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The Life and Letters of George Alfred Lefroy, D.D.
Bishop of Calcutta, and Metropolitan

By H. H. Montgomery

London, etc.: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920.

Chapter XI. The Lahore Episcopate, from 1899 to 1905

In 1899 the first, some will say the unique, phase of Lefroy's ministerial life was brought to a close. For twenty years he had been an evangelist: he was now called to the work of government in the Church as Diocesan Bishop and finally as Metropolitan. This second phase was to extend over nearly the same length of time as the first.

Before entering on his life as a Bishop I put down a few records about the colleagues whom he was about to leave at Delhi. In 1893, C. Foxley joined the Brotherhood; in 1894, F. C. F. Thonger; in 1896, G. A. Purton and Basil Westcott; in 1897, F. P. W. French; in 1898, G. Hibbert Ware and A. Coore.

A summary also of Lefroy's visits to England may be of use.

In 1886, just after he was appointed Head of the Mission, and soon after his father's death, he came home and pleaded for recruits.

He returned to England again in 1889, and preached the Ramsden Sermon before the University of Cambridge on Whit-Sunday of that year. In 1896 a nervous breakdown rendered necessary a visit home, which extended from May, 1896, to the end of 1897. A notable recruit obtained by him on this visit was the Rev. Ferguson Davie, now Bishop of Singapore, and his first domestic chaplain. In 1899, on appointment to the See of Lahore, he came home from May to September.

The following letter indicates his mind in accepting the call:

Extract from a letter to Mrs. Barnard.

"March 2, 1899.

"You will, I am sure, have heard from your daughter that I am going to Lahore. It will be a terrible wrench leaving the Brotherhood and the happy, strong united life here of the last twenty years--a worse wrench even than I at all realise myself at present, and that is saying a good deal. But both in my own judgment and that of almost every one to whom I had a right to look for guidance at such a time it would not have been right to refuse. We are approaching a very delicate crisis in the development of the Church in India--especially as regards the relation of its English and Indian sections--and it does seem very important to have as Bishops men who know and are in touch with Indians, and who are known, and in some degree, trusted by them. And many kind expressions that have reached me have made me feel that I ought to count myself in some measure amongst such. Of course, England could send out as many men as she wished of ten times the power, but at any rate at the start they would be terribly handicapped by ignorance of the language and thoughts of the people, and at the age at which a Bishop starts, this sort of drawback is not very easily overcome. Anyhow, I have taken it, and I can only hope I have done right, and I know that if the call is of God He has some purpose for me in connection with it, and will enable me to fulfil that purpose if I only leave myself, as I try and pray to do, unreservedly in His hands. And I am sure many are praying for me too."

George Lefroy was consecrated Bishop in his own cathedral on All Saints' Day, 1899, by the Metropolitan, Bishop Welldon, assisted by the Bishops of Bombay, Madras, Lucknow, and Chota Nagpur. The Rev. S. Allnutt, who came to India with him just twenty years before, preached the sermon. In the middle of his first sermon as Bishop on that evening in the cathedral he suddenly ceased to speak English, and turning to the large number of Indians present he poured out his soul to them in Urdu. The effect was wonderful, and perhaps it was felt even more by the Europeans present than by those whom he addressed with extraordinary eloquence in their own language. But it was not a sudden impulse. A letter written to his home circle says that he had determined to do this if it seemed right when the moment came. But he was not sure of himself nor was he certain whether it would be expedient. For this reason he had informed no one. There can be no doubt that his action was more than justified. The new Bishop was called to follow great predecessors, both of whom had made their mark. French, who died at Muscat, having returned to his work as a missionary to Moslems; Matthew, who died almost in his cathedral.

And now Lefroy himself was brought face to face with the work of a Bishop, and had some experience for it as having been Examining Chaplain to his predecessor. He had never held a curacy in a parish, nor had he been brought into touch with the problems of soldiers on foreign service; now he was called to a diocese which contained within its limits by far the largest military establishment in India. Moreover, there was the responsibility of Simla which in the summer is the residence of the Viceroy, and of the Commander-in-Chief, and the Lieut.-Governor of the Punjab, and naturally a focus for senior members of the Civil Service and of the army, besides being one of the most famous society resorts in India. The Sunday congregation in the church at Simla has often been spoken of with awe by preachers who have a message. Yet Lefroy seems to have taken up quite simply and naturally all his new duties, as if indeed to the manner born. I will group the work of the first five years of his episcopate in this chapter, and his own letters will follow the record of his public utterances.

All who knew Lefroy agree that he had the strongest aversion to what is known as one-man rule. This characteristic balanced another admirably, namely a fearless courage to do what appeared to him right. One who knew him well says, "Lefroy had a stiff back." Once let him believe that a man was not straight or honest, and he had no mercy on him. The moral fibre in him was like iron, and it happened at times during the next nineteen years, that in the interests of the public service he may not have been sufficiently careful at times of the personal claims or interests of chaplains and others. He would move them regardless, so some said, of their health or families or financial liabilities. However that may be, it is notable that in his first charge in 1900, he quoted St. Cyprian's well-known words upon the necessity for a Bishop to take counsel with fellow presbyters and lay people, and announced that he would create a body to be called "the Bishop's Council," a consultative body, composed of leading European clergy, chaplains, and missionaries, European laymen, and Indian clergy and laymen. "I want the Council to stand for the assertion in the eyes of the diocese, and for a reminder to myself, of what I conceive to be the true constitutional position of a Bishop in relation to the clergy and laity of his diocese and of the lines on which it is my desire to live my own Episcopate."

The other important subject handled in this charge was the Bishop's duty in the military forces.

"I want to refer to the position we under normal conditions occupy as, I believe, the diocese with a larger number of British troops in it than any other diocese in the whole Empire [a few years later, in an article in Church and Empire, he says that out of 38,000 European residents in the Lahore diocese, 26,000 were officers or men serving with the colours, with 3000 more who belonged to the families of these men, and the circumstances of my own life hitherto, the fact that I come myself of a family that has had very little to do with the army, and that I have hardly ever before been brought myself into any kind of connection with it, make me feel very keenly, by contrast, the obligations and responsibilities which are involved in the position in which I now find myself in this most military of dioceses." He then passes on to point the lesson they have to learn from "the magnificent characteristics and glorious traditions" of the same army. His responsibility in this direction was ever with him. In February, 1902, in a Pastoral Letter to the clergy, he makes the welfare of the army his chief subject. Soldiers' Homes and Institutes, he urged, must be created in his diocese as they were to be seen rising in the Dioceses of Madras, Lucknow, and elsewhere.

"Let me repeat my own deep conviction that one of the things which the soldiers need most of all, and which if we can help in providing for them we are discharging a most valuable part of our ministry among them, is such pleasant, bright, healthy resorts." For the same reason he advocated the circulation of the "Army White Cross" literature. In his second Charge, in 1903, he spoke more openly upon the question of Purity, beseeching the clergy to become friends of the soldiers and by means of the Institutes, quoting words of one of the clergy, "The men are practically unapproachable in the mass. You cannot possibly get to know them by having a word with them in the barracks. In the case of our own station I feel sure that without the Institute I should not have got to know the men at all intimately, but now thanks to the Institute there are at least a hundred who are genuinely friendly." The Bishop goes deeper. "Especially in that saddest of all sides of a soldier's life--that which finds its expression in the Venereal Wards--it is true that most substantial progress in the right direction has been made. I find that not a few chaplains are ignorant of the fact that since the abolition of the Contagious Diseases Act the number of admissions per thousand to the Venereal Wards has come down to only just over half the awful figure which it had reached in 1895." He does not claim that the good result is owed wholly to the abolition of the Act which admitted licensed prostitution. There were other factors, such as a better education at home and a finer stamp of men accustomed to self-restraint, and an immensely increased amount of work demanded of the soldier, and greater care for his welfare. In this connection the Bishop speaks with gratitude of the Society of St. Hilda, once the Lahore Diocesan Church Workers' Association, but now with an extended field of work: Soldiers' Institutes are touched by them, and Anglo-Indian (formerly called Eurasian) girls' schools have been erected and developed by them with truly blessed results.

A great many pages of the Charge of 1903 are occupied with the subject of Sunday Observance, pressing its necessity for the spiritual life.

The following group of letters illustrate the subjects emphasised in the Bishop's public utterances. The army is ever in his thoughts.

"Nowshera: March 14, 1900.

"I have got a very anxious piece of work ahead to-night in which I know your prayers will help me. I want, as you have seen in my Pastoral, to make the cause of Purity of life amongst the soldiers a leading note of my work. I find hardly anything being done in the matter here, so I told the Chaplain I should like to have a meeting expressly for this. I went to the Colonel of the Regiment and one of the doctors, and they have both very kindly promised to speak with me. It makes, I think, the strongest possible combination for 'Tommy,' the parson, the doctor, and the commanding officer. It is good of them coming, as they have neither of them ever spoken on the subject, and they give up their dinner and come at 8 o'clock. I take it as a sign of God's blessing on my effort at its start. But I have never spoken, either, on it and it is terribly difficult."

"April 4, 1900.

"I was pleased later on in the week to hear that some young fellows who had come in for the week of gaiety and been in the cathedral on Christmas Day, hearing I was to preach again on the evening of the 31st, stayed in for that day, instead of going back to their stations as they had purposed. Their verdict was that I seemed a 'good straight kind of Johnnie.' Whether the terms will entirely satisfy your ecclesiastical instincts I do not know, but I believe the average young subaltern could hardly express regard for a cleric in much higher ones! "

On Tour

This letter is headed "The confines of civilisation or just beyond them--to wit--"

"Datta Khel, Tochi Valley: Feb. 15, 1900.

"Yesterday I stopped half-way up at Miran Shah. I held service for the officers before dinner. It was very touching, every single European in the place (13!) turned up, and the little room was crammed. It does seem a shame that when they are so ready to respond the Church does so little for them. A charming young fellow I was talking to this morning said he thought there was practically no atheism, or active opposition, to be found amongst the officers, but that the isolation--and in a certain sense I suppose the danger--of the life tend much in the other direction. Certainly nothing could be nicer than the way in which they have met me so far. I came across one young fellow at a solitary post on the road up, and after talking for a bit I asked whether I might have some prayer with him before I went on. He looked so blankly astonished at first that I thought he might dislike it, and assured him I did not wish to obtrude it, only was sorry to pass a man who, for all I knew, might be glad of it without giving him the offer. Then he responded in the heartiest way and seemed to like it. Then the friends one comes across are so curious and pleasant. The Colonel commanding at the place last night had come out with me in the Egypt in 1897 and we had played chess together. Here the Colonel is an old Marlburian of my time--and the nice young fellow of whom I spoke a bit back is the son of a keen Marlburian whom I met, and made great friends with at one of the hill stations many years ago, when the boy was with him as a child, and had many a ride on my shoulders and romp with me."

"Peshawar: March 21, 1900.

"After tea I consecrated a cemetery, and then into Peshawar at 6.30, jumped into dress clothes and over to the Hampshire regiment mess for an early dinner, at which 'six of the officers joined the chaplain and myself, and then at 8 o'clock to a crowded meeting of men, to whom I gave an address on Purity of life. I am perfectly astonished at the help I am getting from the officers in this matter. I meant to go for it in any case. But I expected opposition, and at any rate entire aloofness. But at this meeting all the six officers, who actually gave up their regular mess and had an early scratch dinner on purpose, were present, and the Colonel and doctor spoke, well and forcibly. I hope good was done. Dozens of men crowded the door and windows who could not get in. The Presbyterian and Wesleyan ministers were both with me on the platform."

"Bishopsbourne, Lahore: April 5, 1900,

"My feeling about the British Army has, I think, quite changed. Tommy, when you come across the best type of them, is certainly a wonderfully attractive specimen. Very like children. It seems almost child's play after the native work! You lift your finger and there is a response, instead of hammering away for years at a brick wall. But to make the brick wall into the 'living temple' is a still bigger thing."

Three letters in relation to lepers.

"On Tour: January 9, 1901.

"I was at a very pathetic service the day before yesterday: a Confirmation for lepers. There is an asylum for them near here, in which there are about two hundred, in every stage of disease and of decay you can imagine. A good many have become Christians, and of these nine were presented for Confirmation, some with no hands, some with no feet, one with his throat almost gone, so that he could scarcely answer the question, but made a kind of grunt of assent. In spite of all, however, they seemed to have their hearts in the service, and, so far as one could judge, really to mean it. Instead of a very formal address I, so to speak, talked with them, trying to carry them along with what I was saying, and their answers and interjections showed plainly that they understood. It is an immense comfort to me to find that my simple Delhi Urdu carries me almost anywhere. Out in these villages it is not the least what the people themselves talk; that is Punjabi, a quite different speech. But Urdu has become so much of a lingua franca that, if one keeps to very simple words and speaks plainly, one can be understood almost anywhere. It is a great mercy of God that I have been thus prepared for this work. No other single language would have carried me half so far, e.g. if I had myself worked in Punjabi, that would be quite unintelligible in Delhi, etc. There is some very fine work going on in villages round here by C.M.S. missionaries and ladies. They are in the midst of one of the simplest, most manly and attractive of all the village populations."

"Amritsir: February 5, 1903.

"I had a very interesting Confirmation on Sunday at Taru Taran, the chief out-station, where there is a most capable, genial, and delightful missionary. There were thirty-four candidates, including fifteen lepers. I am glad to say it was thought safe to bring them to the church for the service, though things were arranged for them with some precautions. I am sure it must do them good to feel, if even for an hour or so, that they are not outcasts, but members of the Body. It was a most pathetic sight. The plague was bad about there, the first time I have come into close contact with it. It brought out the callousness of the people to trouble and suffering very painfully, as there was a man ill with it, a Mahommedan, in one of the huts, and no one would go near him to give him a drink or anything. It was not exactly fear, for many of them had been inoculated, and recognised themselves as practically immune, but he was a stranger, and no one cared whether he lived or died. At the last I am thankful to say a native Christian lady volunteered to nurse him, and was with him the whole night He died next day, I grieve to say, especially for their sakes, but such example must do good."

"Bishopsbourne, Lahore: March 30, 1905.

"The most interesting thing perhaps was dedicating a church, which has been built in a leper asylum expressly for the use of the inmates. It has been designed to meet their needs, e.g. no windows, but large window spaces covered with wire netting, so as to exclude birds, etc., and yet always allow a perfectly free draught of air and prevent stuffiness, etc. The missionary and his wife designed it, and I think the whole thing shows great skill and originality on their part At the Celebration ten lepers received, and it was intensely pathetic ministering to them. In hardly any case were any fingers left, in two or three cases even the hand had almost entirely disappeared, and one had to put the bread into their mouths. The next morning I confirmed nine more. One cannot help, in ministering to these poor creatures, remembering our Blessed Lord's special connection with them."

All should know of the life work of the Rev. R. Bateman at Narowal. His "Life" has been written by Mr. R. Maconachie.

"Isanagri (Christ's Village): January 7, 1902.

"I am having a wonderful and very interesting experience with Mr. Bateman. The problem with which he has had to deal is one of extreme difficulty. A very large tract of land, some 100 miles long and 50 miles broad, has been reclaimed from utter desert by one of the gigantic irrigation schemes for which the Punjab Government is famous, and the people have pressed in from the older and more congested districts, with an eagerness and an earth hunger that reminds one very much of our own Emerald Isle. Amongst the settlers are a large number, some 2000 or 3000 in all, of Christians of the lowest social rank, farm menials or serfs, for that is what their position in the older districts really amounts to, who have flocked here on the chance, if so it may be, of getting a little bit of land, or at any rate of improving their position as labourers. These have been scattered over this great district, with no clue whatever as to where they may be found. Moreover, the difficulty is much enhanced by the fact that most of them have been baptised after very little instruction indeed by some of the------missionaries in the Punjab, and that they bear the name of Christian, for better for worse, with the vaguest possible idea of what the name involves.

"Add to all this an extreme dearth at the present time of C.M.S. workers (the only Mission body of our Church in this part of the land), whether European or native, and you will see how difficult the position is. I know very few men but Mr. Bateman who could have tackled it at all, but with the hour God has, as usual, produced the man, and he has, assisted by two or three most devoted native fellow-workers, done wonders in getting the people together and building them up somewhat in the faith. I have just held my third Confirmation (these being the first ever held in the district) since entering on this work three days ago, at each of the first of which twenty-two were presented, and to-day I think about forty. Also, on Sunday I consecrated a spacious church of the very plainest type possible, as it is right that it should be, but capable of seating on the floor--there is not a seat in the whole of it--about 800 people: it has been built very considerably by the efforts and out of the offerings of the poor people of the place. They have an excellent and most energetic native pastor resident amongst them, who has pushed through the building of the church in a way that is immensely to his credit."

The following letter gives a graphic account of the great Durbar at Delhi in Lord Curzon's Vice-Royalty.

"Durbar Camp: December 31, 1902.

"The scene here is a marvellous one, and scarcely suggestive perhaps of peace. It would baffle description so utterly that I shall attempt scarcely any. Think of a vast town, containing approximately 40,000 troops, another 10,000 Europeans, and anything up to, or beyond, 100,000 natives, servants, etc., etc., all under canvas, and on a great plain, where ordinarily there is no habitation or resident life whatever. It is all laid out with the most marvellous degree of system and order. I am told there are about fifty miles of well-made roads leading about the great camp, besides a light railway running out to it from the city. Each Province has its own area allotted to it. I hope to be able to get to-morrow a plan of our Punjab Camp to put into this just to give you an idea of how the thing is managed; but in detailed arrangement each camp differs, each Province having simply had a certain area allotted to it, and being left free to exercise its own ingenuity as to the best and most effective laying out of it. Some of the camps belonging to the native chiefs are most artistically got up and ornamented, but I have not yet seen them. Our own Punjab Camp has sixty-five guests (i.e. more or less leading people, who have been asked by the Lieut.-Governor to be his guests for this occasion), and they are a wonderfully kindly, pleasant lot. There is a great mess hut, with ten tables holding six or eight persons each, and it does not matter where one sits down, it is always pleasant and cheery and friendly everywhere. My own accommodation is a tent, the inside of which is fifteen square feet. This serves as bedroom, sitting-room, and everything, except for messing. Then it has what we call the outer fly, the second covering which is always put to tents out here to give more efficient protection both against rain and heat, and the space, about six feet wide, all round between the outer and inner fly forms bathroom, etc. Of course, this is (in comparison with most of my tenting experiences) most sumptuous and roomy. It is a splendidly healthy life, as it means practically living in the open, so far as perfectly fresh air is concerned, all the twenty-four hours. The first few days were very cold indeed, or rather the nights and early mornings were; the last few days have been much warmer, usually a sure sign of rain coming, though as yet the sky is perfectly clear.

"The great show really began on Monday, when the Viceroy and Lady Curzon, and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught arrived, and reached their camp from the station by a marvellous procession, which went through the heart of the city, round the Jama Masjid, and then out to the camp. The Viceroy and royalties came first on elephants, and then a long line of the great beasts, with all the ruling chiefs of India, each one vying with the others in the splendour and extravagance of their 'howdahs,' caparisoning, etc., some of which were gorgeous beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. There is no use my attempting to describe it, for you will see far better accounts in any of the papers. I was in the Jama Masjid, and saw the whole thing admirably. To-morrow is the actual proclamation Durbar, to which I have to go, probably driving myself in my own dog-cart I in full scarlet vestments. It will seem rather incongruous, with the road lined with troops for miles, and the very reverse of a 'churchy' feel about the whole thing. But the scene in the amphitheatre should be very gorgeous. In the evening I dine, at an official dinner, with the Viceroy; whether the Duke will be there I don't know. I rather want to test the royal gift for remembering faces, of which we hear so much, by seeing if either of them remember me. I lunched with them, you may possibly remember, quite quietly in about 1885, when they came over to open a Zenana Hospital, and I had much chat with the Duchess. To me it would seem little short of a miracle if they could remember one face amidst the thousands they must meet in a similar way, all this time. But we hear so much of what they can do in this way that it will be interesting to see.

"The Bishops of Calcutta, Madras, and Lucknow are here, and this morning we had a long talk all together over a variety of matters. It is most delightful having our present Metropolitan. We can trust him so entirely, and he is such a perfectly delightful Christian gentleman, scholar, and saint."

I have ventured to print a letter from a very gracious and much honoured lady now gone to her rest.

"Vicarage Lodge, Simla: August 12, 1900.

"My dear Bishop,

"I feel impelled to tell you how deeply I feel the lesson of your sermon this morning, and how grateful I am to you for the strong and true help it is to me.

"All that you said was what I have wanted to hear for a long time, as even though one tries to help others and one's self, one needs the guidance of a stronger soul to tell one how to live.

"Please do not trouble to answer this, I cannot help telling you how real your help has been.

"Yours very sincerely,

"Mary Curzon."

Sir Mackworth Young was just resigning the post of Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab.

"Bishopsboume, Lahore: January 2, 1902.

"I have just been breakfasting with the Mackworth Youngs and taking my leave of them, as they will be gone before I get back from the big tour on which I start to-morrow. It will be a grievous loss for me. Ever since that summer of 1888 when I marched with them through Kulu, they have been steady and true friends, and a more perfect, courteous, high-minded Christian gentleman than Sir Mackworth no one need wish to meet. When they get settled anywhere in England, I will let you know the address, and if you ever have the chance you must go and see them. I need not say that they have promised to call if they should ever be in Ireland, but there seems little likelihood of this."

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