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Convention Address.

By Samuel Babcock Booth.

Bennington: Diocese of Vermont, St. Peter’s Church, 1934.

“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.”

Dear Brothers of the Clergy and of the Laity of the Diocese, Greetings:

It is with very deep gratitude that I come before this 144th Convention of the Diocese at this time when we are marking the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of this parish. It is a joy to be here; and we extend our heartiest congratulations to the rector, vestry, and all the members of this noble parish, which has always taken a leading part in the life of the Diocese. We remember its years of service with gratitude and pray that God’s richest blessing may rest upon it. May we all go forward from this Convention with renewed gratitude and courage, because of our having been here together.

I am required by Canons to give a report of my work since the last Convention, and of the condition of the Diocese. I submit this report with such other comments as the occasion warrants. There are matters of general interest of which I want to speak, in view of the fact that this is the year of the General Convention.

There have been no deaths among our clergy, but the recent tragic death on June 1 of the Reverend Herbert Daniel Crandall was keenly felt. On June 11, 1933, I ordained him Deacon in St. Paul’s Church, Burlington. In December, at the request of the Bishop of Salina, I transferred him to that Missionary District, where he was ordained Priest on St. Thomas’ Day. He made an excellent record; his sudden going to his reward has brought a very deep sense of sorrow to his many friends there and here. May God grant unto him eternal rest!

[2] On June 10, 1933, I officiated in St. Paul’s, Burlington, assisted by the Rector, at the funeral of the Reverend Charles Edward Niles, a Priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

There have been deaths in the families of our clergy: Gwendolyn Child, the wife of the Reverend George D. Child of Chester, died July 1st. In December, Ellen Lincoln Foster, wife of the Reverend Theodore B. Foster, went to her rest, after a long illness. She was at one time president of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Diocese and an active worker for the interests of the blind. In January of this year Helen Randolph Watkins, the wife of the Reverend Doctor S. Halsted Watkins, departed this life. Added to these names we would remember Henry Herbert Ross, one-time headmaster of the Vermont Episcopal Institute; Charles H. and Mary West of Rutland; Richard Bryant Leake of Arlington; Mrs. Edward C. Smith of St. Albans; Mrs. Lydia Bell of Brattleboro; Milton Goss, sexton of St. Stephen’s Church, Middlebury, together with a large number of others whose names we cannot read at this time. May God grant unto them all eternal rest, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Changes among our clergy have been few. In November of 1933 the Reverend E. Briggs Nash was appointed Priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Mission, White River Junction, where work is encouraging. The Mission hopes to become soon a self-supporting parish. In December the Reverend Vernon A. Weaver took charge of St. John the Baptist Mission at Hardwick.

On the Feast of the Circumcision of this year I ordained the Reverend John Lynwood Smith, Priest. He is now Rector of Trinity Church, Shelburne.

In December of last year I received a letter of transfer in favor of the Reverend Mark Theodore Carpenter, who was instituted Rector of St. James’ Church, Woodstock, on February 11, 1934.

In April of this year, at his request, I transferred the Reverend Merton Winfred Ross, retired, to the Diocese of Eau Claire. We are very sorry to lose Father Ross from Our clerical family.

[3] At the last Convention the resignation of the Reverend W. J. Brown as Rector of Zion Church, Manchester Center, was reported. After some months of rest his health had improved to such an extent that the vestry reelected him to his former parish. He resumed his duties last September, though without having the responsibility for the Missions at Middletown Springs and Wells. The Reverend Henry G. Hogg of Granville, New York, has been licensed to care for St. Paul’s at Wells.

The same arrangement as has existed heretofore continues at Norwich with the Reverend John O. Harris in charge of St. Barnabas’ Church; and likewise at Canaan, where the Reverend J. C. Tanner is in charge of St. Paul’s Church. I regret so much dependence upon our neighboring Dioceses. The Reverend Hugh Morton has the Missions of Fairfield, Sheldon and East Fairfield added to his cure.

We regret that after Easter of this year it was found necessary, on account of shortage of funds, to discontinue the regular work of the Diocesan Missioner as it has been carried on for almost three years from Rock Point by the Reverend James Elmer McKee. He is now in charge of our Mission in Sunderland; he continues to edit the Mountain Echo (which he does most acceptably), and to care for the records of the Memorial Centennial Fund. We are most grateful to him and to Mrs. McKee for their faithful and able service to the Diocese.

In January of this year a group of six young men, under the leadership of the Reverend James DeWolf Hubbard, took up their residence at Rock Point. These men were invited to Rock Point by the Bishop with the approval of the Trustees of the Vermont Episcopal Institute, to make a definite experiment in missionary work. They have been under the personal influence of Sir Wilfred Grenfell and have imbibed much of his spirit and vision. The Reverend James DeWolf Hubbard who has recently been received from the Diocese of Washington, offers himself to the Diocese without remuneration. He and his group are as far as possible [3/4] at the service of all who call upon them. Mr. Hubbard is a faithful Priest of the Church; he sees in the Toc H movement a great opportunity to further the religion of our Lord. They are here to help spread the Gospel through practical service, and through co-operation with the Bishop, the clergy and laity of the Diocese. We welcome them gladly and commend them to your affectionate interest.

On Trinity Sunday of this year I ordained Harvey Dean Butterfield, Deacon, in St. Paul’s Church, Burlington. He is now in charge of the Mission, at Carle Place, Long Island, where he has been working for a year or more under the Reverend Richard D. Pope, Rector of the Church of the Advent, Westbury, Long Island.

I find that I have made 104 visitations throughout the Diocese and have confirmed a total of 284 persons. I have made fifty-two visits outside the Diocese for the purpose of retreats and preaching. Most of my official acts have been reported in the Mountain Echo, and are also recorded in my Journal, so I need not go into detail at this time. I append a list of the places visited and the number of persons confirmed; also a list of Lay Readers, and my account of the use of the money received from the visitation offerings.

The report of the Executive Council; which body has done really excellent work, will bring to your attention more clearly some of the outstanding pieces of work of the past year. I do, however, commend those parishes and missions which have paid their full quota toward our small pledge of $4,000 for the general Missionary work of the Church, notably:

St. Luke’s, Alburg; St. James’, Arlington; St. Peter’s, Bennington; St. Michael’s, Brattleboro; St. Mark’s, Castleton; St. Luke’s, Chester; Calvary, East Berkshire; Trinity, Fairfield; Lady Chapel, Grand Isle; Christ Church, Guilford; St. John the Baptist, Hardwick; St. John’s, Highgate; Mission, Hyde Park; St. Peter’s, Lyndonville; Zion Church, Manchester Center; St. Margaret’s, Middletown Springs; Trinity, Milton; Mission of the [4/5] Resurrection, Morrisville; St. Mark’s, Newport; St. Augustine’s, North Troy; St. Barnabas’, Norwich; Gethsemane, Proctorsville; St. John’s, Randolph; Trinity, Shelburne; Grace Church, Sheldon; Church of Our Saviour, Sherburne; All Saints’, Shoreham; Mission, Sunderland; St. Paul’s, Vergennes; St. John the Baptist, Websterville; St. Paul’s, Wells; Trinity, Winooski.

I understand that the Sunday School Lenten offering has this year decreased considerably. For the first two years of the depression this amount continued to grow. In 1932, however, it went back and in 1933 it dropped to $787.49, a decrease of approximately 38 percent, while in 1931 it reached a maximum of $1,112.55. We hope through special interest, such as the awards that have been made in the Rutland District heretofore and in the Burlington District this year, that this amount may again increase.

The Council did splendid work last fall in arranging missionary meetings in different parts of the Diocese in preparation for the every-member canvass. The same kind of meetings we hope will be planned for this year, with even better results. As you know, there is a special effort now being made to awaken the laymen of this Diocese, together with all the laymen of the Church throughout the country, to help meet the great deficit of the National Council. Colonel R. W. McCuen of Vergennes has been appointed chairman of this special committee, and Mr. Flynn G. Austin of Cornwall is treasurer. We hope that the offering at this Convention, together with special offerings which may be made between now and the General Convention, will show that men of this Diocese are loyally, behind the leadership of the Church.

It is a commonplace to say that this is the day of the Church’s opportunity, but it has not become as yet obvious that the Church is seizing this opportunity. This is the issue facing us squarely at this time. While there have been many encouragements during the past year, we must press on. The clergy are faithful and loyal, almost to a man; the condition of the funds, under the [5/6] care of the trustees of the Diocese, has improved materially; the work at Rock Point is encouraging, in spite of an unpaid coal bill of $400.

Seven Retreats were held at Rock Point with a total of 125 in attendance.

The Diocesan Rally was held on Labor Day with roughly 500 in attendance.

There have been eight persons confirmed; two baptized; three couples married; two services held daily and $3,255.99 raised by the C. M. H.

There are two pending changes regarding methods of making certain payments, both of which I want to recommend: 1. Direct payment to the Bishop of the offering taken at the time of his visitation. This offering has fallen off materially this year, amounting to $155.92. I believe that with a little personal interest this fund might be considerably increased. I want to make it the. basis of a special emergency fund which I can use at my discretion to help people in need. Beside the many poor of whom we all know, there are special needs of the clergy which come to my attention from time to time. At present I have almost no funds at my disposal with which to supplement some of the stipends, which in a few cases are shamefully small. 2. The method of paying pension premiums must be reconsidered. There seems to be a strong sentiment in favor of having them paid directly to the treasurer of the pension fund in New York. This matter will be ‘acted upon by the Convention.

A personal matter, which has already been brought before the Standing Committee I want to mention, now. I refer to my proposed absence from the Diocese next winter. On account of the critical nature of the times, both in the Church and in the country, and on account of my own over-crowded life, I have come to feel that some free time spent in study and in reflection would be of very real benefit to the Diocese. If this plan can be carried out, it will be without cost to the Diocese, except in so far [6/7] as some Episcopal ministry will be required. The Bishop of New Hampshire has generously consented to help us in this regard, if he is needed. A committee to consider this, and the Bishop’s salary should be appointed. I am sure some reduction in salary is necessary in order to care for the Bishop’s pension premium.

Since this is the year of the General Convention our clerical and lay delegates must be elected. Of course the general missionary work of the Church will be the subject of paramount importance at the Convention. We should send men with strong faith in the missionary work of the Church. No doubt the matter of discipline in connection with marriage will come up for further consideration. The Commission Working toward Church Unity, of which I have been a member for the past three years, will report and ask to be continued, as it looks forward to another World Conference on Faith and Order, to be held in 1937. It is probable that the subject of Intinction will come up again for consideration. Until the Church acts officially, I hope our clergy will not assume the right to administer the Holy Communion in any way other than as the Prayer Book requires—unless it be for urgent reasons and with the approval of the Bishop.

I hope that something drastic may be done at Atlantic City about the kind of motion pictures that are1 being presented to our young people. We should all encourage the work of the League of Decency which is doing much to help in this important matter.

Four years ago I spoke to the Convention on the general subject of loyalty. I wish to revert to this theme, because I am sure the philosophy of loyalty is very definitely identified with the Christian religion, and it is this ideal of an unqualified devotion to a cause which makes our relationship to Christ and His Church so vital and practical. But this concept of loyalty does not seem to be fully understood by us all.

There are people who advocate loyalty to Christ, but who see no necessity for loyalty to organized Christianity as it is expressed in the world today: This is the point of view of Mr. [7/8] Norman Thomas, for instance, and of a great many of our social radicals, not to mention many students. They would return to Christ, but they would ignore the Church. This is a very easy distinction to make, but I am convinced that it is fallacious, and that to be loyal to Christ ultimately demands loyalty to His Church; and that the issue now which we must face squarely is the recognition of the vital connection between our faith in Him and our faith in His Society.

To be sure, it is Christ who matters. Christ is King. Christ is Master. Christ is over all and above all; but in this statement are involved deep hidden social implications which we dare not continue to ignore. Christ was not an isolated figure. He was of the seed of Abraham and of the stock of David on the human side, “and He came out from His Father and manifested forth His glory on the divine side,” and these two natures were perfectly united, and are eternally one. What was true in the revelation of Jesus is forever true. God and man are reunited. God is united in man. What was true in the Son of God has been made true in the sons of men by the operation of the Holy Spirit. This is what we mean by the extension of the Incarnation. This human extension of His incarnate life, the channel through which His eternal Spirit continues to operate throughout the ages, is the outward and visible sign of His inward and spiritual grace. The body exists for the head, but the head operates through the body, and these two are vitally united. To sever them is to be false to Christ Himself. This means in the end that Christianity is identified with the Catholic Church. We have been professing this in the Creed since our childhood, and since the childhood of the Church; but in recent years we have been slurring certain articles of the Creed because they have seemed to be contrary to our partisan and narrow prejudices. There is nothing partisan in Christ, and there can be nothing partisan in the Church. As Christ came out from the Father, so the Church comes out from Him to make known to the sons of men the way of redemption.

It was His word which made the commission to the Apostles authoritative. It is His commission from the Apostles through His Church which makes His message authoritative today. Christ did not ask the world’s permission to bring His message of salvation, nor did He wait for a popular vote before He proclaimed His kingship. The Church cannot wait for democratic or economic sanctions before she proclaims her Lord and Master. She is commissioned to go forth. It is this command, this drive behind her missionary program which is her authority. It is this power behind the commission given to the Bishop at his consecration which is his authority. It is this mission behind the commission given to the. Priest at his ordination which is his authority. It is this mission given to Deacons at ordination and laymen at baptism and confirmation which is the seal of redemption and the credential of entrance into the Kingdom of God. It is this kingdom into which we are called which is the ultimate destiny of every true Christian. It is this kingdom which we are trying to build here and to realize through the ages to come. Our deliberate failure to seek this kingdom means that we prefer the kingdom of evil to the kingdom of God. It means if we persist that we deprive ourselves of the reward of being a member of the kingdom of Heaven. Such privation has always been understood to be perdition and condemnation. The Church exists to save souls from this perdition. The Church exists to lead her children to a real heaven by virtue of a real discipline in a real war against sin. The Church has a message from a real King, given by accredited ambassadors, to tell of a real Kingdom; and you and I as members of that Kingdom have a real obligation to its standards and rules. While we do not claim that our Church constitutes the whole Catholic Church, we do believe she is a valid branch of the same, and for us she is the best expression of the ideal of Catholicism. Let me quote from the Convention address this year of the Bishop of New York: “The Anglican Communion, of which the Protestant Episcopal Church is a part, is called to bear witness to [9/10] a Catholicism which is wholly evangelical, which is not disproportionately concerned about externals, which has for its one aim the bringing of men and women to Jesus Christ, and which stands for full intellectual and spiritual freedom, a Catholicism which, in the words of that great Bishop and leader, Charles Gore, is ‘scriptural, liberal-spirited, and comprehensive, but always Catholic.’ From the beginning the three great notes of the Church, and the three great links of its visible fellowship, have been the common Creed, the common Sacraments, and the Apostolic Ministry. It is by bearing our witness for the New Testament ideal of the Catholic Church, in all its largeness, in all its fullness, in all its faith, and in all its fearlessness, that we shall do our true work for the Church here on earth, and for the coming of the Kingdom of God.”

While, as I have said, we can look back with a certain degree of encouragement and with much gratitude, it is none the less quite obvious, that certain radical reforms are necessary if we are to meet adequately the, crisis which is before us. As members of His Church we must be profoundly convinced that the Church is God’s channel through which special blessings are to be brought to our nation and to the world, not the, least of these the hope of international peace. Secretary Wallace of the Department of Agriculture, has recently informed us that enduring social transformations that are now being worked out are impossible without changed human hearts. This of course is the work of the Church of God; it is your work, dear brothers; and mine, but it is a work which I feel we are doing in a most haphazard and casual fashion. He also tells us that “if the Christian religion is to help, it must furnish the spiritually hungry people with something that is truly more compelling than the ‘dog eat dog’ philosophy of the classical economists and biological scientists.” But what are we doing to furnish our spiritually hungry people with, this new philosophy? I think, when we face this problem that we are [10/11] driven to our knees, and to a new sense of the urgency of the task to which we have been called.

Last year in my address, as some of you may remember, I chose five special points on which I had something to say. In their unity I said they suggested the fingers of a hand. As I look back over the influence of those remarks upon the life of the Diocese, I am inclined to think that at best it was an open hand, a hand where the fingers were pointing in different directions, but not one which was tightly clenched and which was really taking hold of the situation. I want, therefore, to follow on and be more specific, and to tighten my grip, both, on the inward reality of the Gospel which I represent, and upon you, my dear friends, members of this Diocese which I would serve. We must hold more tightly to Him and we must hold more tightly to one another. This means better spiritual training and a more willing acceptance of discipline and of authority. We must learn and relearn to obey the laws of the spiritual life. Obedience here, as elsewhere, is the organ of knowledge and the way to perfect freedom. The Bishop must obey the Church’s commands as set forth by the House of Bishops, and by the General Convention. The clergy should obey their Bishops as they speak for the Church on matters of faith and morals. The laity should obey their clergy in matters pertaining to their spiritual welfare, even as they do the physician regarding their physical welfare. Here I must mention again clerical discipline which, of course, applies as definitely to the Bishop as it does to anyone else. We must make good our profession by being men of prayer. This prayer life, of course, will take many forms. There will be much penitence for our failure, and constant supplication for our people. There will be thanksgiving and adoration, but through all and over all there must be authoritative discipline and a self-imposed rule. These matters, of course, come home to us most forcibly at the time of our Retreat, but I would remind you that the revival waits for this revival of our own faith. The devotion of the people [11/12] waits upon our devotion. We must go before them in the power of the Highest, spending real time in heart-searching devotion, in Bible study and in every possible effort to bring our lives into childlike obedience to Christ. Of course the whole secret of power, lies here; no Canons nor organizations can take the place of love and of sacrifice.

My first point last year was evangelism, or our personal return to God. Most of us make formal vows of repentance, both at our Confirmation and before our Communion, but I am inclined to believe that at this, point we still have very much to learn. The ease with which people renew their Baptismal vows whereby they are pledged to continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants and to fight under His banner until their life’s end, and then quietly forsake the Church, her worship and support, is indeed a sad commentary on our lack of integrity. This same defect runs through much of our use of words. We do not realize what we say and too often we do not mean to stand by our words. Not only is this true in the general relationship of the members to the Church, but in the particular relation of a member to another member, when a man and woman take the solemn vows of Holy Matrimony. Because of a weak foundation in the underlying faith of the Church and her sacramental system this sacrament is found to give way time and time again. People are remarried against the law of the Church, and then seek to be readmitted to Communion. My dear friends, this sad condition should bring us all back to the very deepest penitence and to a profound heart-searching. Alas! much of this same superficial acquiescence runs through no small part of our own diocesan life. For instance, last year I stated, as you may read on page 26 of the Journal of 1933, that the Church expects proper notice and observance of Fast days and Saints’ days. Among other failures to comply with this principle, I learned of a parish where no mention was made even of Ascension Day. This, of course, is an extreme illustration, but it might be duplicated I fear in other [12/13] ways. Last year I asked that the churches might be kept open for prayer. I have, in several instances, gone to churches for prayer myself, only to find them tightly locked. Last year I said that Holy Baptism should be administered publicly. I wonder how many times that has been heeded. I lament the discontinuance of the Evening Service on Sundays. People ought to have the opportunity to hear Evening Prayer regularly.

Of course all this means a great uncertainty in our conception of authority. You may think I have no right to make these requests. This is inevitable unless you can believe that I am in fact a Father in God, trying to show a Father’s love and trying to enforce discipline for the good of the family, and not for my own pleasure. Authority is always a matter of faith, and it is by faith that I dare to exercise the authority of my office, trusting you to understand and to respond because of the common purpose we serve, and because of the common spirit we share.

Let us go on then to consider Church extension or missions. I have mentioned some of our encouraging signs, but when we read that a few of our largest parishes have given 15 and 20 percent of what was expected of them for the general missionary work of the Church, one cannot think that we are taking the business of missions very seriously. (It is stated that during the past five years the amounts received from the parishes and missions for the Program of the Church show a decrease of approximately 33 1/3 percent, a consistent decrease each year.) If the real facts were known in this regard, I am sure many of us would be utterly ashamed. There is, with some very notable exceptions, an appalling ignorance regarding the whole missionary work at home and abroad.

This leads directly to the matter of religious education. Yes, there are some good Church schools and I think our Young People’s Conference, as far as it goes, is excellent, but what about religious training in the home? What about the Catechism, Bible reading, regularity of prayer, family worship, the reading of [13/14] Church papers? We know, alas, too well, that family worship is rare, that living under a definite rule is not common. Religious instruction is rarely given in our homes, and too often even the clergy themselves do not catechize their children publicly. My dear friends, these things must be changed before we can have a strong church or a Christian nation. We must begin at the beginning—the child and the home and the family. We must lead on to the larger family of the parish and grow into a vision of an even larger family of the Diocese and then on to the family of the redeemed, both here and in the life of the world to come.

I am very anxious to have my visitations count for more in the future. During the past year, in some cases, I have met the vestry at the time of my visitation. I want to continue this very definitely. I want to awaken a sense of responsibility among vestrymen so that men will know exactly what is expected of them. With such a clear standard, honest men should not accept this office unless they intend to uphold the standards. This should include regularity of worship, a generous support of the missionary work of the Church and a real faith in the life of prayer. I want also at my visitations to catechize the children of the parish myself, and I want some real evidence that those who are presented for Confirmation know the Church catechism.

As I move on for a further consideration of point four, economic equity, I have a very deep sense of sorrow. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Alas, with rare exceptions (I might mention our missionary in the Sherburne Valley and our Toc H group), who of us does not seem to be taking all he can get for his labors? Who of us clergy or laity do riot at least seem to be as worldly as the people about us? I know that we live in a most complex age, that the raising of children is expensive and difficult, but I know even more truly that the law bf the spirit must dominate our thinking and that we must, through painful discipline learn to value things less and spiritual attainment more. We must awaken a vivid sense of the actual gain that comes through [14/15] learning to pray, to serve, and to give. Surely it is this new ideal, or this old ideal, for the new age, for which this weary world waits. Mr. Wallace said “this spiritual cooperation to which I refer depends for, its strength on a revival of deep religious feeling on the part of the individual, in terms of an intelligent concept, that the world is in very truth one, that human nature is such that all men can look on each other as brothers. This concept which now seems cloudy and vague to practical people, must be more than the religious experience of the literary mystic; it must grow side by side with new social discipline. Never has there been such a glorious chance to develop this feeling and this discipline as in this country today.” Those are noble words, and if we would be, noble men we must lay them to heart.

I think we must agree that our sad condition comes very largely from our unbelief, in the reality of the life of the world to come. As I said last year, we have trifled with judgment. To put it bluntly, we have reasoned away the practical significance of heaven and hell; and in consequence we have set up shifting standards which have no permanence and no eternal verity behind them. It is the Church’s business to hold and to proclaim their permanent standards. It is my business and the business of the clergy to teach the doctrine of the life of the world to come and the certainty of judgment and the awfulness of sin. It is our duty to remind ourselves that though God be a God of love, He is not a God who will call wrong right, nor is He a God of mere sentimentality and weak good nature. He is the author of truth and He calls us to be true. He is the fountain-head of all virtue and calls us to be men of virtue. He is a loving Father and calls us to be obedient sons. All of this we say in the Creed and should realize at the Altar. Then we must think this through in private prayer, and express it in public deed. We must make the business of laying hold on the life eternal the goal of all our strivings.

May God give us strength for the tasks before us; and may His blessing rest upon us, and on our work.

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