REVEREND FATHERS OF THE CLERGY, MY DEAR BRETHREN OF THE LAITY:
BELOVED in the Lord. Grace, mercy, and peace be with you.
We again welcome you to our Council. You come in loyal obedience to the canons to present yourselves before your Bishop, the clergy also to give a written report of their doings during the past year. The Bishop comes in virtue of his office to counsel and encourage you in your work. We gather together as a Christian family for mutual counsel, and conjointly to offer the great Sacrifice, and for spiritual well-being and the growth of our Diocese.
The Diocese, during my Episcopate, has increased from some eighteen to fifty clergymen. I humbly hope and pray that either I, or my successor, will see its numbers increase to sixty or seventy. There is plenty of work to be done in the Diocese, and I am glad here to state that a number of the clergy who were present when I was ordained, still remain. I call them the "Old Guard." They have been most loyal to me and faithful to their work. They have helped to make the Diocese of Fond du Lac known as a united and successful Diocese.
And here I may remark that I have also desired that in all our churches, and I believe it is getting to be universal, there should be at the Chancel arch a rood beam. It is called a rood beam, because it supports the rod of the Cross. It has on it the figure of our Lord crucified, and on either side, the figures of St. John and the Blessed Mother. There is a beautiful symbolism connected with it. The nave of the Church represents the Church as the ship passing through the troublesome waves of this world. The Choir and Sanctuary symbolize the future and Heavenly state: the rood beam comes at the division between the two, this world and the next. And so as the true and safe mode of passage to the heavenly state is only in and through Christ, most fittingly the Cross with its dear Figure stands between the two. In many of the old English Churches where the rood beam is commonly found, around the Chancel arch is placed the text "Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
I would state here that in all the additions made to our churches I have always planned that the new altars should have a tabernacle. The tabernacle is for the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. I am fairly convinced that this is allowed by the law of our Church. It has my fullest sanction. The growing devotion of our people has made them desire, especially at the time of their passing, to receive the Viaticum, or the Blessed Sacrament, as the food for their last journey. It is not possible always for the priest to celebrate when called upon, at the house of the sick person. He may therefore, according to ancient custom, carry the Blessed Sacrament to the ill or dying one,--a blessing, comfort, and strength for their journey Godward.
I do think, speaking in reference to our churches now so adorned and devotional, our Diocese might be called the "Beautiful Diocese of Fond du Lac."
Now the Church must stand for the whole Gospel. It seeks the salvation of souls, and the building up of Christians in holiness. The Church stands for the Faith. It has a message from God to deliver and speaks with authority. We hold that Christ the Incarnate Word, in what He was, and did, and said, is the revelation of God to Man. He gave on Pentecost the Holy Ghost to abide in His Church, to lead it unto all truth. The Apostles said they had not "shunned to declare unto you the whole Counsel of God." By the guidance of the Holy Ghost, that Faith has been preserved to this day. It is to be found in the utterances of the Undivided Church, and what those parts of the Church, viz.: the Eastern and Roman and Anglican, agree in holding as of Faith to-day. Every priest has behind him the authority of His teaching, the utterance of a Living Voice, and can say with all the conjoint authority of twenty centuries of Christian experience, "This is the Way, walk ye in it."
Our Church also stands for the full and enjoined worship of God. That worship has always been in two forms, by word and act. The two forms in the Old Dispensation were the Synagogue and the Temple worship. The same distinction has existed in the Christian Church. She has preserved the Synagogue worship in her office of morning and evening prayer. She has preserved the Temple worship in the office of Sacrifice by her Priesthood and Altar. The latter is the great and most glorious act of Christian worship, and was ordained by Christ Himself. It is making and pleading before God the great memorial act of the Sacrifice of Calvary. I hope that the old custom which the Church refused to legalize at the last revision of the Prayer Book, of coming out of the Church at the end of the prayer of the Church Militant, will cease. I am glad to note that the practise of receiving fasting in honor of Our Lord, and in accordance with ancient custom, has increased.
Amongst our dissenting brethren, we find chiefly the Synagogue form of worship, which is but a partial and imperfect expression of the Christian religion. The Church has both. As we come to realize the dignity and Glory of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, where Christ is verily and indeed present, and where He is presented to the Eternal Father on our behalf, we love it more and more. As we enter into its deep meaning and efficacy, we shall prize it above the synagogue office of Morning Prayer, and desire it as the one great Christ-ordained service of our Sunday worship. The sectarians, having lost Priesthood and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, have lost along with this the Holy Sacrifice. They have a pulpit, but no altar.
Again: our Church stands for the preaching of the Gospel, to the conversion of sinners, the sanctification of the faithful, and by her Christian year, in the upbuilding of them in the knowledge of Christ. She is liberal in not requiring as of faith aught but what the Church Universal has decreed, leaving other matters to the judgment and pious opinions of her children. She regards all laity and clergy as priests and kings unto the Lord, and recognizes, as no other portion of Apostolic Christendom does, the rights of the laity. She is not wanting in Christian philanthropy. She recognizes in her faith and worship the Fatherhood of God, and in her care for the sick and the poor the brotherhood of man. She would seek to reconcile the contest between labor and capital by the application to it of the Golden Rule. She would labor for the abolition of war and its miseries by the inauguration of arbitration, securing peace among the nations. She throws her influence and example on behalf of the great cause of temperance, and so doing away with the dreadful evils which are the result of intoxication. She stringently upholds the sanctity of the marriage tie, so threatened amongst us by the evils of divorce. She realizes that the law of purity belongs to men as well as women, and fights with all her strength against the evils of the White Slave Traffic.
She would forward a revival of a higher standard of morality in business and government. She asks in protection of labor a better observance, in every department, of the Lord's Day, as one of rest.
We urge, dear Brethren, your devoted and active cooperation in forwarding the work of Christ in your Diocese. In some respects, it is unique. We have a larger porportion of foreigners and foreign-born than perhaps any other Diocese. It is a great encouragement to see that our Church, presented in its Catholic aspects, wins adherents from all nationalities. It is one proof, and a great one, of the Catholicity of our heritage.
We do not speak thus in the spirit of self-glorification, but we do in commendation of our Church to the needs and wants of our fellow-men. We do not expect that our Church will ever become the great Church of the United States, but we do know and bear testimony that those who have found and entered into her system have advanced to a higher degree of the spiritual life. They have become more enlightened, with a knowledge of Christ and His blessed Gospel. They have experienced a transforming power, delivering them from temptation, and sanctifying their inmost thought. They have come to know that Christ and the Father and the Spirit dwell within them, and He is theirs, and they are His. To this the lives of her Saints and Religious and devout bear witness. I pray it may increase among you, dear Brethren, more and more. It is my desire that our Diocese shall become not only known as the loyal, the beautiful, the united Diocese, but as the holy Diocese of Fond du Lac.