As soon as I had made up my mind that it was necessary for me to take a parish to provide a home for my parents, I went to consult Bishop McLaren. He told me that the only work he had at the time at his disposal was the parish of Calvary Church, Batavia, Illinois. The salary he said would be one thousand dollars and a rectory. My mother thought that we could live on that, so I went out to Batavia to investigate, with the result that I accepted the appointment.
Before going to Batavia I thought it would be best to take a month off and go East. My mother had already gone to prepare for the moving of such things as it seemed desirable to bring West. Unfortunately, while staying with a friend she had fallen and broken both wrists. I was not told of the seriousness of the accident and did not know of it till I met her in the East, when she was nearly well. My immediate objective in going East was Philadelphia, where I wanted to visit Webb, who was then on the staff of the Church of the Evangelists. I made a second visit to Philadelphia not long after, and the incidents of the two visits are possibly confused in my mind, but that does not make much difference in my story.
One of the outstanding figures of the High Church party at that time was the Reverend Henry Percival. He was a Philadelphian of considerable wealth, who had taken over the rectorship of the Evangelists, a run-down Low Church parish in one of the poorer quarters of Philadelphia. At the time of my visit the staff consisted of William Walter Webb, now Bishop of Milwaukee, and the Reverend William McGarvey, a protege of Dr. Percival, who later left the Episcopal Church and lately died in the Roman Communion.
Dr. Percival was a very interesting character. He was somewhat of an invalid and lived far from the parish of the Evangelists with his mother and sister. He was driven down to the church daily to say his Mass and usually preached there at High Mass on Sundays. He was very widely read, an expert theologian, and a brilliant writer. To me his limitation was that he was a little too clever to be always convincing--there is a type of argument which impresses one as being over-subtle: one would not have to be quite so subtle if the facts were clearly on one's side. However, such writing is always amusing even if in the end one lays it down unconvinced. Mr. Chesterton is the outstanding type of that class of writers today.
Dr. Percival's principle work was a volume on the General Councils contributed to the series of Nicean and post-Nicean Fathers. He also published a volume on the Invocation of Saints, and numerous pamphlets. It was, I think, a little later than my visit to Philadelphia that there arose one of those stupid controversies to which the Episcopal Church is so subject, this time on the matter of attendance at Mass. The late Mass was becoming more frequent and being stressed as the chief service of the day. One consequence of this appreciation of the place of the Mass in public worship was that people ceased to go out after the prayer for the Church and stayed on to worship. Now protests arose, not so much from the Low Church side as from the "high and dry," against what they called non-communicating attendance. No one should stay through the Mass, they contended, except such as were to make their communions. Such attendance was an abuse which should not be tolerated. It was arrant Romanism--and the usual tosh. The leaders of the "high and dry" party were Bishop Williams, Bishop Coxe, and Bishop Doane. Bishop Williams usually kept in the background in such situations, but had the reputation of setting on others to do the work. Bishop Doane was the leader in this controversy, which seems merely silly as one looks back on it. Dr. Percival really gave it its death-blow in a tract which he published, the real force of which lay in the very clever title--"Non-communicating Attendance vs. Non-communicating Non-attendance." Another tract that he published was a defence of the Thirty-nine Articles against their High Church aspersers.
This last tract recalls the fact that reason and truth have very little to do with many theological controversies--they are mere incidents of party politics. At the time Dr. Percival's tract was written High Churchmen were attacking the Thirty-nine Articles and wanted them out of the Prayer Book. They were being defended from the Low Church side, which has always valued them as presumably anti-papal. Dr. Percival deserted the High Churchmen. He had a strong Augustinian element in his theology and there were statements in the Articles he wanted to keep. Later an attack on the Articles came from the Broad Church side: then High Churchmen reversed their attitude and wanted to hold the articles. Further switchings of opinion have taken place since. In reality, of course, no one cares in the least what they do teach; they are not a Creed, but merely an out-of-date Reformation statement that may be twisted to mean almost anything--which, indeed, was what their authors intended.
I, of course, was taken to see Dr. Percival. He was a fascinating talker and I enjoyed my visit very much. I remember that we crossed swords on one point. Lux Mundi had lately been published and was creating a good deal of discussion, especially Dr. Gore's chapter in which he expounded the kenotic theory. Dr. Percival was very severe on Gore, whom I was inclined to defend. Naturally, I should have said nothing as my theology was still elementary. But the chief influence that Dr. Percival exercised upon me was to induce me to shave off my moustache, which hitherto I had cherished.
Webb lived at home with his mother and sister and I stayed with him, spending most of the time at the Evangelists. Dr. Percival, who was very sensitive to colds and drafts, had had constructed in the church an altar which was inclosed in what amounted to a glass case. This could be heated to a temperature undesired by other people, and in this he said Mass visible to anyone who wished to see him. The church building under his direction had been transformed from its Low Church barrenness to a highly decorated Catholic interior with paintings and statues. I do not recall either votive lights or holy water.
One feature of the church was a movable pulpit. This could be rolled out to the top of the central aisle at sermon time. It was a structure of light and high framework. I was told that on one occasion when Dr. Percival became quite energetic in the enunciation of Catholic truth, the pulpit got in motion and slowly progressed down the central aisle till it reached the other end of the church. Dr. Percival continued his sermon and finished in reverse position.
Another peculiarity of Dr. Percival was that he would not permit his clergy to be called Father--it was Mr. Webb and Mr. McGarvey. Father, Percival contended, was the title of a Religious and should not be applied to the secular clergy. If I remember rightly, he contended that it was an Irish custom. The Roman Catholic clergy in early days both in England and in this country were called Mister.
It was while I was in Philadelphia at this time that I became a member of the lately formed Clerical Union, commonly called the Catholic Club. Prominent members in Philadelphia were Dr. Percival, Dr. Nicholson, later Bishop of Milwaukee, the Reverend Robert Ritchie. The latter was the real editor of the Catholic Churchman, the organ of the extreme High Church party at that time, though I think that the Reverend Arthur was the nominal editor. I was invited by the Catholic Club to write a paper on Eternal Punishment, which was later published in the Catholic Champion. It was my first appearance in print. I worked very hard on that paper, reading many books. The popular book of the anti-hell party at that time was Farrar's Eternal Hope. I have never read the paper since it was published, nor, I fancy, has anyone else. I got considerable praise at the time Later, when Dr. Percival published a volume of selections from the papers contributed to the Catholic Club mine was not included. I imagine that it was not Augustinian enough to please Dr. Percival.
From Philadelphia I went to Stamford to visit my mother, who was staying with her sister there, and from there on to Middletown to visit Maurice Cowl, who was then curate under Dr. Lewis Parks at Holy Trinity. I do not remember anything of that visit except that Dr. Parks was away and Dr. Gardiner in charge of the parish. Dr. Gardiner I have already mentioned as the Broad Church professor of New Testament at Berkeley--I fancy he would not seem very broad at present. He asked me to preach at Holy Trinity on Sunday morning and amused me afterward by saying that if I would preach that sort of sermon he did not care what sort of stole I wore. I imagine I have always preached the same sort of sermon and have worn many varieties of stoles, till I abandoned the "preaching stole" altogether.
After these visits I returned to Chicago and packed up and then departed to take charge of Calvary, Batavia. My father and mother were to join me in the fall. I took with me from Chicago Edward Roland, a boy of fifteen whom I was undertaking to educate and prepare for the ministry.
Although Bishop McLaren had told me that there was to be a rectory in Batavia, I found that there was none and was obliged to rent part of a house. Soon after I was settled I received a call to a parish in Watertown, New York. I had met people from there in Chicago, and knew that my name was mentioned for the parish, but the vestry were so long in making up their minds that I had in the meantime got settled in Batavia and had no desire to pull up and go to a strange world. But I laid the matter before the authorities in Batavia and pointed out that I had been promised a rectory, with the result that Mr. Van Nortwick added the rent of the rectory to my salary pending the purchase of a house. This was made soon after, and I settled there for the remainder of my stay.
Batavia was at that time a city of less than four thousand inhabitants. It is situated in the Fox River valley about forty miles west of Chicago. The Fox River, a small stream, but valuable as a source of water power, runs through the center of the city. It is a manufacturing city. One of the principle manufactures of that time was that of windmills. These were still widely used on the prairie farms; since then I think they have largely been disused in favor of gas engines. But lately I noticed that a distinguished scientist predicts that the power of the future will be furnished by windmills, science having discovered a method of storing wind power. He gives a horrible picture of the country covered with a mass of windmills. That certainly will be worse than the present oil stations. Thank God, it will not be in my time.
My predecessor at Calvary Church was the Reverend W. W. Steel. During the vacancy of the rectorship the parish was supplied by Father Lauderback (I think the name was). He had, many years before, begun the church work in Batavia. Fr. Lauderback told me that he had been ordained by Bishop Philander Chase, who had been practically bishop of the Middle West. After his ordination Bishop Chase had told him to go up into the Fox River valley and find some work. As Bishop Chase died in 1852, this must have been some time before that. The mission in Batavia was for many years without a church building and met in a room over a store.
One of the principle citizens of Batavia was Mr. Van Nortwick. He, I understood, had come from New York State and had been the engineer who surveyed the C. B. & Q. Railroad. That road runs through Aurora a few miles south of Batavia. Mr. Van Nortwick was a wealthy man, who, at the time I knew him, was interested in paper mills and the manufacture of agricultural instruments. Most of his factories were at that time in Wisconsin. He had lately removed his paper mill from Batavia, Mr. Van Nortwick had been brought up without religion. He had two sons and a daughter. The oldest son married a Chicago girl, a member of the Episcopal Church. She connected herself with the mission of the Church in Batavia, and Mr. Van Nortwick's daughter and the wife of the younger son followed. The sons remained out of religion till the end.
I was told that one day Mr. Van Nortwick, who was a man of very few words, a very silent and strong-willed man, announced that he would build a church. He got a local architect and made plans. As neither he nor the architect knew anything about the needs of an Episcopal church building and as they were not open to suggestions, it was with difficulty that anything like a chancel was included in the plan. In the end, however, a small chancel was set off with a sacristy on one side. No provision was made for an organ as that was not included in Mr. Van Nortwick's plan. Later, Mrs. Van Nortwick, Senior, concluded that she would give an organ; but the only place available was a small space on the north side of the chancel. An organ was tucked in there with the result that when anything had to be done to it it had to be taken all to pieces.
The church itself is a very satisfactory small village church of granite. After it was built Mr. Van Nortwick announced that he was going to join the Episcopal Church, so he and his wife were baptised and confirmed. I think that there had at one time been a vestry and a parochial organisation, but at the time I took charge the vestry had vanished with the exception of Mr. Van Nortwick, and the parish had lapsed to the status of a mission, the appointment of the priest being in the hands of the bishop. I was really priest-in-charge and not rector till after Mr. Van Nortwick died. The finances were delightfully simple. Mr. Van Nortwick appeared at church every Sunday morning and took up the collection; after service he came and got the collection and put it in his pocket. When any bills came due he paid them. I always got my salary check the first of the month. I believe that Mr. Van Nortwick collected a little from other members of the parish, but I never knew anything about it. His son used to say that his father put the same silver dollar in the collection every Sunday morning and then took it out to serve for the next Sunday.
The parish was small, if I remember rightly about forty communicants. The parish work therefore was not very strenuous. When I was in the Seminary I acted as lay-reader in a mission not far from Middletown. I had to drive there Sunday morning and back in the afternoon. I have never had any love for animals and detested having anything to do with a horse and solemnly vowed that after I was ordained the one thing I would not do was to take a mission to which I should have to drive. That, of course, was a fatal resolution and resulted in my being properly disciplined. About two miles from Batavia is the city of Geneva, which at that time possessed a good stone church and a very small congregation. I think that my predecessor served it; in any case I had it wished on me. This meant that I had to drive to Geneva every Sunday afternoon and say Evening Prayer and preach. It made rather a strenuous day and I have often wondered how it would have affected some of my curates of a later time, who seemed to have used all their available energy for that day when they had said one Mass.
Sunday meant for me Mass, Sunday School, Matins or Mass with sermon, Evening Prayer and sermon at Geneva, and then Evening Prayer and sermon at Batavia. All that I did not mind; but I did mind that wretched horse. At last, driving back from Geneva one Sunday afternoon some bolt or other came out, and the shafts dropped down. That was the limit. I succeeded in getting the horse and buggy to the side of the road and fastened the horse to a fence. I then walked back to Batavia and told the livery man that if he wanted his horse he could go after it. Henceforth, so long as I remained in charge of Geneva I walked back and forth. After Roland entered the Seminary and received a license as lay-reader I turned the mission over to him.
The thirteen years I spent in Batavia were very happy years. I had a comfortable home where my father and mother could enjoy peace and quiet and be without anxiety in their old age. I liked my work. I am not one of those Easterners who can see nothing good in the Middle West--whose outlook is always to the East across the ocean. The New Yorker especially seems to think that the United States ends at the western New York State line, if not at the west bank of the Hudson. Their attitude is well symbolised by the story of the Park Avenue lady who was denouncing the vulgarity of the West. "Have you ever been West?" someone asked. Certainly," said the Park Avenue lady; "only a few days ago I was over in Eighth Avenue and I assure you it was awful."
My impression is that the geographies that were provided for us in school were so scaled as to glorify the East. They were like railroad maps that emphasize the territory that the railroad passes through. In any case I had the impression that when I arrived in Chicago I was within easy distance of the Pacific coast, at least half way there. 'I was very much surprised that I had not reached anywhere near Denver. That this impression was not wholly due to stupidity on my part is evidenced by the fact that I found it shared by others. Fr. McGarvey once made an engagement to speak in Detroit on one day and in Denver the following evening. Fr. Fay was going to spend some time in Los Angeles and wrote a friend in San Francisco that he would run up and preach for him on Sunday morning. Apparently he thought Los Angeles was just a trolley ride from San Francisco!
However, I went West without other prepossessions than those of distance. I soon came to like my Batavia people, and subsequently those of Fond du Lac. I did not find the Middle West vulgar and materialistic in contrast with the refined and idealistic East. Comparing twenty-five years in the Middle "West with twenty in New York I should say that New York was fully as materialistic and not more refined than the Middle West. In my ministry in the Middle West I was always treated with the consideration and courtesy due to my office. It remained for me to come to New York to be subjected many times to gross discourtesy and insult by people who were not inhabitants of Eighth Avenue but of quite other parts of the city. One reads a book like Middle-town, a survey of conditions in a typical Middle West city and one gets the impression of barbarism; but the atmosphere of the book and of the city are quite different. I fancy that a like survey of, say, a central New York city would give as bad an impression, in fact most of the features of the Middle West town would be found there. Is there any part of the United States where the society is not crudely materialistic? My experience of small towns in the East is not wide enough to permit me to arrive at a definite conclusion; but the impression I have gained from personal contacts and from small-town newspapers is that the Eastern community is as much dominated by materialism, as full of secret and friendly societies, as mussed up religiously as any Western town.
In each of the Western towns in which I have lived long enough to get to know the people thoroughly I found intelligent and intellectually eager groups. I had much more success in getting people together for intellectual and spiritual instruction than I had later in New York. The people were responsive in a way that I have not found in the East. There is a coldness and stiffness in the East that I did not find in the West. One experience impressed this upon me. After I had been West some years I was asked to give a retreat for women at S. Mary's School, Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was the first long retreat that I had given and naturally I was anxious as to the results. There were present something like a hundred women. I felt an immediate response, a sympathetic atmosphere. The retreat seemed to be a success. I suppose the Sisters thought so, as I was soon asked to give a similar retreat at Peekskill. Here were about the same number of women, mostly, I suppose, from New York and the neighborhood. I used the same outlines for the meditations that I had used in Kenosha. I at once felt that I was speaking in an icebox, was throwing myself up against a stone wall. I do not think that the group I was speaking to were fundamentally less appreciative, but their response was quite different. The atmosphere was deadening. Possibly they thought I was a queer animal from the prairies and began by regarding me with suspicious curiosity.
The great advantage of a small parish is that the work there can be easily and adequately handled. There need be none of the sketchiness that the work of a large parish of necessity imposes. One is able to know all one's parishioners; in a large parish this is impossible, or at least impossible for me: people make little impression on me till I have met them several times. I have no memory for faces. My star performance was when I dined with one of my parishioners and then did not recognise her the following Sunday. I have the same difficulty in regard to places; I can get lost in any small town, can go through a street many times and not recognise it. This is a sad limitation in parish work. People like to be noticed; but the power of recognition seems to be inborn. I remember being taken to the place of a colored bootblack in Chicago who was said to have the power of recognising anyone whose boots he had once blacked. It was a great asset to him, as many came to him to have their boots blacked just to test his power. At the other end of the social scale, Bishop Nicholson had that power. He would meet a man and say, "How do you do? I remember you. I confirmed you three years ago at--" wherever-it-was; and the man glowed with joy. It made Bishop Nicholson very popular. At a men's dinner at some place in his diocese a man said to him: "Bishop, do you know why we all like you so much?" The Bishop admitted he did not. Said the man: "It is because you are so damned common."
Well, that is one way of putting it. I am sorry that I have not been able to be "damned common" in that sense. But in a small parish like Batavia I could easily know everyone connected with it and a good many who were not; and I was there long enough to know them intimately. As I look back now I, of course, see them just as they were then. That is one reason that one does not care to go back to a place that one has been away from for years. Those that we see as children have grown up and have children of their own. John Doe, whom I see as a fascinating youngster of ten, is quite an unknown quantity at forty, married and the father of a family.
It takes time to gain the confidence of people and one cannot be a good pastor till one has done that. I have no use for the theory of some of the clergy that pastoral visits are a useless waste of time. They are, on the contrary, necessary; and one of the much to be regretted limitations of the work of a large parish is that the rector can only exercise his pastoral office to a limited extent. Possibly I should have done better at S. Mary's if I had dropped some other things and been more of a pastor; but it seemed that the pastoral work could be taken by others while I devoted myself to work that others could not do.
In Batavia and later in Fond du Lac I made it a rule to call on everyone at least four times a year. That kept me well in touch with all the people and, of course, the active element of the parish one saw much oftener. I was amused in the last year of my stay in Batavia when Bishop Anderson made his first episcopal visit there. Recalling, I suppose, that I was giving a good deal of time to teaching at the Western Seminary, he said, "I suppose that you do not make many pastoral calls." "I call on everyone four times a year," I replied, and he appeared much surprised. I gathered that had been quite beyond his pastoral aspirations.
The development of a small town parish is of necessity a slow work requiring a good deal of patience. If I remember rightly, the communicant list of Calvary Church when I took over the work was about forty. When I left after thirteen years it was just about double. Today, I notice that after thirty years it reports one hundred and thirty. I do not think that the city has grown very much. The difficulty of a small city work is the constant change of population. It seemed to me that when anyone removed from Batavia it was always one of my parishioners. Very rarely did a family of Church people move in. Consequently growth is from two sources: converts and the growing up of children. The latter is the chief source; but having grown up, the girls are likely to marry out of town and the boys drift away in search of work, the field of occupation being of necessity limited in the small town. One need not be discouraged if one can so train the young that they will remain faithful to the Church when they move away. But while the drift from the country and small town does tend to fill the city parish, there is a very great loss on the way. The boy or girl, plunged into the distracting novelties of the large city, and thrown into new associations most likely unreligious, tends for a time at least either to drop religious practice altogether or to seek no new or permanent ties. Of course, the same thing is true of removal from one city to another. I suppose the membership list of any large city parish is clogged with the names of people who have just disappeared. Only occasionally is there a request for a transfer. As one studies these facts, one gets an impression of the vast influence of environment on the average human being, and the small place that settled conviction plays in their lives. The perfectly regular, apparently interested member of a parish becomes just a chip floating on a stream when removed to another place and surrounded by unfamiliar persons and circumstances.
The immediate problem that faced me in Batavia was the type of service to be used. I have always believed it to be a mistake to go into a new parish and introduce into it some radical changes without waiting to study the conditions of the parish. My experience and observation is that if a priest will take things substantially as he finds them and set himself to gain the respect and confidence of the people, after he has done that he can do pretty much as he likes in the way of teaching and services. If an American congregation likes and has confidence in a priest, they are not going to worry about his teaching or ceremonial. Following that theory I have never had any serious difficulty in these matters. There will, no doubt, be occasional objectors; the average human being dislikes change from the accustomed. It is High Church superstition that it is Low Churchmen who make all the trouble in the Church. The High Churchman is just as opposed to change as the Low. I had rather more difficulty in introducing changes at the Church of S. Mary than in my experience elsewhere.
When I came to look over Calvary parish I found that the effect of my predecessor had been to induce a belief that the parish was High Church, so far as it thought of itself as anything at all in the matter of churchman-ship. There was, however, little outward manifestation of High Churchism. There was an early Mass with a late Mass once a month. There was no ceremonial, no lights, no vestments. There were no penitents: I never discovered that confession had been mentioned in teaching. Confirmation had evidently been quite late as there were no child communicants. Fasting communion had evidently not been stressed.
When I consulted Bishop McLaren as to the parish, I asked him what it would be well to do in the matter of ceremonial. He said he thought I might use linen vestments. I said nothing, but having a strong dislike for linen vestments (I had been accustomed to them at S. James'), I determined not to introduce them, but to wait till I could introduce silk. Vestments did not seem to me the most important thing to begin with, and I had as soon say Mass in a linen cotta as a linen chasuble Therefore I introduced no changes to start with, but assumed that the congregation was familiar with Catholic teaching and preached on that assumption. I called the Holy Communion service the Mass, spoke of fasting confession, and so on as things with which everyone was familiar. From the outset I dropped the use of written sermons that Dr. Vibbert had imposed on me at S. James'. I struggled with the sermon problem a good deal. For a while I carefully wrote my sermons and committed them to memory. I found that this meant walking about my room or the yard a good part of the week, repeating my proposed discourse till I was thoroughly bored with it. I then began to write out a brief outline with which I familiarised myself, and which I took to the desk with me. (Calvary Church did not boast of a pulpit.) I took the Sunday School myself, wrote and had printed my own catechisms; but the Sunday School work stressed most the address to the children with which I closed the hour.
I preached from the beginning clear Catholic doctrine and met with no opposition. I was in no hurry to undertake ceremonial developments. After I felt thoroughly at home with the people and felt that they trusted me, I introduced first two eucharistic lights and then the six lights and colored vestments. I have always used the eight lights at late Mass, considering that the two eucharistic lights ought to be used, whatever else was used. This has caused some criticism from those who insist on the modern Roman use. I consulted Dr. McGarvey, who was considered the leading liturgiologist in the Church, as to my custom. He told me that it was quite all right. He further said that the eight lights was the use of the diocese of Rouen and that the American continent was once under the jurisdiction of that diocese. I do not know how true that is, but I have always used it as a justification of my use. I never got as far as a late Mass every Sunday. Perhaps it was sloth more than anything else that prevented. An early Mass, Sunday School and address, late service and sermon, evening prayer and sermon, not to mention for some years an afternoon service and sermon in Geneva, was something of a strain.
Then it seemed to be necessary to do something about the music. There was a small mixed choir that was not satisfactory. As I look back, I think I did the wrong thing. Mrs. Burton, Mr. Van Nortwick's daughter, died and left one thousand dollars for the choir, and I determined to start a boy choir. There was, of course, not much material. Edward Roland had been well trained in the choir at S. James' and had competent ability to carry on a choir, but he was rather young. I had him take vocal lessons in Chicago and put him in charge of organising a choir. It worked rather well for a time, but after a while Roland was gone and the boys were rather a nuisance, so I suppressed it; but after a little, if I remember, I revived it again.
I am now convinced that the best musical method for a small parish is to have no choir at all: congregational singing with a single leader, I think, is the ideal. That would give what to me is very satisfactory, a Mass with hymns. If desired the congregation could easily learn a few easy Masses. That plan was successfully worked out by Fr. Weedon at S. Agnes', Washington, and I suppose has been in many other places. A boy choir is a nuisance unless you have plenty of money to carry it on; and if you have plenty of money you can have a choir much more satisfactory from a musical point of view than a boy choir. The one advantage of a boy choir is that it recruits boys and brings the rector into contact with them if he wishes it; but the same thing can be accomplished through clubs and acolytes' guilds and with very much less trouble.
I had found at S. James' that the best school of preaching was the children's service. At Batavia where I had a free hand to work out my theories I worked for a Sunday School method which should combine the two aims, instruction and life. Instruction which is not made of immediate application is apt to be quite useless. Theory must result in conduct and be realised in character. The object of the Sunday School as I saw it was to impart clear and definite teaching, and at the same time show what that teaching meant in terms of life.
I studied the Dupanloup catechetical method. It seemed to me unadjusted to a small Sunday School made up of children of all ages. At the same time I found it very suggestive and therefrom worked out a method that I used in Batavia and later in Fond du Lac with, I think, a good deal of success. Later in New York I had to turn the Sunday School over to others and leave them to work out their own methods. As they were continually trying new ones, I imagine that they never reached satisfactory results.
I started from the assumption that in a small parish the rector should be the head of the Sunday School and not turn it over to a lay superintendent. I took, therefore, the direction of the Sunday School and taught the older boys. In Fond du Lac I combined the older boys and girls in one class. I wrote my own Sunday School lessons. They invariably consisted of six questions and answers for each Sunday: these for all children except the infant class. It seemed to me fundamentally necessary that all should have the same lesson. Then I held a teachers' meeting one night of the week at which I taught the teachers the lesson. I was careful to give them enough material to enable them to apply the teaching to the varying intellectual development of the classes to which they were assigned. The business of the teacher was to see that the pupils knew the six questions and answers and their meaning. I may remark parenthetically that these teachers' meetings were usually held after Vespers on Friday evenings and all who attended were invited to stay. Anyone could ask questions. This gave a splendid opportunity for discussion of all sorts of questions. The teachers were allowed half an hour in which to instruct their classes; then all the school (again excepting the infant class) were called together and I, after perhaps five minutes of rapid catechising to ensure that the classes had been taught, took up a central point of the lesson and applied it to life in a fifteen-minute sermon. This sermon was what all the rest led up to and was the vital moment of the Sunday School; upon its success all else hung. The system, it is easy to see, is of immense value to teacher and preacher. It also avoids the danger of most modern systems in making the Sunday School like the day school, a merely intellectual exercise, and aims at the conversion of the child.
For use in the Sunday School I wrote an elaborate catechism on the Church Catechism, which is a wonderful piece of condensed theology and therefore bears the sort of expansion I gave it. My course covered two years' work. In connection with these, as with other lessons, I worked out a careful set of sermons to go with each. It is really much more difficult to preach to children effectively than to adults, and such sermons take more time in preparation. I also wrote a catechism on morals which proved very interesting both to do and to teach. The average adult, not to say the average child, is about as ignorant of Christian morals as of those of a Bantu tribe. He (or she) is accustomed to a certain set of ideas supplied by the customs of his (or her) social set. In consequence, the class discussions on Christian morals were very amusing. Later I produced for a friend a series of lessons on the early books of the Old Testament in answer to the assertion that had been made that one could not teach the Old Testament to children. These were, I think, used with some success, but I never had an opportunity of using them myself. If I had ever had time to write out the series of sermons on the catechism and on morals, I should have published the whole material--questions and answers, teachers' lessons and sermons. But my files contain more unwritten books by myself than written ones.
The limited size of Calvary parish and consequently the relatively small time required by parish work enabled me to extend the field of my operations. Of my work at the Western Theological Seminary I shall speak in the next chapter. Here I want to add a few words as to my other intellectual interests. And I would say by way of preface that nothing human is alien from the life and work of a parish priest. Of necessity his life is of the most varied interests of any professional life if he is adequately to fulfil his vocation. He does not need to be, he cannot very well be, a specialist in any one field, though some one field may be his major interest. He must cover the widest possible range of intellectual and social interests: he can hardly expect to be an effective preacher otherwise. The man who knows little or nothing of the life of his time as reflected in its social and literary, as well as in its religious movements, can hardly make a very broad appeal to an intellectual congregation, cannot become a spiritual leader: for people must be led in the America of the twentieth century and not in the time of the Primitive Church or of the Reformation or even of the Oxford Movement, The ecclesiastical problems we have to face are not the problems of the divisions of the sixteenth century, but the problems of the present day. They cannot be solved on the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles. Neither will a priest learn adequately the life of his time by joining a country club or the Masons. No doubt we need to know history, but history resulting in the present. It is true, as someone once said, that the man who does not look back to his ancestors will not look forward to his descendants; but neither look must be exclusive. I think it was Dr. Webb who once addressed a clerical meeting and, I fancy, dwelt on primitive antiquity and that sort of thing. The speaker who followed him said that Dr. Webb reminded him of a passenger on a boat who stood at the stern and looked back at the place he had left; he, the speaker, preferred to stand in the bow and look forward to the place he was coming to. But to go anywhere effectively one needs to know why one is going and that depends on our knowledge of the past.
But to return to my studies during the Batavia period, leaving out for the present my seminary work. I set ray-self to a systematic study of English and American fiction of the nineteenth century. I had a vague notion that I might do some writing on the subject, but that was not my primary impulse. I believed and believe that contemporary fiction is the best key to the contemporary mind, not of the professorial mind but of the mind of the man in the street. The new theories that are continually being propounded may die, or they may survive. If they survive they ultimately trickle down into the common mind and are there reflected as what "everybody thinks or believes." It is this popular mind that the priest needs to know and has to deal with. And it is this mind that popular fiction reflects better than anything else. If one wants to know what impression modern psychological theories are making, read the modern novel. If you want to know what is meant by the freedom of the "Younger Generation," read the modern novel.
So I read the modern novel and its immediate predecessors that I might see what it grew out of. My method was to buy the complete works of some author and read them through in chronological order in order to get a total impression of the author's mind. Having done that, I wrote an essay on the author's works to clear my own mind and to be sure of my judgment. I had no intention of publishing these essays and have never attempted to do so, but I have found them of use in entertaining groups of people and have from time to time raised money for charitable purposes by means of them. In the end I went through most of the important novelists and essayists of the nineteenth century. I left the eighteenth century writers to be taken up later and collected their works to that end, but the time never came to read them and eventually I gave them away unread.
During the later years of my pastorship at Batavia I was teaching history in the Western Seminary. It seemed to me--it still seems to me--that there was need of an extended history of the Episcopal Church. I determined to undertake it. I collected several hundred volumes with that end in view and read endlessly in American history to get the background and in the lives of many bishops to get the atmosphere. But nothing came of it. I never got so far as to begin composition. The field is still open. The two or three outlines that we have are just outlines. There is still need of a thorough work founded on original study of American conditions and original documents. I studied the subject enough to see that a work of profound human interest and vivid color is possible.
As I look back and try to sum up my impressions of my Batavia years, I think of them as years of quiet happiness and interesting work. My home life was all that I could wish. My father and mother were happy in this period of rest and made congenial friends. My mother always did that wherever she was. Roland brought the necessary touch of youth into the house, and my association with boys in the parish and with young men in the Seminary gave the sort of companionship that I loved. With my constantly varied studies my intellectual life was very full and I loved the parish work of teaching and preaching. Although the congregation was small, averaging, I should say, about forty, I am proud to think that I was never tempted to let down the standard of preaching. I always prepared thoroughly and preached the best I could, and I am glad to have abundant testimony that I reached the hearts and minds of my people.
The opportunities of parish extension in a small town are limited, as I have already explained. Most people in a community of that sort are attached, at least nominally, to a society of some sort, either through personal membership or through the membership of other members of their families. It is difficult for one in such a community where one knows and is known by everyone to make any sort of change--most difficult of all to make a religious change. The growth of the parish, such as it was, was hardly at all from conversion. Perhaps one reason is that I am not a zealous propagandist. I have never found it possible to go about drumming up a confirmation class. I could never spend much time arguing with people that they ought to enter the Episcopal Church, or that, being attendants, they ought to be confirmed. It seemed to me that unless a man or woman wanted instruction and the sacraments, felt the need of them, there was nothing gained for the Church by bringing them in under pressure, as it were. I am afraid that confirmation classes have never interested me to the same extent that they seem to interest bishops; and not standing in great awe of bishops I have never hesitated, when I received notice of an impending visitation, to write to a bishop and say to him that I should be delighted to see him but that I had no class to present that year. In that case the bishop has never shown any eager desire to see me and has not made the proposed visitation.
I left Batavia with happy memories. The children I loved have grown up. Most of my old friends are dead. But I still have, after thirty years, a few friends there and from them the post occasionally brings me welcome letters.