Project Canterbury

The Chronicle of Christ Church

By Deaconess Josephine A. Lyon (1862-1939)

New Haven, Connecticut: Quinnipiack Press, no date.


ON the seventh day of December, 1886, the call to the rectorship was tendered the Rev. George Brinley Morgan, in accordance with the nomination of Bishop Williams, which the Vestry had previously requested him to make. At that time the Bishop wrote: "I hope Mr. Morgan may be asked to visit New Haven; I do not mean ‘to preach on trial'but that he and the vestry may understand each other." Through the ensuing years the parish and also the diocese found good reason to congratulate themselves upon the discretion and wisdom of their good bishop.

Dr. Morgan was born on January 9, 1848, in Hartford, Connecticut. He was the eldest son of Henry Kirke Morgan and Emily Malbone Brinley Morgan. The Cheshire Academy prepared him for Trinity College, from which he was graduated in 1870; and it was this, college which later conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He prepared for the priesthood at Nashotah, Wisconsin; and on his graduation from the seminary was called to St. Matthew's Church at Goffstown, New Hampshire, which parish he served for several years under Bishop Niles. Then followed nine full years at Christ Church, Exeter, New Hampshire.

In January, 1887, the new Rector commenced his duties in New Haven, and, realizing that the church building was in sore need of immediate attention, he [52/53] had it thoroughly repaired, and, perhaps, in anticipation of future victories in a college town familiar with similar marked expressions of enthusiasm, the church was painted red.

A few years later one of the vestrymen, Mr. Elliott Morse wrote: "Dr. Morgan has given to the ritual of the church in larger degree the character and spirituality noteworthy in the ministrations of his predecessor. He, too, has made the Altar the one high objective point of Christian worship, and has given to prayer its ancient place of efficacy. In all their force and beauty he has emphasized the lessons of Fast and Feast that mark the annual round of church observance."

Soon after he came, the Rector was asked by the boys of the parish for the little nearby Dunbar house, at 343 Elm Street, for them to use as a general meeting room and club house. He replied that, if they could raise three hundred and fifty dollars to cover the expense of alterations, they might use the house as they liked. The zeal of the boys and the generosity of their friends quickly made up the amount needed; and the ladies of the parish, who had always encouraged the young people, busied themselves soliciting furniture and making curtains and draperies, so that soon the house was a thing of beauty to the boys and a great joy to them and their friends. Before long the Missionary and Homework Chapter realized that the upper floor would make a most convenient place for their meetings, and that the ground floor, which had been changed into one large room, would be splendid for church suppers. The boys at first felt their cherished club room departing, but they soon saw that it could serve the double purpose of being useful to the church without curtailing [53/54] their rights. So it became our first parish house, and was greatly appreciated in spite of the fact that all the hot dishes had to be brought from the sexton's house on Broadway, sometimes across icy paths, often through mud, and always, except in summer heat, cooling on the way to the dining room.

On Christmas, 1889, Eucharistic lights were first used on the altar at Christ Church, and evidently this innovation evoked the "Romish ghost;" so Dr. Morgan was moved swiftly to allay all fears by explaining in the following manner: "The late judgment of the Archbishop of Canterbury decides that altar lights are legitimate and legal according to the law and use of the Church in England. They have no more connection with the distinctive tenets of the Church of Rome than they have with Buddhism or Mohammedanism. It is to be noted that almost everything in use—the surplice, the church bell, stained glass windows, vested choirs, the Prayer Book, confirmation, ordination, etc.—have been stigmatized by the Puritan spirit as being ‘Romish.' When the Te Deum was first sung in Trinity Church, New York, complaint was formally made to Bishop Hobart of this alleged Roman innovation. The Eucharistic lights signify that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. They are two in number to signify His two Natures, God and man. They are lighted during the celebration of Holy Communion, because that sacrament was instituted to perpetually commemorate His death. Hence, they are called Eucharistic lights. They also bear witness to our belief in Our Lord's Real Presence with His people in His Sacrament, and herein lies their special value."

[55] A year later the Rector, having been asked: "Why do people make the sign of the Cross?" answered through the Chronicle (the new parish paper): "It was a primitive custom among Christians to make the sign of the Cross upon the forehead, or breast, thus renewing, as it were, their baptismal dedication to the Crucified, reminding themselves of their obligation to take up their cross daily and follow Him. The holy sign is more especially used in benedictions to signify that all blessings come to us through the Cross of Our Lord. At the end of the creed, the Christian sign accompanies the profession of the Christian belief and signifies that only through the precious sacrifice offered upon it have we any hope of life in the world to come. To make the sign of the Cross is essentially a Christian practice."

The Rector especially pleaded with his people to come to the weekday services, and at one time he said: "Perhaps, if we could see as God sees, the two or three met together in His name at some early celebration or quiet weekday service obtain His blessing in far greater measure than many a crowded church of fashionable worshippers. I am afraid that it is safe to say that not more than twenty-five persons in this parish ever think of attending week-day services, and not more than one dozen make a practice of attending regularly."

He patiently explained the significance of Eucharistic vestments, and he gave the "sound reasons why the pious, ancient, and primitive custom of celebrating the Holy Eucharist at funerals should be observed." He commended to them the reading of "The Imitation of Christ" and brought to their notice not to talk loudly in the Church after service, especially on weekdays. [55/56] "The most unbroken quiet ought to reign in the Church. It should always be profoundly still—a real House of Prayer. Speak low, if you must speak there." At another time he courageously gave vent to his feelings by saying: "We do not want Christ Church to become a tempting place of worship to the man who wishes to save either his brains from care or his hands from labour—or his pocket from depletion in the service of God. We want a people who are willing to spend and be spent for Christ and His Church."

In 1890 appeared a valuable assistant to the staff of the parish: the Christ Church Chronicle, described in its first editorial, on December 1st, as "a work and labor of love, undertaken by the young men of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew." "It will go out each month to tell the story of Christ Church and its services, to plead for special features of church life, to set forth earnestly such truths and plans as may serve the best interests of parochial work, and to consider the wider interests of those special problems which are at present exercising the Church in its conflict with the world. If there be no mission for it, it can quietly go its way to the limbo where an innumerable company of immature and forgotten journalistic ventures are ready to give it a cordial welcome. If it succeeds, it will be an independent little sheet, realizing to the utmost that blessed advantage which comes from having no reputation to lose, and no financial interests at stake, content to live and equally content to die, as may seem best for His Body's sake, which is the Church.

"A parish paper serves one most useful end, in that it is the medium by which the Rector reaches his people through an added sense, the eye. You, whose minds are [56/57] impervious because your ears are deaf to the line upon line, precept upon precept, enforced from the pulpit and from chancel, may possibly be reached through the optic nerve, and the Editor of the Chronicle congratulates himself that he is mercifully spared the painstaking effort to make his articles sufficiently vague and non-committal to please all, and offend none of the varying and conflicting opinions of his subscribers."

The brave little parish paper has not departed into the aforesaid limbo and has certainly fulfilled its promise.

In later years a young woman, seeking material for an article on bells in New Haven churches, was given a bound volume of the Chronicle, written while Dr. Morgan was Rector and largely editor. Returning it, she said: "What interesting reading! What a remarkable gift of humor! I thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of subjects, grave and gay, as suggested by a few titles chosen at random: 'The Human Knee and the Gymnasium Floor," Compassion on Choir Boys,' ‘Be Courteous,' ‘The Abuses of the Offertory in a Free Church,' and ‘The Queen of Sheba and Ourselves'."

In 1891, the Sanctuary Chapter was formed by its chairman, Miss Eliza Shipman, a cousin of the Misses Edwards, to whom we owe so much. There was offered a class in ecclesiastical embroidery to any who desired to do such work for the parish, and many of our most beautiful vestments for altar and priest are the result of that inspiration.

The first meeting of the Sanctuary Chapter took place at the Rectory in January of the same year. Mrs. N. A. W. Bishop was elected warden. In the beginning there were seven members, and it was appointed that [57/58] three women should take care of the altar each month; but to the warden was given the special care of the purificators. The funds during the first year amounted to $150, and among the expenditures are the following items: for cleaning the church, per annum, $48; Christmas decorations, $8; Easter flowers, $16; and later, as the members increased, each one gave ten cents a month to pay for the dusting of the chairs in the church. Several years later Mrs. Wilbur Day became warden, and many of the meetings were held in her house. She was followed by Miss Caroline Farnam, whose beautiful character and devotion to the church was an inspiration to all who knew her. She resigned in 1911, and Deaconess Mary Johnson was chosen warden.

In the early days Mrs. Morgan, the Rector's wife, was very active in the chapter. At that time the only rule, apart from paying dues and attending meetings, was that the members should say a prayer on entering the church, and that the rule of silence was to be observed, especially in the sanctuary. In 1911, the number of members had increased to thirty-four, and each person was admitted by a short service in the Lady Chapel, which generally took place after Evensong. In Holy Week the Warden stated that the Sanctuary Chapter had been asked by the rector to keep watch before the Blessed Sacrament on Maundy Thursday, the day to be divided into half-hour watches and assigned to the members. During that year $150 was raised to pay for green vestments, $50 of which had been given by Miss Farnam.

In 1912, during Advent, on the invitation of the Chapter, Father Mayo, of the Order of the Holy Cross, conducted a Quiet Day for women.

[59] After Deaconess Johnson (Sister Mary) became warden, the meetings were held at St. Hilda's House, commencing always with prayers in the little Chapel there. Caps and aprons had been provided from the beginning, and in 1914 Sister Mary called the attention of the members to the propriety of wearing them during their work in the Church and about the Altars, reminding them that "reverence for sacred places and all objects that have been blessed require special preparation from all who are privileged to approach them, whether servers, acolytes, or members of the Altar Guild."

In 1891 the ground was broken for St. Andrew's Chapel, and Dr. Morgan at that time referred to it with affection, calling it "our little mission" and bespeaking the "interest of all New Haven churchmen in its future success."

The Chronicle of June, 1892, records with becoming glee the installation of a water motor for the organ, and the resultant emancipation from the uncertainty of blow-boys. The funeral pall was given that year, Ascension Day, and the bier, designed by Mr. Vaughan; also white vestments, two crosses, altar and processional, brass vases for the altar, and glass cruets for use in the celebration of the Holy Communion.

The Rev. William H. Owen, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, New York, recalling to mind "The Choristers' Class," pictures to us another phase of church life and activity at that time: "I entered Yale in September of 1893, and I was provided with a letter of introduction to the Rev. G. Brinley Morgan by my own immediate pastor, The Rev. Dr. William H. Vibbert, of Trinity Chapel, New York City. Shortly after [59/60] I began my residence in New Haven, I presented this letter to Dr. Morgan, by whom, together with his gracious wife, I was courteously received and made to feel at home in the rectory and parish church. Early in my freshman year I met Frederick Merwin Burgess, a fellow class-mate, a young man active in the works of Christ Church and afterward its beloved rector, than whom I have never known a better man, nor do I expect that I ever shall. To what extent the persons I met in the old Christ Church and the influences I was subjected to there were potent in eventually placing me in the ministry, I cannot now definitely determine, strange as it all may sound. But I am sure they were of great force and likely one of ultimate conclusion. During my first year at Yale I spent alternate week-ends in my home in New York City, the intervening Sundays in New Haven, where I always attended services at Christ Church, as the services in the College Chapel did not appeal to me in the smallest degree.

"As the year progressed and the spring time came, I felt myself increasingly dissatisfied with my Sunday arrangements. I seemed to be accomplishing nothing by alternating my Sundays, though during both weekends I was entirely happy, even if the causes of my happiness were quite different. When the idea first came into my head that it would be interesting, at least, if not really worth while, to do something for the choristers of Christ Church, I cannot say. I kept the idea, however, entirely to myself. I did not mention it even to Fred Burgess.

"It was early in May, 1894, that one evening Dr. Morgan spoke to me to the following effect: ‘Why don't you, next season, spend all your Sundays with [60/61] us?' I was never more surprised or pleased in my life. I thought the matter over as deeply, as seriously, as I have ever thought in my life. I came to an affirmative decision, which I conveyed to Dr. Morgan, and it seemed to cause him joy; and when I told my parents at home, they, too, approved of my choice. The idea was that I was to organize such plans on my return to college next autumn, so that the class would meet Sunday afternoons in the choir room of the church. The choice of a course of study was left to me, and I spent much time that summer preparing myself to teach the life of Christ.

"In September was held the first session of the Choristers' Class. I cannot now remember how Dr. Morgan gave the invitation, but it was with splendid results, for every member of the boy choir was present. Strange how impossible it was for any of us there on that now long ago Sunday afternoon to anticipate what was in store for every one of us, what treasured recollections we were laying up, and what enduring friendships we were forming.

"September through to June, the Choristers' Class met with unbroken regularity, until the conclusion of my post-graduate year at Yale in 1898. We ramified the Sunday work, we had football teams and baseball teams, and many were the games we played on the vacant lots not far from the church. Fred Goering and Bertie Rompf were the ‘battery.' We had our spring picnics and our winter socials. There were frequent birthday parties, and more than once we stood before the camera's lens. Hal Peck was always our Jocularius. How splendid was the cooperation we received from our elders in the parish! And in this connection, especial [61/62] notice should be made of the Misses Sara and Polly Pool, aunts of Rich Roberts, for we owe them an eternal gratitude. And then the parting came. But far beyond our expectations did we part to meet again. Our wonderful reunions, annual now for nearly twenty years! The climax was our fortieth anniversary, November, 1934, when about a dozen of the old boys were present, leading with them not only their wives and children, but also their children's children."

After he had been with us for three years, the Rector announced his deeply felt desire for a new church building: an edifice more worthy for the worship of God. At Easter, 1889, he devoted the offering to the nucleus of a fund for this object, and a special committee of men and women of the parish took charge of ways and means of increasing the sum. The following Easter the amount had reached almost three thousand dollars, and four years later more than twenty thousand dollars had been collected, so that plans were started for the erection of a third Christ Church.

In every way possible Dr. Morgan encouraged his people, and at one time he said: "We hope our new church will have the charm and the power of an old architectural style, so that the mind will be carried back to far away lands whence it derives its pedigree; a structure which bends to high and ancient laws that are consistent with known and seasoned methods; an architecture where rib and moulding, ledge and rim have a history behind them, have a rule and a tradition. Let us try to build for God's glory, and then we may be sure that we are building for man's worship."

It was during the year of 1891, that the Rector reported that people had been saying to him that they [62/63] liked the services at Christ Church, and if it only weren't so far away they would be glad to attend them. To which Dr. Morgan replied that at an eight o'clock Celebration on a recent Thursday morning, there were ten persons present, nine of them could not have walked less than a mile; and he did not think that they had found coming to church very perilous or very wearisome, though the morning was cold and dark: they counted it a privilege to come.

He did not mitigate the rigor of a rightly kept Lent, and without equivocation set forth the following rules —"though you be the busiest person in New Haven. 1. Give extra time each day to private devotion. 2. Make a forty days' honest struggle with one besetting sin. 3. Try to go to Church once each day. 4. Make a daily act of real self-denial. s. Read books suited to the season. 6. Observe some plain wise rule of bodily abstinence. 7. Seek in every way to grow in the love of God. 8. Give up much, that you may have more to give at Easter. 9. Review your life and renew day by day your baptismal vows."

The forty thousand dollar building first proposed was fitly deemed inadequate to meet the obligations to dignify the high purpose of the undertaking. When over fifty thousand dollars had been raised, with more steadily coming in, a new architectural design was made by Henry Vaughan, estimated to call for an expenditure of nearly one hundred thousand dollars. [Appendix G.] The money collected so far represented an aggregate of little gifts from people not rich in this world's goods; and only God knew how many acts of self-denial were [63/64] worked into the sum total to make it have an exceeding preciousness in His eyes, far beyond the valuation of any worldly estimate.

Four years passed and the solemn time came when priest and people met together for the last time in their beloved little church. It was the First Sunday after Easter, April 21, 1895, and Dr. Morgan preached the following sermon, taking for his text: "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." (St. John IV., 24).

"Today is essentially a day of retrospect, for it witnesses the completion of a chapter in the history of the life of this parish. We have with us today parishioners tried and true, whose mind travels back to the small beginnings of the new Christ Church forty years ago, when the two transepts of this present building formed a modest chapel across the street. Such was the growth and prosperity, that in six short years it was moved upon this site, divided into halves, and incorporated with the present nave; and thus this church has stood intact for thirty-seven years—its arms like the wings of some sheltering mother bird, seeming to offer rest, refreshment and peace to the careless passer-by at this meeting place of many ways, reminding one of that tender and touching simile uttered by our blessed Lord as He gazed from afar upon the city which had rejected Him. ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.'

"We have become very fond of these long disproportionate wings which made our former temple, and seem [64/65] so fitly to suggest to devout souls .a verse of that familiar hymn:

"O spread thy sheltering wings around
'Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father's loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace."

"Some of the more sacred parts of this present building we may hope in like manner to incorporate into our new church.

"This is our last Sunday here. It is natural that we turn our eyes back and linger awhile before we say good-bye. They would be cold of heart and devoid of healthy sentiment, who somehow did not yearn over a house of God about to come down; for with the tender ties and associations which cluster about it, it becomes like a living soul. Here little children have been new born in Christ. To this chancel-rail they have come with the dew of their baptismal innocence still upon them, to rededicate their lives to Him and to receive the seven-fold gift of God the Holy Ghost, to enable them to fight manfully under His banner unto their life's end. Here from Sunday to Sunday and often through the week, the Bread of Life has been broken. Into these sacred courts have entered those who were to be married in the Lord; from thence have been carried, with words of faith and hope, those whose earthly warfare was ended and who had died in Him.

"Thus by degrees, to Christian hearts at least, the most sacred moments, the most tender, solemn ties and responsibilities of life become inevitably linked to the house of God like the ivy which often clings to and intertwines upon its walls. No wonder then that we [65/66] look back today and treasure up the spiritual experiences and count up the mercies vouchsafed us here, and perhaps lament our failure to use our opportunities in this place where we shall worship God no more. There is in our minds a double current of feeling today. We would stay the axe of destruction, even while we are eager to destroy. No one probably laments the fact that this church is to give way to a noble and beautiful building, more meet for God's glory and therefore for man's worship. Yet we must never expect too much from surroundings. It will not make us all reverent and devout because we shall have a beautiful church in which to worship. It may help some of us to be so, but it will force no one. The truth lies somewhere here. Beautiful surroundings in churches are fitting, most of all, because of what is due to God. Moreover they help us to see Him better; they show too in us a desire to honor Him; and so they exercise a reflexive influence. They help those who wish to make them helpful. They suggest the thought, ‘If these things, which are so beautiful, lead to God, and yet are so unworthy of Him, what must God be?' And in this world with its many influences which unite to drag us down, we cannot afford to dispense with any suggestiveness of that kind. Wherever men try to dispense with it, the end is that God is forgotten and high thoughts about Him fade; life becomes sordid, or at least commonplace, with no touch of the other world about it. On the other hand, we cannot rely on beautiful surroundings; we may have the most elevating influences, all that art and music can do may be enlisted in the service of religion, and yet we may grovel if we choose to, may live the most paganized, even animal lives. It comes then to [66/67] this, a beautiful building in which to worship God is good in itself as honoring Him; is good for us if we will let its influences work on us and therefore we shall not shed tears today over the fact in itself that this sacred building, however endeared to us by association, is to give way to a temple more worthy of God's glory and more suitable for man's worship. So far as this prospect is concerned it is a day of joy.

"And yet there is another side always. The instincts of memory and hope are the two great instincts that govern the life of man; and memory is the stronger as life advances and leaves less to hope for in this world. One can well understand that this may be a day of great sadness to some of the older members of this parish. There had been those with whom they worshipped here, who have gone hence and are no more seen, and this place was the scene of their association with them in the deepest acts of their life, in the communion of Christ's Body and Blood, in their touch with the eternal world; to them this day seems almost like a fresh parting, for here, it may be, they seemed to find a oneness with them unknown elsewhere; here where they are in the presence of Him ‘in Whom all spirits live,' here before Him who, as this blessed Eastertide tells us, ‘is the God not of the dead, but of the living,' for all live unto Him. For them the pain of old partings is renewed again today.

"Unquestionably, as life advances we do not find ourselves moved by the simple beauty or ugliness of things. We find ourselves moved far more by the great law of association. Persons are far more than places to us. One quite understands, and to some extent shares, the real pain that many so-called modern [67/68] improvements bring in their train. Take a man back to the home of his childhood and show him the changes which the present owner is pleased to call improvements in the old place. How he hates them! How he feels as if sacrilege has been committed and an insult dealt to his deepest and most sacred feelings! How he longs to see it all as it once was if only for a moment, and to stay the onward march of time. How imperious is the demand in him for the past to come back, for even the scattered fragments that yet tell vividly of that past to remain unchanged forever. How much less to him must always and forever be the new—new acquaintances, new friends, new ties! How inferior to what has stood the test of time, to what has been consecrated by the touch of association!

"There is this double side of things; the instincts of memory and of hope struggle within us for the mastery. Where is the reconciliation to be found? Where, but in the thought of Him for whose sake churches are built that He and His children may meet in them in closest communion; where, but in the thought of God, who, while He blesses and approves our every effort to advance, to make things better, to elevate man by material surroundings, to lead man up to Himself, is also and must be, because He is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever,' our refuge from one generation to another, the holder together of past, present and future; He who really preserves for us all that is precious and blessed in the past and is now weaving out of it a greater and more blessed future. He is ever ‘making all things new;' not novel, not strange, but fresh, with the dew of heaven upon them. He will bring back to us whatever there is treasured up in our experience [68/69] worth preserving—old scenes, old faces, old loves, old regards, old reverences; He will bathe them with the freshness of the second birth, and in Him and in His realized presence we shall find all that has gone from us.

"Yes, it is in the thought of God, Who changes not, that we get the connecting link between that energy of improvement which we know is implanted by Him and meant to be used, and that love of what is connected with us by the strongest ties of association. God, who is and loves, understands how we cling to the old that is passing away, and through Him even the very sea shall give up its dead.

"Without the thoughts of the living God, of Him who is, we can easily become merely morbid, dwelling like the demoniac ‘amid the tombs,' instead of deepening our faith in Him who ever is, and who, while He is keeping our treasures which seem to have gone from us, is making them new. The more we see God, the more conscious we are of Him, the less disposed we are to dwell morbidly in the past. It is the want of realization of His ever-present energy, of the fact that all that seems to be dead lives unto Him, that leaves us depressed at changes, with no heart to help the new order.

"And the one great means of preserving and deepening our consciousness of God, is worship. That is the real and lasting interest of this day. It is a day which ends our worship here and which marks a stage towards improved opportunities of worship. And worship is the one great means of realizing God as He is, God who holds together the past and the future. 'God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship [69/70] Him in spirit and in truth.' Worship in the highest sense is a vision of God, a vision of Him which entrances the soul and causes it to be spell-bound, a vision of what He is in Himself. That is why our Lord insists on the two-fold fact that God is a spirit, and then that worshippers must worship Him in spirit, because God can best be approached by that part of man which is most alive to Himself; spirit must touch spirit. And because worship is a vision of God, it must raise men above anything else. Men may pray and read their Bible at home, but they cannot worship perfectly. In private prayer man holds communion with God, and in that communion specific petition has its own, though subordinate place, but in worship man sees God as He is. This is the real reason why we grow attached to churches, whatever they are like, because they are the scenes of those deep feelings of spiritual realization which are the deepest things in the world. What do we mean by worship? First, there is the state of mind, and second, the outward offering. Now, worship as a state of mind is the highest of all states, because it is the least self-regarding. There are many states of mind which for a time go out of self, but they only go out of it that they may bring back something to it. Any study in which you are absorbed, or music to which you are listening, takes you out of yourself for a time, but it brings something back to you, and the idea that underlies your absorption is that it will bring you something back. But worship in its highest idea is wholly regardless of consequences; it sees God as He is and adores. It is the worthiness of God which is the primary thought in worship, not ‘What will God do for me,' but ‘What is He in Himself?' And so the essence [70/71] of worship as a state of mind is absorption in that which is worthy of it, that is, in God', there is no thought of getting for self in it—for once man is really unselfish when he worships.

"Now, the offering of public worship is the one means of expressing the worshipping state of the mind; of course, that state of mind may be arrived at elsewhere, but it has a special and peculiar meaning when it is arrived at in common with others. The association with others before God actualizes this state of mind. But to rise to a vision of God in actual worship requires more than the presence of others or fitting buildings; it requires personal preparation. 'As for me I will come into Thy house,' says David, ‘in the multitude of Thy mercies and in Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy Temple.' Like David, we should think beforehand of the mercy and goodness of our Father, and quicken our love of His goodness that reverence may spread over us. One of the best reasons for coming to Holy Communion at our early service is, that we avoid by that means that which may distract us. Those who from sloth or neglect miss such a distinct privilege as early Communion, know not what they lose. You may concentrate your forces after dissipation, but it is much less likely that you will do so, and the Holy Communion, the highest act of worship, where we touch Christ most closely, where ‘we dwell in Him and He in us,' demands our best energies, our first freshness. Our willingness to give ourselves trouble in going to it is the measure of our faith. This is not a matter of mere observance. It has an intensely deep moral and spiritual significance. Human nature [71/72] does not love trouble, but unquestionably, here as elsewhere, the saying is fulfilled, ‘They that seek me early shall find me.' And then, in coming to later services we should, if possible, come early and pray each for ourselves and for others when we kneel down, that we may see God, that we may get sight of God to strengthen, to reassure, to enkindle us. We know not what we lose by hurrying in at the last moment and failing to secure a few quiet moments before service. It is in praise that we have the best opportunity of rising to the worshipping state of mind, and the highest expressions of it are in the Te Deum and Gloria in Excelsis. The Te Deum opens with expression after expression of rapture at the thought of God being what He is; the Gloria in Excelsis rises to the highest pitch of fervor. ‘We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory,' that is, for being what Thou art, what Thou wouldst have been had neither man nor angel been created! No better forms of praise, nor better training for public worship, can be found than by using them in our private prayers; they breathe a far truer spirit than the poor, wretched, thin, subjectiveness that characterizes too many of our popular hymns.

"Then in Holy Communion, when all is still, and the greatest gift is about to become ours, what an opportunity is before us! Not to sit and stare about us, but to bow our heads before a mystery too deep for definition. ‘He dwelleth in me, and I in Him, that my sinful body may be made clean by His body, that my soul may be washed through His precious blood.' Surely, worship at such moments is verily and indeed a sight [72/73] of God. But it needs effort to secure this. You cannot drop gracefully into your seat in church as if you were attending a theatre or a concert, and expect to get a sight of God; still less if you come in a selfish spirit intent rather upon getting something out of God than of giving something—yourselves, your souls and bodies to be a holy living and reasonable sacrifice unto Him. You must climb if you want the mountain air, and only those who concentrate their powers and use them become aware that ‘the ground is holy and the place dreadful,' and that however humble is the outward building, ‘this is none other but the house of God,' this is the gate of heaven where man may see God.

"Yet this is what we would attain to here, and in that worthier building where, if God spare us, we may meet together on this spot next Easter. This is the ideal which we must meanwhile try to reach or to perfect. To such an ideal we may attain even in a gymnasium with God's help. His grace will enable us to see Him even in a place little suggestive of worship. Cultivate, dear people, I beseech you, this ideal of worship which alone can save a man from blank unbelief or from the commonplace belief in God which makes life so sterile and so inadequate.

"And today there is one prayer we must surely say, all of us, before we go: God forgive us our past failures of worship here, for not having cared enough and thought enough about Him; God forgive us our neglected opportunities, our wasted moments here; God forgive all who have here ministered to you in holy things for all omissions and neglect in leading His prayers and praise; God help you and us, dear people, alike [73/74] to see Him more clearly in other scenes, to see Him and to know His presence, and to gain the greatest of all blessings,—a sight of Him. And so our worship will become more and more a training for the time when our eyes shall really see—see at last, face to face, the sight which is indescribable, the King in His beauty."

Project Canterbury