Project Canterbury

Impressions and Opinions: An Autobiography
By J.G.H. Barry, D.D.
Rector Emeritus, Church of S. Mary the Virgin, New York.

New York: E.S. Gorham, 1931.

Chapter VII. Berkeley

In the fall of 1883 I entered the Berkeley Divinity School to begin my preparation for Holy Orders. The three years I spent there were the happiest of my adult life. For the first time I was associated with men who were congenial, whose interests were the same as my own and with whom therefore I could converse freely on subjects of common interest. Up to this time I had never had any friends in the complete sense of the word. Those with whom I had associated, whether in college or elsewhere, were uninterested in the things that interested me. I remember being greatly amused when I was about nineteen years old in talking with a young woman some years my senior and of much greater social experience. She asked me what I was reading and I replied that I was reading just then Macaulay's History. "That sort of thing does not pay," she said; "I used to read books of that sort, but I found that nobody cared about such subjects." I had found that, too, but I had gone my own way nevertheless. Now when I plunged into theological studies I found men who were reading the same books and were eager to talk of the same subjects, and my life experienced a new joy, the joy of communication.

I was much better prepared for my new studies than most of the men I met; that is, I had a much broader background of knowledge. My deficiency in technical knowledge, which had counted against me in college, did not matter here; while my years of broad reading prepared me to take up the new subjects that the Seminary presented with a good deal of intelligence.

It was extremely fortunate for me that this was so, for it enabled me to work on the new subjects in an independent way. I was used to working outside the class and the class books, and seeking to master the subject in hand, if it interested me, and not in seeking merely to satisfy the requirements of recitation and examination. In fact, the latter course would have got me nowhere intellectually, for the course of studies at Berkeley was, intellectually speaking, utterly inadequate. To have confined myself to the required work of the classes would have turned me out a theological ignoramus. There was but one course in the Seminary that was intellectually of any account; that was Dr. Binney's course in Hebrew. Aside from that, the instructors were incompetent in their subjects. As this made class preparation a trifling matter, I had abundant time to study on the lines of my own interests, and to supplement the dreary class instruction with wide reading.

Berkeley was the creation of Bishop John Williams, a most notable character with whom I am very glad to have been associated. I had known something of him as a boy, as he was several times at our house in Middle Haddam, and his mother had visited there. He was a great figure in the Church for many years, perhaps its most influential bishop; in part of my time at Berkeley he was presiding bishop. He was a man of commanding presence, very tall and graceful, of great dignity and refined and cultured address. He was a very attractive preacher, especially when he dispensed with manuscript and simply talked to us. I have never known a more fascinating teacher in the sense that he could present a subject with absolute lucidity and with great persuasiveness. His classes were a delight, for by his skill in presentation and illustration he never failed to interest one. He taught constantly while I was in Berkeley and shaped most of his students in his own mould. That mould, unfortunately, was a very narrow one--the mould of the most provincial type of Anglicanism. While recognising his greatness as a teacher, I was able to resist the fascination of his personality and in consequence was very slightly influenced by what he taught. "Connecticut churchmanship," as it was called, did not at all appeal to me, and I declined to be led that way--with consequences that might have been unfortunate, but in the end were quite the reverse.

It is difficult to describe just what "Connecticut churchmanship" meant. It was intended, I think, to represent the position held by what are called the "Caroline Divines," the position, that is, of the leaders of the Church of England in the Stuart period in their reaction against the Calvinism of the extreme men of the Reformation period. It was a swing back from Protestant tendencies toward a more Catholic position. But it could hardly be said that Bishop Williams and those who agreed with him were High Churchmen in the sense that Andrews and Laud were. "Connecticut churchmanship" displayed a hearty contempt for Protestantism, especially of the Puritan variety; and it was animated by a very hearty hatred of Rome and all things which were thought to savour of it. The three outstanding representatives of the position in the American Church in the eighties were Bishop Williams himself, Bishop Doane of Albany, and Bishop Coxe of Western New York. I fancy they were the controlling power in the House of Bishops. 'Bishop Potter of New York was later associated with them. The presiding bishop before Bishop Williams was Lee of Delaware, who, one gathered, was pretty well under the control of the triumvirate, though himself an Evangelical. Bishop Doane was regarded as a little more "advanced" than the others. He was regarded as the representative of the High Church party. It has been one of the misfortunes of that party that it has always been thought to be represented in the House of Bishops by bishops who were in no real sense High Churchmen, with the consequence that these assumed leaders were put on committees as the representatives of a party in the Church that they did not really represent--in fact, in crises quite misrepresented it.

Bishop Coxe was one of these. He had in early days of his ministry been rather more advanced than he was later. He had published at some early time a book of poems with a frontispiece representing an altar with candles and so on. Later when he was inclined to suppress the use of candles in his diocese, this was held up to him and the culprits alleged that they were only following the example of their bishop. That, however, did not save them from episcopal rebuke. Bishop Coxe's father Was some sort of Protestant minister, and after the son came into the Church they both presided over congregations in the same town, and not far from one another. The name was in reality Cox. It was said that the mail of the father and the son was liable to get mixed, and that in consequence the son added the "e" to his name. It was told that someone calling at the parsonage of the father and asking for Dr. Cox was introduced into the presence of the older man; the visitor explained that he had made a mistake--that he wanted the younger man. "Oh," said Dr. Cox, "if you want Dr. Coxe, he is around the corner saying his prayers in his night-shirt."

I gathered that these three bishops had been to a considerable extent attracted to the Oxford Movement in its earliest stage, but that they had been frightened into a reactionary position by the departure of Newman. Hereafter they were terribly afraid of anything which savoured of "Romanism," and were very bitter against "Roman practices." Yet they never went back to Evangelicalism. They maintained that they were the true High Churchmen--that they were the exponents of the true Anglican position. As they understood it, it was a very narrow and untenable position--it was very much like standing on the top of a fence: one was pretty sure to fall off one side or the other sooner or later. It was a position characterised by Catholicity of teaching and timidity in practice. It seemed to me, as I came to understand it, a religion of fear. We were taught that it was theoretically quite right to pray for the dead; but that in practice it was dangerous to do so, as one might pray for the wrong person; so it was better to say nothing about it. We were taught that the priest had the power of absolution and that therefore auricular confession was possible, but that the dangers of private confession were so great that one ought not to go save in some emergency. Of course, all ceremonial was strictly prohibited. The Berkeley students were never permitted to wear cottas in the Seminary chapel or when they went out as lay-readers. There were no lights, and, of course, no vestments. The clergy in chapel wore what were irreverently called "a surplice and legs"--that is, long surplices reaching to the floor and open in front so that when their wearers walked up the aisle the surplices streamed out behind. There was no cassock--one professor adopted one while I was in the Seminary, but it was thought extreme. A black stole was always worn. I recall an amusing incident in this connection. Dr. Binney had his black stole attached to his surplice in some way so that when he put on the surplice he had only to draw the stole over his shoulders. On one occasion--it was S. Patrick's Day--Dr. Binney failed to see his stole and therefore put on a second one and came into chapel with one stole hanging down his back and another over his shoulders. At supper that night a very matter-of-fact student asked, "Why did Binney wear two stoles this evening?" and was told that it was because it was S. Patrick's Day, and that the old Celtic use required it. The student was quite satisfied!

Well, after this excursion, let us get back to the studies at Berkeley. Bishop Williams taught a number of things and taught them extremely well--but most of them were not worth teaching. The only subject that was of real importance as it was taught was the fifth book of Hooker--the exposition of that gave one a real grip on the theology of the Incarnation. Beside that there were lectures on the history of the Reformation in which that movement was seen quite inaccurately through Anglican spectacles. There was a course that was called Apologetics, but was nothing worth listening to. There was a very funny course on the Prayer Book which consisted mostly of stories illustrating mistakes that might be, and had been, made in rendering the Offices--but nothing that could by any stretch of the imagination be called liturgies. In fact, I cannot remember that there was any instruction as to how to say Mass. I left Berkeley quite ignorant of this subject and had to pick up knowledge after I was ordained. I wish I had made notes of the course, especially of the stories. The only one I remember is one concerning the then Bishop of Ohio, Bedell. Bishop Bedell was a violent Low Churchman. Bishop Williams told of a visit to him during which he attended a Communion Service celebrated by Bishop Bedell. The Bishop celebrated standing behind the altar facing the people, which was a little unusual in those days. After the service he asked Bishop Williams how he liked his manner of celebrating. Bishop Williams replied that he did not like it at all, and that he knew of but one other person who celebrated in that way. "Who is that?" asked Bedell. "The Pope," replied Williams, to the great distress of Ohio. The gossip was that Bishop Bedell was much "influenced," shall we say, by Mrs. Bedell. She looked after his mail when he was from home, and was reported to have answered a letter from a country rector asking for a confirmation appointment: "We do not make country visitations oftener than once in three years."A clerical meeting is described during which there was a discussion on the subject of confirmation. After the discussion had gone on for some time a feminine voice from the back of the church was heard saying: "I have always understood that one joined the Catholic Church when one was baptised; and that when one was confirmed one joined the Protestant Episcopal Church." That naturally settled and ended the discussion. While on the subjects of bishops' wives, I may give another illustration. The wife of the bishop of a certain midwest diocese, learning that her husband had accepted an invitation to preach in a very High Church parish, said to him as he was leaving: "If they have incense, Alex, you come right out." I do not remember whether the bishop was obedient.

The most objectionable course that Bishop Williams conducted was one on the Eucharist. We were supposed to study the book of one Trevor in which it was held that the Presence in the Eucharist was the Presence of the dead Christ. As I loathed the book I never really studied it; I never made out what was the point of the doctrine, though the impression at Berkeley was that by holding it you in some way managed to make Eucharistic adoration impossible. I never could myself see how that could be, as even if the Presence were of the dead Christ, His humanity would still be united with the Godhead and the divine Person present would be an object of worship. But as there is no dead Christ to be present, the doctrine was most likely some variant of Calvinism. I have seen somewhere the doctrine well characterised as a "profane and indeed impossible heresy." Those of us who knew any theology were rather nervous at the examination for ordination, lest we should be questioned on this doctrine. I just missed it. Looking back over the three years spent under Bishop Williams, I find that there was nothing worth while got out of it, save the analysis of Hooker, and a good deal that was worse than useless. Most of the men, greatly impressed by the bishop's personality and manner of instruction, went out to repeat what they had been taught. They were conservative, prejudiced, unintelligent Anglicans. That was what "Connecticut churchmanship" amounted to, and Bishop Williams kept his diocese manned with clergy of that type. An occasional "Broad" got in, but there was small chance for anyone whose "height" exceeded that of the diocesan authority.

In my time S. Andrew's, Stamford, was looked on as the "high church" of the diocese. It was there that I first was privileged to see a service that could be called Catholic. I suppose now that Dr. Braithwaite was not what we should think at all extreme, but he stood for extremity in Connecticut at that time. One other parish had a similar reputation--a parish in Hartford of which Professor McCook was rector. I was never there, but there was a good deal of talk about it, as the rector had recently invited Dr. Ewer of S. Ignatius', New York, to preach there and he had been inhibited by Bishop Williams. This incident enables one to measure the distance the Church has moved in the succeeding years.

The senior professor at Berkeley was the Reverend Thomas Coit, D.D. He had been for many years a prominent figure in the Church, had been, if I am not mistaken, presiding officer of the House of Deputies. He died the summer after I entered Berkeley. He was the sort of character produced, I suppose, nowhere outside the Anglican communion. He was tremendously well read--his library must have contained nearly twenty thousand volumes, and apparently he had read them all.

If you took up any book the chances were that you would find it carefully annotated. His theological position was much that of Bishop Williams. We did not treat him very well and I have often regretted it, as I know he felt it. His lectures were dry to the limit and we spent our time in class, when we went, in reading or getting up our lessons. At times we interested ourselves in his lectures enough to note whether he would get in a whack at both Papists and Protestants--no matter what his subject, even if it were as remote as the wanderings of the Israelites in the Desert, in some way he would manage to lead the subject around to his enemies. He had various means of attack that he would recommend to us: "If you want to bother a Baptist," he would say, and then would follow what one was to do. In his earlier days he had been a famous controversialist, and had written a book on the Puritans which had a certain vogue. He used to tell us with glee of some critic who had spent endless time in going over his references trying to trip him up--"I will catch the damned rascal yet," he reported the critic to have said. He once got into a newspaper controversy with a Presbyterian minister on the subject of orders; after many letters had been written the Presbyterian said that Dr. Coit's mind reminded him of a garret: you went in to get something, but before you found it a mass of rubbish fell down and buried you. That was not a bad description: he had accumulated vast masses of information, but seemed to lack a discriminating sense as to values.

The department of New Testament exegesis was presided over by Dr. Gardiner. He was quite out of sympathy, ecclesiastically speaking, with other members of the faculty. His sympathies were in the direction of the Broads--he had been touched by German criticism and would have been classed along with such men as Alford and Stanley. He was, however, not at all radical so far as his class teaching was concerned; indeed, Bishop Williams would not have tolerated anyone who was in any direction radical. One learned nothing under Dr. Gardiner. One was permitted to take a commentary into class and read one's translation from that. I always carried Alford along with me. The examinations were a farce; we took our New Testaments in with us and made our translation from them. We were also permitted to take in our pipes! Dr. Gardiner was a pleasant genial personality who did his best to cultivate the men individually. He had some of us there to supper every week. At the beginning of the fall term he always had the entering class to supper and regaled them on Welsh rarebit; the upper classmen watched the next morning to see how many of them would appear--the victims were usually quite numerous. He used to furnish cigars at these suppers, and on one occasion he called up the stairs to his daughter, "Henrietta, bring down the cigars." The unexpected question came back: "The students' cigars, papa?" We used furtively to deposit the "students' cigars" in the grate and substitute our own.

The department of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis was under Dr. Binney. I have already spoken of my relations with Dr. Binney as my rector and helper in my studies. He was really a very competent scholar, and I have always regretted that he never could be induced to write anything. I think that he might have been of a good deal of use to the Church just at that time were in the heat of the evolution controversy and of the asserted conclusions of the Higher Criticism. There was danger that the clergy should be led by ignorant teachers to an obscurantist position, as in fact many of them were. Dr. Binney knew his subject and made us see that the real danger of the time was not in accepting the conclusions of criticism in regard to the Old Testament, but in foreclosing the questions that were raised. He taught us, as least he taught me, to see that the principles of the Higher Criticism were firmly settled and that one must of necessity accept them; but that it did not at all follow from that acceptance that one was committed to all the conclusions that individual criticism drew from the application of the principles. I had already in college accepted evolution in principle; I was now able to see my way in the matter of criticism. After one had got properly orientated toward the critical question, one could feel one's way along without fear that one was endangering one's religion.

Dr. Binney's unfortunate limitation was that he was no teacher. With a great body of information to impart he had no capacity to impart it. Consequently his lectures on Old Testament interpretation were very dull indeed, and with most of the men got nowhere. His method was bad, and his manner was worse. This was in a measure due to an unconquerable bashfulness which severely limited his usefulness. He wanted to help the men and was ready to take any amount of trouble to do so, but he did not know how. He had us at his house a good deal, but he did not know how to talk to us. I knew him so well that this made no difference to me. I could always go to him and talk frankly with him and he was most helpful. I look back on my relations with him and his delightful wife as among the best memories of this time.

The remaining member of the faculty, Dr. William Alan Johnson, was a very good illustration of a man out of place. I do not know what his right place in the Church would have been, but it was certainly not that of a teacher. He had the same sort of limited Anglican reading as the bishop and Dr. Coit had, though in a less degree. It fell to him to teach homiletics: but he could neither preach nor teach others to preach. He also conducted a class on the Thirty-nine Articles, using as textbook a work by Bishop Brown of Winchester, a quite hopelessly dull book. I thought it not a very honest book, as it taught that the early Christians did not teach what, as a matter of fact they did teach--such doctrines and practices as are involved in the Real Presence and the invocation of saints. I waded through the book, but really studied the Articles in the pages of Bishop Forbes.

The chapel services as conducted by these professors in long surplices and black stoles were not very enlivening or inspiring. They took turns in preaching, but none of them could preach except the bishop. When he came it was a treat, even though he sometimes took occasion to attack High Church doctrines and practices. Characteristically, Professor Johnson opened his career as preacher to a chapel full of students with a sermon on the Churching of Women. There was a famous sermon of Dr. Coit's which made its appearance once in three years, and which was always looked forward to with joy by the students, who knew of it by tradition from their predecessors, and with nervousness by members of the faculty. It concerned the serpent in the Garden of Eden and explained to us that the serpent was not originally a snake as we knew snakes, but that it was a winged creature who flitted about among the Eden trees and sang with an exceeding sweet voice like the voice of a nightingale! Its snake-form was due to the curse that it incurred through its malicious activity. I can still see Dr. Binney squirming in his stall when the text was given out, and the joy that filled the souls of the students as the sermon developed.

Up to the time of leaving college I had read no theology. The following summer I thought I ought to get to work and looked about for theological books. I do not know how I came to choose Garbett's Dogmatic Faith, but I fell in with it some way. It is curious that often a book which is often of itself a poor performance, if it falls into one's hands at the right moment proves of lasting value. It was so with this book of Garbett's; I have tried to read it since and found it a hopeless performance. But there was in it just what I wanted at the time I got into my head what a dogma is at just the time I needed to know. A dogma, I learned, "is a positive truth positively expressed," and that definition has stuck to me ever since. It was so fastened that all the quantities of nonsense I have since read in abuse of dogma have left me cold. As I look back at the books that influenced me during that first year of my theological studies, I feel that I was very fortunate in my choice. In addition to Garbett I read "Palmer on the Church," which cleared up a number of things for me. I followed this with Forbes on the Thirty-nine Articles, which enabled me to avoid the very limited and provincial theology of Bishop Brown. Medd's "The One Mediator" was most helpful, and above all, Wilberforce on the Eucharist initiated me into the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament. None of these books have I since read with the exception of Forbes; I fancy that Palmer would not seem to me now what it did then. The point is that coming at the beginning of my theological reading they set me on the right track and prevented me from falling a victim to the type of theology that was prevalent at Berkeley. Aside from my reading, the chief influence as well as the chief happiness of these three years came from the friends that I made. The chief of these was William Walter Webb now Bishop of Milwaukee. The friendship that grew up between us has lasted all the years and is still fresh today. Webb was two years ahead of me in the Seminary. He was only a few months older than myself. He had passed through the University of Pennsylvania in a scientific course, and then determining to study for orders had entered Trinity College in the classical course. He was a Philadelphian and had there been influenced by Dr. Henry Percival, who for years was one of the outstanding Catholics of the Church. Webb came to Berkeley as a thoroughly informed Catholic and was able to advise me in many ways. My intentions were good, but I was very ignorant in the details of Catholic theory and practice. Webb was a member of a small group of Berkeley men who called themselves the "Oriels." They most of them graduated the year before I entered. Among them were the present Bishop of Albany, Nelson, and Westcott, who later wrote a book of the Catholic faith which had a wide influence. Booth, who died young as rector of a parish in Bridgeport, was another of the group--a most brilliant fellow of whom we hoped great things. I knew most of the group later on; they were all at the time fighting Catholics and their influence in Berkeley had been strong. Webb was the only member with me in the Seminary. He helped me out in such matters as prayers for the dead and fasting communion. His mother had taken a house in Middletown and I was there a good deal. Mrs. Webb was a most delightful Christian woman. When the talk at breakfast tended to become critical of persons, she would intervene with "Why mention that?", which would calm us down. Webb's sister Anne, now Mrs. Leads, also became a life-long friend.

Other Berkeley men with whom I became very intimate were Newton, who recently was rector of Hyde Park, New York, and Maurice Cowl, who has since joined the Roman Communion. The four of us formed rather a closely united set, meeting almost daily. Webb was wont to gather a number of men at his house on Saturday afternoon for a service of preparation for the Communion. We also got permission to use the chapel for Compline, in which we were sometimes, especially in Lent, joined by other men. It was the custom for the four of us to come to my rooms after Compline, where we settled the affairs of the Church and planned its future reform! Those were delightful hours and I think that I got more help out of them than from any other one source at Berkeley.

There were, of course, many shades of churchmanship among the students, though I think there was no one who would now be counted a Modernist. The bulk were "Connecticut Churchmen," formed by Bishop Williams, as was natural. We who departed from the standard were regarded with suspicion. Nevertheless we were all friends; I look back on all my classmates as helping to make Berkeley a delightful place.

As the three years' course drew to a close the question arose, what was to become of me in the ministry? Bishop Williams made no sign. I fancy that I was not altogether in his good books: I never have succeeded in being attractive to bishops. I was offered a curacy in Buffalo at the salary of six hundred a year; and when I spoke to the Bishop about it, he advised my acceptance, saying that that was as good as he could do for me, which was equivalent to a dismissal from the diocese. I accordingly accepted, but a letter from my proposed rector revealed that he was a Broad Churchman, and I therefore withdrew my acceptance. I told the Bishop and showed him the letter I had received; he approved of my withdrawal, but offered nothing. A classmate, Brown, had taken the head-mastership of a school in Colorado, and asked me to join him; I accepted that, but as it was not open till fall, I, on the suggestion of a friend that Dr. Vibbert, who had been my rector in my boyhood and was now rector of S. James', Chicago, was in search of a curate, wrote to him and was offered the position at S. James' for the summer. I accordingly left after graduation for the West. My total impression of Berkeley was that it was no place to get an education, if one were to depend on the faculty for it, but that it was the best possible place if one depended on one's own efforts. As the time required for class preparation was almost negligible, one had all the time there was for study on one's own lines. I think I may say that I wasted very little time. I did not go at all into society and spent all my time in reading and study save the delightful and helpful hours that I spent with my student friends. I came out of the Seminary pretty well equipped intellectually for my work, but utterly unequipped otherwise. I had everything to learn in the way of pastoral work and preaching; that I got on as well as I did is a marvel.

I was ordered deacon by Bishop Williams on the second of June, 1886, in Holy Trinity Church, Middletown. The annual ordination at Berkeley was always held in the parish church, which was put at the disposal of the bishop for that purpose. I had for some time been in charge of the chapel altar, a charge which chiefly required that I look after the altar vessels--see that they were prepared and properly cleansed after the celebration, a charge of some importance as there were no ablutions. In pursuance of this charge I prepared the altar in the parish church at the ordination and as I bowed, as I was accustomed, in passing the altar, I aroused, as I afterward heard, criticism from some of the assembled clergy. "Was that the sort of religion that was being taught at Berkeley?" it was asked. I mention this trifling matter because it shows how far we have moved in a few years.

Of course, ceremonial had been one of the live subjects of discussion among the Berkeley students, who represented all sorts of churchmanship. It could hardly be said that there was any ceremonial about the chapel services. There were of course no vestments, and each priest celebrated very much as he chose; but of course none chose anything like Catholic ceremonial. Most of the professors said the Mass at the middle of the altar without moving from that position. The Bishop always began at the "north end" and gradually worked around to the middle. The few students who were considered "ritualists," of whom I was one, were so considered because we turned to the east in Gloria and Creed, reverenced the altar, and made the sign of the Cross. The last piece of ceremonial was considered "going very far" and made us marked men. When ordination approached the much debated question was whether the ordinands were going to have cassocks, and whether any would have a white stole! I, of course, as an extreme man had both.

I wish I had a picture of a Berkeley procession on a day of ordination, as it moved through the grounds to the church. There was ceremonial, if you please! Surplices and cassocks, and surplices and legs (the latter predominating); black stoles and white. Once in my time we were astonished, even thrilled, by the appearance among the very varied head-covering of the procession of a biretta! That was a daring soul who first wore a biretta at Berkeley. I would that I might commemorate him by name. Bishop Williams, of course, always wore a magpie, but with reduced sleeves so that it was rather a graceful garment and became him. Out of chapel he wore an apron and gaiters, which were regarded as very English. A weird rumour went about that on some occasion in Scotland, he had worn a white stole; but no one dared ask him about it.

It fell to me to read the Gospel at the ordination, I fancy because I was the oldest member of the class. Curiously, I am unable to recall who preached the ordination sermon or what it was about. I preached my first sermon on the following Sunday at All Saints Chapel. It was Whitsunday. I think that the sermon contained a whole course of Catholic theology and that I have been drawing on it ever since. After a brief visit with Ernest Magill in Newport, I left for my new work in Chicago.

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