An Address Given by Bishop Dallas the Evening before the Diocese Convention 1952 on the Invitation of the Bishop of New Hampshire.
By John Thomas Dallas.
No place: no publisher, 1952.
A diocese which celebrates one hundred and fifty years of history is old, as things go in America. It means that a stream of life has given more life to the Church of God here in New Hampshire as well as at the ends of the earth. Also, it means that in these years it has gathered experience and learned lessons, all of which should have value in the eyes of everybody. Of course in the history of the whole Church, one hundred and fifty years is a short period of time.
In the year 1802, New Hampshire as a state and a diocese looked bigger in relation to the rest of America than it does in the year 1952. The family of states and of dioceses has grown beyond all expectations. Instead of a struggling young country on this Atlantic seaboard, America spans a continent, has a population of millions and millions of people, has wealth beyond all computation and is no longer looked upon as an experiment but has become the envy of all the nations on the earth. In a sense, America is a miracle. Today, in a glance at the map, New Hampshire and all the rest of New England looks but a small part of the country. On the map, New Hampshire seems as something tucked away in a corner.
Let everyone in New Hampshire study history and take satisfaction in the fact (as too should all New Englanders) that they have been and are to a high degree the builders of this America of 1952.
 For one hundred and fifty years, New England has sent across the continent a host of young people which has been woven into the fabric of America. The State of New Hampshire and the Church of New Hampshire have made a contribution beyond measure to American life and character. They have given of their treasure. They have not hoarded. They have had to struggle to maintain schools and churches. They have not in themselves gained in numbers or in size because they have put their best into the life of the nation in times of peace as well as in times of war.
The function of an anniversary is something more than to congratulate oneself or to play the part of Jack Horner and cry, "What a brave boy am I." Rather is it a time to make an inventory of stock on hand and to see whether or not the concern is solvent. Perhaps there is need to introduce new methods, to regain old qualities, to dare to believe that workmanship remains the best kind of advertising. We may have to train people to understand that truth and honesty are ever the foundations of success.
On this occasion it seems the part of wisdom to address the laity of the Diocese because they are and always have been the largest group within the Diocese but at the same time a group which has a power that has not yet been realized, which does not appreciate itself. The Church is a [4/5] democracy, an organization in which everyone has his responsibility. It sounds like politics. It is politics, democracy at work--or not at work. Witness the eleventh of March 1952, a rainy, muddy, snowy scene throughout the State. It is said to have been the best attended Town Meeting ever in New Hampshire and yet, more voters stayed at home than came to the meeting. Witness the last Annual Meeting of the parishes in the Diocese of New Hampshire, many more voters stayed at home than came to the meeting. Also, remember how few spoke in meeting and how many talked and talked after meeting. This is in a sense not a criticism of Democracy but of human nature. Just a few carry on the work of a town or of a state. So too, it is a few of the laity which carries on THAT WORK of The Church which laymen and women are supposed to do. The chances are that those few are here this evening. God bless you. More power to you. Were it not for you, where would the Diocese of New Hampshire be?
Some of you are like the couple (man and wife) who live in a small community where two other churches hold the allegiance of most of the village. There is no Episcopal Church building and so The Church services are held in a room within a public building. This couple, week in and week out, set up an altar, deck the altar with fair linen and flowers and the silver vessels. At the close of the service, week in and week out, they dismount [5/6] all that which had stood for The Church to a small congregation and carefully tuck away everything save the flowers. Here and there throughout New Hampshire are such laymen and women. What would become of these symbols of the continuity of the Anglican Church were it not for such faithfulness?
He was a teacher of chemistry who lost his job because he, a long, long time ago, held services out of the Prayer Book in his own home. It was such a beginning of lay devotion to the continuity of the Church that resulted in a strong witness today in one of our communities.
She was a lone woman who for many years opened the door of a basement in an unfinished edifice every week for a tiny group of children and grown-ups whenever the Bishop was able to send them a priest. She is gone. So is the church.
He was a stalwart Englishman who through his long life put up with bishops and priests and people because he saw the value to the community of The Church in which he had been nurtured. It would please him could he see the stability of his labor and his patience and his generosity.
One woman observed the need amongst the isolated children of New Hampshire and created the Mountain Mission by Mail--a work that not only has brought The Church into the lives of an [6/7] host of men and women but which has won great credit to the Diocese in many spots of the American Church.
Many such instances could be furnished to illustrate and to give evidence of the power and value of the individual men and women in this Diocese of New Hampshire--really proof of your devotion.
It is of importance that your work, you of the laity, should be emphasized. You are the permanent part of all the work such as we have described. Bishops come and go. You elect them and dismiss them. Priests come and go too frequently. In this democracy, you almost over-balance the total arrangement. Furthermore, you are of the soil. You know from the inside the people of your countryside. You who are sensitive, understand the spirituality or the religion of the neighborhood. At the moment you are the largest part of the Diocesan Convention and elected by others of the laity to carry on the business of The Church in New Hampshire. You find a Bishop. You chose those who will represent you at the great triennial meeting of The Church in America. You are a power. Your being here is more than an interruption to earning your daily bread, is more than pleasing your priest and coming to the Convention in his automobile, is more, vastly more, than listening to reports. You are part of the army which in 1952 stands before the world as a bulwark against the enslavement of [7/8] the people of God. The Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church throughout the world stands for freedom. You believe in freedom for your Bishops, Priests and people--a freedom which is of the mind and spirit. It is something that you are going to have to think through and that you must speak out, cost what it may.
So much for the single, solitary layman of which you are many. You will find that you are a group. Herein, you recognize that you are guardians of property and that ycm must see that bills are paid, that your Priest and your Bishop are in receipt of their stipend. Yes, this is self-evident, but strange as it may seem, it has to be said. It isn't funny at all, the old saying, "When is a business-man not a business-man?" The answer is, "When he is a vestryman." There are clergymen in this gathering who on occasion have not known whether or not their salary would come on time, whether or not a treasurer had overdrawn his account. Yours is a job of great seriousness not only in getting honest bills paid but in avoiding any plan to spend money you do not own.
Have you a moment to spare and ask yourself what would America be like without The Church.--"Thou shalt not commit adultery"--"Thou shalt not steal"--"Thou shalt do no murder"--"Thou shalt not covet"--Love God and love people and respect yourself. Take these out of your community. [8/9] Let the enemy swamp us. Let's live in concentration camps and die like insects. Only those of you who have been to war know what a hell life can be.
So, be patient with your Bishops and Priests. They need your wisdom and your advice. Be frank with them as you are with your other relationships in the world. Talk Church matters over with your peers, your equals. Read, as the women do, the books which The Church recommends. Read the newspapers with the eyes and the minds of Churchmen. Relieve the isolation of your clergymen. He may need a new suit of clothes. He does need a pair of shoes. (He showed them to me a month ago). Also, have you ever looked into the cellar of your church? Is it full of ashes, old lumber, flower-boxes, Christmas trees, etc., etc.?
A number of years ago, an evangelist named Billy Sunday went all over America and held great meetings. He is reported to have said, "When the Episcopal Church wakes up, look out." He seemed to realize that the Episcopal Church has "the heart of the matter." He must have sensed that the laity of the Church has power that was not yet in action. He was right. You are on the firing-line of our American life. You know and you are the ones who understand publicity, newspapers, radio, television, advertising, athletics, music. You are aware that if The Church is to use all these things that they must be excellent, first rate, "tops." (Some [9/10] of you will have seen a sign on one of our loveliest churches. It was meant to attract people. It read, "Seats free and unappropriated.")
The Men's Club in this parish here in Dover is the best men's club in The Church. You should hear them talk and talk. It sounds like a row. They talk about The Church. They get excited. They sound as if somebody was awfully mistaken, that somebody was wrong. The meeting adjourns. Everybody is everybody else's friend. True Christian Democracy.
The Young People's Fellowship in this parish has the same elements of success. It invited the Bishop to meet with them. He came through a wet, messy evening. The room was a mixture of uncomfortable chairs, a piano, a table or two, a few teen age boys and girls who sat in corners. Nobody was in charge. All of a sudden, in came the lad, maybe fourteen years old, he paid no attention to anybody, put a table in place, arranged two rows of seats exactly the right number, called* the meeting to order. They came to order. He asked them to say the Lord's Prayer. Then he announced, "We have the honor to have the Bishop with us this evening." The meeting was a unit. One lay 3'oungster who knew what to do and he did it.
You are that boy now grown up. There is more than ever for you to do, more than ever in the history of The Church, if you have the will to do it, [10/11] if you have the will to assert yourselves in what you think and in what you believe is your mission, your job in your parish, in your diocese, in The Church. It requires will and thought.
Why bother? Because One said, "Do this in remembrance of me." Why bother? Because a lot of boys and girls are watching you--boys and girls who will have to save our Christian civilization.
You cannot escape the seriousness of the times. You have eyes to read the newspapers. You have ears to hear the radio. Even though you have a patch of a garden and a few hens and feel safe in this beautiful countryside, you are responsible to stop the disturbances in this land, and for two reasons. First, you are Churchmen and Churchwomen. Second, you are Americans. Here in this northeastern corner of the United States of America, one hundred and fifty years ago, your Church took a stand for freedom and democracy. It was not an easy position to take. The Congregational Churches held the political power in the communities. The English Church, the Anglican Church, your Episcopal Church had the courage to assert itself in behalf of freedom of thought and of a broadly democratic way of doing things. We still are a small Church. Save in a few large cities we are a poor Church.
It takes thought and study to be an Episcopalian. It would be easier to follow the crowd and to merge ourselves in bigger movements. It would be [11/12] cheaper to join the procession in a so-called church unity. Amiability is a soft word and weak. To disagree often sounds disagreeable but it may mean life to a man's character or to a Church's mission.
Beware of becoming one of a group which gangs up against a man or an idea just because he doesn't agree with you. Have we lost the freedom which is the heart of Christian democracy? Communism scares people into hiding their thoughts and their opinions. Dictatorship here at home can stop our war effort and freeze our cars in the backyard. You Mr. and Mrs. Christian Churchman, have the right and the honor and the privilege and duty to say out loud whether you think a strike is wrong or right. You, Mr. and Mrs. Christian Churchman, have the inestimable right to belong to any political party and no questions asked. But, Mr. and Mrs. Christian Churchman, you have not the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ to throw mud or to defame character or to cry "crucify." Furthermore, give everybody the same privilege and thereby bring out into the sunshine all the isms of the day, into the sunshine where we all may know and be known.
We will never all be together again, so one item more. Your Bishop has the respect and the good will of everyone in the Diocese. He was born in the Episcopal Church. He is happily known in the House of Bishops. He and the Presiding Bishop [12/13] are warm friends. You may have him for another thirty years if you take care of him. You are responsible for his well-being, his safety on the roads at night and in storm. Don't just take him for granted. Remember he is your Chief Pastor and your Shepherd and that "he is the Bishop of everyone in New Hampshire who doesn't owe allegiance to the Roman Church." Don't let anyone within or outside the Diocese who would tear down the fabric of the Episcopal Church worry or harry the life out of him. Among men, he is alone, he is set apart, he is your father-in-God. He needs your watchfulness as to his health, as to his family and to his safety. The Episcopal Church, the English Catholic Church, along with the Latin Church and with the Orthodox Churches of the East still believe in Bishops. You've got a Bishop. Take care of him.