My departure for Chicago was a terrible trial for my mother. I had never been separated from her for any length of time in all my life. Events that were at that time taking place in Chicago added to her distress in losing me. The anarchists there had recently been throwing bombs and killing people, and the culprits were to be soon placed on trial. I fancy mother imagined the streets of Chicago filled with anarchists throwing bombs, and I had difficulty in persuading her in my letters that I only knew of anarchists as she did through the newspapers.
S. James' Church, Chicago, where I was to spend the next two years as curate was the mother church of the city. It was a large and rather ugly stone building in what had been the best residence neighborhood of the city, and to a certain extent still was, though the tide was already setting northward and out of the city to the suburbs. The then rector of S. James', the Reverend William H. Vibbert, D.D., had been in Chicago some years when I became his curate. I have already mentioned him as my rector in Middle Haddam when I was a small boy. At leaving Berkeley he had gone as rector of S. Luke's, Germantown (Philadelphia) and after a long rectorship there had become rector of S. James'. I valued my association with him very much. He was a High Churchman of the rather limited type then prevalent. His theology was not much different from that which I had been offered (and had declined) at Berkeley; but he was more inclined to ceremonial than was popular in Connecticut. His teaching was definite and forcible as far as it went; but it stopped short of such things as fasting communion and confession; at least I never heard them mentioned. He had some aspirations in the direction of ceremonial, but was held in check by the conservatism of the parish which did not permit him to go as far as he would have liked. His most extreme innovation was linen Mass vestments. I cannot imagine how he had managed that much. He put some candles on the altar at Vespers one afternoon in my time, but at once took them off because of protests of the vestry. He was strong on boy choirs. For some reason altogether undiscoverable by me, at that period boy choirs were considered an expression of extreme Romanism. When I was in Berkeley Bishop Williams was just beginning unwillingly to give way to their introduction into the diocese. Dr. Vibbert had introduced such a choir in Germantown with some difficulty. He had to introduce them without vestments. It was the era when small boys wore very brilliant striped stockings, and Dr. Vibbert said that following his choir up the aisle made him feel like the captain of a baseball club. However, he got them vested after a while, and when he came to Chicago began the fight there on the same ground. In Chicago at that time the Church of the Ascension was the outstanding "ritualistic" parish, as it is still; and to be "like the Ascension" was to be utterly condemned in the eyes of all loyal Protestant Episcopalians. However Dr. Vibbert got his boy choir, and what was still worse got a processional cross to lead it. During the service this cross was set in some sockets on the chancel rail. A prominent lady in the parish on whom I was one day calling, told me that she had been very much vexed by the introduction of the cross. But on a Sunday shortly after its appearance she was making her communion when the cross fell down upon her. She regarded this as a mark of divine displeasure and withdrew her opposition. So miracles do happen in the Protestant Episcopal Church!
I stayed with the Vibberts at the rectory for a while; in fact, I was there all the summer while they were away on vacation. As I was only a deacon there had to be priests brought in to celebrate the sacraments and to preach. I had therefore a very quiet time as there was no work to do and I knew almost no one in Chicago. My brother George was then living there in the employment of my Uncle Samuel who had a house-decorating business. George had married some years before a widow with one child, and I visited them more or less that year. I made also a few acquaintances at the church.
Dr. Vibbert was a delightful man to work with. I was very fond of him and we got on splendidly. His wife was a most unusual woman; she was strikingly plain in personal appearance, but her manner was so attractive that you forgot all about her looks. She always had a group of young men about her at the rectory. I have never known anyone who so invariably knew just the right thing to say to whoever appeared, and who could so easily get out of any social difficulty. She was a great help to the Doctor, who was not at all noted for tact, his bluntness constantly got him into hot water and provoked criticism.
Dr. Vibbert was a very strong preacher of a certain type. His sermons were very dogmatic and strongly moral. He always wrote his sermons and was one of the few preachers of written sermons who could deliver them with force; that is, speaking from a very limited experience of written sermons. He always made strong application of his teaching, and it was this that got him into trouble. The first Lent I was with him he went off to Bermuda for several weeks just before Lent. On his return his first sermon was on the text: "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" One got the impression that the members of the congregation had never done the least stroke of work for the Christian religion in all their lives and were now being told just what sort of loafers they were. They were immensely disgusted. "The idea," they said, "of talking to us like that. Here we have been doing all the church work this winter while he was off in Bermuda, and to get talked to in that way!" There did seem to be something to be said on their side.
On one Sunday before the beginning of Lent he announced: "Ash Wednesday is a fasting day. That means that you are to eat nothing. If you do, I hope it will choke you." He sometimes greatly shocked sentimental people. He was a very good catechiser and loved to catechise the children who were assembled once a month at evensong for that purpose. I remember his lesson on the Crucifixion. "Who," he asked, "was Pontius Pilate?" He Went on for quite a while about Pilate. Then: "Where is Pilate now?" No one ventured to say. "In hell--frizzling," he declared with great emphasis, to the horror of many good ladies. In my time I do not think he very often wrote a new sermon. That is one advantage of written sermons that you can accumulate a stock and then rest. One Sunday he preached a sermon on Moses. There was something in it about the burial of Moses which had struck my imagination when I had heard it as a small boy nearly twenty years before. After service I said, "I have heard that sermon before." "Well, don't give me away," said the Doctor.
As I look back now I realise that the parish was not at all well organised even for that day. There was a group of women who looked after the charities of the parish. There was a guild of young women over whom Mrs. Vibbert presided and who were supposed to do sewing of some sort. And there was the Brotherhood of S. Andrew. There were no organisations for boys or girls though we had a large Sunday School. The boys wanted a club and I suggested that they go to the Doctor, which one of them did and got thoroughly sat on for presuming to suggest such a thing!
The Brotherhood of S. Andrew originated in S. James' parish shortly before I came there. The founder, Mr. James Hoteling, was a very devout and earnest layman of the Evangelical type. Associated with him in the work was Dr. Gardiner. I knew them both fairly well, as I attended the monthly meetings of the Brotherhood regularly. They were both wrapped up in the work and gave much time to it. It centered in a Bible class that they conducted in the guild room of the church on Sunday afternoon. As far as I could observe it did little to advance the work of the church. The members of the Bible class were either members of S. James' already and attending to their religious duties or they were strangers who theoretically were being brought to the Church. But the members of the Bible class pretty generally went off at its close and did not come to the church service. I think in the two years I was there we got no candidate for confirmation from the class. I imagine there was no positive religious position taught there. The tendency was toward religious vagueness as being the best way to attract. The first national convention of the Brotherhood was held in Chicago at that time and was very interesting. I remember being particularly impressed by an address by Fr. Osborn, S.S.J.E. who was later Bishop of Springfield. There was an attempt in the convention to define the Kingdom of God that they were pledged to support and extend as the Church, but this they would by no means have. I have always thought that the basis of the Brotherhood was too narrow, and that while they stuck to it in words, it was unworkable in fact. It has been a mistake, too, I have felt in my later contact with it to have so largely abandoned the Bible class as the center of action and propaganda.
My diaconate was shortened and my ordination to the priesthood hastened by Dr. Vibbert's desire to be away from the parish for a month in the winter. I had passed my canonical examinations at the close of my course at Berkeley, but the canons required that I should be examined by the bishop who ordained me; I was therefore summoned to appear before Bishop McLaren for examination. I went to the episcopal residence one evening and sat with the Bishop in his library. He asked me some question about the Eucharist, but before I had time to answer, the door bell rang and a visitor was shown in who was, it appeared, more important than myself. "I think that will be sufficient," the Bishop said, and dismissed me rejoicing that the visitor had so opportunely come.
I was ordained priest by Bishop McLaren on the Feast of the Purification, 1887. Again the sermon seems to have made no impression on me, as I can neither remember who preached or what it was about. There were ordained at the same time Dr. DeWitt, now the dean of the Western Theological Seminary, and the Reverend Thomas Green, who had just come into the Church from the Presbyterians; I remember him particularly because as the procession was leaving the chancel after the ordination some friend of Green's stepped forward and presented him with a basket of flowers which he bore out with him. He has since deserted the Church for the lecture platform. I remember him for another reason. Some years later a parish in Iowa fell vacant and friends of mine nominated me for the rectorship. A committee was sent on "to hear me." They got into Chicago on Saturday and went to a horse race and consequently missed the train to Batavia, and instead of "hearing" me they went to "hear" Mr. Green and called him!
Immediately after my ordination Dr. Vibbert departed, leaving me in charge of a large city parish. I think it was the first Sunday that I had to take the late Mass and preach. As I had never preached or said Mass this was a good deal of an undertaking, especially as a late Mass at S. James' in the winter might well run to two hundred communions. I had had no instruction as to how to say Mass and had only once or twice seen one said properly so I had to feel my way along. However, I managed the preaching and the Mass somehow. But I was glad when Dr. Vibbert got back.
The regular services at S. James' were Mass early on Sundays and late on the first Sunday of the month and on greater holy days. There was a nine o'clock Mass on saints' days. There was evening prayer on Sunday afternoon and on certain other days. There was a children's service on Sunday at nine and Sunday School in the afternoon before Vespers. I have always been profoundly thankful for the children's service. There was always a sermon to children and it fell to me most of the time to take it. I learned to preach at that service. There were a good number of children and also of adults. One had to hold the attention of this congregation, who were not any too anxious to attend. One had therefore to speak extempore and with a good deal of vigor. It was splendid training and the two years I had of it helped me immensely. Talking to children is the best training in preaching that one can have. If one can preach effectively to children one need not fear any adult congregation.
My ordinary duties were for the most part calling on the poorer members of the congregation. It really is wicked to throw men into parish work without giving them any training or instruction for it. I had only been in Chicago a few days when Dr. Vibbert told me to go to a certain address and see a sick woman. I had never, of course, made a sick call. When I arrived I found a woman dying in great agony with cancer. I did the best I could, but it was very awkward and I ought to have been prepared. Dr. Vibbert assumed that I knew all about parish work; at least he never gave me any instruction. The routine was that I went to the rectory in the morning and reported what I had done the day before and took orders for the ensuing day. There was never much but calling. The Doctor never criticised; I once ventured to ask him about my work, if it was satisfactory, and gathered that I was very acceptable with him as I did not devote my time either to tennis or to the fair sex. I never had any trouble with him with one exception which was rather amusing. One morning he told me to go and administer the communion to old Mr. Smith. This meant a bedside celebration, which again was new to me. However, I went and found Mr. Smith alone in a wretched tenement and in bed. Whoever had the care of him was, I fancy, off at work at that time of the day. The next morning I reported. The Doctor asked who was there at the celebration. Rather perplexed, I answered, "Mr. Smith and myself." "Did you have no one else?" "No." "But the rubric requires others to be present." I imagine I signified that I was not interested in the rubric, for I was told very sharply that while I was in that parish I was to observe the rubrics. I said, "Very well, sir." The next month Dr. Vibbert said one morning, "You had better go tomorrow and administer the communion to Mr. Smith." "Yes, sir. Who is to go with me?" The Doctor did not seem to know and I showed no sign of making a suggestion. He said nothing for a while, and at last I asked, "Have you ever read that rubric?" Yes, of course he had. I suggested that I thought he must have forgotten as the rubric did not make the priest responsible for the presence of communicants, but the sick person. The Doctor was glad apparently of this way out and let it go at that. I had no intention of asking anyone to receive the communion as an act of good nature. Bishop Williams had not encouraged us to be too stiff in the matter of rubrics. In one of his lectures on the Prayer Book he told of the sad case of a priest who died of a rubric that lodged in one of his smaller intestines!
My work aside from the endless and purposeless calls lay mostly with children, and as there were no guilds, that meant with boys. I soon gathered about me a group of boys in whom I took great interest and who afforded me great pleasure. I gained my first contact with them through the choir. S. James' had a very wonderful choir. The choir-master, Mr. Smedley, was a genius. He was devoted to his boys and got the most astonishing results from them. I have never heard a choir that I have thought their equal. Mr. Smedley went to England and brought back with him a marvellous boy soprano--I think he got him from the Brompton Oratory. He had also developed a boy alto of wonderful quality. If only we had had some of the great Masses it would have been a delight; as it was, their ability was centered on Te Deums and anthems. Mr. Smedley and I became great friends and I was always welcome in the choir room and at rehearsals--in this he differed greatly from other choir-masters I have known.
The choir had a great opportunity to show its ability the fall of 1886, as the General Convention was held that year in Chicago. For some reason that was never clear to me and was not justified by any experience I ever had of the diocese, Chicago had got the reputation of being a great High Church center. I think it was a little before this that a bishop had referred to the Middle West as containing a "troublesome belt of dioceses." But what ever the reason, after the appointment of Chicago as the meeting-place of the next General Convention, certain Eastern bishops began to get nervous as to what might happen in such an environment. A request was made to the Presiding Bishop, who must have been Bishop Williams, to change the place of meeting. My impression is that the request came from the Bishop of Western New York, Dr. Coxe. In any case Bishop Coxe and Bishop Doane would have been behind it. In addition to the fear of a High Church environment there would have been the fear of venturing so far into the unknown as Chicago. The Easterner then (as now) is quite clear that anything that can be called civilization ends at the Western border of New York State. It was reported at the time on good authority that one Eastern Bishop arrived at the leading hotel in Chicago for the General Convention provided with a store of food and a case of wine.
However, the opposition to Chicago did not develop in sufficient strength to permit of the place of meeting being changed. The opening service was held in S. James' and was delightful from the musical point of view. And for the next three weeks we had distinguished prelates to preach for us. I did not see much of the Convention, having already developed an anti-Convention complex which I have never managed to overcome. But there was a good deal of interest going on, most of which I have forgotten. It was at this convention that the famous Quadilateral was introduced, which has been very much in the foreground in discussions on Church Unity ever since. As it was adopted later by a Lambeth Conference it has come back known as the Lambeth Quadilateral.
But to go back to my boys. I soon succeeded in gathering about me a group of boys some of whom were destined to play a considerable part in my life and to be reckoned among my lasting friends. I was in these early days of my ministry greatly interested in the development of vocations, much more than I am at present. The difficulties which beset the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church today are so great that I do not now feel like urging boys to consider the ministry. If they feel the impulse of vocation I am ready to help, but I do not care to urge it upon them. The bishop takes no responsibility for the support of the men he ordains, he has no power of appointment, and commonly little influence with the parish authorities; and one can hardly advise young men to enter the ministry when it means going about with their hats in their hands asking for a position from stupid vestrymen who have not any ideals of the life and work of a priest other than that it is primarily a spiritual work and that the qualities that are required are spiritual qualities.
However, three of the boys that I was associated with at S. James' entered the ministry, two of them under my immediate direction. I found in the choir at the church a boy with his arm in a sling; he had just broken it a few days before. Breaking his arm became a habit with him from which he had not divorced himself the last I knew. He was Edward L. Roland and he will appear from time to time in this narrative. I had no place to meet boys about the church as we had no parish house or guild rooms, so that they came to my rooms where I always made them welcome. On the whole this seeing boys separately and in my rooms made it much easier to get acquainted with them than through clubs and other such agencies. One boy brought another and I soon had quite a circle of acquaintances who formed the basis of my first confirmation class.
The old tradition of confirmation that it should be administered to children when about fourteen prevailed. That is, of course, the worst possible age; either younger or older is much preferable. But I had no choice. I was told to look up boys and prepare a class. It was taken for granted that I knew how, though no one had ever told me how. One of the wonderful things about the Protestant Episcopal Church is the way in which it is taken for granted that candidates for orders know all about religion without being taught and that they know all about parish work by virtue of their ordination. As I have never had any instruction as to the preparation of confirmation candidates, I went about it my own way. I taught them as much about practical religion as I could and got as many of them to make their confessions as I could. Of course, I could merely present the matter; but the boys of whom I had been able to make friends came willingly. I never knew whether Dr. Vibbert knew that I heard confessions. He never mentioned the matter, nor did I.
A boy whose name I forget came into my rooms one evening. In the course of the talk I asked him whom he played with and he named Harold Addison. "Bring him to Sunday School," I said. He replied that he had tried to do so, but that he would not come. "Well, bring him around here and I will talk to him," I said, and dropped the matter, not expecting anything to come of it. But a few nights after, my boy appeared bringing Addison with him. This was the beginning of a friendship which ended only with Harold's premature death.
Addison was a tall, very striking boy of thirteen when lie came to me. His father was an architect and the family were nominally Church people, but were not practicing. Harold began to come to Church at once and made his first confession and was confirmed at the first opportunity. He had one of the best minds I have ever come in contact with, and at the age of thirteen was wonderfully mature. He enjoyed discussing serious subjects and we fell into the way of long talks. I seemed to get on with my boys without having to amuse them; I never took them to shows or any sort of entertainment, nor did we play games. They were satisfied just to talk--which seems a little strange to me now that I have known so many other boys of a different type. There were many other boys that I knew very well, and I hope in some degree influenced during my two years at S. James'; but Edward and Harold were those with whom I remained in permanent relations. It is one of the regrettable things about a priest's life that he loses touch with so many at just the time when it is to be desired that he should keep up relations with them.
I had little opportunity to say Mass at S. James' as Dr. Vibbert always took the Mass if he was about and I merely assisted. I found that I could be occasionally helpful at the Church of the Ascension and said Mass there when I was needed on week days. The Ascension was, as I have said, the outstanding Catholic parish of the Middle West. I had read of it for some years before I went to Chicago. Fr. Ritchie had been rector till shortly before that. At his resignation to become rector of S. Ignatius' in succession to Dr. Ewer in New York he had been succeeded by Fr. Larabee. The Larabees were a S. James' family, Fr. Larabee's father being one of the wardens of S. James' and most of the family attending there still. I think they did till the father's death. They were a very delightful family and one of the few families that I visited while at S. James'. Fr. Larabee was a most devout and devoted priest. At the Ascension the entire Catholic faith and practice were in evidence without any sort of compromise. Naturally the Ascension was regarded with suspicion and dislike by most of the members of the Episcopal Church in Chicago. It was thought that it hindered the progress of Catholicity in the Church by its extreme practices--at least, that is what many alleged High Churchmen asserted. I do not think that that was so. I do not believe that extreme parishes hold back Catholic advance, but that rather they aid it. They enable priests who want to advance their parishes to crawl up under the shelter of their advanced brothers. The careful man can always point to the advanced man and say, I am nothing like that, I am not going anything like as far as that! That is Romanising, if you please; but that is not what I am doing. The careful man is able to bring his parish along by occupying positions that the advanced man has abandoned. Fr. Larabee went his way quietly and firmly, and in the course of years won an acknowledged position in the diocese and was sent to the General Convention; but no one would have supposed that possible when I first went to Chicago. I knew him well as he was my confessor most of the time until I left the diocese.
Though not much of a mixer, I got to know a number of the clergy quite well; though I am unable now to distinguish between those whom I met while at S. James' and those whom I came to know later; nor is it of any consequence. Probably the outstanding figure among the diocesan clergy was Dr. Clinton Lock, the rector of Grace Church. He had been in that parish many years and remained till the close of his life. He was an able man and a very amusing man. He had a great reputation as an after dinner speaker. There was an amusing story current of one of his experiences in that connection. One of the prominent clubs of the city gave an annual dinner at which Dr. Lock was always one of the speakers. On one occasion he told a story about a Jew, and the following speaker, who was a prominent Jewish rabbi, showed himself very angry and took Dr. Lock seriously to task for telling such a story. The following year at the club dinner Dr. Lock was called on to speak, and on rising he said that he spoke with great hesitation; they would all remember the trouble he had got into last year over a little Jew d'esprit!
Dr. Lock was thought not to have much tact and that useful quality was supplied by his wife. Mrs. Lock had the reputation of getting her husband out of many scrapes. It was said that on one occasion Dr. Lock looked out of the window and saw a well-known member of the parish approaching the house. "Here comes that awful old Miss X.," he said; "I am not going to see her," and thereupon he vanished from the room. Long after he was heard coming down the stairs and before he reached the parlour called out: "Has that old bore gone yet?" "Yes, dear," Mrs. Lock replied; "but here is Miss X., who Would very much like to see you."
Dr. Lock and Fr. Ritchie were good friends though their parochial administration differed in some rather marked ways. They agreed one Lent to exchange pulpits on a certain Sunday evening. "Now, Ritchie," Dr. Lock said, "I hope you won't want to wear any of those clothes you wear at the Ascension." "Of course not," said Fr. Ritchie. "I always conform to the use of the parish where I am. Now at the Ascension we have solemn Vespers and we wear a cope and biretta; I suppose you will"--"Wear anything you like, Ritchie," interrupted Lock, "wear anything you like." Compromises rarely have two sides.
I stayed at S. James' two years. After I had been there a year I thought that I ought to take some steps to relieve my mother, who had stood the burden of the day for so long. My brother had by this time taken a house in Roger's Park, a suburb of Chicago; and we agreed that mother and father should give up the East and come to live with my brother till I could get settled. It was on their account that I felt that I ought to leave S. James'. Dr. Vibbert seemed loth to have me go, but was not willing to raise my salary enough to enable me to keep house in Chicago, so there was nothing to do but leave. As I have looked forward to changes that I have made, I have almost always regretted the making of them, but have uniformly found that the change was justified by the results.