Project Canterbury

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 8. Life at Nashotah

OUR LIFE at Nashotah was so completely in accordance with the ideals of the Philadelphia school of Anglo-Catholics that a more detailed description of it may assist the narrative.

In my time Nashotah resembled a Catholic seminary in many ways. It was, of course, less strict in discipline. This was to be expected, seeing that its students were under no obligation to follow the celibate life, although strongly urged to do so. Since the coming of Dr. Gardner in 1890 the early monastic ideas had been revived. The life was centred in the daily "sacrifice of the mass" which was celebrated in almost exact accordance with the Roman rite. Every student began his day by assisting at one of the celebrations which took place in the chapel, or in one of the numerous oratories which were scattered through the different buildings. There was a daily meditation directed by the professors in turn. The divine office was recited at the canonical hours, the deficiencies of the Book of Common Prayer being supplied by the Roman Breviary. Vespers was sung before supper, with incense and cope on the eves of the greater feasts. The Gregorian chant was followed faithfully; in later days the Solemnes method was the norm, the teacher having taken a course of study at the Benedictine monastery in the Isle of Wight. Compline ended the day. It was sung on note without organ accompaniment and it made a beautiful ending to our devotions. The Latin Grace from the Blessing of the Table preceded and followed our meals. It was also sung. The rules of the house were followed with remarkable fidelity. There was rarely any need to administer any reprimands. Even on the coldest nights of a Wisconsin winter the ringing of the big bell, traditionally known as "Michael," met with ready obedience, the paths leading to the chapel from the surrounding buildings being soon filled with groups of students, their lanterns flickering on the snow, and their voices hushed by that spirit of reverence which tempered all our worship. Liturgical vestments were worn, the altars were adorned with lights and flowers, and incense was used on Sundays and holidays. Before I left, the "Sacrament" was reserved for the purpose of adoration. Each scholastic year began with a formal retreat at which the most complete silence was observed. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday very few students availed themselves of the morning coffee, and many took neither food nor drink until noon was passed. The Friday abstinence was a matter of rule. The spirit of reverence and self-denial was the outcome of a deep affection for the house, which was further witnessed to by the loyalty of the alumni, who came back to the annual commencements in great numbers. On that occasion the singing of Neale's translation of the Golden Sequence in procession bore testimony to a devotion to Anglo-Catholic ideals and longings:

"For thee, O dear, dear country,
Mine eyes their vigil keep;
For very love beholding
Thy happy name, they weep.
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest."

It was a Crusaders' hymn of the New Jerusalem; of the Sion which awaited a return of Christians to Catholic unity. How the students and the alumni used to shout that triumphant march! It does one good to remember it. There was something challenging and irrepressible about it. In view of what has happened since, the memory is mixed with sadness.

After the completion of the canonical examination by the bishop's chaplains, and the closing examinations of the year, I was ordained to the Anglican diaconate on the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, 26 May, 190?. A tragic event took place during the ceremony. Bishop Nicholson, who had for a long time been in a precarious state of health, suffered a very severe heart attack before he had completed the ordination. He had been warned by his doctor before the service that this might occur, but he refused to disappoint the ordinands. With the greatest difficulty he was able to say the closing prayers, supported on both sides, and in a state of collapse. Thinking that he was about to expire, he spoke to us in the sacristy in an especially solemn manner. His words will never be forgotten. I can still repeat one sentence: "In your ministry always interest yourself in uninteresting people, not wasting your time with those who are congenial to you; this will bring you consolations that you would never suspect and a fruit to your ministry that will surpass your expectations." The bishop had followed his own advice in the closing years of his episcopate. After the death of his wife he had renounced all social intercourse and spent most of his time travelling from one small town to another, making friends everywhere with those who might be described as the dwellers on Main Street. There was not a village in southern Wisconsin that did not welcome the arrival of Dr. Nicholson, and people of all religious persuasions flocked to hear his homely discourses, and to grasp his hand at the church door.

He did not die at once, but lingered on for several months, unable to leave his room. It was said that his constant practice was to recite the rosary during that weary time of waiting. He was once on the point of entering the Catholic Church, but his youthful marriage changed the course of what we may believe was a sincerely lived life.

My summer was to have been passed in Milwaukee in temporary charge of a declining parish. It had been arranged that I should return to the seminary in the fall as an instructor in the preparatory department. After a week's residence (in one room of a clergy-house which was rented to a private family as a means of providing a very slender subsistence), the small country mission of Hartland became vacant. Hartland was only five miles from Nashotah. It was thought advisable to send me there as permanent rector, and thus increase the small stipend that Nashotah offered to its teachers. So to Hartland I went in the early days in July 1905.

Although the village of Hartland has little or nothing to do with this narrative, it is impossible to pass it by without a word. Except during the summer months I only spent two days a week there. I found board and lodging with a family which had come from the State of New York in the early days of Wisconsin.' The household consisted of three persons besides myself. Their combined ages were 255 years! The youngest was Mrs. Nourse, who was 82; her husband was 86, and her brother, Deacon Wright, was 87. I lived nearly two years with these good people before the death of Mrs. Nourse broke up our home. It was a very new environment, but a most happy one. All three were Baptists, although attending a New England Congregational church, which was the only non-Anglican place of worship in the village. Mrs. Nourse did all the work, including the washing, whilst we men either sat round the stove or on the piazza according to the weather. It was a wonderful thing to be present at our morning meal. The two aged men could despatch the flap-jacks as quickly as they were made. My portion was of much smaller size. With the deacon I stood in the permanent position of youthful preacher under examination as to his orthodoxy. It is a pleasure to remember that my religious opinions were considered to be satisfactory, except for matters concerning the Church and the Sacraments which were politely avoided. These good people represented the aristocracy of an older America, which did not shun the simple life. It was a valuable experience to have been their paying guest. From them I learned more of the early days of the Middle-West than I could ever have done from books. Their children had left for the city. They belonged to the professional class and though very worthy people it was always a regret to me that none of them had remained to farm the homesteads their fathers had created in the wilderness.

My own parishioners were few in number, though well established. Their church had grown from the missionary labors of the founder of Nashotah, Dr. Breck, who was still remembered by some of the oldest inhabitants. He was described as a tall, energetic man, whose coming on foot from Nashotah mission was welcomed by everyone, especially by the children, for his pockets were filled with trinkets and bonbons.

Hartland preserved the conservatism of earlier days, and the Episcopalian families there, though very much attached to their Church, were opposed to the Ritualistic developments of more recent years. My work there has no bearing on my narrative, so I resist further temptation to digress, although it would have been very pleasant to defend Main Street against its traducers. There was a Main Street, indeed it might be said to be the only street, which straggled round several corners.

Before Nashotah opened at the end of September, an attempt had been made to elect a coadjutor bishop. Dr. Webb was the candidate of the clergy, but he was not popular with the laity, and, after many ineffective ballots, the choice fell upon an unknown clergyman who afterward refused the honor. In November a second convention elected Dr. Webb without any serious opposition. Before he was consecrated I was ordained to the Anglican priesthood.

The supreme question for the ordinands at Nashotah was clerical marriage. Few were bold enough to permit the president to become aware of any inclinations they might have in its direction. He taught in his classes, despite the fact of his own clerical origin, that the marriage of priests was jure divino invalid. My own class was divided in opinion. For myself the matter was settled. Another question was the validity of Anglican ordinations. Since their rejection by the Pope, our "Orders" were made the subject of the most careful investigation. Of course we all believed in their integrity. It must be remembered that we faced the matter from our own standpoint. We thought our ordinations valid because we thought our Church was a branch of the Catholic Church. Amongst all the possible methods of ordaining the ministry we placed our own, whilst Rome naturally was compelled to regard it as a novelty. It is difficult to take an Olympian view of something that is a domestic matter. Rome was dissatisfied; we were satisfied. It was not seen in those days that our argument (which was supposed to be conclusive), drawn from the alleged evidence of our Catholic life, did not differ from that of other Protestants who offered their spiritual achievements as proof of their acceptable ministry. We were satisfied; yet there were unpleasant difficulties. It was not pleasant to hold an isolated position. My experience is that Anglicans begin to doubt their orders when they begin to doubt the Catholicity of their Church. Surely this is what one might expect.

Our class had been scattered. It is customary in the Episcopal Church for deacons to be given curacies. Only four were to return to Nashotah for "priestly ordination." There were two others from other dioceses; one of them was already a professor at Nashotah, the Rev. Dr. Easton, a scholarly man, who is now at the General Seminary in New York, where he occupies an important chair. It was found impossible to arrange a retreat, but I spent a few days in Milwaukee with one of my classmates (who was also to be ordained) in spiritual preparation. The ceremony took place in the chapel at Nashotah, .which I should have chosen myself. The ordaining bishop was Dr. White of Michigan City, who was later to play an important part in the Open Pulpit controversy. I had arranged for a large attendance of my parishioners from Hartland; even my Baptist friends came and watched the service with open-mouthed astonishment. I am sure that they suspected that they had been harboring what they would have called "a Jesuit in disguise."

Canon St. George, the professor of Liturgics (and History), was acting as archdeacon. The service gave him the opportunity to display his learning. He ingeniously translated the prayers of the old Roman ordo, and read them as a "bidding prayer" at the presentation of the candidates. There were other interpolations. We entered the sanctuary dressed as deacons in albs, with our stoles hanging from one shoulder, and carrying our chasubles on our arms. The sermon was preached by Dr. Francis J. Hall, a professor in the Chicago Seminary, who published the first Summa of Anglican theology since Palmer attempted to write one in Tractarian days. He drew a parallel in his address between a sacrificing priest and a self-sacrificing priest. He also told us that he had questioned the officiating bishop as to his intention, and assured us that we were to be given the power to offer sacrifice for living and dead. The bishop, a High Churchman, whose ceremonial knowledge was not so great as were his good intentions, had some difficulty with the service, as the "Archdeacon" had arranged it. The efficient masters of ceremonies came to his rescue several times. After the laying on of hands we were given the priestly stole, the chasuble, and the host and chalice. There is no mention of these in the Prayer-Book. They were ingeniously fitted into the ceremony without altering any of its words. The whole rite was very impressive; the singing of the Veni Creator and other chants in plainsong, by the students; the altar bedecked with flowers and lights; the clouds of incense; and the recitation of the words of consecration by all the ordinands, gave the service a very "Catholic" appearance. It was fully convinced that I was a priest of God. I remember saying my first "mass" with great fervor in the little oratory of St. Francis where I had made my vows as a Companion of the Holy Saviour. My dear colleague, James Bourne, acted as server and there was a small congregation of close friends. I was supremely happy and had no doubts of any kind. What was an added satisfaction was the willingness of my Hartland congregation to accept the changes that were made in the services of their little church. Without any difficulty a "late mass" was introduced every Sunday and the children were permitted to go to me for confession.

A few months after my ordination an event occurred which was to have a very important bearing on the approaching crisis at Nashotah. Dr. Webb was consecrated bishop-coadjutor of Milwaukee on St. Matthias Day, 1906. It was necessary for him to vacate his chair of Theology at Nashotah and to be absent most of the time on diocesan business. He retained his presidency of the house until the end of the scholastic year. The new professor of Theology, appointed without mature consideration, was the Rev. Sigourney Fay, a charming but incompetent teacher, of whom I shall have much more to say. He had been for a short time at Fond-du-Lac, but his family resided in Philadelphia. He was well-connected and his mother was wealthy.

Dr. Webb on assuming the practical government of the diocese began to show alarming signs of timidity. He realized that the wealthy laymen, from whom he had to look for support in maintaining the numerous diocesan institutions, were suspicious of his opinions. He did not have the tact of Bishop Nicholson, whose suavity of manner was disarming. He chose therefore to placate those who were likely to oppose him. On the day of his consecration he disappointed Dr. McGarvey and his Philadelphia friends by wearing the vesture of a Low Church bishop and by carrying in his hand the Bible of his clerical grandfather. A large photograph of him in this propitiatory guise was displayed in a prominent photographer's window. He did not resign from the Companions but he assumed a colder attitude toward them. It was quite clear that any leadership that might have been expected in regard to the Anglo-Catholic cause, was not to be forthcoming. He reserved his interest in this matter to meetings and functions that were outside his diocese, especially in England. Our hopes that were centred upon his election to the diocese of Milwaukee, of which he became ordinary on the death of Dr. Nicholson in the early autumn, were blasted. It was a great disappointment at the time and was to become a deciding factor in the events of 1907-8.

We did not realize the extent of the loss we had suffered at Nashotah by his absence, until the seminary opened under the administration of Dr. Joseph H. Barry. Dr. Webb's place was not to be filled. From the first the new president showed his complete incompetence. He failed to gain the confidence of the students; he took little or no interest in their difficulties; but his chief defect was an attitude of sarcasm, which was more assumed than real, that made his associates disinclined to discuss matters with him. Moreover, the burden of collecting money was distasteful to him. He was essentially a man of books, rather than an administrator. What was still more unfortunate for Nashotah, he fraternized with a small group of students, and to a large extent avoided the members of the staff. He was quite incapable of dealing with the troubles that were coming.

Before I close this chapter it seems the place to say a few words about the Rev. Charles Bowles. Although he took no active part in the Open Pulpit controversy, he was one of those who renounced his Anglican ministry in 1908, and he was during all his life as a Protestant minister a close associate of William McGarvey. Immediately after his graduation from the Western Seminary in Chicago, and his ordination to the Anglican diaconate, he made application to enter the C. S. S. S. In the following May, 1894, he was present as a member at the Sixth Chapter which was held at Nashotah. Later he became warden of the Western Conference which met each month at Nashotah. His regular attendance at this meeting was probably the reason for his acting as an extraordinary confessor to the students. In this capacity he exercised very great influence for good.

After a short ministry in the stockyard area of Chicago where he experienced many difficulties, he was elected rector of All Saints' Church, in the suburb of Ravenswood. He remained here until he became a Catholic. It was my happiness to assist him as a deacon at one of his patronal festivals. The number of people who went to communion was quite astonishing. He was a man of very few words and could not have been considered a very entertaining host, but of his holiness there could have been no doubt. His mother told me that she did not think that he had ever committed a sin in his whole life!


I discovered that his father, who came from Canada, had been a friend of the notorious Low Church Bishop Cheney, who created the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1870, and who was "consecrated" by Bishop Cummins who left the Episcopal Church at the same time. Strange as it may seem, both Percival and McGarvey had a strong interest in Bishop Cheney, whom they hoped to bring back to the Anglican fold. They were disposed to regard his consecration as valid despite its condemnation by the Episcopal Church.

"Father" Bowles was known at Nashotah as a man of great piety and spiritual charm, although we all stood in awe of his goodness. When I visited him, on the occasion already mentioned, he took me immediately to my room and gave me a book of meditations. I accepted the hint that he had no time to waste in conversation. The windows of the bedroom, as in all the others in the house, were glazed with wavy glass. On my expressing curiosity, supposing that the room was overlooked, he replied that there was no possible reason for anyone wanting to look out of it. In other people the form in which he expressed his piety might have caused resentment, but no one could possibly be angry with him. He had the sweetest of smiles and the kindest of thoughts for everyone. He simply found himself quite incapable of sustaining a conversation.

He had close friends who understood him. One of them was the rector of St. Joseph's P. E. Church at Pullman, the Rev. Otho Gromoll, who became a Catholic with him. Another was Hugh Benson, whom he met in the Holy Land, and with whom he was accustomed to spend prolonged visits in England. They did not disturb one another. There was practically nothing alike in their temperament except this--that they could enjoy a fellowship without the need of talking. Charles Bowles was a great traveller. Being possessed of private means, he took, in his Anglican days, a long voyage every summer. This was expected of him in Chicago, where in the hot months the suburban congregations are away at their cottages, and the churches are deserted. An amusing incident illustrates his seclusiveness.

When he was a Catholic priest he was at table with another clerical visitor, who was telling stories about Egypt. Someone remembered that Bowles had been there. He was asked to say something, but demurred on the plea that he had been there too short a time to be able to form any opinions that were worth mentioning. It was discovered that he had lived for several months where the talkative priest had only passed a few days. Everyone laughed when they recalled the deep interest with which Bowles had listened without saying a word.

Father Bowles, though a meek man, was not lacking in character, a thing which was soon discovered by those who had any dealings with him. His "no" was the most decisive "no" possible. McGarvey used to tell of a famous sermon that he preached when he left his first parish. He told his congregation very clearly what he thought of their defects. McGarvey used to describe it as the "wrath of the lamb."

At Nashotah Charles Bowles, rather than McGarvey, was the visible expression of the C. S. S. S. Despite the great attractions of the latter it was the evident holiness of the former which drew me into its membership. Had I not made Bowles my confessor, it is likely that I should never have become a Catholic.

I append to this chapter a letter I received from McGarvey on the eve of my ordination:

8 May, 1905

I have your letter telling me of the appointment of your ordination on 26 May. We shall remember you daily in our intercessions from now on, and will say the Masses for you on the 26th. In preparing for your ordination to the diaconate, keep before you the essential character of the sacred ministry. It is not that we are ministers to the people or ministers to God in certain sacred actions. We are all that; but the essential nature of the ministry is that we are surrendered to God to be used as instruments in working out the world's redemption or rather of the redemption of the elect. It is preeminently a life of oblation and abandonment to the divine will. We see this in the ministry of Jesus Christ. His human will was constantly surrendering itself to the divine will and the merit of His life and sacrifice lay not in the physical suffering but in the willingness and completeness of the surrender He made to the Father's purpose. And so when our Lord chose His first priests He called them to sacrifice their lives and to surrender all for him. They appreciated fully what He expected from them, and "they left all and followed Him." As He had been sent forth to be a sacrifice, so He sent them forth: "As my Father hath sent me so I send you." And they themselves realized that they "were appointed unto death."

Look forward therefore to your ordination as a laying yourself upon the altar of God in complete surrender, and let your heart and lips say day by day "Lo I come to do thy will, O God."

The man who goes to his ordination in this spirit of generous self-surrender and preserves this spirit of sacrifice throughout his life will know the sweetness and joy of the presence of the Divine Master. For just in the measure that we give our all to God, in that measure He will grant to us his consolations. And we shall find that in losing our life for Christ and His Gospel we are finding it.

May God bless you ever, and make your life and ministry to redound to His glory,
Affectionately yours in Xt.


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