delegates from each Diocese to three clergy and three laymen. This course also would have the advantage of preventing a divided vote, which counts as a negative.
It would be in the furtherance of missionary work and a fair presentation of our claims to the American public if the title of our Church was changed to that of American Catholic. It is and always will be protestant as against the Roman system of the papacy, and is Catholic in that it meets the needs of all people; its doctrine is based upon Holy Scripture, and on the concurrent consent of Apostolic Christendom.
More than any other matter of importance is the establishment of the provincial system. In preparation for this, the Church has divided herself into eight departments. The fifth department in which our Diocese is situated is composed of the Dioceses in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. I cannot here dwell upon all the benefits such a system would bring to the Church, but one is paramount. At present the Church is governed by a centralized body known properly as the Board of Missions and composed of a number of persons, clergy and laity, who live in New York or in its neighborhood. This body has the disposal of about $800,000, or $1,000,000 a year, and some twenty or more Bishops are supported by it. It has gradually been increasing its powers and, as it seems to me, invading the jurisdiction of the Bishops. Such a centralized power with its wealth is a source of great danger to any communion. It is somewhat like the papacy under another form. The money contributed to all the Dioceses should indeed go to a central board, but each separate province should have the disposal of its proportionate share within its own department. The Provincial system would, we believe, greatly strengthen the mission cause and the unity of the Church.
At the time of the General Convention we shall be celebrating, in Virginia, the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Church here in America. Until our independence, the Church here was under the care and jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, and it is a pleasing occurrence that the present Bishop of London will be present with us and preach the opening Sermon at the Convention.
It is interesting to observe how the missionary spirit entered into this colonizing enterprise. While the Puritans fled from England to be free from the Church, these pioneers came under a charter that provided for its establishment. It declared "that the presidents, councils, and the ministers should provide that the Word and Service of God should be preached, planted, and used not only in said colonies, but also as much as might be among the savages bordering among them, according to the rites and doctrine of the Church of England."
Among the names of the London company of 1609, we find those of the Bishops Abbot, Montagu, Mountain, Parry, and Sir Edwin Sandys, the pupil of Hooker, and John and Nicholas Ferrar of blessed memory. It is the same Nicholas Ferrar whose semi-religious house at Little Gidding laid, by its prayers, the foundation of the after development of the religious community life in England. It is of no little value to our American Church that it was thus connected with that Saint and Servant of God.
Preaching before that company, William Crashaw, preacher of the temple, explained the religious character of this colonization scheme. "If there be any that come in, only or principally for profit or any that would so come in, I wish the latter may never be in, and the former out again. If the planting of an English Colonie and of the English Church in a heathen countrey; if the. conversion of the heathen by the propagating of the Gospel, and enlarging of the kingdom of Jesus Christ be not inducements strong enough to bring them into this business, i.e., it is pitie, they be in at all." With many strong words he bade them seek first and principally the propagation of the Gospel and the conversion of souls.
It was under a previous charter, which set forth the same purpose of propagating the Christian religion, that in April, 1607, the little squadron of three ships arrived and later founded Jamestown. The Rev. Robert Hunt, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and called "an honest, religious, courageous divine," accompanied them. He was a man, as Bancroft calls him, "of persevering fortitude and devout life." "We began our worship," as the noted Captain John Smith relates, "under an old awning formed by a sail attached to three or four trees, our walls being rails of wood and our seats, unhewed trees, our pulpit a bar of wood nailed to two trees. This was our Church till we built a homely thing like a barn, set upon cratchets, covered with rafts, sedge and earth, but which could neither well defend wind nor raine, yet wee had daily common prayer, morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons. But fire broke out and pursued the greater part of the dwellings of the new colony and burnt down the Church, which was one of the things first to be restored."
Passing over the period of this first settlement, the colonists suffered at times from famine, and from pestilence, which nearly wiped them out, and from attacks of Indians; and when Lord de la Warr, the Captain General of the Colony, arrived in 1610, the five hundred men, who had reached Jamestown shortly before, had been reduced by sickness, so that only three score of them remained.
"On arriving, Lord de la Warr first fell on his knees and in the presence of all the people made a long and silent prayer, and then marched into the Church where divine service was performed."
"Impossible," says Anderson, the historian, "not to be struck with the devotional feelings of the man who thus entered upon the duties of Captain General of England's first Colony on the darkest hour of her distress." It would be too long a story to relate on this occasion, the development of the Church's work, until at the time of the Revolution there were some hundred and ninety clergy settled in Virginia. We certainly have to be grateful for many things in this country, not the smallest of which was the planting here of our branch of the Catholic Church.
It is proposed, as you know, that we shall have at the coming General Convention a Men's Thank-offering. As in making this offering, we are allowed to specify special objects to which it may be devoted, I would suggest that whatever be collected in our own Diocese, or by friends without, should be given to the Trustees of our Diocese for the increase of our Episcopal fund. For until our parishes and missions are relieved of the burden of Episcopal support, they cannot fulfil their duty in supporting the missionary enterprises of the Church.
There is also another financial matter which I think you will all thank me for bringing to your attention. It is the necessity of a better support for our clergy. The cost of living has greatly increased and the present stipends given them are very inadequate. One result of the small salaries given in our Diocese is the many removals to dioceses where better provision is made for their support. Now frequent removals is one of the worst things which can happen to any parish. If we wish to secure a permanent pastorate, we must follow the example of other dioceses, which are increasing their pastors' stipends. When we compare what can be obtained in other professions, we cannot accuse our clergy of greed or of gain. They are animated, we believe, with the most laudable desire to serve Christ for the Gospel wages of food, shelter, raiment, and family provision, but with these they must be provided. We have, if I may say it, a body of educated, devout, and zealous clergy. The standard in the clerical life has constantly been improving during my episcopate. My Brethren of the Clergy cannot well speak for themselves, and naturally shrink from it. It belongs to you of the laity to care for their wants, who watch in prayer and labor for your souls. With the cry for a greater extension of work, which pulls at my heart-strings, I feel that a small body of clergy, properly supported, would be more efficient than a greater number of ill-paid men. A Clergyman cannot well do 'his work with the anxious strain of poverty or contracted means upon him. See, dear Brethren of the Laity, if you cannot, by some further sacrifice, cheer the hearts and encourage the labors of your pastors. Surely you will receive the reward from Him who said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
Under the head of Education comes that of Sunday Schools. The Sunday School is the best feeder of our Confirmation classes. A large Sunday School, well instructed, prophesies the future growth and permanency of the Parish. In order that the children should be well instructed, it is necessary first of all that the teachers should be so. I think one of the best works a parish priest can do, is through an association with the teachers, which will enable him to give plain dogmatic instruction on the Church, her position towards other bodies, and her Sacramental life. It is by such conferences where questions can be asked and explanations given, that the best instruction is secured. Here, I call the attention of both the Clergy and the Laity, to the fact that the Sisters of the Holy Nativity have a lending library of theological books, which are at the service of any who may apply for them. In respect of Sunday Schools, I would here record my approval of a Children's Eucharist on some week day. Where it has been tried it has been found most successful in inspiring a devotional feeling amongst the children. Our Lord said, "Let the little children come unto Me," and how can we best bring them into His Presence? In doing this, we are following out the instructions of our mother Church in the Prayer Book.
Sponsors are bidden, when a child is baptized, to have them hear sermons; now according to the Prayer Book, the only place where a sermon is bidden to be delivered is in the Holy Communion Service, and as there is no direction for those present to leave, children are thus directed to be present at the Great Eucharistic offering. It teaches them as they can be taught in no other way, of the significance of Christ's Atoning Death and its application to the soul.
My Brethren, in the midst of much that clouds the Church's horizon, there is great cause for rejoicing in the development of Religious community life in the Church. I have placed at the door a printed paper by one of our Sisters, which will explain it, and pleads for its development. It is by the daily pleading by the priest, of the great Sacrifice, and the revival of the religious life that the development of our Church is secured. Whenever God calls any one to serve Him, we must remember it is always a call to two parties, the parents and the child, and each, obeying God's call, will have a portion of the reward. The highest honor God can do any person is to call a son or a daughter into His service, and one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do, is, out of selfish interests, to endeavor to thwart God's will.
I cannot conclude without thanking God for all His mercies vouchsafed the Diocese, and thanking you, dear Brethren, for the loving and loyal support you have given your Bishops. May He Who has so wonderfully blessed our Diocese, continue to bless it and grant unto it all those things which are needed and helpful for its temporal and spiritual good.