MEXICAN BRANCH OF THE CHURCH,
WORK OF FAITH
PAPER No. III.
BISHOP OF THE VALLEY OF MEXICO.
PUBLISHED BY THE
Text courtesy of Margaret B. Smith, Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
1335 Asylum Avenue; Hartford, Connecticut 06105
VERA CRUZ, the principal seaport of Mexico, as seen from the deck of a steamer in its harbor, looks as if it had in its midst many large Roman Catholic stone churches. The lofty domes of several grand old church buildings rise high above its dwellings. Of the nine stone churches, however, built within the city walls of Vera Cruz, only one is now used by the Roman Catholic Church for its services. Of the others, one is used as a public library, another as a Freemason lodge, others as stores, or for other secular purposes. The one church building opened for the Roman Catholic services in this crowded seaport town is disfigured by cobwebs and by many wretched tawdry images. The presbyter in charge is a Spaniard, said to be excessively worldly, and to have no vocation for the ministry.
In this, the principal seaport town of Mexico, its people have fought the Roman Catholic Church until they have succeeded in closing all its churches, except the one in charge of this Spaniard. In the midst of that important seaport town, the Mexican Branch of the Church had been welcomed, and a few earnest Christians gathered into a regular congregation. [3/4] When no ordained clergyman could be present, a faithful lay-reader conducted its services.
From the absolute scarcity of funds with which to meet the expenses of all of its work, the Mexican Branch of the Church had to abandon its hall and its work in Vera Cruz.
Strolling one day into the church in Vera Cruz, used as a public library, my attention was called to one of the tables where there were a couple of persons reading. Prominently placed among the few papers on that table, I noticed the Church paper, La Verdad, and another of the official publications of the Mexican Branch of the Church.
The members of that Branch of the Church would most gladly again welcome the services of their loved Church, in the city of Vera Cruz, where so many of the former church buildings of the Roman schism lie stranded among the multitudes that have separated themselves from the Roman Catholic organization. The earnest lay-reader formerly in charge of the congregation of the Mexican Branch of the Church in Vera Cruz, from absolute necessity to gain a livelihood, had to accept a position in a small Mexican war steamer. In a small iron tunnel connected with its machinery, by the light of a dim lamp, this earnest Christian would kneel and pray, remembering the members of his scattered congregation.
In Mexico we have the reverse of many a mission-field, congregation after congregation waiting for the missionary, the school, and Christian books, and many of these congregations sincerely love [4/5] the Mexican Branch of the Church, and call it their Church, and hope and pray for the day when that Church shall have the needed funds to enable it to minister regularly to them. Gladly would many of their number themselves aid it, but they are from among the poor, in a poverty-stricken country, and have not the necessary means, for the purpose.
Christians, for Christ's sake befriend this earnest Branch of the Church in Mexico more earnestly.
Some utterly misunderstand the Republic of Mexico. They look upon Mexico and see it as one sees the city of Vera Cruz from the vessels in its harbor, apparently crowded with Roman Catholic churches, not realizing that in that nation vast multitudes, as in Vera Cruz, live utterly uncared for by the Roman Catholic Church, while despising it for its idolatry, corruption and unpatriotic hostility to their General Government.
How to win souls to Christ and to His holy Gospel, from among these masses of people who have discarded the Roman Catholic schism in Mexico, and who are to-day unconnected with any Church, is a problem which the Mexican Branch of the Church is lovingly and faithfully grappling with. This Church is seeking wisely not to alienate the Mexican patriotic sentiment, as the Roman Catholic Church has so sadly done in Mexico, and with this object it is earnestly trying to maintain a native independent aspect in the interest of the Christian work it is doing. It has gradually for its work's sake attracted much sympathy and respect. The President of the Republic, and his leading ministers, and some other prominent men [5/6] contribute in behalf of the children in its orphanages, but the aid thus obtained in Mexico is, as yet, small.
To continue that work effectively, it must be generously aided by Christians in other lands. This Church is now well organized for work. It has three dioceses, one in the City of Mexico, the second in the Valley of Mexico, and the third in the State of Hidalgo, besides missions in other parts of Central Mexico. Representatives from the Diocesan Synods of these three dioceses form its General Synod. That General Synod has its standing committee and financial committee; the treasurer of the latter is a highly-honored business man in Mexico, educated at Harrow, England. A committee, with one of the most prominent business men in Mexico for its treasurer, named in behalf of its orphanages and schools, takes an active interest in their behalf. To effectively continue the work of this Branch of the Church, however, we pressingly need the aid of Christians in Bible-lands, for its own members have been gathered almost entirely from among the poor, and while most sincerely loving their Church, they have but very little with which to sustain their clergy and missionaries, to publish Christian publications, or to establish orphanages or schools for their little ones.
Christians, aid us with your prayers, your sympathy, your co-operation, your generous gifts.
The Mexican Branch of the Church has often cared for over forty congregations connected with its communion; has had about two hundred children frequently in its orphanages and church boarding-schools, and over two hundred more in its day-schools; [6/7] it has published, and very ably, its Church periodical, La Verdad, and done much other Christian work, faithfully teaching the great truths of the Gospel, and exercising a most blessed influence among large numbers.
Fellow-Christians! may the love of Christ constrain you to aid it to continue its precious Christian work.
Many of our congregations have, as yet, no kind of church building whatsoever in which to gather. Some of these congregations meet under the shade of trees, with but a stone-wall for their chancel. I specially ask the friends of the work to note that the General Government in Mexico, seeking to check the Roman Catholics from having processions outside of their church buildings, have passed laws prohibiting the holding of church services outside of church buildings.
What are these congregations of the Mexican Branch of the Church that have no church buildings whatsoever, to do in such circumstances? I ask the friends of the work for funds for church building purposes, as well as for the other branches of this work of faith, in that vast and most beautiful southern land, Mexico.
Some portions of the work of this Branch of the Church in Mexico, if properly aided for some time longer, promise to become self-supporting and permanently established.
In the State of Hidalgo, on the slope and near the base of a lofty and beautifully-formed mountain, with a large artificial lake near by, and a grand view of mountains and valleys, and plains before it, there is [7/8] a town named Nopala. On its square, a building, temporarily lent for the purpose, is used for our services. Close by, a stone church is being built for our congregation. The leading authorities of that town attend our services. The ecclesiastic of the Roman Catholic Church in that place, at a large meeting in aid of our girls' school there, spoke most hearty words of goodwill and encouragement. In a town near by, another of our congregations is struggling hard to finish a stone church that they are building. But in other places in that neighborhood, two of our congregations still have to meet under the shade of trees.
An earnest Christian work has been commenced in Mexico. Fellow-Christians, aid us to continue it, help us to make it, as far as possible, a permanent work. This work that has extended its influence among large numbers in that land may yet become a centre of Christian effort in behalf of multitudes among the fifty millions who speak the beautiful language of old Spain.
H. CHAUNCEY RILEY,
Bishop of the Valley of Mexico.
CONTRIBUTIONS in behalf of the work of the Church in Mexico are earnestly solicited; and may be forwarded to the Treasurer of the League aiding that work, Miss M. A. STEWART BROWN, care of MESSRS. BROWN BROS. & Co., 59 Wall Street, New York.
With your contributions for Church Building purposes please to send the words "For Church Buildings."
NOTE.—The press is asked to republish these papers.