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Mahlon Norris Gilbert: Bishop Coadjutor of Minnesota 1886-1900.

By Francis Leseure Palmer
with an Introduction by Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Presiding Bishop of the American Church.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1912.
London: Mowbray, 1912.

Chapter XVI. Tenth Anniversary of His Election to the Episcopate

ON THE third of June, 1896, the annual Council of the Diocese met in Gethsemane Church, Minneapolis, and the evening of that day was given up to a public commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Bishop Gilbert's election to the Episcopate. This happy event had been carefully planned. A year before, at the Council, a resolution in favor of such a commemoration had been introduced by the Rev. J. J. Eaude, rector of Gethsemane Church, and Bishop Whipple had appointed a committee to make suitable arrangements. It was also voted that the Council should meet at the church where the election had taken place ten years before.

The anniversary service was conducted by the rector, assisted by the Rev. Charles D. Andrews, the music having been carefully prepared. On account of severe illness Bishop Whipple was unable to be present, and his address was read by the Rev. Mr. Faude. It began as follows:

MY BELOVED BRETHREN:--It is a sorrow that I cannot express in words, that I am unable to be with you at this Council. It is the tenth anniversary of the election of the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese. I count his election as a marked incident of the good providence of God to the Diocese and myself. He has been a loving son, seeking in every way to lift burdens from my shoulders, and has carried on the work of the Diocese on the lines which I had marked out for myself nearly thirty-seven years ago; to preach Jesus Christ, and work lovingly and loyally in His Church. . . .

We believe that a power above human wills is kindling in Christian hearts a deeper love for God, and this love is kindling a passion for humanity. Love will heal alienated hearts and break down walls of separation.

It is with gratitude to God that I tell you that Bishop Gilbert has shown, in all of his work, the love of his Master, in seeking to lead wandering souls to Christ. He has been the faithful friend of these brown children of our Father, and he has carried the Indians in his heart, as I have tried to do throughout my Episcopate. I wish that I could tell you face to face how deeply I love him, and how grateful I am to God for giving me such a blessed helper in my Bishop's work.

At the close of the Diocesan's address there was sung the hymn:

Go, labour on, spend and be spent!

The Rev. Mr. Andrews then presented to Bishop Gilbert a jewelled pectoral cross of gold from the clergy of the Diocese, and spoke with great felicity of the Bishop's character, referring to him as "one who has been so much more a brother to us all, than a ruler --so much more a friend, than an official father, and yet who in every relation, never has forgotten to be, in every proper sense, an example to the flock, '& pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.' " He went on to say:

I can conceive of no office to which a man can be called, where the measure of his character can be taken so quickly as in the office of the Episcopate. He fills so large a place in that realm of authority where criticism is so searching and severe, even among the clergy themselves; and, as the arbiter of all lay discontent and trouble in the churches of his Diocese, he must needs be a symmetrical man who wins for himself the love and confidence of both lay and clerical orders, after ten long years of service in every parish and mission station into which he is so frequently called.

It is no little praise to say of any man that he is sincere. It is no little praise to say of any man that he has courage--especially the courage of his convictions. Nor is it little praise to say of any man that, notwithstanding all his prosperity and distinguished honors, he yet retains his humility.

Sincerity, courage, and humility, these are the elements of character that all men everywhere are ready and willing to respect; surely, my brethren of Minnesota, . . . our Bishop Coadjutor fills this measure that I have drawn--of a sincere, courageous, yet humble Christian priest and bishop.

He comes, by generation, from a stock that would not be honored by anything else. Born of Church parentage, and reared by no less a teacher of righteousness than the present Bishop of Missouri, ought we to expect less than we know and see of one who has been faithful to his high privileges, and in whose destined work there has been so little of disappointment?

It is not fulsome praise to tell a man to his face that he has done his duty well. It is not flattery to tell a man that he has helped men by the sincerity of his life; that he has encouraged men by the firmness with which he has carried out the convictions of his own heart. . . .

In all my intimate acquaintance with our beloved Bishop Coadjutor I have never heard him utter one derogatory word of any man, whether clergyman or layman, either to disparage his purpose in work, or to impugn his motives in design. . . .

I ask you to bear witness with me to the splendid loyalty shown by our Bishop Coadjutor to our great Diocesan--a Timothy or a Titus could not have been more lovingly true to St. Paul than the Coadjutor Bishop has been to the distinguished head of this great Diocese of Minnesota. ... I am sure it takes no jewel from the crown of our great Diocesan, when we place the laurel wreath of newly won victories upon the brow of him who, as Coadjutor in its truest sense, has added lustre even to the name and fame of Bishop Whipple. . . .

In the last ten years the Bishop Coadjutor's hands have been laid upon the heads of 7,406 candidates in Confirmation. He has preached or made addresses 2,971 times, and has traveled over thousands of miles to reach his many appointments. ... In the last ten years 33 churches have been consecrated, 23 priests and 17 deacons have been ordained to the Sacred Ministry, and 51 churches have been built in places where there were no churches of our Communion.

Who cannot see in such a record as this, the unstinted measure in which our Coadjutor Bishop has given his life, his time, his love, to the work which God called him to do? . . . Nothing but a high sense of duty to God and of loyalty to the Church, could have inspired and sustained so much of unremitted toil. . . . The phenomenal development of many sections of the state tested his utmost vigor, and from exposure and weary travel I have seen him exhausted and sick nearly unto death. But the Church was on his heart, and I have seen him fight for the life that he believed was yet in him to give to his beloved Diocese, until, by the blessing of God, our prayers prevailed, his faith triumphed, and he still lives to celebrate with us all the first decade of his Episcopate.

What honors may we not bring him to-night that he has so richly deserved at our hands? For ten years he has been the staff of our venerable Diocesan, and I have heard Bishop Whipple affirm that no son could be truer to his own father than Bishop Gilbert has been to him. Has he not been just as true to each one of his brethren of the clergy? Has he not stood between us and many of our perplexing situations? Has he not shared with many of his brethren the far too meagre support of his own living? Has not the anxious care of the churches sifted his hair with the signs of premature age? He gives his life to us, what shall we give to him?

Ah, brethren, I dare to offer your deepest and sincerest love. I never felt so safe in saying for another, that you will join me in a pledge of loyalty, a bond of love between us, to hold up the hands and to cheer the heart of him whom we seek to honor to-night as our Coadjutor Bishop.

At the close of Mr. Andrew's address, Mr. Hector Baxter, on behalf of the laity of the Diocese, presented to Bishop Gilbert a beautiful gold watch, with appropriate inscription, and spoke eloquently in appreciation of the Bishop's character and of the wonderful esteem of the laity for him.

There followed the appropriate hymn:

Forward be our watchword,
Steps and voices joined;
Seek the things before us,
Not a look behind.

After this, with deep emotion, which at first almost overpowered him, Bishop Gilbert made response:

Dear Brethren of the Thirty-ninth Council of the Diocese of Minnesota:

Every fibre of my being is stirred by the gracious and kindly words you have spoken, and by the tributes you have paid me, so unworthy of them, to-night. You have spoken as friends and fellow-workers, and my heart is cheered by these words and acts of love. I shall be the braver and stronger for them, and with God's help, I shall take up the burden anew with the earnest prayer that from this time forward until the Master calleth me to rest, I may be more faithful to duty, and more worthy of your confidence and love.

To my venerated Father in God, the Bishop of Minnesota, whose greetings coming from his bed of sickness and suffering are doubly valued, I pledge anew my loyal devotion and the offerings of a grateful heart. His has been a father's affection, indeed. In days of joy he has rejoiced with me; in hours of trial he has been my cheering counsellor and guide. I count it an honor beyond expression to have been associated with the great first Bishop of Minnesota; clarum et ven-erabile nomen. My humble place at his side has been illuminated by the aureole of his own world-wide fame, and all the memorial I ask when I am gone is--"He was the Coadjutor of Bishop Whipple." May the dear God in His infinite goodness permit him to outlive my unworthy self, and so extend the benediction of his presence to him who shall succeed me. His plans have ever been my plans; his wishes my wishes; his Church-manship my model; his large Catholic spirit my example and inspiration. If at any time I have caused him sorrow, it is a pain and grief to me, and if at any time I have relieved him of his manifold cares and burdens, I rejoice.

To you, brother beloved, selected by the clergy to convey their own greetings to-night, I can only speak my heartfelt thanks. Very close and very dear have you been to me during these years. As my successor in the dear old Mother Parish, you have ever given me a warmth of welcome which has been a sweet unction to my soul, and a rest to feet wearied with never ceasing journeyings. Your large, warm heart has no room in it for anything save love, and the lapse of years has only deepened and broadened our mutual love.

To laymen and to clergy, one and all, I can only voice my love and gratitude. Yours have been the hands that have enabled me to sustain and carry forward under God this work. You have never failed me; cheerfully you have responded to every call upon your time or means. Eich indeed is the Diocese of Minnesota in its clergy and laity. No Diocese in the land is more blessed. They would be marked men anywhere, and the impress of their characters and work is ineffaceable.

And what shall I say of the women of the Church in Minnesota? Before my eyes everywhere, as I go on my round of visitation, does the evidence of their love and devotion shine. Without them the work in our parishes would cease; with them it goes forward and upward. Their prayers have sustained me; their work aided me; their patience cheered me. May the good God reward them for their work and labor which proceedeth of love.

These ten years have sped by on eagle wings. It seems but yesterday when in this noble church I was called to be a Bishop in the Church of God. The faces of those who stood around me that day arise before me as I speak. Some have fallen asleep; some have gone to other fields; and others, thank God, are with us still to-day. . . . The personnel of that Council is illustrated most plainly by the fact that, from the clergy, four have been selected to be Bishops of the Church. ... I recognized at the beginning of my Bishop's duties that the great and pressing need of the Diocese was the personal presence of the Bishop in every parish and mission in at least an annual visitation. The infirm health of the Diocesan, extending over many years prior to my election, had prevented that feature of the work receiving the attention which he had so grandly and self-sacrificingly given in the earlier days of his Episcopate. I have been filled with admiration at the success he attained and the great results he was able to accomplish in the face of his many physical infirmities. His ability as an organizer and administrator was strikingly manifested in all portions of this vast state. I have simply built on these foundations; they were broad and strong.

Whatever may have been accomplished in the line of growth and development could never have been done without the personal cooperation of my brethren of the clergy. No labors have been too arduous; no sacrifices too great for them. The meetings of convocation have stimulated missionary enthusiasm marvellously, and when in 1888 you authorized me to appoint an Archdeacon for the Diocese, a long step forward and upward was taken. May I say here that the spirit and work of Archdeacon Appleby have been factors in the development of the Diocese of which it is impossible for me to speak in too high praise. . . .

The extent of the Diocese and the expansion of the work forced upon us the question of division. . . . The surrender of that portion of the Diocese will be to me a personal sorrow. . . . To me every town and mission, every lake and prairie, every stream and stretch of forest land are dear. For ten years I have traversed this singularly interesting land, in steam cars, in wagons, in canoe, and on foot; its people have become my people, and to visit a parish or a mission now, is to meet friends who are near and dear to me. . . .

The striking events of these ten years, besides the division of the Diocese, may be summarized as follows: The formation of the Sunday School Institute; the appointment of an Archdeacon; the erection and development of the Breck School at Wilder; the erection of the noble new Hospitals of St. Luke in St. Paul, and St. Barnabas in Minneapolis; the establishment of Miss Carter's lace work among the Indians; the formation of the Church Club; the Swedish movement; and the meeting of the General Convention in Gethsemane Church October last.....

I close this address . . . with heartfelt gratitude to Almighty God for his watchful and preserving care, and with the prayer that His Grace, which has thus far comforted and strengthened me may be with me until He calls me from this sphere of care and toil to the rest of Paradise. I know the story of these ten years is one of mingled sorrow and joy, a sad story of incompleteness, of weakness, ofttimes, and sin. I trust only in God's mercy, for the sake of His dear Son. May He overrule my mistakes to His glory, that in all things His great Cause may be advanced. [Journal of the Thirty-ninth Annual Council of the Diocese of Minnesota, pp. 29-45.]

As the Churchmen of Minnesota look back to this anniversary, how glad they are that they gave such hearty expression to their love and esteem for Bishop Gilbert, while he was still with them.

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