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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 XVII. The Lambeth Conference of 1897.

IN THE summer of 1897 Bishop Gilbert made a second visit to England, to attend the Fourth Lambeth Conference. A kind gift of over six hundred dollars from many friends in the Diocese made this journey possible. Bishop Whipple went early, in order to preach at several special services, but Bishop Gilbert remained for the annual Diocesan Council.

On Saturday, June 19, he sailed from Montreal on the steamship Parisian. The Rev. Mr. Andrews and the Rev. Mr. Dray accompanied him, and on different occasions acted as his chaplains. His good friends, the Rev. Dr. Albert W. Ryan and Bishop Morrison of Duluth, were on the same steamer, and also the Bishops of Huron and 'New Hampshire.

On the voyage Bishop Gilbert had a severe attack of pneumonia, and required most careful nursing, which was gladly given him by his many friends on shipboard. When one of the Minnesota clergy was thanking the Canadian Bishop for his kindness to Bishop Gilbert, he answered, "I could not help it, I loved him so." On June 29 they landed at Liverpool, and Bishop Gilbert was able to leave the ship and continue the journey.

During part of his stay in London Bishop Gilbert was entertained by the Rev. Dr. Storr, at St. Peter's Vicarage, Eaton Square. The Bishop preached in St. Peter's, and on one occasion gave a talk to the boys of the parish school. Mr. Dray recalls that in this informal talk, Bishop Gilbert said to the boys, "Some of you boys may some day come to America; if so you will of course become Americans." The good vicar was shocked at such a statement, for it is hard at such a distance to appreciate the spirit of "The States."

The various sessions of the Conference, and the services, pilgrimages, and social gatherings in connection with it proved wonderfully interesting and inspiring. Only those who have attended a "Pan-Anglican" gathering can realize the thrilling interest of their great meetings or the charm of English hospitality which accompanies them. To the Minnesota Missionary Bishop Gilbert wrote a letter describing some of the more notable features of the Conference:

The services connected with the opening and closing of the Conference can never be forgotten. The first was held in Westminster Abbey, and was made exceptionally impressive by the historic environment. The sermon was preached by the Archbishop of York.

The following day we all went to Ebbs Fleet, the site of the landing of St. Augustine. The site is quite inland now, the waters of the channel having receded two miles or more during the last thirteen hundred years. A brief service was held here, and then, after a visit to Richborough Castle, the last camp of the Roman Legions, we came to Canterbury.

The citizens of this banner seat of Anglo-Saxon Christianity furnished bountiful entertainment for all the bishops, and made our two days' stay most delightful. Nothing could have been more imposing than the great service in the Cathedral. Nearly two hundred bishops were in line, preceded by the mayors and councils of the towns in Kent, marching to the music of the grand organ and the voices of a hundred choristers. My own place in order of consecration was about the middle of the long line, and as I looked forward and backward as we ascended the lofty flight of steps leading from the nave to the chancel, the scene was one of exceeding beauty and dignity. I said to myself, "Such an occasion as this is in itself worth a journey across half the world to participate in." The Archbishop of Canterbury sat in the ancient episcopal chair of Anselm, and delivered his Allocution from it. His tall, stately form and strong face were most striking. The Sunday following, the Cathedral was thronged with worshippers, and I heard the Bishop of Eipon, Dr. Boyd-Carpenter, preach one of the noblest sermons to which I have listened. These services being concluded, we all returned to London and began the work of the Conference. . . .

The bishops met in the ancient guard room or great banqueting hall of Lambeth Palace. The faces of scores of former Archbishops of Canterbury looked down upon us from the walls, notably those of Laud and Wareham, Tait and Benson, the last sweet and strong as though giving his benediction upon the Conference which he himself had summoned before his call to eternal rest. At the head of the hall sat Archbishop Temple, with his strong, massive, yet kindly face, supported on either side by the Archbishops of York and Armagh, while the other Archbishops and Metropolitans were close at hand. ... I sat next to a bishop from Japan; in front of me was a black bishop from Central Africa; on my right a bishop from Ireland, and behind me a bishop from a see in England. One was there from Hudson Bay, another from the Falkland Islands, one from Corea, another from Trinidad, one from New Zealand, another from Jerusalem; each one represented in himself some great work in the isles of the sea or in the uttermost parts of the earth. There was Tucker, who has conquered Uganda; Tugwell, of Western Equatorial Africa, with his two black assistant bishops from the malarial banks of the Niger; then our own brave Bishop Ferguson of Cape Palmas, and strong, resolute bishops from farther India, and from the great plains of Australia. Surely the sentiment and thought of such a company were enough to move any who were present.

The Archbishop is, in many respects, an excellent presiding officer, although from our American point of view he is decidedly unparliamentary in many things. He frequently enlivened the Conference with his sallies of humor and quaint remarks.

After the first week, the work was assigned to committees, which sat during the recess of the Conference, and prepared reports on the different subjects submitted. I had the honor to be placed on the committees on Foreign Missions, Industrial Problems, Reformation Movements on the Continent and elsewhere, and on Christian Unity. ... I cannot of course give any resume of the work of the Conference. I believe it will be of great benefit to the whole Church, and its conclusions generally accepted. The American bishops fought strenuously against any tendency toward centralization of authority in the See of Canterbury, and some of the most notable speeches were delivered on this subject, especially by the Bishops of Albany, and Missouri. . . .

The social side of the Conference was one of its distinguishing and pleasant characteristics. Receptions and garden parties for the bishops were given in such rapid and constant succession that none but the most robust could take them all in. The most notable were those given by the American Ambassador, by the Queen at Windsor, where we were all presented to her Majesty on the Castle grounds, and the one in the Lambeth Palace Gardens, which was attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales and by the Duke and Duchess of York. . . .

My time and strength would not permit me to attend all the functions or to preach often, but I saw and heard enough to be impressed deeply with the spiritual and social strength of the Church of England. The American bishops were in great demand as preachers, and we need have no occasion to hold down our heads in comparison with others. Bishop Whipple. not only because he was the senior American bishop present, but because of his personal popularity and reputation, was constantly called upon. We were all very proud of him, and glad that he was so prominent. Mrs. Whipple won all hearts by her beauty and graciousness of bearing.

The Conference closed with a great Eucharistic service in St. Paul's Cathedral, at which the Archbishop of Canterbury preached a sermon of rare simplicity and power.

A letter written by Bishop Gilbert to his young daughter Frances gives a pleasant picture of some of the social events of the Conference:

July 11, 1897.

MY DEAR FRA:-I want to tell you about two very grand affairs I have attended this last week.

Wednesday evening, July 7, the Lord Mayor of London gave a banquet to all the bishops and their wives at the Mansion House, where the Mayor lives. The Mayor of London can hold his office but one year, and then he is made a knight by the Queen, and is always afterward know as Sir.

Well, we were received at the entrance of the Mansion House by a number of attendants gorgeously arrayed in scarlet, with hair powdered. Then we were conducted to some other attendants, who gave us each a large card which told us where we were to sit at the tables. Then we were presented in a loud voice to the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, who were richly clad in brilliant dress. After a little we were conducted to the banqueting hall, one of the most splendid rooms in the world. . . .

I sat next to the Bishop of Edinburgh. The dinner lasted about an hour and half. Then the loving cup was passed from one guest to another, and we pledged each other's health. This is a custom handed down for more than a thousand years. Then toasts were proposed which were responded to by the Mayor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Archbishop of Canada, Bishop Whipple, and the Bishop of London. We then wandered about the apartments until 11 o'clock, when we went home. It was all very strange and interesting.

The other affair I will tell you about was the Garden Party given on Friday by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, at her beautiful house in the suburbs of London. Such a company of distinguished people I never saw before. Lords and Ladies were as thick as blackberries, and it was a brilliant scene. The grounds are very large and fine. The Baroness and her husband received their guests under a canopy in the center of the grounds. . . . There were to be seen Turks, Chinamen, East Indiamen, Africans, Persians, and other foreigners all arrayed in the costumes peculiar to their countries. The headdresses and rich silk robes which they wore were singular and funny looking things. Some members of the royal family were there. I could only guess who the different people were. It would have been more interesting if some one had told me. The Baroness Burdett-Coutts is a very good woman and gives great sums of money to church and charities. . . .

To-morrow I go to Lambeth Palace to be the guest of the Archbishop of Canterbury for three days, and then I am to spend a week with Sir Richard Harvey. . . .

I am quite well and strong again. The weather is very pleasant. Kiss Lucy for me ten times, and give my love to your mother and also to the others.


In the Bishop's book of memorabilia are preserved many programmes of services, and invitations to dinners, receptions, and garden parties, in connection with the Conference. He was specially impressed by the visit to Glastonbury, and took home with him a series of interesting photographs of the services held in the ruined abbey. The letter to the Minnesota Missionary describes this visit which took place on the third of August. The arrangements for the journey were most complete, a special train leaving London at 9: 40 and arriving at 1 o'clock. The Mayor and Corporation of the town then entertained them at luncheon. Bishop Gilbert thus described the commemoration:

The day following [the close of the Conference], about one hundred bishops went on a pilgrimage to ancient Glastonbury, that historic spot where the Church shone in its splendor long before the landing of Augustine. That to me was the most marvellous scene of all. The little town of Glastonbury, hard by the ancient abbey ruing, was thronged with people from all the countryside, and had put on its gala attire.

Nearly six hundred clergy besides the bishops in their vestments marched through the streets of the town and out into the beautiful abbey grounds, where the service was held. One can never forget the extreme beauty of the scene as the sinuous procession moved in and out under the noble oaks and among the ruins of this venerable seat of our forefathers' faith. The address, a very remarkable one, was delivered by the Bishop of Stepney.

After all was over, a garden party was given on the grounds, and then some of the bishops went to the hospitable homes in and around Glastonbury, while others of us drove across the beautiful Somerset downs to the cathedral town of Wells, six miles away, where we were entertained.

The day following, a missionary service was held at the Cathedral, with a sermon by the Bishop of Maine. Then, after luncheon, given by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, in the palace grounds, we bade each other good-bye and separated, sorrowing most of all that some of us would meet on earth no more.

Thus ended the great Lambeth Conference of 1897. During one of its high functions Bishop Gilbert had said to his chaplain, the Rev. Ernest Dray, "We must go back to America. They will spoil us here." However, he accepted a number of invitations to visit, and prolonged his stay with great pleasure for four weeks.

His first visit was to Falmouth, in Cornwall, to the home of Mrs. Isabella Purves, the mother of one of his Minnesota clergy. On a weekday he preached for her son, the Rev. E. D. Purves, at Redruth Church nearby. On Sunday, by invitation of Canon Christopherson, the Bishop preached at the large parish church in Falmouth and made a great impression.

Another visit is described in a personal letter to a friend in St. Paul: ... I am writing this from the charming Devonshire country, where I am spending a few days with Sir John Kenneway at his countryseat. It is a typical old English place, with its terraces and lawns, its flowers and varied kinds of trees, its vines and winding walks. Everything smacks of age and finish, just what our beautiful American homes do not have.

Yesterday Sir John and I walked through the ' fields, under a cluster of beeches 200 years old, which were planted by the philosopher Locke, to the quaintest little village, where there is one of the best specimens of the 13th Century village church I have seen, and where lie the bones of Sir John's ancestors. The Norman tower of the church is as it was built, but the body of the church has been restored. Not far from here, within a stone's throw almost, S. T. Coleridge was born, and, if tradition is not at fault, my Gilbert ancestors hail from this part of Devonshire. . . . As ever affectionately,


From Devonshire he went up to Boston in Lincolnshire, where he spent a Sunday with friends formerly living in Minnesota, and preached both in Frampton and Boston. Later, he spent a few days in Scarborough as guest of the Bishop of Hull, but first he made a visit to Ireland, by the invitation of the Bishop of Clogher.

A letter from this venerable prelate, the Kt. Rev. Dr. Charles M. Stack, written in his eighty-fifth year, tells the story of this delightful visit.


MY DEAR SIR:-I had the great happiness to make the acquaintance of Dr. Gilbert at the Lambeth Conference of 1897.

I was then engaged in making an effort in favor of the Reformed churches in Spain and Portugal in the face of a strong and determined opposition. When the subject passed into Committee, I found Dr. Gilbert had been appointed a member, and thus we were thrown together during several days of prolonged debate and discussion.

When the committees reported, and we had come back to Conference, I had several opportunities of ripening our friendship. Finally it occurred to me that Dr. Gilbert might wish to see a little of Ireland and I asked him would he kindly pay me a visit when the Conference came to an end.

Dr. Gilbert was most kind and consented to come over channel to my house. He afterward introduced to me his friend, Dr. Cheshire, Bishop of North Carolina, whom I asked to join him in his visit. He most kindly consented to do so.

I was very anxious that Dr. Gilbert and his friend should see, and be seen, in Belfast; so with their permission, I arranged for them to arrive there on Saturday evening. . . . On Sunday they preached to very large congregations in St. Luke's Church. They were both fully appreciated. I had a letter from one of my friends in which was this remark, "I believe Dr. Gilbert's sermon was the best I ever heard in Belfast." I also was thanked very warmly for asking my brother Bishops to visit Belfast.

On Monday they were shown the city as far as time would permit, and had a look at the great ship-building yards, as well as a run round the "Lough" in a steamer. Indeed, they found it very difficult to get away from their kind entertainers.

They arrived here in the evening after two hours of rail. I need not say how warm was their welcome! We had arranged to ask a number of the neighboring clergy and gentry to meet the Bishops on one afternoon. The weather was lovely, and Knockballymore is a very lovely old place, so the day was most successful. Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Cheshire enjoyed themselves very much. All were delighted with our visitors.

Another day one of my sons took them to Enniskillen, which is at the middle of Lough Erne. A steamer took them down the "Lower Lake," which is very beautiful. My son pointed out the old castles, as they went along, and told them of the old wars and feuds of which they are the monuments. . . .

All hearts went out to Dr. Gilbert, from the first. We little thought how soon, alas! he should be taken from the many, many loving friends he must have left behind him! . . .

May I add that the very great courtesy and loving kindness I received from our American brethren during the Lambeth Conference made an impression on the minds of the Irish Bishops at large, as well as on my own, which can never be effaced. . . . I remain, Yours very sincerely,


To complete the picture of this charming visit one needs to know the setting of Knockballymore House. It is a plain, solid building of the old Georgian type, erected about 170 years ago. Its charm is in its setting. It is surrounded by 150 acres in the finest cultivation, and its gardens are of unusual beauty. Bishop Stack has been well known as an expert in gardening and farming, and visitors often came to see his fine horses and cattle. On the south side of the house the grounds extend for about a mile along a lake, and the approach from the north is over a curious, old stone bridge, which was built for the castle which formerly stood on the same site as the present house. On a hill in the grounds stands an ancient Irish "Rath" or circular entrenchment in good preservation. At the time of Bishop Gilbert's visit, the house contained a series of oil portraits of all the Bishops of Clogher since the Reformation, and also the Diocesan Library, with many ancient and beautiful volumes. Knockballymore delighted and refreshed the hearts of the American visitors. Bishop Gilbert continued to correspond with Bishop Stack, and carried back to Minnesota the warmest recollections of Irish hospitality.

He sailed from Liverpool on the eighth of September, and was soon busy at work again in Minnesota.

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