Ballston Spa, New York, on Quinquagesima
Sunday, March 2, 1930, by the
Rev. Charles E. Hill, Rector
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y.
"Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."--Hebrews 12:1.
Arthur Crawshay Alliston Hall was born in Binfield, near Reading, Berkshire, in England, April 12, 1847, the son of a retired army officer. He graduated from Oxford in 1869 and immediately joined the Society of St. John the Evangelist, later commonly called the Cowley Fathers, a monastic community for men, then recently begun. He said, many years later, that when relatives could not understand what sort of life he was taking up he made them understand by telling them he would be a he-sister! They knew something about sisterhoods. At Oxford be was contemporary with the late Lord Roseberry, with Bishop Talbot (formerly Bishop of Winchester), with Dr. Lock, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, and with the late, rarely-gifted Canon Scott Holland. The retired Archbishop of Canterbury (Baron Davidson) Bishop [3/4] Gore, and the present Bishop of London were junior to him. He studied theology especially under Dr. Liddon and Dr. Bright, two great masters. He was ordained Deacon in 1870 and Priest in 1871.
In 1873 he was sent to America. For a year, he was in charge of a House of the Society at Bridgeport, Conn., after which, from 1874 to 1891, he was first one of the staff and then priest-in-charge at the Church of the Society on Bowdoin Street in Boston. Besides much preaching and pastoral work in Boston, he went about the country a good deal giving Retreats, Quiet Days, and Missions. He came to be known as one of the best preachers in the United States and was much in demand. He made a very large circle of warm friends. Although Massachusetts was a decidedly "low church" diocese, yet even there Father Hall won many friends and a respectful hearing.
In those days clergymen who were called "High Churchmen" were not nearly so extreme as many of them are today and also, on the other hand, "Broad Churchmen" were not nearly so radical as their successors are. Father Hall was never Roman in thought or ways; he was a convinced Anglican; [4/5] intensely loyal to our branch of the Church. Undoubtedly he made a great impression in Boston, waking up many to righteousness and holiness, showing many that our Episcopal Church was not an exclusive little sect, but a true part of the great Church Catholic founded by our Lord, existing through all the ages since.
In the fall of 1891, he was recalled by the S. S. J. E. to England. He was recalled partly on account of his action with regard to the election of Phillips Brooks as Bishop of Massachusetts, and partly because of differences of opinion as to the policy of the Society in America. It was well known that Father Hall and Dr. Brooks were warm friends. But Father Hall did not vote for Phillips Brooks. He merely signed the customary testimonial to his election and as a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese voted that the election be confirmed. There was very strong feeling roused over the whole matter. The strange thing, as it seems to me, is that any clergyman should have urged Father Hall to refuse to obey the S. S. J. E. and remain in Boston. Yet some years later a prominent Massachusetts priest told me that he had urged Father Hall [5/6] not to obey. That seems to me simply immoral. Father Hall quite rightly said that he had vowed "obedience" as one of his three vows when he joined the Society, and whatever he may have thought of the wisdom or unwisdom of his Superior, obey he would and did.
For over two years he was busy with work in England. Then on August 30, 1893, he was elected Bishop of Vermont. The Cowley Fathers released him from all obligations to their Society, although I think that he always regarded himself as bound by the vows of celibacy and poverty. I remember that it was reported that once he said that poverty as a Cowley Father was as nothing compared to poverty as Bishop of Vermont! It was generally thought that he was glad to be released from the S. S. J. E. He had come to find the Society a rather cramping and too restraining influence; there might be Religious Orders which would not have a narrowing effect, but they seemed scarce.
He was consecrated Fourth Bishop of Vermont in St. Paul's Church, Burlington, on the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1894. Unlike so many Englishmen, he had become (in 1881) a naturalized [6/7] citizen of the United States. He became an American citizen because he felt that our democratic form of government was better than the monarchical, better even than so democratic a monarchy as that of Great Britain.
It was when I was in college that I first heard Bishop Hall preach and met him in Christ Church, Cambridge. The sermon made a great impression on me. Then later in the General Seminary I met him several times and learned to know him. Just before ordination to the Priesthood I stayed with him a week at Rock Point. And all through, particularly the earlier years of my ministry at St. Peter's and at All Saints' in Springfield, Mass., I, like many others, was constantly turning to him for advice and help which he gave gladly and generously.
It was said of him after his death that probably no one in the American Church had kept in touch with and helped so many young men in the ministry as had he. It is a privilege now for me to say that I have received more help from him theologically, spiritually, and in other ways than I have from any other of our leaders. In several crises of my life, the Bishop's sympathy and wise counsel were of [7/8] great help, and all through the years his friendship was mine, the friendship of a strong man, who detested sentimentality and sham, whose heart was warm and tender like his Lord's.
His friends often felt that there was something tragic in the fact that so great a man, used to large cities and large things, was bishop of a diocese like Vermont; they felt that he was not appreciated as he would have been in a large city like New York or Boston. The Bishop was accustomed to speaking his mind rather plainly on occasion and often rural New Englanders did not like this. [The Rev. H. P. Scratchley in a letter to the Living Church (March 22, 1930), says that "What many called brusqueness was simply mental directness and straightforward speech. With his clear mind he went straight to the kernel of every question and stated his position with a direct clearness. We Americans are impatient of any contradiction or criticism of our opinions and we get hurt when the absurdity of these is shown. Bishop Hall challenged many a man's views and required justification of them. Whenever a man could substantiate his opinions with valid reason, there was no man more ready to acknowledge them and more humble-minded when proved wrong."]
But of late, after the consecration of his third Coadjutor (it was pathetic and humorous, too, that [8/9] the Bishop, having outlived two Coadjutors, promised to die before his third Coadjutor!) perhaps Vermonters warmed up a little and realized more generally that they had one of the greatest Bishops in the American Church. In 1927 his Coadjutor, Bishop Booth, told me that the last two years of Bishop Hall's life had probably been the happiest. I think that Bishop Booth had much to do with this, for he told the Vermont people how great a man their Bishop was and made them understand how large and fine was his influence throughout the Church. Bishop Hall himself was devoted to Vermont and loved everybody and everything connected with it.
The Bishop was large in stature and in soul, a buoyant, manly Christian, always tolerant, never partisan, a convinced believer in Christ and His Church. [His tolerance and non-partisanship were not always understood. He was too large a man, and too fine a scholar to belong to any "party" in the Church. He criticized vigorously various doings by members of the "Catholic Movement;" in my judgment, they needed criticism badly. But he criticized even more vigorously men of the opposite school who were undermining the Faith. He accepted whole-heartedly in the natural and historical sense that article of the Creed which he recited every day in the Prayer Book offices of Matins and Evensong, "I believe in the Holy, Catholic Church."] More than once he witnessed strongly [9/10] for the truth and the right against popular opinion and against the powers of wealth and prestige. Who has ever more earnestly insisted on the evil of the divorce between faith and morals? Who has ever contended more strenuously for belief in the verities of the Faith? After his death they put his rochet on him with his Episcopal ring and his pectoral cross and placed him in his beautiful private chapel, built by grateful English friends to whom he had ministered. They said he looked like a king, reigning; truly his character was royal, because morally and spiritually he was great.
As a preacher, until advancing age diminished his powers, he was very remarkable. Seldom has there been in one man a union of such qualities as were his--a thoroughly consecrated character, a commanding, winning personality, a very quick and clear and wise mind, a deeply spiritual purpose and outlook, a very thorough scholarship, a loving heart, alive with a sense of humor, which never suggested the slightest touch of irreverence.
I went to several Retreats he gave at Rock Point, the lovely Diocesan property on Lake Champlain, where he lived. He was wonderful in those [10/11] Retreat addresses; the devotion, the knowing exactly what he wanted to say and the saying it without a word too much or too little, the fire with which he spoke--all contrived to give a man who went to one of his Retreats a unique experience. He made men realize the presence of God, the absolute overpowering importance of the things which eye cannot see, the necessity of living in accordance with the finest moral ideals.
Others will tell of the Bishop's profound knowledge of the New Testament,--he was easily the ablest, practical expositor in the Church,--of his expert knowledge in liturgical matters,--to hear him read the service, so slowly, so reverently, especially to hear him read the lessons, was in itself a privilege,--of his skill as a canonist. His daily mail was enormous, for he was consulted by very many on different subjects and he gave unstinted energy and time to his replies.
I love to think of him now still engaged in the great work of the ministry to which he was so thoroughly devoted, praying, interceding, working for us in whatever ways God may allow. We may be sure that all the people for whom he cared so [11/12] much and all the causes in which he believed so strongly are now still dearer to him. Wherefore, brethren, let us thank God and take courage--
"Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."