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William McGarvey and the Open Pulpit
An Intimate History of a Celibate Movement in the Episcopal Church,
and of Its Collapse, 1870-1908.

By Edward Hawks
Priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1935.

Chapter 7. St. Saviour's House

THE OPPORTUNITY to visit McGarvey in Philadelphia came sooner than was expected. The Church Students Missionary Association held an annual meeting of delegates from all the Episcopalian colleges and seminaries. In 1904 the conference was to assemble at the old Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria. Dr. Webb was most anxious that Nashotah should be represented at the gathering. There were several reasons for this. It was commonly, and indeed unfairly, said that Anglo-Catholics were doing nothing in the foreign field. It was only right that we should boast that the bishop of Tokio, John McKim, who had married the daughter of Dr. Cole, a former president of Nashotah House, was one of our most distinguished graduates. Moreover, a number of our students had volunteered for service abroad. Dr. Webb also wished to prove that he was not afraid to send a representative from the most "Catholic" seminary to one which was certainly the most Protestant. Our absence might be interpreted as being due to prejudice, if not bigotry. He arranged that I should be the delegate, a sign that my place in his regards was already well-established. It was my first visit to the East and I looked forward to it with great pleasure. At Alexandria the Low Church surroundings reminded me of my early Evangelical training, for it was not until the age of seventeen that I encountered the attractions of Anglo-Catholicism. The clergymen of Virginia are recruited from the best known families of the Dominion. It is hardly necessary to say that one was received with a welcome that left nothing to be desired. I did not fail, however, to notice the surprise that greeted my appearance. No one seemed to have thought it possible that Nashotah would wish to have anything to do with Low Church Alexandria. There was also, a surprise awaiting myself. Strange as it may seem, a flourishing High Church group existed amongst the student body. The young men who were receiving the arriving guests took me at once to a large room in which this group was gathered. A crucifix was defiantly hanging on the wall. I was hailed as an adept, and was told of the sufferings of the faithful, who were being forced by a hard-hearted faculty to walk to Washington (the cars did not run on Sundays) three times a month to assist at "mass". Virginia did not approve of weekly Eucharist.

The conference was attended by delegate students from all parts of the United States and Canada. They represented every type of Anglicanism. The seminary was forced to permit daily celebration of the Lord's Supper which was in accordance with the rules of the conference. The clearest recollections of my visit are connected with this daily celebration. The contrast between the local method of observance and that to which I had become accustomed was disturbing. There seemed to be no fixed ceremonies. The two clergymen who officiated each morning appeared to act according to the inclination of the moment. They knelt at each end of the table, which was covered with a white table-cloth, with their elbows resting on it. They read the prayers and lessons across it without any order. On it were a flagon of wine, two large cups and a pile of baker's bread cut in cubes. No attention was paid to any of the rubrics of the Prayer-Book, and one was continually wondering what would be done next; indeed the officiants seemed to be unaware of this themselves. At the reception of the Communion, the High churchmen genuflected ostentatiously and signed themselves with the cross. The evident sincerity of the worshipers atoned for the baldness of the rite. I recall a remark of a delegate from New York: "I prefer to hear mass in the normal way." Among the speakers at the conference were many distinguished men: Bishop Root, who was soon to become famous at the Shanghai Conference: Bishop Brent, who was later to preside at the Lausanne Conference on Faith and Order: our own Bishop McKim: and Bishop Gibson of Virginia.

I returned to Nashotah by way of Baltimore and Philadelphia. At the latter city I was able to accept the invitation of William McGarvey to stay with him at the rectory of St. Elizabeth's Church, i. e. St. Saviour's House. I arrived on a Friday. Following the careful instructions given me by Dr. Webb I boarded the right street-car, not forgetting to purchase an exchange ticket, which was then good for another ride. Although it was in the month of December, and there was snow on the ground, the car was an open one, and so crowded that people were hanging to it in peril of their lives. Some one kindly pushed me off at the proper corner, after what seemed an interminable journey through squares of squat and dreary houses. At last I found myself at a destination that had long been the object of desire.

The brethren were at supper. They were seated on wooden stools without backs, before a plain uncovered table. Mr. Hayward, arrayed in a white apron, was serving, another companion was reading. There were present Messrs. McGarvey, Lobdell, Hayward, McClellan, Cooper and Young, and a few students. After recreation the Master showed me to my cell which commanded a view of the roof the church. Something was said about a bath, but it happened to be one of the days when the Philadelphia Water Works was supplying raw water, which ran from the spigot in the color and consistency of mud. It was agreed that a bath might make the bather rather blacker than before. After meditation and night prayers in the chapel under the tower, where the "Sacrament" was reserved, Mr. McGarvey led me to my bedroom, warning me to keep my window closed; the night air, he told me, was very dangerous--doubtless this was a reference to the malaria which was once prevalent in South Philadelphia. He requested that there should be no smoking, a rule that was a very real hardship.

Early in the morning the Master knocked at my door and called upon me "to bless the Lord," a request which the weary visitor misunderstood in a confused sense of strangeness. Thinking for the moment that he was back in England, he requested that it be "left outside", supposing the maid had brought the hot water. There were two hours of prayer, meditation and "mass" before breakfast, and the time seemed very long. It was the introduction to a day of hard work. The religious life was observed in all its austerities. The Canonical Hours were recited in chapel, and Vespers was sung with cope and incense.

It was decided that the single day, Saturday, that was left of my holidays should be spent in seeing the sights of Philadelphia. Mr. McGarvey put me in charge of Mr. Young and the students, and we made a complete round of the older part of the city. Although it was only the 10th of December there had been a very heavy fall of snow, and the streets bore the familiar aspect of Philadelphia in such a case. Walking was difficult, and the cars were frequently blocked. We first went up Sixteenth Street to Locust Street and alighted at St. Mark's Church. Here we met the Rev. Edgar Cowan, one of the curates, who was a member of the Companions of the Saviour. He had recently been ordained at Milwaukee and I had been present at the ceremony. We were shown over the church but did not meet the rector, who was out. St. Mark's bears a very striking likeness to an English medieval church. In those days it was not crowded in by skyscrapers; the neighboring houses being of the old-fashioned Philadelphia pattern, reminding one of Chelsea. We spent some time here looking at a huge collection of expensive copes and other vestments. The famous silver altar had not yet been put in the place it now occupies. From St. Mark's we crossed Broad Street and visited the Evangelists'. Dr. Percival had been dead a year, and the church was in its last days. The streets around it resembled those of Naples; the pavements being cluttered with the stalls of street merchants; and the characteristic sights and smells of pre-Mussolinian Italian habitation everywhere in existence. Some attempt was being made to use the clergy-house as a choir-school, but nothing was done for the neighboring people; proselytism was a matter of scorn to the Anglo-Catholics of those days.

The interior of the Church of the Evangelists was very attractive, but as un-Anglican as anything could be. It is so many years since I first saw it that my memory is not very distinct. The frescoes were particularly interesting because they were the work of amateurs, among whom was Mrs. Leeds, the sister of Dr. Webb. I was told that he also took his paintbrush in hand and supplied some of the decoration. There was a very large picture of King Charles I of England hanging in the west end of the nave. It was a copy of the Van Dyck of Windsor Castle. It had become the possession of the Evangelists' on its rejection, because of its size or lack of harmony, by the Church of St. Mary-the-Virgin, New York. It bore testimony to the latest Anglo-Catholic practice for which Dr. Percival stood as chief sponsor--the invocation of saints. It had always been a difficulty to provide post-Reformational saints for the Church of England. The cult of King Charles-the-Martyr, which had been popular, politically at least, in the days of the Restoration of the Stuarts, was revived in 1897 by those Anglicans who prided themselves on Jacobite traditions. The unfortunate King looked strangely out of place in such a neighborhood, except in so far as he stood as a symbol for lost causes; not that any of us at that time thought of anything else but victorious progress. I remember the church porch with its marble columns resting on two lumps of stone, purposely left in the rough to represent lions which had been worn away by centuries of exposure to weather and human contact.

Old St. Peter's was not far away; one of the most characteristic relics of the eighteenth century. It was here that Dr. Percival worshiped as a boy and where his body had been laid to rest. The church remains untouched without, but within, unfortunately, it bears traces of renovation and alteration which give it the strange appearance of being a meetinghouse and a church at the same time; the pulpit and reading-desk being at one end of the building and the communion-table at the other. It was built about 1760 as a chapel-of-ease to Christ Church. After the Revolution Bishop White, the first P. E. bishop of Pennsylvania, held the two cures, preaching alternatively in the two pulpits. Even in its days of humiliation--for it has been encircled by the hosts of Jerusalem and Italy, to say nothing of Africa--it holds up its head proudly. Its congregation is a silent, but a distinguished one, resting in the carefully kept graveyard. There is no spot in America so truly Georgian and reminiscent of Hogarth.

After visits to Independence Hall, Old Christ Church, Old Swedes Church and other places of interest, we finished our travels at St. Clement's Church. It was Saturday afternoon. Mr. Frederick Ward, also a Companion of the Holy Saviour--in those days there was a McGarveyite in every Anglo-Catholic Church in the city--was waiting in a real Confessional-box, the first I had ever seen in an Anglican church, for the penitents who did not seem to be corning. We chatted with him for a short time and were shown the fine points of the church. It looked very bare then, and of the meeting-house order. One could not forget that many of its clergy had "gone over to Rome," one of them, the Rev. Alvah Doran, quite recently--another Companion. In those days the conversions to Rome always struck terror in my heart. I had never forgotten the loss of Father Maturin, who was so often at our church in England. Was he happy? Why did he leave the Anglican Church after so many years of success? These thoughts passed through my mind when I first saw St. Clement's. Strangely enough there were no such dreads connected with St. Elizabeth's. This was because we all trusted William McGarvey. He was, as I have said before, our infallibile pope, the successor of Percival I.

We returned to St. Elizabeth's in time for Vespers, which was solemnly sung. Mr. Cooper officiated in cope, whilst the brethren recited the office from their stalls in the choir. This young clergyman was soon to leave for China, the first fruits of the Companions in the foreign mission field. He remained a member of the Community until its dissolution, but did not follow it into the Catholic Church. After supper I was to have a demonstration of the faith of the people. All the clergy went out to the church to hear confessions. They were kept busy for several hours. There was a great contrast between their pastoral activity and what one had seen at St. Clement's. It was, indeed, the contrast between Ritualism and the Percival school. Among the latter no one was counted a "Catholic" unless he went to confession regularly. At least eighty per cent of the whole congregation did this as naturally as they would in the Catholic Church. There was no pose of any kind. They had been accustomed to it since their First Communion. It was the normal practice of the congregation. In Philadelphia where so many people own their own houses, there is little movement from district to district. St. Elizabeth's parish was a distinct world apart from the rest of the Episcopal Church. No one thought of going to church anywhere else. When anyone was compelled by reason of work to migrate to such distant places as North or West Philadelphia, they could find no "church home." There were cases in which such people attended the Catholic Church and even approached the sacraments in the most sincere faith without any idea of doing wrong. This was to have a disturbing effect on the clergy later on when this migration became more pronounced. On the other hand there were instances of Catholics going to St. Elizabeth's quite unaware that it was an Episcopal church. The greatest care was exercised to prevent this. The clergy, when they were in doubts as to the allegiance of their penitents, would ask them to say the Creed. If they said "Creator of heaven and earth" instead of the Anglican "Maker of heaven and earth," they were directed to St. Thomas' Church in the neighborhood. There were amusing stories of confusion on the part of the penitents in these cases. McGarvey told me of a man who rushed from the church with a muttered exclamation of horror.

As may be imagined, the large clergy-house (so unusual in an Episcopal parish, and built in the form of a "religious" building) attracted the curiosity of strangers. One of them asked for information on the subject from a maid who was cleaning the windows and was told that it was "a home for grass widowers." This maid, who was, it is hardly necessary to say, of Irish birth, was herself totally unable to understand what manner of institution employed her services. She had been forbidden by Mr. McGarvey to enter the church or the apartments of the clergy; the servants having their own quarters and only a single access to the refectory. She was troubled that the housekeeper who came from the North of Ireland never "took a pair of beads in her hands." So she decided to pray for the conversion of her employers, and is confident to this day, if she lives, that she prayed them all into the Church.

During my short stay at St. Saviour's House I conceived a great desire to be associated with the Companions. I was not aware then that this would be possible, since Bishop Nicholson might not approve and there was no means of my knowing how he felt about the matter. My first duty was to him, and there is no remembrance of having any ambitions whatsoever beyond being a "priest" under his obedience. The opportunity was to come from another direction. I left Philadelphia on Sunday morning and returned to Nashotah with many happy memories.

About Christmas time the matter of joining the Companions was brought to my attention by the Rev. Charles Bowles, who came each month from Chicago as extraordinary confessor to the students. I shall have occasion to speak more of him later. It will now suffice to say that he was a member of the Companions and exercised a very great religious influence amongst us. Each month he arrived at supper-time. His appearance was greeted with a titter. The same ritual was observed on every occasion. After the recitation of the Latin grace which was sung in plain chant, Dr. Webb would utter these words: "Mr. Bowles is here; anyone who wishes to see Mr. Bowles, can see him in the sacristy after Compline." This was a very characteristic speech of the president, and exactly expressed his usual caution. What he meant to say was that Father Bowles would hear confessions in the sacristy after Compline. No one wished to see or be seen by Father Bowles. In all the time he came to us I can never recall that he entered anyone's room; or did more than give a very sweet smile to those who crossed his path. He came and went like a passing breeze. It was rumored that before supper the Companions at Nashotah, and those who lived within reach of the seminary, met this mysterious Mr. Bowles in the private oratory of Dr. Webb, and there gave an account of themselves to him, as the representative of the Master of the Congregation. Certainly other clergymen came at the same time as he did, and left either that night or the next morning. Whatever things were accomplished were not matters of public knowledge. I was soon to know all about them.

After Compline nearly every student "saw" Mr. Bowles in the sacristy. It was considered the decent thing to do. Those who did not go to confession were suspected of Protestantism. In my time I can only recall one or two men who consistently refused the privilege offered, as they were entitled to do, if, according to the rule of Anglicanism, they were satisfied with confessing their sins to God alone. It was just before Christmas, I think, after returning from Philadelphia, that "Father" Bowles come on his usual visit. After my confession he handed me a small book and asked me to read it. It was the Manual of the Companions. He told me that the Congregation would like me to apply for membership if it were agreeable to me. A correspondence followed in which it was suggested that on my ordination I should go to Chicago as curate at All Saints where Bowles was rector. This was, of course, out of my power to promise, without the permission of my bishop. It was intimated to me that there would be no difficulty since Dr. Webb was desirous that I should join the Companions, and the bishop had given up the idea of sending me to a country mission. As my ordination was still some time away, the question of the curacy was allowed to rest. After serious consideration I decided to accept the invitation to join the Companions.

I was assisted in this resolution by the advice of the Librarian, Dr. Lloyd W. Hixon, an aged layman who lived as a pensioner at the seminary. He had been totally deaf since a shell exploded near him on one of the battlefields of the Civil War. He resided in the cloister with the students, who attended to his wants, whilst he in return gave them the assistance of his medical knowledge. He was a great admirer of the Companions and especially of William McGarvey. He urged me to accept his guidance, telling me that there was no one in the Episcopal Church who had so much common sense and real piety. This was all the more strange since Dr. Hixon, though a constant attendant at all the services of the chapel, at which he wore a cassock and surplice, was not pronounced in his religious opinions, but rather belonged to the New England High Church party. It did not take long to make the final decision. Doubtless there was a mixture of motives. I was alone in what was to me still a foreign country. My mother wished me to return to England; but there was no "family living" to be filled. I had long since decided that to be an English clergyman without the opportunities that circumstances had deprived me of, was to court disdain. America must be my future home, since Canada was too Protestant. With the Companions there would be the constant fellowship of those who were congenial. Doubtless it was pleasant to be chosen by them and asked for my acceptance of their friendship. It looked like the will of God, and now there can be no doubt in my mind that it was.

There were other considerations. Mr. James Bourne, one of my associates at college in Canada, had come to Nashotah this year. He, too, had decided to serve in America. We were very close to one another and had no fears for the future.

At the end of January of 1905 William McGarvey paid Nashotah a visit. On the last day of the month I made my first promises as a Companion to him in the little private oratory of St. Francis. The service was very simple and it was followed by a celebration at which I received communion. Dr. Webb was present and another student who was also a Companion. That ceremony decided my future. It placed me definitely in the fellowship of the Philadelphia party. From that time onward there was never a single thought of ever being anything but a celibate priest.

McGarvey stayed with us for some days and from him I received great encouragement to persevere in my chosen path. Unlike Dr. Webb he sought the companionship of the students, being a most delightful conversationalist on many subjects. He had a most profound knowledge of the Bible, which he used to illustrate his talks. Many of us were worried about Higher Criticism, which was being so much discussed at that time. He explained to us that the tradition of the Catholic Church was much more authentic than the Hebrew texts which had come to us from anti-Christian rabbis. Similarly in the history of liturgical development he was able to show us the value of being in touch with the living rites of Christendom, instead of wandering into archaic researches. He was most reassuring in regard to Anglicanism. One felt that one could trust him. His visit was a very happy one for all of us.

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