Some Helps and Hindrances to Church Growth
The Bishop’s Address before the Convention of the Diocese of Missouri, St. Louis, September 28th, 1880.
By Charles Franklin Robertson
St. Louis, Missouri: Woodward, Tiernan and Hale, 1880.
MY DEAR BRETHREN OF THE CONVENTION:
I welcome you, after the lapse of another twelvemonth, to the common worship and to the common counsels of our annual assemblage. We come to render to each other an account of the manner in which we have used our several trusts in the Church, and of the degree in which they have prospered in our hands. There is no small anxiety connected with such a stewardship, and with the reckoning which we should look to ourselves to be able, under God, to make. To have positions of varying degree in the historical Church of Christ, which is charged by the commission of its Divine Founder with such high privileges and such grave responsibilities; to have our execution of such trusts, placed in a time when mental activity is so intense, and commercial enterprise and all other forms of social life are so quick and induce to corresponding earnestness in the Church's work; to have the special range of our activity in the centre of this teeming Mississippi Valley, which is to influence so vastly the destiny of the country:--all these considerations add gravity to our work, and lend a heightened interest to the results of the progress which we meet here to report.
I am very glad to report that the year has been for the Diocese one of marked gain. Considering who we are and the greatness of the need and of our opportunities, the year has init very little whereof we can boast. I would be very sorry to lower aspirations and check endeavor by assuming a satisfaction at the results to be indicated. But at the same time [3/4] there is very much which we may thank God that he has helped us to accomplish. I have been enabled to visit all parts of the Diocese, and to prosecute my other duties without interruption. I am anxious to mention my deep sense of gratitude for the considerate hospitality and personal attentions which have cheered the wandering, and for long periods, the homeless, life of the Bishop.
On account of its pressure upon the space of the journal, I contented myself last year with presenting the summarized results of my work during the year, instead of recounting the actions of each day. I shall pursue the same course this year. I have no disposition to throw into prominence the serious subtraction of time required for the thousands of miles of official travel in this vast Diocese. A better use of the time might, no doubt, be found, but this is not by any means the most toilsome business of the Bishop's life. I have on seventy-five occasions confirmed 404 persons. This number is in excess of those reported for several years past, although it does not reach the best results of some of our past years. The gain of the year in this regard witnesses, in some of the parishes, to singularly faithful and successful effort. But the gain does not hold everywhere. There is a very decided recedence in this element of our work in this city. That we should not advance here must arrest attention; that we should in this matter lose ground seriously from year to year, for several years past, challenges anxious inquiry as to the cause.
While we are not sufficiently supplied with clergymen and churches in any part of the Diocese, I have more than once in past years expressed strongly the judgment that we are especially undermanned in this city. We are not increasing our centers of work and influence here at all in proportion to the increase of population and the spread of the city. Several new localities are at this moment ripe for Church beginnings. People will not resort, in a practical, effective way to churches which are beyond a certain distance from their homes. Such enterprises cannot, however, generally spring into being self-reliant from the first. They must usually have had, for a time, the fostering care of older parishes, from which the nucleus comes. This must be by means of Sunday Schools started, and district visiting prosecuted from centers deliberately chosen in conference between the Bishop and parochial authorities, and on ground acquired, or leased with arrangements for acquisition for the Church. I do not think that there is any compensating advantage in Sunday Schools started in extemporized localities, in apartments ill calculated to encourage devotion, and which have to be rented with no provision for permanent occupation.
 Or, better still, new centres are better started, when the older parish has an assistant to the Rector, who, while rendering service in and deriving subsistence from the mother parish, will devote himself to collecting and organizing the mission, and thus gradually relieve the older Church of the charge and care. If this takes off some families, it will soon be found that many more who had not previously been known will discover themselves at the more accessible centre. This requires some sacrifice and comprehensiveness of interest and intelligence on the part of Rectors and vestrymen; but I should hope that this would not be wholly wanting. Sure I am that unless we have this readiness to venture somewhat, our growth must still further be retarded. It is of interest, as tending to relieve the common holding of the Diocese, that new organizations should be all the while developing to help perform the task.
[The Bishop having spoken in detail as to several matters of interest to the Diocese, proceeded as follows:]
The Ordinations of the year have reduced the number of our candidates for Orders to three. The supply is wholly uncertain, and is entirely inadequate, as well in view of the vast extent of the Diocese to be recruited with workmen, as also in view of the number of families from whom we might fairly expect a steady supply of aspirants for the sacred ministry. We have no right to hope that our needs will be made good from other Dioceses. They have their own needs and attractions. I very much doubt whether the duty of consecrating of their offspring to God for His especial service, or else redeeming them with a price that others may take their place, is steadily borne in upon the consciousness of our people. It is a privilege, but it is also a duty. Sensitive only to obligations which are distinctly mentioned and persistently urged, our people, I fear, come short here, partly because they. are not made aware how the supply of the ministry is to be maintained, nor that the duty comes upon all to think whether they have not sons fitted to be of use to [5/6] the Church in this way. On the Sunday on which the stated offering for our Theological Education Fund is made, or some other near it, should be regularly preached a sermon urging the duty upon the consciences of the people. I do not dare to think when a single candidate for orders has proceeded from one of our large parishes in this city or elsewhere. There is a complete paralysis of conscience in this matter.
The matter is of critical importance to the growth of the Church, and to the esteem in which it will be held in the community. It will not be honored abroad if we are not evidently counting its service honorable. The ministry, when its functions are worthily fulfilled, is a most attractive work. It deals with the highest interests and the loftiest emotions and sentiments of our nature. Its objects call into exercise the strongest and purest passions for God and humanity. Its energies are constantly refreshed by the clear sense of the blessings to the individual and the community sure to follow from its faithful exercise. Chivalrous devotion and the prophetic sense of a sure recognition and result, make easier even the sacrifices to be endured. The energy and ability needed for success in any other life, will certainly reach equal results in the ministry: manliness would not desire any easier requisitions than these. If small natures can make even great things petty and contemptible, force and devotion, with the fair dealing accorded to religion in the community, aided by the help of God's grace, will secure honorable position, considerate treatment and steady advance to those who industriously toil to fit themselves for and continue themselves worthy of the stewardship of God's mysteries.
Inadequate preparations at first, or relaxed industry afterwards, will naturally tell against usefulness and success, and therefore the training of those looking forward to the ministry should be of the best. I crave the very worthiest things for God's sanctuary. Often, because the thought has only turned later in life to the subject of the ministry, the furnishing for it is necessarily incomplete, and this affects the estimate had of the office. Of course we all know of those who, by their burning zeal for souls and consuming love for Christ, and by good sense and industry have wrought results which put to shame the trained theologian; but no dependence on God's Spirit can justify us in despising the drill, the accuracy of knowledge and statement, the ready utterance, which comes from attention and study. Dash does for a while, but, in every war, West Point comes to the front at length.
As affecting this matter of the supply of the ministry, and other matters as well, I think that the low standard of devotion and piety in the families of many of our church people is very much to be lamented. [6/7] Judged by any of the tests Which might be suggested:--the training of the children in christian knowledge and churchly ways, the infrequency of religions conversation in the house, the absence of family prayers, the small circulation of our church periodicals, the nature of the family reading on Sunday, the use which the latter part of the Lord's Day is put to, the anxiety of all our clergy about their Sunday night and week day services; we have, in all these, indications very much to be concerned about. We can readily see that few incentives to the Christian ministry could be expected from such surroundings and influences. Here is where so much trouble, individual and parochial, has its cause. We need much plain dealing, and plain loving speaking in these matters, and prayer that God would enkindle the love and deepen the devotion of our people. If the world must approach very near to the Church, it has no right to deaden its aspirations or paralyze its life. If our Lord did consent to eat with publicans and sinners, He did not sink His character in the act. He was there a God-man no less, to help by His presence and sympathy.
Without stopping to emphasize the other indications just now mentioned, I must plead for a greater attention to family prayer. I know not how any sense of the reality and value of religious things, or confidence in the honesty of open religious profession, or right filial and Christian hopes and habits can be maintained, when this primal duty of a family recognition of God is neglected. With an earnest desire, a way may be found to overcome obstacles to it. The time will come when other things preferred before this will appear very cheap in comparison. The parish and the diocese are affected by the Christian and churchly unintelligence, indifference and penury of the individual and the family.
Very much has been said of late about the friction between clergymen and their parishes, and the troubles of the vestry system. The matter is suggested by what we have just been considering. Some of the Bishops have thought the subject so critical this year as to be made the occasion of elaborate charges. I do not in the least desire to underrate the importance of the matter. As affecting the success and the comfort, and ultimately the supply of the ministry, and the respect and confidence which for their work's sake is their due, the character and tone of the vestry have very important relations. The trusts for the time in the hands of a vestry, of a temporal and indirectly of a spiritual sort, are much beyond the apparent appreciation of many of those who hold the office, and are appalling in view of the character of some of those who are at times elected to it. The material in some places from which to choose is not large; and sometimes the choice among those able to be [7/8] chosen is not the best. We have for years in this Diocese striven to lessen the risk of unwise choice by discouraging the premature formation of parishes, and to be content with the simple organization of missions, with the appointment of warden and treasurer, until there is more strength, more communicants from whom to choose the officers. It is sometimes forgotten that none are entitled by our organic law to vote for vestrymen or hold office as such, who disclaim or refuse conformity to the authority of the canons, doctrines, discipline and worship of this Church. Moreover an unwise choice is often directly attributable to the utter neglect of the parishioners to attend at the Easter meeting, and inform themselves of the condition of the parish, and assist in making the wisest choice of those who shall for the year bear the trusts.
But then sometimes, after all this is done, there is trouble and disagreement. To expect an entire absence of it is absurd and out of the question on any theory; to reduce it to its smallest proportions is as certainly the part of wisdom and charity. When the clergyman of their choice does his best, he is entitled to the loving coöperation and confidence of his people. His name and standing, almost as sensitive as that of a woman, are in their keeping. The salary may not be such as their ability, if fully developed, could easily accomplish, and this is allowed to come uncertainly and tardily. If impaired service, caused by anxiety, or the necessary falling into debt, ensues, on whom should the blame be charged? I am thoroughly persuaded that troubles come more frequently from thoughtlessness and inattention than from designed ill-will. But then thoughtlessness is sinful in those who have accepted responsibility. Vestrymen as well as others forget, in their absorption in business, how common and reciprocal the interests and duties of clergyman and layman are; how little of duty is yet done, even when money has been paid; how much of blame each one must put on himself if the Church fails to grow.
Critical help will be rendered in this matter as a deeper Christian spirit is had, as personal religious duty is more faithfully done, as all become better informed about the Church's laws and traditions, as there is more regular and devout attendance upon religious services; as there is had always a high-toned and manly confidence and conference on each side at the beginning of differences, seeing how much of purpose and aim both sides have in common. I dismiss as wholly chimerical and undesirable in the cure of any trouble, any such revolutionary procedure as the changing of the mode of appointment to parishes, by, for instance, the nomination of the Bishop, or any Diocesan Board of Nominators. I should regard anything which would draw apart the responsibility and [8/9] interests of the Rector and parish as disastrous to the welfare of both. For the same reason do I count out of all practical discussion the project suggested in some quarters, to "spool" all the parochial salaries, and pay all from a common fund. It would destroy all parochial enterprise, and no clergyman would feel that there was any one especially behind him. It would be against all good policy to exasperate and reduce the functions of the laity. They are a fact, and are likely to continue a very important fact. England, which faulted us for introducing them into Church Councils, is itself now finding profit in following our example of giving them a place in its Diocesan Synods. It would be a sad day for the Church, in its hope to raise and bless this land, if it should become a caste; if the clergy and all Church interests should lose in any degree the benefit of the sober good sense and sagacity and energy of our laymen. Pray God they may become more and more imbued with a higher sense of the trusts to which they are called, and informed as to the Church's history and best methods of work, But far be the day when they shall regard the Church as less their own to love and to serve and to make sacrifices for than they do now.
It would be but affectation to profess an ignorance of the fact that differences in the manner of rendering our services have been in other Dioceses, far more than in our own, the cause of differences in parishes. This matter has troubled us the less because in this Diocese, on account of the sparseness of our numbers and the extent of territory which our clergy have to stretch themselves over, and the poverty of most of our congregations, our services are infrequent, and the arrangements of our services need to be of the simplest. Besides this, the vigorous life amidst which our work lies, and the strenuous opposition which we have to encounter tends to keep the Church to the simple principles which it is set to maintain. The difficulty, as I see it in most places, is not that there is exaggeration in ceremonial, but that it is almost impossible to secure a fitting decorum and richness for the appointments of God's house, and a reverence of demeanor while in it. The clergy are, I know, in these places, where there has been little disposition to reverence for sacred places and things, doing their best to inculcate those habits which ought to belong to every well-informed and well-balanced Christian character. With much to do and with little assistance, it is for them often to determine what they can do and what they must unwillingly leave undone. Even if they thought that it was desirable to have the Daily Service, they would ponder the question whether, singlehanded and with much else pressing on them, it would be the best use of their strength to neglect other duties for this. But it should be, I [9/10] think, with all of our clergy in settled parishes, the disposition to reach as soon as possible the practice of administering the Holy Communion on every Sunday. Special circumstances may, in places, render this for a time impossible; but this is the standard to which I think we should come. These services on other than the first Sunday in the month might be at an earlier hour, and then, except on festivals, I should not think it necessary that the Ante-Communion service should be repeated. I have learned that in some places where services were held weekly or fortnightly, an interval of three and six months and longer have been allowed to elapse without the administration of the Holy Communion. I cannot approve of this.
It is not possible that in all places our services should be rendered alike. Our formularies allow a range of interpretation, and differing dispositions make use of this inclusiveness. Whatever usage can base itself upon the allowance of the Prayer Book, has its rightful place in the Church. In so far as law, either in this country or England, has recently set out to define legitimate use in our worship, it has restricted itself to what should not be done. In connection with the Holy Communion. By this it declares that it will show less solicitude in restricting the expressions of a varying and advancing aesthetical taste, but is rigorously jealous of what will even remotely affect the expression of the Church's doctrine concerning the Sacrament of our Lord's death. There is a principle here evermore to be regarded. Tastes vary; the faith is one.
So too, while in England complaint of irregularity is confined to parishioners who may conceive themselves to be aggrieved, as though, if they are satisfied, all others may be supposed to be so; in this country, by the placing of the duty of initiating inquiry into alleged irregularity in the hands of the Bishop or of the clergyman's brethren of the same order, there is a recognition of the principle that there is a community of interest in the matter, and that a wider circle than the congregation is affected by the action; that, in short, for this purpose the Diocese, and not the parish alone, is the unit whose interests are at stake and are to be considered. It is in view of this fact that I speak of the subject from this place.
It is a grand work which this Church is set to do and may do in this country. It appeals on different sides to various classes of men. The long range of its history, its secure grasp upon the earliest traditions of the best Christian centuries; the breadth of its principles and the simplicity of its faith and worship, stately at times and then adjusting itself to the needs of the humblest congregation; the compactness of its organization; the capacity for teaching and for beauty of its Christian year; its ability [10/11] to be at terms with the best culture and to be the binding link between rich and poor; the power to develop out of its resources agencies to minister to the sorrows and needs of men; the simplicity with which it by instinct avoids the petty trivialties of the day, and persistently presses its own divine work. We may cast aside all explosive statements as to the rapidity with which other forms of Christian activity are dissolving and coming into one with us. We may well recognize the learning, the vastness of the giving and the doing of those who walk not with us. We may reverently and gladly acknowledge the work of God's Holy Spirit in the lives and in the enterprises in those from whom we are separated. But outside of all this there is a vast and distinct work waiting for this Church to do in the land. Our weight and influence are not measured by our numbers. From many sides thought is being turned to it; it is the second choice of large and differing sections of people, waiting only for the opportunity to become their first choice. Its success would be a work of healing and peace. It will help those who are weary of negations and minute prescriptions, who desire the poise which comes from age, while there is yet place left for culture and independent thought.
But the clearness with which we see these possibilities is the measure of our impatience at anything which will needlessly hinder their fullfilment. Of course we know that statistics, even when taken with care, are not wholly reliable; but when taken by the same means for a series of years they are valuable for comparison. Now the result of the putting together of some figures relating to the Church's growth is, I think, such as should arrest our serious attention. In this Diocese, while the money returns, the number of clergy and, at a smaller rate, the number of communicants, have increased; on the other hand, in spiritual results, as reckoned by the number baptized and confirmed, what has been done during the past three years does not at all equal the results of the three previous years, nor of the three years before those. Nor is this checking of growth a local matter; if it were, it would be sufficient for us to look only for local causes. But, looking further, I find by the returns made to the General Convention, that while the gain in communicants from 1850 to 1853 was at the rate of thirty-one per cent., from 1853 to 1856 seventeen per cent., from 1856 to 1859 sixteen per cent; and while the gain in 1871 as compared with 1868 was twenty-one and one half per cent., and for the next term of three years was twenty per cent., that for the three years from 1874 to 1877, when the last enumeration was made, the gain had been only five and one half per cent. In the number of clergy also, from 1868 to 1871 the gain was eight per cent., and from [11/12] 1871 to 1874 seven and one half per cent., while from 1874 to 1877 there was an actual decrease in numbers as reported, and, comparing the condition in 1850, thirty years ago, and now, there are but little more than half as many clergymen in proportion to the number of communicants of the Church now as there were then.
Now, to whatever this condition may be due, it is sufficiently marked and widespread to demand attention, and, if possible, explanation. It seems that while in material matters the Church is maintaining its ground, in spiritual results the rate of gain, which had been strong and constant, has within a few years become very much reduced. I do not suppose that this is due to any one cause, or that I can even indicate all the elements that probably enter into the matter. It is in part clue to the more aggressive attitude of the scientific opposition to Christian revelation. Part must be attributed to the greater worldliness abroad, and to the degree in which this has invaded the Church and paralyzed the distinctness of Christian living and preaching. Part is due to the extravagance which has occasioned debts on churches, and then the demoralizing methods thought necessary in order to pay them.
But I think the judgment of the greater number will go with me when I express the conviction that the dominating cause of the marked reduction in our rate of growth during the last few years is the agitation which has been going on among us in the matter of ritual. We are not as one before the world; our General Council has its sessions absorbed with this belittling matter; activities are wasted on party strifes, and in differences of bishops with presbyters and rectors with parishes. It is even conceded in behalf of the new modes of worship that they do occasion present misunderstanding, but that this will be made up by greater gains in the future on their account. We are met with the fact that, coincident with the checking of a gain for the Church which was bringing us the best accessions from all sides, was the starting of methods and controversies which, before this land, have seemed in the popular estimate, to ally us with systems and beliefs against which we protest, and in presence of which we see our whole progress brought to a standstill.
And for what is it we are encountering this loss? The right and the privilege of every one burdened with sin to come to the minister of God's [12/13] word for counsel and comfort is more than allowed; it is urged; and the duty of such minister to use his office in public and in private to quiet the conscience and remove scruple and doubtfulness, is on all hands known. It is only when such recourse is made habitual, and becomes a virtual condition to the reception of the Holy Communion, that it becomes offensive, and the Church shrinks back in horror from the results which have always followed from enforced auricular confession. That the Holy Communion was signalized by our Lord as the great act of worship by which we should show forth His death, and that by means of the faithful receiving of the consecrated elements in that Commemorative Sacrifice we become partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; all this is on all sides granted, and further, that in the presence of such a mystery lowliness and reverence the most devout should be shown. It is only when the Communion is made a spectacle, when from a partaking the person becomes content with a distant adoration, and from a spiritual the mind declines to a visible presence, and when a symbolism is used which is strange to our formularies and to the knowledge of any now living; it is only then that difference and offense come.
And the distress and distrust become the greater in the uncertainty as to whither all this may yet lead, as to how much more of doctrine and ritual may be read into formularies with which we thought ourselves familiar, and at what self-imposed restraints the work of further development will be allowed to stop. It is this drift, which takes all the fixedness and guarantees for permanence from our standards, which causes dismay, and repels those who otherwise would be drawn to our borders.
The Church will on no account give up its right to its own past, and to all of the traditions which belong to its better days; it will not shrink into the proportions of a sect, nor be the mouthpiece of a single-school of thought; it will not set back the hands of time and relegate itself to the days of barrenness and irreverence; it will not give up its faith, or anything that is essential to guard it, or the tributes that devotion and beauty lay at its feet. But it cannot surrender to individual opinion its right to adjudge what it holds as of faith, nor its standard of what is permissible in its worship. This is a rationalism utterly destructive to all common authority and to the corporate life of the Church. Against this anarchy the Church must, in the interest of peace, and to restore the confidence which has been shaken, have a law that is clear; and if it is not clear, it must be made clearer, and then it must be obeyed, lovingly and loyally, let us all hope, as seeing that all good results desired will come soonest thus; but at any rate the law must be obeyed [13/14] by those who have promised to minister the doctrines and Sacraments of Christ, not only as Christ hath commanded, but also “as this Church hath received the same.”
But harmful to our growth as such a condition of things is, I think that its continuance is due in part to the indeterminateness of some of our formularies, with regard to which charity would seem to demand that greater clearness be had. For the sake of those who desire a simple and direct statement of the Church’s law, that they may loyally conform their faith and practice to it, it would seem that a tender regard for such doubts should induce prompt measures for their relief.
In the same way, now that the Church is in this country entering upon its second century of independent life, I think that it might be wise for us to consider what experience has taught us as to the application of our methods to the wants which we have here to confront. There are some of our forms in worship which embody the faith, and those we should be very slow to touch. But there are many other of the details of our services which have been again and again revised, and of which the preface in our prayer book contemplates on fit occasion further amendments. It is unnatural to think that our fathers of a hundred years ago could have so fully understood all the circumstances that should ever arise as to frame a worship that should be perfect, or that we are to be so faithless as to the presiding of God’s Holy Spirit in the councils of His church still that we can doubt that He will guide this national Church to amend old or frame new Offices as local needs may require.
Twenty-five years ago the Church was stirred to its depths by what was then called the Memorial Movement; it rose to the thought that its duty was not simply to its children familiar with its Offices, but to the whole land in whose behalf it held grave responsibilities. A Commission of Bishops addressed a long series of inquiries to leading minds representing widely different schools of thought in the Church, asking them for suggestions as to the manner in which the Church could commend itself more widely and successfully to the country. The commission also put itself into communication with a number of representative non-Episcopal divines, from whom it received some very valuable and suggestive replies. The whole result was given in a report which ought often to be read when we are in danger of settling ourselves back in self-satisfied isolation and mediocrity, content with our methods because we are accustomed to them, and in timid conservatism afraid to venture changes. The report showed a general concession of the need of changes; some of which, such as the separate use of Morning Prayer, Litany and the [14/15] Communion Office, have since been realized; but others remain only as suggestions, except as there have grown up unauthorized usages.
The need of modifications conceded then has not become less since, and the existence of it underlies the discussions and nearly perfected Shortened Services. The acknowledgment of the need, and yet the failure so far to meet it, has occasioned a lawless and irresponsible use of private judgment in varying the services, which, while having much to justify it, is dangerous as a habit, and occasions the forming of unwise usages among our congregations.
There has been very little recognition of distinctions in our conciliar action in this matter; we have regarded every part of our liturgy as of equal sacredness, and have been unready to touch even acknowledged wants because thereby we were thought to endanger what no one could dream of touching. We have not been equal to our opportunities by showing an elasticity in meeting wide and persistent wants; we have been content to be a denomination; we have not justified the Catholic character of the Church in seeking to adapt it to the wants of all sorts and conditions of men.
We are lamenting all through our borders the lessened attendance at Evening Prayer in our churches, when we are not making out of it all that it is capable of in interest. Why repeat again so soon, the Exhortation, Confession and so many of the prayers which we have only a little time before said in Morning Prayer, when there are so many rich stores of devotion from which we might draw? Why might not our services during the week begin with the Confession, or, as they originally did, with the Lord’s Prayer, always providing that the Exhortation, which being the statement of the scriptural and reasonable warrant of what we are about to do, the congregation is reasonably familiar with, should be said every week on Sunday morning? Might not the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, those beautiful Evangelical Hymns, be restored to the place which they formerly held? In the same way, in the more frequent celebrations of the Holy Communion after the analogy of the allowance given in the Baptismal Service, it might suffice that the longer Exhortation in the Communion Service should be omitted at other times than once a month. The use of the Lord’s Prayer when it recurs in the same service, as it sometimes does several times, when Offices are accumulated, might be omitted. The services as they are constructed are designed for congregations already gathered and taught, but we are constantly called upon to meet those who are wholly untaught in christian things, entirely unfitted for what is addressed to them in our Offices or for any [15/16] responsive service. This is a fixed recurring feature in all aggressive work: is it not right that the Church should recognize and provide for it? We have no service for the laying of the corner stone of churches. We have no prayer for the increase of the ministry, for missions or missionaries, for the conversion of the impenitent, for young men or Sunday schools, for deliverance from public calamities or personal peril, nor for many other occasions for which forms of prayer and thanksgiving are necessary. Where the daily service is used, it ought to be left to something better than a clergyman's caprice what should be said and what omitted. Since the days in which the service was generally said daily we have added to its length both at the beginning and ending.
We may go on as we have been doing, unwilling to make the smallest change, reducing the influence which we might be having, allowing individual judgment to do its best in emergencies not provided for. But would it not be more worthy of a great historical Church to act upon such broad needs in a brave, constitutional manner; to remember the large number whom we should be able fitly to serve, and then develop all our resources to draw, to arouse and to mould the spiritual life of the nation in which God has given us our duty.
Perhaps I would not have detained your attention upon these wide questions so long, but that the thought of the great National Council of our Church soon to assemble, in which these and other stirring matters will strongly occupy attention, is heavy on every Churchman's mind.
While I take a deep concern in the progress towards reform of the Old Catholic body in Germany and other parts of Europe, and in the measures looking towards intercommunion with the Greek Church, I confess to a deeper interest in securing a better understanding with those Christians in this country who surround us on every hand, who vie with us in good works, who give forth such manifestations of God's presence among them. I see daily, more in small villages than in large cities, but prominently everywhere, the wastage coming from divisions, the scorn and indifference in which religion is held by reason of them, the infidelity which is directly traceable to this cause, the vast spaces left to neglect because of misunderstandings, and I think our best and strongest thought, our wisest statesmanship, should be given to this matter. We are to have a care lest, becoming enamored of a far-off scheme of reform, we lose sight of the simpler duties which lie closer to us. Certainly the duty of studying the causes of difference here are quite as great as elsewhere; the ties which bind us to our separated [16/17] brethren here are closer, and the process of conciliation with those with whom we have language. many points of faith, a common country, the most intimate social and personal relations, ought to be much more hopeful than with those whom we touch at hardly any point. Certainly all our administration should be in view of reducing the separation, and not of increasing it. We may not palter with the faith and order which are in our trust, but we need not be hasty in calling all the accessories to which we have become accustomed, of the faith and unchangeable. When the time does come, and we ought to be always praying and watching for it, that this Church shall be called on to do its part towards the fulfilling of our Lord's prayer for the unity of His flock, we shall be wise if we shall be ready then, in order to contribute towards that consummate blessing, to yield much that was dear to us only less than the faith, to have gained well considered views as to what is of principle and what is only variable, and then make not grudging approaches. Perhaps the duty in this matter coming upon most of us will be that only of repressing acerbity and denunciation, of showing kindly tempers, and of rendering Christian offices as opportunity occurs. This will only be the fit accompaniment in action of the prayers which we so frequently use for the coming of God's kingdom.
The matter of dividing our national Church into Provinces has been before the General Convention for nearly thirty years. Recently a commission of Bishops has sent forth a report, prepared after a wide conference with others, which will be presented in Convention, in which they recommend the division of the Church into four Provinces separated by longitudinal lines formed by the Alleghany mountains, the Mississippi river and the Rocky mountains. In principle I am far from being opposed to a division of our great. territory into Provinces; it is in line with the Church's action in the past, and convenience of administration is likely to call for a similar result with us. But when this comes, such grouping of Dioceses, to result in anything effective, must, as in all previous ages, have a large degree of homogeneity in social, political and business lines. This necessary principle is utterly violated in the report, and if this is the best result to be reached. Provinces as a practical measure are far in the future. Moreover, as the measure is urged as a means of relief to the General Convention, I have not discovered in the scheme of subjects proposed to be relegated to the Provincial Synod, by those who have worked the matter out in Illinois or elsewhere, any such statement of business as would either make the Province particularly important, or relieve in any appreciable degree the business of the General Convention. One does not get an [17/18] impression of the great urgency of the matters likely to come before a minor assemblage, inasmuch as with power to call together a Federate Council of the Diocese in New York State for the past twelve years no meeting has ever been convened. Any measure which would make an interval of nine years between the meetings of our General Convention, which is a part of the provincial scheme as recommended by the commission, would, I conceive, be of great damage to the Church.
The General Convention, as a working body, needs to be relieved; but this I should rather anticipate from a stopping of the tendency shown now to centralize business there which can well be attended to by the Dioceses; from a reduction of its size, with a graduated representation, and with the expense of its deputies distributed among the Dioceses. This would induce closer business methods, and promote the assembling of the Convention in other than the Atlantic cities at times, which I should conceive to be an advantage.
Other matters of deep moment will come before the General Convention at its session. I trust that it will be remembered by you in your devotions, that it may be guided to wise conclusions.
Of course we are not to suppose that the Church's greatest reliance must be in external agencies. Let the loving compassion of Christ. our Lord, be preached with all the force you possess; be kind and considerate to those who have rejected or only partially received the truth; maintain broad, warm sympathies for those who, walking not with us. possess very much in common with us. The islands in the tropics may be separated, but you do not go far down into the warm depths below before you find them coming together and joined at their bases. Present the Church in its kindly inclusive features as the home of all God's loving children. Hold the faith, but then with apostolic wisdom lay on the people no unnecessary burdens of narrow prescriptions; let the worship be the worthiest possible, but marked by that sober moderation which comports with the law, the faith, the usage of the Church, and with a good conscience towards the brethren. Thus to our strong love and importunate prayers and resolute work, God will restore the days of old and the years of former generations.