Project Canterbury

The Cowley Fathers in America: The Early Years.

By Robert Cheney Smith, S.S.J.E.

[Cambridge, Massachusetts:] no publisher, no date.


ON Advent Sunday, November the 28th, 1847, the Parish of the Advent, Boston, held its first service in a new place of worship—a remodeled meeting-house situated on Green Street. The officiant at that service was the Reverend William Croswell. Among the worshippers in the congregation that day was a young man seventeen years of age. He was Charles Chapman Grafton. Two years later the staff of the Advent was augmented by the acquisition of a young priest from North Carolina, the Reverend Oliver Sherman Prescott, who came as an assistant. It was these two men—Croswell and Prescott—who exerted a profound influence upon the life of Charles Grafton.

On the Fourth Sunday after Easter, May the 15th, 1851, Grafton lined up with the other members of the Confirmation Class of the Church of the Advent and marched with them to Saint Stephen’s Chapel to receive the Laying on of Hands. The reason for this unusual procedure was the fact that the Diocesan, the Rt. Rev. Manton Eastburn, had refused to visit the Church of the Advent. During a Confirmation Service which he held at the Advent in 1845, when the Church was located on the corner of Lowell and Causeway Streets, the Bishop had been highly displeased with, certain features of the services. We read in A Sketch of the History of the Parish of the Advent in the City of Boston, 1844-1894:

“The bishop’s main objections to the service related to the use of the word ‘Saint’ except as applied to the apostles, to the fact that the clergy knelt with their faces to the altar instead of kneeling into their chairs, and to certain other things which appeared to him to savor of superstition.”

Henceforth the Bishop refused to visit the Parish until alterations were made in the arrangement of the Church and in the mode of conducting divine service, and in consequence, each year, the Confirmation Class of the Parish of the Advent was confirmed in some other church.

[2] The episcopal boycott of the Advent was, unhappily not the sole travail with which that Parish was visited. In the autumn of 1850 a presentment was served upon Oliver Prescott “containing charges of heresy and violating the usages of the diocese in the mode of conducting divine service.” The specific “heresies” which Father Prescott was reputed to have taught were: (1) that prayer might be addressed to the Virgin Mary, and (2) that auricular confession was both allowable and profitable. The ceremonial “aberrations” of which the priest was accused were: (1) the use of a surplice, and (2) the use of the psalter instead of the psalms in metre. After three trials these charges were declared to be “not sustained”, but the court decreed that, “inasmuch as the respondent had claimed the right to pronounce absolution to the penitent, he be suspended from the ministry until he furnish to the bishop a certificate renouncing that claim except in the office for the visitation of the sick or in cases of contagious diseases.” Father Prescott was technically banished from the Diocese of Massachusetts but the Bishop of Maryland (William Rollinson Whittingham) received him into his Diocese, officially releasing him from any obligation to obey the decision of the Massachusetts Court on the ground that “what a Bishop could do, a Bishop could undo.”

At the time his pastor was enduring Bishop Eastburn’s inquisition Charles Grafton entered the Harvard Law School where he remained for three years. During these years Grafton felt ever more strongly drawn to the Church and finally, “under Father Prescott’s influence, he offered himself as a candidate for holy orders to Bishop Whittingham. The Bishop was willing to receive Grafton and he took up residence as a theological student in the parish of Ascension Church, Westminster, Maryland, where Father Prescott was Rector. After due preparation he was ordained to the priesthood in 1858. In the course of the next seven years, during which Father Grafton engaged in parochial work, his thoughts began to turn to the revival of the Religious Life for men in the Anglican Communion, and the possibility of his own vocation to such a life. In order to determine more clearly the will of God for him he decided to go into retreat accompanied by Father Prescott.

The site selected for the retreat was Fire Island, Long Island, New York. The two retreatants hired an old shack on the southern coast of the island and sometime in the month of December, 1864, they embarked upon their unusual enterprise. The mornings were occupied in prayer and study. The two priests performed their own [2/3] housework, and cut up wood to provide warmth. Father Prescott performed the culinary duties. It will be recalled that while these two men peacefully pursued their spiritual exercises, the Country was engaged in a frightful civil war. But the war was to intrude itself even upon their isolated haven. One day a United States cutter anchored off shore and discharged a large number of marines and sailors who surrounded the house. The priests were suspected of being Confederate spies, and their possessions were thoroughly searched. Apparently the commanding officer was ultimately satisfied as to the loyalty of the two clergymen and they were molested no further. However, in spite of the fact that the United States Navy permitted the priests to remain on the island, the rigours of winter forced them to conclude the retreat and return to the mainland in time for Christmas.

What was accomplished on Fire Island? Here, for a brief space of time two Americans, two priests of the Episcopal Church, tried to live a form of the Religious Life and to ascertain the answers to profound questions stirring in their hearts. How we should appreciate having some sort of a record of the conversations which must have taken place at this time between Father Grafton and Father Prescott! It would seem obvious that they reached the conclusion that the two alone ought not to found an American monastic order at that time. Four earlier efforts had proved short-lived, and these priests doubtless felt that to secure a firm foundation they must seek help from abroad. Accordingly, in the spring of 1865, Father Grafton sailed for England. It was to be a matter of two or three years before he was joined there by Father Prescott.


SHORTLY after his arrival in England Father Grafton wrote to Father Prescott:

“By a series of wonderful providences, men are being drawn to a religious life, and are being drawn together. It is the most aweful and solemn of anything I ever knew, One feels every moment should be occupied in prayer, lest one may go wrong or thwart His Leadings or mar His Blessed work. The mercy of God has allowed me to know pf what has been done, and to see something of it, add, if I am not unworthy, of casting in my lot with it . . . If God will, very quietly indeed in the autumn, some persons will get together, and the work be begun. Some of England’s saintliest men will direct by their counsel the work, and some of them will be in it.”

[4] Among this saintly company, one to whom Father Grafton was drawn was Edward Bouverie Pusey. It was Pusey who led Grafton to Richard Meux Benson, Vicar of Cowley, a village two miles from Oxford. It has been recorded that on the memorable occasion of the first meeting between Father Benson and Father Grafton, the latter remarked, “I have come from America. Where is the man who longs to form a religious community in England. I want to find him.” To Richard Meux Benson who, like the ancient Hebrews, saw the finger of God in every event of life, this comment would undoubtedly have seemed nothing less than a divine communication. In view of his own thoughts and prayers and aspirations over the past years, these words from the lips of a foreign clergyman may have sounded like a clarion calling him to action.

One of the first concrete steps towards the formation of the Community took place in the summer of 1865 when Richard Meux Ben son, Charles Chapman Grafton, Alexander Penrose Forbes (later Bishop of Brechin), George S. Lane Fox, and the Rev. Reginald Tuke (curate of Saint Mary’s, Soho) met at Mr. Tuke’s rooms at St. Mary’s to discuss the formation of a religious order. It would seem that all eyes gravitated to the Vicar of Cowley as the logical leader. In July Father Benson wrote to Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford:

“I have been asked to head the movement and with a full conscious ness, all the while of my own incapacity for such a position, I can scarcely regard it otherwise than as a call from God, which I ought to accept. It does, indeed, seem to me as bringing with it an answer to the prayers of very many years which I had never contemplated.”

Towards the close of August, Father Grafton went to Cowley and took up residence with Father Benson in a small suburban brick house on the Iffley Road. Later in the year they were joined by Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill, a curate at Wantage. The three priests began in earnest to carry out, as a small Community, the principles of Holy Religion. Their intention was to create a Society consisting of both priests and laymen leading the mixed life of prayer, and active work in the world—particularly in conducting parochial missions and undertaking foreign missionary work. They assumed the title, “Mission Priests of Saint John the Evangelist.” They were sometimes known as “The Evangelist Fathers,” or “Johnians,” and, in the course of time received the label “Cowley Fathers,” because of their geographical location. Although certain features of modern religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church were imitated. Father [4/5] Benson wisely decided to return to the Benedictine custom of the corporate recitation of the Divine Office in chapel.

In a letter to Bishop Wilberforce Father Benson had explained:

“Our proposal was to live together for a twelvemonth, and at the end of that time to take vows for three years, renewable with the sanction of the Community, annually. At the end of a given period, say fifteen years, the vow might be made solemn.”

At the conclusion of a year’s trial period, Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill gathered together on the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, December 27th, 1866, and in each other’s presence took the following vow:

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I . . . promise and vow to Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, before the whole company of heaven, and before you, my Fathers, that I will live in celibacy, poverty, and obedience, as one of the Mission Priests of St. John the Evangelist unto my life’s end. So help me God.”

Thus the Society of Saint John the Evangelist formally came into existence.

From the very start, the Fathers seem to have entered upon a good deal of external work. Father Grafton preached, lectured, shepherded religious communities for women, counseled individuals, and conducted retreats and missions. In a letter to Father Prescott he wrote:

“I have no time to write sermons, and until I get back to Cowley very little for anything else.”

During the cholera epidemic which broke out in the summer of 1866, Father Grafton became a volunteer chaplain to a hospital in Shoreditch, and lodged with Pusey in East London. When Charles Fuge Lowder, the Vicar of Saint Peter’s, London Docks, became prostrated by the blow of having three of his assistants simultaneously secede to Rome in February of 1868, Father Grafton and Father O’Neill labored together for a time in his parish. One can not fail to admire this self-sacrificing, heroic work undertaken by Father Grafton but at the same time one wonders if this was really the best possible preparation for one desirous of developing the Religious Life in America. Father Benson and Father O’Neill, with their tremendous spiritual reserves, seem to have been little affected by external distractions, but few men have ever attained to their high level.


IT had, of course, always been Father Grafton’s desire to return to America to establish the Society there. Father Benson likewise  hoped for the day when a branch of the Society should be planted on American soil. In October, 1868, in a letter addressed to his parishioners “of the New District of Cowley S. John on the opening of the Mission House in Marston Street,” Father Benson wrote:

“As the parishioners generally know, some of us are Americans, and it is hoped that they will some day return and organize in the western hemisphere a Mission Society like our own.”

To forward this end, Father Grafton spent a portion of the years 1867 and 1868 in the United States endeavoring to enlist American recruits. In Baltimore he found no one interested in joining the Society. At the invitation of Charles B. Coffin, a student of the General Theological Seminary in New York, Father Grafton talked to some of the students there about the Religious Life. As a result, Charles Coffin, Freeborn Coggeshall, and Henry Martyn Torbert later sought admission into the Society. It may have been a fear of British domination which kept men from responding. This unreasonable attitude on the part of many Americans long served as a deterrent to American vocations in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. Though the response to Father Grafton's plea in America was disappointingly small; a young Englishman was, at the same time, being drawn to Cowley, who in later years exerted a profound influence upon the Society in America, and upon the Episcopal Church. He was Arthur Crawshay Alliston Hall.

Born in Binfield, Berkshire in 1847, Arthur Hall went up to Oxford in 1865 and was enrolled at Christ Church. In November of 1867 he made his first retreat at Cowley, a retreat conducted by Father Benson, and at its close was received as an Associate of the Society. His university studies completed in 1869, Hall came to Cowley the following year to prepare for holy orders. On the Patronal Festival of the Society, the Feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate, May 6th, 1870, he, along with Robert Lay Page (his future Superior at the time of the Brooks controversy) received the habit of the Society. In December he was ordered deacon in Christ Church Cathedral by Bishop John Fieider Mackamess who had become the Oxford Diocesan the previous January, following the translation of Bishop Wilberforce to Winchester in November of 1869. In his biography of Arthur C. A. Hall, George Lynde Richardson writes, concerning the new deacon:

[7] “New in the ministry as he was, he had already made a deep impression upon his associates by his strength of purpose and his capacity for getting things done, and the youthful deacon (he was only twenty-three) was made Master of the lay brothers, and was set to work visiting, preaching, teaching Confirmation classes, catechizing children.”

On the Feast of Saint Thomas, December the 21st, 1871, Bishop Mackarness ordained the young deacon to the priesthood, and licensed him as a mission priest in the Diocese of Oxford. It was not long before Father Hall’s reputation as a preacher became widespread. Two years later he was assigned to conduct his first parochial missions—the first at Kempston during Lent, the second at Eastbourne in June when he was accompanied by Oliver Sherman Prescott.

Father Prescott, who became Rector of Christ Church, West Haven, Connecticut, in 1865, the year Father Grafton went to England, had remained in constant communication with his close friend. Father Grafton’s letters to Father Prescott contain repeated appeals that the latter come to Oxford. It would seem that Father Prescott entertained fears that should he go to England he might never be sent back to his native land. In a letter written from New York on October 1st, 1867, Father Grafton explained:

“As to your returning; I feel that it will be absolutely useless for me to attempt anything in this Country without four persons to begin with . . . I really think it would be better for you to go out to England, and to leave the question as to your return to be settled out there.”

Father Prescott finally made his decision, went to Cowley, and was clothed as a novice in the Society in 1868 in the oratory of the old house on the Iffley Road, where the first three professions had been made. He took his life vows two years later, on the same day that A. C. A. Hall, R. L. Page, J. Greatheed, and Henry Darby received the habit. Father Prescott’s profession brought to four the total number of Professed Fathers, and for the next two years the Society remained half English and half American. Perhaps it was at this time that Dr. Liddon laughingly suggested to Father Benson that he put the American eagle over his door since he had such a proportion from the United States!


Not only were Englishmen beginning to be aware of America’s role in the newly-founded Order, but Americans were recognizing the existence of the new Society in England. St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia was the first parish in America to [7/8] receive the ministrations of a Professed Cowley Father. Despite his earlier anxieties about returning to America, Father Prescott was sent to St. Clement’s just a few months following his profession, to assist the Reverend Herman Griswold Batterson who had become rector in 1869.

At this same time the Parish of the Advent, Boston, now worshipping in the church on Bowdoin Street, once more found itself without a rector. Following the death of William Croswell, in 1851, Horatio Southgate, formerly Bishop of Constantinople, assumed the rectorship. He was followed by James A. Bolles who resigned the parish in 1870. At a meeting of the committee appointed to consider the vacancy in the rectorship, held October the 7th, 1870, Mr. Richard Dana explained the work of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and recommended the passage of the following vote:

“That the committee to nominate a rector be authorized to make temporary arrangements with the Rev. Mr. Benson, of Oxford, to assist the rector ad interim in carrying on the work of the parish.”

This recommendation was adopted and arrangements satisfactory to Father Benson were ultimately made. Father Benson himself came, accompanied by Father O’Neill and the Reverend Frederick William Puller, who was, at that time, assistant priest at St. Paul’s, Lorrimore Square, London, and who was to enter the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in 1880. Father Grafton remained at Cowley to be in charge of the Community. Father Page, though still a novice, had the charge of the Cowley parish of which Father Benson still remained vicar.

The three English priests reached Boston on Saturday, November the 12th, 1870. “Father Benson has arrived with 40 monks to convert the heathen!” Thus announced the headlines of some news papers. Misunderstanding and suspicion doubtlessly colored the minds of some Americans but many extended a most cordial welcome to the priests. The most vigorous opposition emanated from the very area in which the Fathers had been invited to work—the Diocese of Massachusetts. “Iciness” would be a mild noun to use in describing the manner in which Manton Eastburn, still the Diocesan, greeted the arrival of the Fathers. He even went so far as to refuse to see them in spite of the fact that Father Benson brought letters from the Bishop of Oxford (Mackarness), the Bishop of Winchester (Wilberforce), and the Bishop of London (John Jackson). In the book, A Sketch of the History of the Parish of the Advent in the City of Boston, 1844-1894, we read, concerning the Bishop’s attitude:—

[10] “The result was a correspondence which extended through the fall and winter of 1870-71, in which, while the parish was not technically involved, its committee was put to much embarrassment. These clergymen had been invited by the parish, and the parish felt in a measure responsible for the manner in which they were received by the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese . . . it was finally arranged, however, that the Rev. Charles C. Grafton and the Rev. Oliver S. Prescott, members of the society, who, as priests of the American Church, were canonically eligible, should take active charge of the services of the parish, while the English members should hold such meetings in the Sunday-school-room and elsewhere as might be held by any laymen, performing no priestly acts in this diocese so long as the bishop objected.”

Father Benson was a man with tremendous respect for authority and he felt bishops should be obeyed. Therefore he obeyed!

Sometime between the promulgation of Eastburn’s ban on the Englishmen and the following March, Father Prescott removed from St. Clement’s and came to the Advent to work with, the Reverend Moses B. Stickney who was serving as rector ad interim. After Stickney resigned his connection with the Parish on April 10th, 1871, Father Prescott was in charge of the Church. Apparently dis abilities imposed upon Father Prescott by the Diocese of Massachusetts twenty years previously had been removed.


WHAT the Diocese of Massachusetts lost through Bishop Eastburn’s practical ostracism of the English Fathers was gained by Churchmen elsewhere in the United States and by Anglicans in the Bahamas and Eastern Canada, for the Fathers travelled widely, preaching, counseling, and conducting missions and retreats. The schedule which the three English priests pursued in the course of the first nine months of 1871 was truly exhausting.

In February Father Benson and Father O’Neill sailed from New York for the Diocese of Nassau, then headed by Bishop Addington Robert Peel Venables. Following a brief retreat for the clergy, Father Benson returned to New York and, among other, activities, addressed the students at the General Theological Seminary. Father O’Neill stayed on in Nassau holding services and engaging in an extensive missionary tour of the Bahamas.

During Lent Father Benson and Father Puller were in the western part of America. Carrying a heavy Lenten schedule. Father Benson was at the Chicago Cathedral each week from Friday to Monday, at Racine College on Tuesdays, and at two churches in Milwaukee on Thursdays. Father Puller spent the first half of Lent with the [10/11] Reverend James DeKoven at Racine, Wisconsin, and the second half with Canon Durling at Janesville, Wisconsin. Both men visited Nashotah House, and after Easter they spent a few days with the Bishop of Minnesota, Henry Benjamin Whipple, in Faribault.

From the West the two Englishmen now travelled eastward to Baltimore where they conducted series of missions and Father Benson gave a clergy retreat. A visit to the Nation’s Capital was squeezed in before their departure for New York. Father Puller, reminiscing about this period, writes,

“While at New York we visited Bishop Horatio Potter, and we also went up the Hudson River and spent a night in a hotel on the top of the Catskills.”

Later they passed another month in Boston and then moved north ward to Toronto and Montreal. Father O’Neill, who was back from the Bahamas by June, visited West Point on July 9th and moved on into the western part of New York State. Later in the month he conducted a mission at Campobello, New Brunswick, and joined Father Benson in the early part of August for another mission in Saint Peter’s Church (now Saint Peter’s Cathedral) in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. While Father O’Neill was holding his mission in Campobello, Father Puller was conducting one in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick. After preaching in four little churches in the country district around Fredericton, New Brunswick, Father Benson moved on into Nova Scotia for a clergy retreat and for missions in Windsor and Halifax.

But the labors on this side of the Atlantic were terminating for the year 1871. The three Englishmen—Father Benson, Father O’Neill, and Father Puller—assembled at Halifax in September preparatory to their departure from the new world. Surely the frustration of their desires to minister in the Church of the Advent, Boston, had proved a source of keen disappointment, but the Fathers had turned their adversity into a great opportunity to minister to the souls of many in an ever-widening circle. They had sown good seed, and now returned to Cowley to commit the Boston work into the hands of another—Charles C. Grafton.


FATHER GRAFTON, accompanied by the Reverend Henry Darby, a novice, left Cowley on the 20th of November, 1871. Appreciation was expressed for the Father’s work in England, and prayers were requested for God’s blessing upon the Society’s work which the Father was to forward in America. We read in the Cowley Saint ]ohn Parish Magazine for December, 1871:—

“It is now six years since he (i.e. Father Grafton) first came amongst us, and during that time his ministrations have been greatly valued and blessed to very many not only of our own parish but throughout the country. It is not needful here to enlarge upon the affection and esteem he has won amongst us. The prayers of all are asked that their ship may have a prosperous voyage and the work in America, of which Fr. Grafton will be the head, may be abundantly blessed. He will immediately take charge of the Church and College belonging to the Society of the Evangelist Fathers, at Bridgeport, Conn, and will superintend all the mission work which they may be called upon to carry on in the different parts of the western continent. Fr. Prescott continues still actively engaged at the Church of the Advent, at Boston. The Church work in that city is by God’s mercy rapidly developing under his care. Many persons outside the Church are coming to inquire with interest into her doctrine and practice.”

This excerpt clarifies the fact that the American work of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist now radiated from two focal points—Boston and Bridgeport. In Boston the brethren resided in a house located at #22 Staniford Street, a building which has since been razed.

The Bridgeport property, consisting of the Church of the Nativity and the house and grounds adjoining it, seems to have been built and owned by the Reverend E. Ferris Bishop who apparently donated the property to the Society. Doubtlessly there was a considerable exchange of personnel between the Bridgeport and Boston Houses. For a time in 1872 the Reverend Edward Benedict, a postulant, was in charge of the Bridgeport House, and the Reverend Henry Darby, the English novice, was with him. Numbers began to grow as Ameri cans and Englishmen alike joined hands to promote a common cause in the United States. Freeborn Coggeshall was admitted as a postulant into the Society on December 29th, 1871. In July of the following year three men were sent out from Cowley—Father John Greatheed, Brother Charles Edwyn Gardner, and Brother Charles (Wilson).

In the summer of 1873 Father Grafton returned to Cowley for the annual retreat, a custom frequently repeated in the early days by the Fathers working in America. The summer retreat was of a month’s duration until the Chapter of 1884 when it was decided unanimously to shorten it henceforth to two weeks. On his return to Boston in September, Father Grafton was accompanied by Father Hall, Brother William, and three of the Sisters of Saint Margaret—Mother Louisa Mary, Sister Theresa, and Sister Jessie. On September 14th, just prior to their departure from East Grinstead, Sister [13/15] Louisa Mary had been appointed Mother Superior of the house to be newly established in America and Father Grafton was instituted as their Chaplain. Two years earlier Sister Theresa had been sent to Boston to take charge of the Children’s Hospital and she was now returning to continue her good labors there while the other two Sisters worked in the Parish of the Advent. Thus began a close relationship between the members of what were to become the American Congregations of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and the Society of Saint Margaret—a contact which happily continues to the present day.

At All Saints, 1873, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist took formal possession of the House of our Saviour and the Church of the Nativity, Bridgeport. Although still a novice himself. Father Hall was placed in charge of the House and appointed Novice Master. The Reverend Edward Benedict, the Reverend John Robert son, Brother Gardner, and Brother Charles were there with Father Hall most of the time. Father Freeborn Coggeshall, Father Darby, Father Henry Martyn Torbert, and George Johnson were with him for part of the time. Father Greatheed and Brother William, stationed at the Boston House, journeyed to the House of our Saviour from time to time for retreat. In a letter to Father Convers written in 1920, Bishop Hall comments,

“We had a happy time in Bridgeport for a year, with study and spiritual instructions in the House, and services, with the pastoral cate of the people around in North Bridgeport.”

Ecclesiastical difficulties, however, still existed. Bishop Eastburn of Massachusetts had died in 1872. His successor, Benjamin Henry Paddock, was consecrated on September 17th, 1873, while Father Grafton, Father Hall, and Brother William were on the ocean. Bishop Paddock was apparently willing to license Father Hall, though an Englishman, as a visitor in the Diocese of Massachusetts, but the Bishop of Connecticut (John Williams) proved obdurate, refusing to recognize Father Hall. Confirmation candidates from the Church of the Nativity had to be presented in Trinity Church, Bridgeport, and the Bishop stipulated that Father Hall was neither to present the Confirmation Classes, nor even to be present in the chancel of the church during the Confirmation Service.

Despite this irregularity in his ecclesiastical status, we may have no doubt that Father Hall was able, on the basis of his own training at Cowley, to impart to the novices entrusted to his care much concerning the basic principles and practices of the religious life. Father Benson seems, to have considered the House of our Saviour [15/16] an excellent place for the novitiate for he wrote from Cowley to Brother Gardner,

“I think, if I had my own way, I should come with all the novices.”

Since that was not possible it was considered wise to send American novices to Cowley for a portion of their training in order for them to learn at first hand the spirit of the Society and its consecrated Founder. Accordingly, in the summer of 1874, three priest postulants—Freeborn Coggeshall, Henry Martyn Torbert, and Edward Benedict journeyed to England for their pre-clothing retreat and to receive the habit of the Society. Father Coggeshall, writing aboard “The Batavia” on June 29th, 1874, says,

“A very good passage, so far. Have not been sick but have steered close to it . . . Fathers Benedict and Torbert were both sick. We had daily Celebrations in our stateroom, save on two days.”

It was well that these postulants had gone to England, for the Bridgeport undertaking had to be abandoned five months after their departure. The donor of the property, the Reverend E. Ferris Bishop, seems to have been an extravagant ritualist to say the least. The deed for the property had never been registered and the donor now insisted upon inserting in the deed of gift conditions which Father Grafton deemed inconsistent with conformity to the Book of Common Prayer. In his letter of March 12th, 1920, to Father Convers; to which we have already referred. Bishop Hall wrote, concerning the action of the Reverend E. Ferris Bishop,

“His special grievance was that we would not say the Commandments sotto voce while his son Sidney played a nine-fold Kyrie . . . They wanted the organ going all through the prayer of Consecration, and if I remember rightly, perhaps singing that on a tone. I think there were other things, but I don’t remember what they were.”

The upshot of the whole matter was that the Society withdrew on Thanksgiving Day, 1874, Father Hall and Brother Gardner returning to Boston. The American Literary Churchman of November 1st, 1882, concludes,

“Without hesitation the Fathers sacrificed to the rubrics a property worth $60,000.”


Difficulties, far weightier than the loss of a valuable piece of property now lay ahead. In Lent of 1874 Father Grafton and Father Luke Rivington, one of the English Fathers (professed in July of that year), conducted a memorable mission in Saint Clement’s Church, Philadelphia. This led ultimately to a [16/18] request that the Society of Saint John the Evangelist assume charge of the parish under the direction of Father Prescott. In the minutes of the vestry meeting convened on October 5th, 1875, the following resolution appears;

“Resolved, that a Committee of three be appointed to wait upon the Rev. Fr. Oliver Prescott, S.S.J.E., and ascertain his views respecting the taking charge of St. Clement’s Church and Parish by the Evangelist Fathers.”

The Father Superior in England (Father Benson) assented to this proposal and on Septuagesima Sunday, February 12th, 1876 Father Prescott assumed the rectorship of St. Clement’s. Associated with him at the start were three priest novices from England—Basil William Maturin, George Edmund Sheppard, and Charles Neale Field. These are great names, and to the list must be added the names of Father Benson, Father Convers, Father Longridge, and others who participated in the life of the parish during the fifteen years that the Society administered St. Clement’s. Father Franklin Joiner, for many years rector of St. Clement’s, writes,

“This period has usually been looked upon as the ‘golden age’ of the Parish, and many people still date events from the ‘days of the Fathers.’”

But before the year 1876 was out, the trouble to which we referred broke out. Like Manton Eastburn and John Williams, William Bacon Stevens, the Bishop of Pennsylvania, proved to be very much opposed to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. A letter from the Bishop to Father Maturin, dated October 18th, 1876, reads:—

“After long and prayerful consideration of the subject, I deem it a duty, which I owe to myself and to my Diocese, to revoke the verbal and temporary permission to officiate in this Diocese, which I gave you through the Rev. Mr. Prescott a few months ago, and to request you to discontinue all clerical ministrations within the Diocese of Pennsylvania, as I do not consent to your officiating in this ecclesiastical jurisdiction.”

Some older members of St. Clement’s believe that this sudden inhibition resulted from the newspaper reports of a sermon Father Maturin preached on the Real Presence. In a further letter, dated October 19th, 1876, Bishop Stevens returned Father Maturin’s certificate from the Bishop of Oxford (Mackarness). Fortunately the Society’s good friend Horatio Potter,, the Bishop of New York, was willing to receive Father Maturin’s credentials and he thereby became canonically connected with the Diocese of New York.

On the same day that Bishop Stevens inhibited Father Maturin he felt it his duty to censure Father Prescott. His complaint was [18/19] that he had learned that in “daily celebrations of the Lord’s Supper” Father Prescott did not use in its entirety the form prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer but omitted certain elements and added others. Father Prescott turned this communication over to the members of the vestry of St. Clement’s, who wrote a letter of protest to the Bishop on November 7th in which they concluded:—

“It will be our duty, as it will be our endeavor, under all circum stances, to maintain the ecclesiastical and legal rights of this Parish.”

This tiff about ceremonial marked the beginning of what was to develop into a serious controversy during the Diocesan Convention of 1879.


Five days after the vestry’s reply to Bishop Stevens, Father Benson arrived at St. Clement’s. It must have pained him much to learn of these unpleasant developments. More than this he now faced the sad task of seeing a beloved novice laid to rest. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, almost ten years after its inception, had experienced its first loss through death. Freeborn Coggeshall, the American priest postulant who had voyaged to England in 1874 was even then suffering from asthma. Other illnesses afflicted him in England, and he passed away on October the 6th, 1876, at Cowley. It was hoped to place his earthly remains in the parish cemetery there, but friends in Rhode Island asked that the body be returned to America. This request was granted, and the remains were shipped aboard the “Egypt” which reached New York just ahead of Father Benson’s ship. On Wednesday, November 15th, Father Benson, with five other members of the Society, attended Father Coggeshall’s funeral in Providence. Father Benson wrote, after the funeral:—

“Much as one regretted not having him laid, as once was hoped, in the new burial ground at Cowley, yet after one saw the interest which his return awakened at Providence, one could not regret the voyage. His life was a short one, but his work will live for ever.”

Father Benson, in addition to viewing the newly-undertaken work of the Society in Philadelphia, doubtless spent some time with his spiritual sons in Boston. In December of 1876 he made a proposition to the Corporation of the Parish of the Advent, Boston, regarding the purchase of the church building on Bowdoin Street. This offer was probably made because of the fact that the year previously the Parish had purchased a new building site on Brimmer Street. After some deliberation Father Benson’s proposal was accepted in March, 1877, on condition, however, that,

[20] “as long as the parish may have for its rector a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the church on Brimmer Street shall be made the headquarters of the work of the Society in Boston, and the church on Bowdoin Street shall be carried on as a mission chapel, subject to the control of the said rector, but independent of said parish.”

In the book, A Sketch of the History of the Parish of the Advent, we read,

“The price fixed for the property on Bowdoin Street was about $27,000, which was raised by a contribution of £2,000 sent by Father Benson from England, and the remainder by Father Grafton and several members of the parish.”

In addition to their parochial duties at the Church of the Advent and St. Clement’s, the Fathers continued to carry on the work of conducting missions and retreats. Father Hall and Father Maturin preached a mission in the House of Prayer, Newark in May of 1877, and in the Church of the Ascension, Chicago, the following month.

In July, Father Hall and Father Maturin returned to Cowley for the annual summer retreat and to take their life vows, along with Father Edward Benedict, who had gone to England with Father Coggeshall and Father Torbert. Father Torbert had left the novitiate before the time for his profession, feeling that he could not take vows from which the American Church provided no dispensation. On his return to the States he ministered for seven years to the Sisters of Saint Mary at Peekskill, and then assisted the Fathers in Boston. Father Benedict was unable to persevere in his vocation. Broken in health, he withdrew after his profession, and was ultimately released from the Society.

A month after his profession at Cowley, Father Hall returned to the Church of the Advent, Boston. Since the end of 1875, when Father Grafton went abroad for a prolonged stay. Father Hall had been in charge of the parish, and had also ministered to the spiritual needs of the Sisters of Saint Margaret. Father Grafton finally re turned to Boston in November of 1877.

In January, 1878, a new face appeared in the sanctuary of the Advent—the face of one who is still affectionately remembered by some—that of Edward William Osborne. Father Osborne was born in Calcutta on January 5th, 1845, the son of a Church Missionary Society missionary in India. He had been ordered a deacon in 1869 and advanced to the priesthood the following year. After serving two curacies in country places in England he entered the Society, becoming a postulant on January 25th, 1876, and a novice the following August. As Freeborn Coggeshall lay dying at Cowley, Father [20/21] Osborne stood at his bedside and recited the commendatory prayer for his soul. The work which Father Coggeshall might have under taken fell to Father Osborne and he was soon sent to America to begin a remarkable ministry, one which was ta lead at length to his consecration as Bishop of Springfield, Illinois.


MEANWHILE, Bishop Stevens and Father Prescott continued to differ in Philadelphia. On January 27th, 1877 the Bishop wrote to the rector requesting the abandonment of certain customs at St. Clement’s, including the omission of the “Longer Exhortation” and the use of acolytes. Father Prescott requested that the Bishop make an official canonical visitation of St. Clement’s, feeling that when the Bishop observed the great work the Fathers were performing his attitude might change. The Bishop visited the parish on February 17th, but he remained adamant, still insisting that the practices he had condemned in his earlier letter be discontinued. Now the vestry entered the dispute announcing,

“We declare and announce as our solemn conviction that the rector should not accede to the demand made upon him in such letters.”

Father Prescott expressed his willingness to make some compromises, but the Bishop insisted upon having all his requests carried out, and declared that further correspondence was unnecessary.

Beside Bishop Stevens, the Society found a further clerical opponent in the Dean of the Philadelphia Divinity School, the Reverend Dr. Daniel R. Goodwin, who proved tireless in his efforts to heap ignominy upon St. Clement’s and its rector. At the Diocesan Convention which convened on May 9th, 1878, Dr. Goodwin opened a discussion on the subject of St. Clement’s Church. After much talk, a resolution was passed providing for the appointment of an investigating committee which should “ascertain the facts” about the usages and modes of worship at St. Clement’s, and recommend some action to the next Convention.

The committee of investigation reported to the Diocesan Convention, meeting in the Church of the Epiphany, Philadelphia, from May 6th to May 9th, 1879, the “abominations” being perpetrated at St. Clement’s. The committee then recommended:

(1) That the Convention condemn the “practices and usages . . . ascertained to be followed in St. Clement’s Church”;
(2) That a diocesan canon be written by which a parish maintaining or permitting “usages or practices not in conformity [21/22] with the doctrines, discipline, and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church” might be deprived of its representation in the Convention”; and
(3) That the report “be referred to the Bishop and the Standing Committee to take such action thereon, under existing legislation, as they think requisite and proper.”

These recommendations provoked a torrent of acrimonious debate. Many delegates who had no sympathy with St. Clement’s felt that the question under discussion involved an important point of constitutional rights, and that the proposed canon was fraught with danger. There were occasional outbursts of laughter and applause from the church galleries so disturbing to the delegates that the Bishop threatened to clear out the spectators. At one point in the discussion. Father Prescott arose to assert that when the Convention got through it would leave him and the services at St. Clement’s just where it found them; that those services would not be changed except by and under and in accordance with the laws and constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Later, in desperation. Father Prescott again took the floor to announce,

“My word has been so often flung back in my teeth that my voice will no longer be heard in the convention.”

All of the recommendations of the committee were finally adopted. The new diocesan canon forbade any “ritual” not sanctioned by the Bishop, and also the use of the Sacrament of Penance, unless the practice could be proved to have been the usage of the parish for the preceding twenty years. Father Joiner in his articles on St. Clement’s explains,

“This canon apparently was never enforced and was removed some years later by an overwhelmingly large vote of the Convention.”

The month following the famous Convention of 1879, Bishop Stevens requested that proceedings be inaugurated against the Rector of St. Clement’s under Title I, Canon 22, “Of the Use of the Book of Common Prayer” of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. This was the notorious “Ritual Canon” passed by the General Convention of 1874, and which no longer appears among the Canons of the Church, having later been repealed. Hearings by the Bishop and Standing Committee began on January 20th, 1880. In February, Father Benson made a hurried trip to Philadelphia from England, apparently to appraise the situation at first hand. As a result of the hearings, Father Prescott was found guilty of bowing to the altar, the use of candles, the wearing of vestments, the elevation of the [22/23] Blessed Sacrament, celebrating without communicating the congregation, and the omission of the “Longer Exhortation.” According to the stipulation of the Canon, Father Prescott was admonished by the Bishop to discontinue such practices. Father Prescott’s protest against the decision resulted in the threat of a trial for deposition, so that on May 5th, Father Prescott, Father Maturin, and the Reverend Duncan Convers, who was now on the staff of St. Clement’s, resigned.

The vestry requested that the Fathers withdraw their resignations and put the questioned ceremonial in abeyance. This was done, and beginning with the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension, May 9th, 1880, bowing, genuflections, and the use of altar lights were omitted, the “Longer Exhortation” was invariably used, and Mass vestments were replaced by a surplice and black stole. These ceremonial arrangements continued in effect for a full year and a half.

Surely these controversies, widely publicized in the secular and religious press in America, must have caused grave concern to the Father Superior at Cowley. Twice in 1880 Father Benson made the long journey to the United States, both at the beginning and the end of the year, to endeavor to iron out the difficulties. He attempted loyally to support his spiritual son, Oliver Prescott, and yet we know he did not always agree with him and his policies. He wrote, concerning the situation at St. Clement’s,

“Some things . . . would have been different if I had had control of the parochial management. I certainly should have urged more hearty acceptance of episcopal authority.”

When the situation had become well nigh intolerable. Father Benson made it clear that either Father Prescott would have to resign as Rector of St. Clement’s, or the Society of St. John the Evangelist would withdraw from the parish. Father Prescott felt so strongly that it was his duty to remain as Rector of St. Clement’s that he went so far as to request his arch-enemy. Bishop Stevens, to intervene on his behalf. The people of the parish were highly incensed over this appeal to the Diocesan, having no desire whatsoever to terminate their relationship with the Society. Accordingly, the wardens and vestrymen of St. Clement’s requested that Father Prescott tender his resignation as Rector, which he reluctantly did in November of 1881.

Basil William Maturin, S.S.J.E., now became the Rector of St. Clement’s Church. Bishop Stevens, it will be recalled, had inhibited Father Maturin in October of 1876, but the inhibition was withdrawn six months later, perhaps in consequence of vigorous protests which the Diocesan received from Bishops of the Church of England, [23/25] including, some assert, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Archibald Campbell Tait). Father Maturin restored the old, accustomed ceremonial, and introduced the use of incense. Of this new period at the Church, Father Joiner writes,

“It was during Father Maturin’s rectorship that St. Clement’s achieved its greatest glory and reputation. Father Maturin was one of the mighty preachers of the Church. Crowds came to hear him and it is said that police were required every Sunday to handle the crowds and keep them in order. What the newspapers of the day called ‘a mass of seething humanity’ crowded the corridors and aisles of the church. People tell how week after week they have seen the window sills, the choir, and the pulpit steps jammed with the overflowing congregations.”

Such a description suggests that charity, rather than uncharitableness, once more permeated the City of Brotherly Love.


PEACE had come to St. Clement’s, Philadelphia, but strife now broke out at the Church of the Advent, Boston. A like question arose in both places. When a religious becomes the rector of a parish how much freedom of action may he exercise? No matter what his assigned work a priest who is a regular is never dispensed from obedience to his superior. A wise superior, having assigned a member of his order to supervise a parish will, of course, leave the practical management of parochial affairs to the wisdom and discretion of the priest.

It is important that this basic fact be thoroughly understood because it was involved in the controversies which raged around Father Prescott, Father Grafton, and Father Hall. Reading those seemingly endless articles in the secular and religious press in 1882 one is driven to the conclusion that most contributors, writing in heat, merely betrayed marked ignorance of the organization and obligations of a religious community. Father Benson, ever acting in good faith, simply carried out his duties as the Superior of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist; but his American opponents continued to brand him as a meddling Britisher who had entirely overstepped the bounds of his authority.

Charles Chapman Grafton felt he was called to be in America a superior whose position was the equivalent of that of Richard Meux Benson in England; but despite great natural gifts and spiritual powers some of the Fathers, including’ the Founder, felt that Father Grafton lacked certain necessary qualities essential to the leadership of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in [25/26] America. For two full years (1875-1877), due to illness, he was obliged to absent himself from the Church of the Advent, of which he was the Rector. The state of his health, added to other matters, seemed to make it clear that Father Grafton could not head an American branch of the Society. However, when Father Benson expressed this as his own earnest opinion. Father Grafton felt that he must force a separation from the Society.

For some time Father Grafton had been agitating for the writing of a Constitution for the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. There was an understandable reluctance on the part of the Founder to effect this during the formative years of the Society’s life. In October of 1881 Father Grafton wrote an open letter to Frederic Dan Huntington, the Bishop of Central New York, in which He stated,

“We have as yet no constitution, only a spiritual rule of life. In the formation of the former we desire the advice and assistance of those set over us in the Lord. We are under no obligations to any Superior which do not leave entirely undisturbed the obligations we owe as clergy to our Bishops . . . Such a Society must, in order to have the moral support of the Bishops . . . submit its constitution and rule of life to their approval.”

By writing this letter Father Grafton presented the issue between him and his Superior as essentially a contest between the rights of the Episcopal Church and her Bishops as against those of foreign ecclesiastics. The matter thus presented led to considerable contro versy. The newspapers eagerly took up the question and people began to ally themselves with one side or the other.

The duststorm assumed such proportions that four members of the Society (Fathers Grafton, Hall, Maturin, and Osborne) conferred at the Mission House in Staniford Street, Boston, in the early part of June, 1882. They considered three possible courses of action:

(1) That Father Grafton and those who felt as he did, submit and wait until their grievances could be righted.

(2) That Father Grafton withdraw from the Society and resign his rectorship.

(3) That Father Grafton be released from the Society, retain his rectorship, and that Fathers Hall and Osborne leave the Church of the Advent.

These suggestions were thoroughly discussed as to their effect upon the Society, the parish, and the individuals involved. It was recommended that Father Grafton cease writing to the newspapers [26/27] and accept Father Benson’s decision, but at the close of the conference Father Grafton could only conclude,

“I see more and more that I have no place in the Society any longer.”

A few days after this conference Father Hall received directions from Father Benson to leave for British Columbia where, with Father George Edmund Sheppard, he was to labor so heroically among the men constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. Father Hall’s departure proved a two-fold blessing. He and Father Sheppard were able to come to the aid of the Bishop of New Westminster (A. W. Sillitoe) in a great emergency, and they were both removed from all the trouble brewing in Boston.

On the 16th of June Father Grafton wrote to the Superior suggesting the terms of his separation from the Society, namely that he and the Americans who might so elect be released, and that property matters be settled between the Society and those with drawing. In his reply of July 4th Father Benson wrote magnanimously,

“God forbid that I should hold you down under obligations of past vows of obedience if they have become a burden to conscience.”

After reading the Superior’s communication to Father Osborne, Father Grafton concluded,

“You will understand therefore Father Osborne, that I am no longer a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.”

Father Osborne agreed to stay on at the Advent for a few weeks, and then departed on the 28th of August, going first to Peekskill and thence to Philadelphia. In a letter to Father Grafton dated August 14th, Father Benson expressed, reluctantly, we may be confident, his willingness to release from their obligations to himself both Father Prescott and Father Walter Russell Gardner (who had been professed in 1880), in addition to releasing Father Grafton. Thus it came about that three Professed Fathers—Charles Chapman Grafton, Oliver Sherman Prescott, and Walter Russell Gardner—ceased to be members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

This event in the history of the Society has been examined by many, and judgments have fluctuated all the way from those condemning the defection as an utterly contumacious breaking of the most solemn vows, to those estimating it as a justifiable parting of the ways in the face of genuinely conscientious difficulties. Father Hall, writing forty years after the incident, when he himself was no longer a member of the Society but a bishop, offered this consideration:

[28] “It should be remembered in judging the course of those who withdrew from the Society that no Constitution had then been agreed up—only the spiritual Rule; that there was at that time no to appeal to, nor any episcopal authority over Society as such, only over its individual members as priests. Hence in any difference that might arise as to conflict of duties and allegiance there was no possibility of an authoritative decision. Nor had any provision then been made for an honorable and religious release from obligations to the Society. As I have thought over the question lately, this has seemed a fair and right statement to make, where any is called for.”

That the separation was regrettable, and that it hampered mission of the Society in America are indisputable truths. In his book, A Journey Godward, Father Grafton states,

“Doubtless there were some misunderstandings on all sides; and I have felt that if I had been a holier man, my purpose would have been better understood, and the rupture might have been avoided.

Perhaps further comment upon what will ever remain a sad entry in the annals of the Society is unnecessary.

There still remained, of course, the practical problem of the Parish of the Advent and the church property. That invaluable source of information, A Sketch of the History of the Parish of the Advent, explains the solution of these remaining difficulties as follows:

“The corporation (i.e. of the Parish of the Advent), after looking into the matter, and realizing that the church in Bowdoin Street was, by the terms of its sale, set aside for the ultimate use of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and was being occupied by the parish, in a sense on sufferance, promptly recognized the rector’s right to choose his own assistants, and at the same time acknowledged the position of the society by agreeing to finish the new church as early as practicable, and then resign the Bowdoin Street church to the uses of the society under the immediate charge of the assistant rector, with the understanding that he should resign his office in the parish, and conduct the work entirely independent of the parish. This arrangement was agreed on all sides as being, on the whole, the happiest solution of the difficulties in which the parish found itself.”

So calm descended after the storm, but for a time the familiar faces of Father Hall and Father Osborne were not seen within the precincts of the old church on Bowdoin Street.

XI. Peaceful Interludes in Canada

WHAT a contrast there was between that church on Bowdoin Street, Boston, and the settings in which Father Hall and Father Sheppard now found themselves. Mess-halls, saw mills, boardinghouse rooms, the area encircling an outdoor log-fire, [28/29] yes, even a saloon—these were the backgrounds in which the Fathers attempted to reach the hearts of railway workers along the Fraser River in British Columbia. Those remarkable letters of Father Hall to his mother and to the Father Superior at Cowley reveal the souls of men who spared no pains to minister to their fellowmen. The Fathers found shelter where they could, sometimes living in tents. They were frequently cold and wet, often dog-tired, as they trudged along the hazardous, muddy trails from camp to camp along the route which was to be followed by the new railroad. Sometimes there was little response among those who had embraced skepticism and infidelity. Father Sheppard once wrote to the Father Superior,

“Some of them seemed to think themselves out of the pale of religion altogether.”

But after a month of arduous, loving toil Father Hall could write to Father Benson,

“Now I think the work has the respect if not the sympathy of nearly all.”

In October the Fathers left British Columbia returning to San Francisco by ship. On their way through that city in July, they had hoped to see Chinatown but lacked opportunity. Now, however, accompanied by a policeman, they thoroughly inspected that fascinating section of San Francisco—the opium dens, pawnshops, sweat shops, jewellers shops, the Chinese theatre, the Joss House, and a restaurant. In his descriptive letter about this tour Father Sheppard wrote to Father Benson,

“I can’t give you any adequate idea of all the strange and sometimes appalling sights we saw—the dens of filth, and horrible abodes of vice—the dark holes and alleys we penetrated, the dreadful smells which assailed us; these must be personally experienced to be realized. But it certainly makes one feel what a joyless, oppressive thing life is without Christian hope and love, and how completely the vast multitudes of China are under the power of the prince of this world, being as they are without hope and without God in the world.”

It was to be a good many years after the writing of this letter before a Cowley Father was to become a participant in China’s warfare against the Prince of this World.

Leaving San Francisco, the Fathers moved eastward to Pueblo, Colorado, where they parted. Father Hall travelling northward to Denver to preach and deliver addresses almost continually for three or four full days. In Kansas City the Fathers again joined forces to conduct a mission at St. Mary’s Church. The mission ended on the 16th of November, and Father Hall proceeded to Philadelphia where he resided at St. Clement’s with Fathers Maturin, Osborne, [29/31] and Field, until the dust stirred up by the recent controversy in Boston, had settled and he and Father Osborne could return to re-establish the work of the Society in that city.

The early part of 1883 found Father Osborne, not in Philadelphia, but on the opposite side of Canada from that on which Father Hall and Father Sheppard had labored. Father Osborne first conducted a mission at St. John, New Brunswick, and then entered upon a dangerous and an arduous journey to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where Father Benson, with Father O’Neill, had conducted a mission in August, 1871. Stormy weather detained Father Osborne at Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, on the mainland, where he lodged in a disreputable inn. Referring to his first night at the inn Father Osborne wrote to Father Benson,

“That inn, I hardly know how to describe it. The little public house at the Iffley Road end of Marston Street, would be a palace beside it . . . We had no sleep for there was not one moment’s quiet in the house, and the storm raged all around outside.”

The next two nights were quieter, however, after Father Osborne launched a nocturnal raid upon the disturbers and we assume he slept. The journey from the Cape to Prince Edward Island required eight hours of navigation across open water and ice fields at eight degrees below zero. Father Osborne found the entire experience an exhilarating preparation for his labors—a ten-day mission at Charlottetown during sub-zero weather, preaching engagements, a children’s mission, and a mission for adults at St. Mary’s Church, Summerside. Writing about the Summerside mission in his letter to Cowley Father Osborne states,

“After that I expect to cross the ice again, and go down to Massachusetts for Passiontide.”


AS Passiontide drew near and Father Osborne travelled southward to Boston, Father Hall and Brother Gilbert moved northward from Philadelphia and forces were joined once again on Bowdoin Street. The brethren now resided at Number 44 Temple Street in a house adjoining the rear of the church. (This residence later served as Saint Anne’s Convent until its demolition in 1953.) On Passion Sunday, March 11th, 1883, the Parish of the Advent worshipped for the last time in the church on Bowdoin Street. In the course of that week the building was formally turned over [31/21] to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and on Thursday (March 15th) services were held for the first time in the new Church of the Advent on Brimmer Street. One of the Sisters of St. Margaret records,

“On the day before Palm Sunday, Mass was said in the Father’s private chapel, and their new house was blessed. On Palm Sunday, Father Hall came to the Sisters’ chapel at seven o’clock for the blessing and distribution of palms, but there was no Mass, everyone going to the first Mass at the Mission Church of the S.S.J.E., as the church on Bowdoin Street was henceforth called. The usual morning and evening services and afternoon Sunday School were held, but there was no choir until the first Sunday after Trinity, the music being congregational in the meantime.”

In his biography, Arthur C. A. Hall, Third Bishop of Vermont, Dean George Lynde Richardson comments,

“With this began what was perhaps the happiest and most productive period of Father Hall’s life. The little church in Bowdoin Street, shabby and unattractive, became the centre of vigorous activity. Friends rallied to its support, and in ten years it grew from a mere handful to report over eight hundred communicants, with four priests and the Sisters of Saint Margaret carrying on a wide and constant ministry which reached not only throughout the city of Boston, but into many of its suburbs. ‘Father Osborne and he were at St. John’s together,’ writes one who was closely related to the work at the time, ‘both so magnificent and so different, and we needed both to help us. Often they would give courses of sermons; one in the morning, and the other in the evening, and we used to say that Father Osborne showed us our sins and knocked us down in the ground in the dust in the morning; in the evening Father Hall would pick us all up, show us the road to Heaven, and send us on our way rejoicing.’ Saint John’s became a centre to which many penitents resorted regularly for confession, and many in perplexity and doubt turned thither for spiritual guidance and help.”


WHILE in the course of 1883 renewed spiritual power was being generated by Cowley Fathers in Boston, another member of the Society was launching a great movement in Philadelphia. The movement was the Guild of the Iron Cross. The founder of the movement was Father Charles Neale Field. Henry Bradford Washburn, Dean Emeritus of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, once stated in a lecture on monasticism,

“In every religious order you will find a gardener, a scholar, and a saint.”

[33] Applying this generalization to the American Congregation of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, one must conclude that there have been gardeners galore, no scholars, and one saint. Surely Father Field was that saint!

Ironically, the good Father was born in the unholy confines of a jail. Let is be explained at once, however, that he was not the son of a female criminal, but of the wife of the Reverend John Field, who built, and served as chaplain to, the model jail in Reading, England. Doubtless it was his father’s solicitude for the underdog which motivated Father Field’s love for all God’s children, especially the underprivileged. Long before people began talking extensively about social justice, social service, and the social gospel, Father Field and Father James Otis Sargent Huntington, the saintly founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, were carrying out these teachings—the former in Philadelphia, the latter in New York City.

One day in 1883 a group of twelve workingmen gathered together with Father Field in Philadelphia to determine what they could do for themselves and for others. Out of that conference issued the Guild of the Iron Cross. The Guild was in no way connected with any socialist or political organization. It was primarily a moral and religious movement, and its members were committed to endeavor earnestly to suppress in themselves and in others, in temperance, profanity, and impurity. The founder and the members of the Guild realized that religion was the central factor in life, but they went on to apply the tenets of the Faith to their daily work and to their social relationships. Thus the Guild inculcated the fundamental concept of the dignity and sanctification of labor, and of the brotherhood of all workingmen. It proposed to attempt to elevate the condition and increase the good qualities of all laboring men. Above all the Guild tried to unite capital and labor in a spirit of mutual understanding and goodwill. This was indeed a bold concept for the year 1883. Father Field journeyed far and wide preaching the message of his Guild, and in the course of time it numbered many thousands—bishops, priests, and laymen.

In our day of the standardized five-day week it is taken for granted that most workers are free on Saturday and Sunday. Furthermore child labor has been generally abolished. But it has not always been so. One cause which Father Field and his Guild zealously espoused was a Saturday half-holiday for working-boys. On a little printed sheet disseminated as part of the campaign. Father Field explained,

[35] “The Iron Cross considers it a religious duty to do all in its power to obtain the Saturday half-holiday for the boys, and to help them to keep it well. The Guild of the Iron Cross rejoiced in the victory of the car conductors, when their hours were shortened, and the Guild will always take the side of the oppressed. It will rejoice when all workers have a half-holiday on Saturday, and it will not rest until this has been obtained for its boys.”

But having obtained a Saturday half-holiday, many of the working lads lacked the financial wherewithal to leave the City for some wholesome recreation. To counteract this Father Field organized outings to the Philadelphia suburbs or the seashore, or excursions up and down the Delaware River. One half-holiday outing sponsored by the Guild saw three hundred excited boys assemble at the Broad Street Station for an outing at Glenolden. Out in the country Father Field passed out bats and balls, and soon games were in progress everywhere. A newspaperman who reported the outing wrote that cheers were given for Louis Douglass, the President of the Guild, and he adds,

“But the three cheers for Father Field made the usually quiet woods ring again.”

Perhaps it was the devoted ministry of Father Field, more than any other factor, which caused St. Clement’s to become known as “The Church of Those in Trouble”. It was his great missionary zeal, combined with the moving preaching of Father Maturin and Father Convers, which brought so many to Christ in Philadelphia. The good works performed in the parishes in Philadelphia and Boston, as well as the missions and retreats conducted by the Fathers in innumerable places, spread far and wide the good name of Father Benson and his brotherhood.

From the beginning up to this date, the Society had remained under the personal direction of the Father Founder, but now, eighteen years after being formally inaugurated, it was felt by many that the time had arrived to adopt a constitution. It will be recalled that Father Grafton and Father Prescott had agitated for a Constitution and had declared that the reason for their separation from the Society was what they considered needless delay in its formulation. Finally, during the Chapter of 1884 at Cowley, the Statutes and Rule of Life of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist were formally adopted. The historic event has been recorded in these words:

“In the afternoon of the Monday following the Chapter, September 22, 1884, the Rev. the Father Superior General with all the Members of the Society at that time in England waited upon the Lord Bishop of [35/36] Oxford at Cuddesdon. His Lordship received them in the Palace Chapel, and, after declaring his acceptance of the Office of Visitor to which he had been elected by the Chapter, gave his blessing to the Society collectively and individually laying his hands upon each one present. The books containing the Statutes and the Spiritual Rule as adopted by the Chapter and approved by the Bishop were then signed by each of the Professed Fathers kneeling at the steps of the Altar.”

Thus the Society of Saint John the Evangelist passed from a state of tutelage to the status of a democratic institution governed by a written Constitution.

Father Hall, who was present at the Chapter of 1884 as the Superior of the American Province, remained in England for a full year. He attended the Seabury Centennial in Aberdeen, and held a number of retreats. Father Hall was constantly in demand as a conductor of both retreats and missions. During the period he was connected with the church in Boston he gave no less than fifty-seven retreats and preached fourteen parochial missions.

On the trip to the United States in 1885, Father Hall was ac companied by Father Field. In a letter written to Father Benson near the end of the voyage Father Hall explained that they had travelled “intermediate”, and that he had “felt much less out of place than amid the luxuries of the saloon, which always seemed incongruous with our habit.” In his transcontinental trip in 1882, Father Hall experienced qualms of conscience about taking a sleeper (though the journey then necessitated nine days of travel), but finally decided it was justifiable on the grounds of prudence. No matter by what class Father Field crossed the Atlantic he always spent a good deal of time with the steerage passengers. To alleviate the trials of the people enduring the horrors of steerage travel during his trip to America in 1880, Father Field collected money, fruit, tobacco, papers, and books from the saloon passengers, and redistributed the articles to the members of his steerage “parish”. On this trip in 1885 it was a similar story. By this date Father Field also took advantage of the opportunity to present the program of his newly-organized Guild of the Iron Cross to the steerage passengers. He persuaded two saloon passengers. Lord Brabazon, the President of the Young Men’s Friendly Society, and Tom Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s School Days, to address the passengers assembled on the steerage deck, and he himself spoke on “Temperance, Reverence and Purity”. Father Hall wrote,

“Father Field is a singularly able and ready missionary on board, and has devoted himself to the steerage people. On Sunday and Monday evenings we had a meeting on deck, with hymns and short informal [36/37] addresses. . . . Perhaps the most edifying exercise has been the ‘school’ which Father Field has held most mornings. You might see him seated on the deck surrounded by about a dozen children, whom he would catechize on Christian doctrines, beginning with our Lord’s life, to which sets of pictures, with which we were supplied for dis tribution, furnished a capital introduction. A crowd of older people gather round and receive instruction and edification.”

Is it any wonder that everyone loved Charles Neale Field? Is it surprising that even the hostile Bishop Stevens received the Father at once with full standing into his diocese?


AFTER his return to Boston in August, 1885, Father Hall continued to be afflicted with poor health as he had been during his year in England. Nevertheless, he faithfully pursued his duties, and even assumed additional burdens. During the winter of 1885 and 1886 he, worked incessantly and was constantly preaching in Boston during Lent. He managed to preach the Good Friday service at Trinity Church, New York; but it became obvious to all that he was sorely in need of a complete rest. Finally in July his doctor prescribed a sea voyage to Fayal in the Azores on a sailing vessel. The four-month respite turned out to be just the needed cure. Father Hall recommended the Azores as a suitable resort, not only for the restoration of physical health and strength, but as a healthy antidote for those Anglicans who see in Roman Catholicism the acme of perfection. In a letter to Father Benson he described in detail the low estate of the Roman Church in that area and added,

“The Azores, healthful for various physical complaints, would, I think, prove a very remedial climate for any one suffering from Roman fever.”

In his report to the Diocesan Convention of 1886, Father Hall expressed a desire that a permanent building might be secured for the rapidly-growing Mission of Saint Augustine for colored folk. In 1882, members of Saint John’s Guild of the Parish of the Advent (a Guild directed by Father Osborne) had opened a Sunday School on Phillips Street for negroes, but the project had been discontinued. Two years later, on February 17, 1884, another Sunday School was opened on Cambridge Street, most of the teachers being colored communicants of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist. Attendances increased rapidly, and in three-months-time a more adequate building on Anderson Street had to be rented. The school was first known as “Saint Phillip’s,” but in 1885 the name was altered to “Saint Augustine’s Mission.”

[38] A small Confirmation Class was presented to the Diocesan (Benjamin Henry Paddock) when he visited Saint Augustine’s Mission on February 23, 1886. This was perhaps the first time in the Diocese of Massachusetts that a Bishop had administered Confirmation in a church for colored people. In a letter to Father Benson written a short time after this historic occasion, Father Hall said,

“The Bishop’s visitation was on the eve of S. Matthias. It was his own proposal to come and pay us a visit—apart from any confirmation—if we could gather the people on a week-day. The Bishop first came to our School room at S. John’s, and made an address to the children of our Juvenile Branch of the Church Temperance Society at their Monthly Meeting. At S. Augustine’s we had semi-choral service, a shortened form of Evensong printed on a card, the intricacies of the Prayer Book being as yet beyond our powers, and then the Bishop preached extempore on the Parable of the Great Supper, and the different excuses which people make for neglecting the invitations of the Gospel. After this he Confirmed three persons, one man and two women, all married, and at the close of the service after disrobing he spoke to a number of the people individually, and said a few kind words of encouragement to the group of Sisters, especially on the blessedness of working where little immediate recompense is to be expected. The Chapel was full—the few white faces looking very white—and the people quite orderly and reverent, much more so than many congregations the Bishop must meet in his visitations.”

Writing to the Father Superior in September of the same year (1886), Father Osborne describes the Mission’s observance of its Patronal Festival. On that occasion the Reverend J. W. Elliott, and the Sisters of Saint Margaret took eighty small colored children in two horse-cars for a long ride through Brighton and Cambridge.

Father Osborne adds,

“They certainly created a sensation as they went along.”

On their return the frolickers feasted on milk and watermelons in the Mission Room. The following day, Sunday, an outdoor pro cession wound its way through the West End. Brother Maynard led the procession bearing aloft a large cross decorated with flowers, and flanked by two colored boys in bright blue cassocks and clean sur plices. Behind the crucifer and his attendants walked a hundred boys and girls with their teachers, the Sisters, and lastly Father Osborne., There “was no small stir among the” people as Father Osborne’s description clearly indicates:

“All the neighborhood turned out, and doors and windows were crowded with black faces, their eyes and teeth shining. We were a little fearful of doing it but every one behaved well, and though some of the onlookers laughed most of them were quiet and respectful, and some of the men on the side walks hushed the boys who talked or laughed. Only one boy in the crowd misbehaved. He [38/39] picked up half a brick, but finally concluded to throw it down again. When I saw him raise it I fully expected to see it fly at the cross or Br. Maynard’s head. The colored boys are so accustomed to pelt and yell at the Salvation Army’s ridiculous spectacles of immodest girls dancing in the street that it would have been no wonder if we had suffered; but the dignity and real solemnity of our procession was to them most striking. I suppose the cross was never carried in the streets of Boston before.”

In Advent of 1886 Father Hall wrote to England concerning further innovations. Two new enterprises were now undertaken at Saint Augustine’s Mission—a Fife and Drum Band, and a Reading Room in which coffee was served at three cents a cup. After speaking of these novelties Father Hall states in his letter,

“We are very anxious to secure permanent buildings for Saint Augustine’s.”

Some time between the date this hope was expressed, and the Diocesan Convention of 1887, the aspiration was fulfilled for the Bishop’s Report to the Convention announced:

“The plain but decent and well-placed church for colored people in which the clergy of St. John the Evangelist have been carrying on a missionary work with much zeal and success has been purchased and is now S. Augustine’s Chapel, Boston.”

In addition to services and other activities carried on in the Chapel itself, in a disused school building nearby, classes were conducted every evening by the Reverend J. W. Elliott, in charge of the Chapel at the time, and the Sisters of Saint Margaret. Thus in a small way the Society of Saint John the Evangelist endeavored to care for the needs of at least a microscopic portion of Boston’s eighteen thousand negroes.

Over and above their parochial duties in Boston and in Philadelphia, the Fathers continued to be in demand for retreats and missions not only in America but in Canada as well. In the fall of 1886 Father Osborne participated in a general Mission in Ottawa. In the letter of December 5th, 1886, to Father Benson, in which he announced the formation of the Fife and Drum Band at St. Augustine’s, Father Hall also wrote,

“One of us will conduct a Retreat for Clergy at Ottawa in Septuagesima. Fr. Osborne, probably with Fr. Field, goes to Toronto for a Mission in Epiphany.”

In the summer of 1887, Father Hall conducted a retreat for clergy at Silver Bay on Lake George, New York. Among those making the retreat was a young clergyman who had been exercising his ministry [39/40] in Buffalo. He was Charles Henry Brent. In his biography of Bishop Brent, Alexander C. Zabriskie, formerly Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary makes the following comment:

“It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this retreat on Brent’s development. It awakened his spiritual life as it had never been awakened before. He was strongly and immediately attracted to Father Hall. . . . When they parted after this first meeting, the monk told Brent that if at any time he was thinking of changing his sphere of work he should consider Boston. This time was not long in coming.”

The following year found Charles Brent at the Mission House in Boston testing his vocation to the Religious Life. At Whitsuntide he was placed in charge of the work at Saint Augustine s. Another priest associated with Father Osborne and Father Hall at this time was Henry Martyn Torbert. It will be recalled that Father Torbert withdrew from the novitiate at Cowley in 1874, returned to America, and from 1876 to 1883 ministered as chaplain to the Sisters of Saint Mary at Peekskill. In 1883 he came to live at the Mission House on Temple Street. He was still resident there when Father Brent arrived and began to exert a marked influence upon Brent’s spiritual life. Reminiscing about the Mission House many years later Bishop Brent wrote,

“I can conceive of nothing more admirable or productive of good results in the character and efficiency of a young priest than life in such an environment as I found myself in the Mission House of St. John the Evangelist, Boston. Simplicity of living, close attention to duty, and punctilious regularity are amiss at no time of ones career but they are a whole education before a man s character is finally set. It may be that there are artificial features in conventual life but I experienced it in its best form, and can never have aught but affectionate and grateful memories of it.”


IN the fifteen years since his arrival in the United States, Father Hall had become more and more of an American. He is reputed to have spoken of himself as English by birth but American by choice. He began, furthermore, to play an increasingly important role in the life and work of the Episcopal Church. In October of 1881 he had been invited to write an article on Prayer Book revision for the American Church Review in which he made suggestions in the way of liturgical enrichment. It is worthy of note that practically every one of his proposals was ultimately carried into effect in our Book of Common Prayer.

[41] In 1888 Father Hall journeyed to Nova Scotia to attend the Consecration of the Reverend F. Courtney, who had been the incumbent of Saint Paul’s, Boston. Father Hall’s travelling companion on this trip was Dr. Phillips Brooks, the Rector of Trinity Church, Boston. Thus began what was to become a warm friendship. On his return from Nova Scotia Phillips Brooks commented to William Lawrence, then Dean of the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge,

“I saw a good deal of Father Hall, and we had talks together. I like him. Of course, he is radically English, and when he came to explain his ideas upon Holy Communion, he talked in a language which I really could not understand.”

But differences of nationality or theological opinion were never to stand as a barrier between these two men.

Another indication of the growing admiration with which Father Hall was being viewed became evident on May 23rd, 1889. Though at the time Father Hall was being hospitalized in the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, he was elected as the fourth of the clerical delegates to represent the Diocese of Massachusetts in the General Convention to be held in St. George’s Church, New York City, in October of that year. This, was to be the first of thirteen General Conventions of which Arthur Hall was to be a member. In April of 1890 Father Hall was elected a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Massachusetts. He had already been invited to become a member of the Clerical Club. To be cognizant of the popularity which the Father was gaining at this time is to understand better the hue and cry which was heard in the year 1892. Evaluating the over-all picture of the esteem with which Father Hall was held, Richardson says,

“To those who know the temper of Massachusetts in those days this represents a triumph of personal character and influence which is very unusual.”


WHILE Father Hall was fitting more and more happily into the Episcopal Church, another Father was beginning to draw away from it, away, indeed, from Anglicanism as a whole. That Father was Basil William Maturin. Father Maturin entered upon a stage of perplexity and doubt concerning the Anglican position as contrasted with the claims, of Roman Catholic ism. This frame of mind naturally rendered his presence at St. Clement’s so undesirable that the Father was ordered to return to [41/42] Cowley in 1888. This summons was willingly obeyed, and in the following year he was sent out to Capetown. After a stay there of approximately six months he returned to England, still haunted by the Roman question. He once wrote,

“I can say without exaggeration that the question was never out of my mind for an hour while I was awake for ten years or more.”

After much deliberation and mental anguish Father Maturin finally made his submission to the Roman Church on March 5th, 1897. Eighteen years later (May 7th, 1915) he met his death on the ill-fated “Lusitania”.

Upon Father Maturin’s formal resignation of the rectorship of St. Clement’s in October, 1889, Father Duncan Convers became rector. However, Father Convers was ill in England during the greater part of his rectorship, and the burden and heat of the day was borne by Father Field as priest-in-charge of the parish. For a time he was assisted by Father William Hawks Longridge. In spite of increased parochial responsibilities Father Field found time to further the work of the Guild of the Iron Cross. On January 1st, 1889, he opened his “Iron Cross Parlor and Boys’ Gymnasium” on the corner of Twenty-first and Market Streets in Philadelphia, a place that was to be a great boon to countless numbers of working men and boys.

Later in the year. Father Field volunteered for an even greater type of service. On Friday, May 31st, 1889, a frightful catastrophe descended upon Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Two thousand lives were lost through drowning and burning in a holocaust which followed a flood. When news of the tragedy reached Philadelphia Father Field was among the first to volunteer his services and those of members of the Guild of the Iron Cross to the Mayor of Philadelphia. Having received no reply from the Mayor’s Office by Monday, June 3rd, Father Field departed for Johnstown as chaplain of the Red Cross, at the request of that organization. In a poignant letter to Father Hall dated June 9th, he wrote:

“Ours was the second train that entered the city . . . We got out of the cars in a place nearly knee deep in mud, and walked up to headquarters; and then to the dead-house, where long lines of unclaimed bodies lay side by side . . . One of the first duties which fell to us was to assist in burying the dead ... One lady took fifty-seven children to her house and cared for them ... I offered to take any children unprovided for.”

Brother Maynard, who joined the relief workers in Johnstown wrote,

[43] “Father Field is the beloved of all . . . He is looked up to (in more ways than one) [Father Field was well over six feet in height.] by the now leading people in Johnstown, and anything he wishes he can do. The Red Cross Society there from Miss Barton downward are very proud of their chaplain.”

On the first anniversary of the flood a memorial service was conducted in Johnstown and Father Field attended, accompanied by Father Benson, who had arrived in New York on the 4th of May for a two months’ visitation. In a letter to Father George Congreve dated June 3rd, Father Benson writes, concerning Johnstown,

“Father Field is quite the Genius loci there. I went over with him last week to keep the anniversary of the great flood . . . The Bishop (Cortland Whitehead of the Diocese of Pittsburgh) celebrated, and recited in the Communion Office the names of all the Communicants who were known to have fallen victims to the catastrophe, nearly 200. I gave an address before the service ... In the afternoon the whole population flocked up to the cemetery. The Bishop blessed one grave which contained the body of the late Rector (The Reverend A. Diller), then Fr. Field preached.”

For several years thereafter Father Field participated in the anniversary memorial services at Johnstown.

Later in the month (June 24th) the Father Superior General (Father Benson) presided at a meeting of the Chapter of the American Province of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, held at Saint Clement’s. The Chapter was attended by the Provincial Superior (Father Hall), Father Field, and Father Longridge. Father Osborne, who had been in poor health, was at the time in Capetown, South Africa.

One matter discussed at the Chapter was the wearing of the habit out of doors. The habit of the Cowley Fathers—a black double-breasted cassock with a black girdle containing three knots worn around the waist—was a common sight in Philadelphia and Boston. As was to be expected some people liked it; others did not. One critic deprecated in print what he chose to label the “petticoat battalion” adding,

“American sentiment does not favor clergymen in cassocks.”

He narrated how Father Benson once met an Irish woman washing a Boston sidewalk. When he hesitated to pass the woman burst forth with the comment,

“Be ye man or be ye woman, lift up your petticoat and pass on.” The critic then concluded,

[44] “It seems to be necessary that clergymen shall so dress that it shall not be difficult to ascertain their sex.”

At the Chapter Father Hall proposed that in America it not be required that the habit be worn beyond the Society’s premises. He regarded the constant use of the habit as a distinct hindrance to work and influence; and as savouring of a certain ostentation in view of the fact that no male community of the Roman Catholic Church in America wore the habit on the street. Both Father Benson and Father Field favored the retention of the wearing of the habit at all times, and the Chapter decided that the custom would continue. Not until the Greater Chapter of 1933, nineteen years after the American Province had become an autonomous Congregation, was the Rule of Life altered, to make the wearing of the habit optional “outside of churches, and the precincts of the Society’s houses” for members of the American Congregation.

A further subject discussed at this Provincial Chapter of 1890 was the matter of continuing to serve St. Clement’s Church. Six years previously, at another Chapter, the question had been raised and a resolution was unanimously adopted to the effect,

“that for the sake of the Religious Life it was desirable that we should, as soon as it could be properly effected, retire from the charge of St. Clement’s Parish, in order to concentrate our members in one House, where with increased numbers the Religious Life could be strictly observed, and from which it could be possible to go forth for Missions and Retreats.”

Father Hall now expressed his regret that this action had not been taken at the time of Father Maturin’s resignation during the preceding October, and his feeling that the scattering of the Brethren so widely was fatal both to the life and the growth of the Society. It is a problem which has recurred frequently throughout the history of the Society in America—namely, to what extent the corporate life of the Mother House may be weakened for the sake of external good works. Father Benson deemed it impossible to leave St. Clement’s at the time, and in obedience to his wish the Society continued to minister there until a new Superior General considered it wise for the Society to withdraw.


IT was during the historic Chapter of 1890 at Cowley that this new Superior General, Father Robert Lay Page, was elected, and the Father Founder of the Society, Richard Meux Benson, laid down his responsibilities as Superior. In consequence of his consecrated [44/45] life of ceaseless prayer and tireless labor the Society of Saint John the Evangelist was now firmly established. In order to give his successor in office free rein to formulate and carry out any policies of his own, Father Benson removed from the Mother House at Oxford for nine years, spending a considerable portion of that period in the United States, to the great benefit of the Society’s life and work in America.

Father Hall had attended the 1890 Chapter at Cowley and had conducted the Community Retreat which preceded it. In August he returned to America on board the S.S. “Majestic.” An event which occurred during this voyage is well worth narrating for it illustrates one of the characteristics of Father Hall’s greatness—a sympathetic concern for all in need. One of the ship’s firemen had died hideously as a result of delirium tremens. As the man was a Roman Catholic the Roman Bishop of Montana (travelling first cabin) was asked to pray for the man’s soul and to bury him. On his refusal Father Hall’s ministrations were requested. The Father readily consented and proceeded to the ship’s hospital to pray for the departed and to speak a few pertinent words to his shipmates. The body was committed to the deep three hours later, at 1 a.m. Again Father Hall was on hand. He writes in a letter to Father Page,

“When the time came it was a weird scene. The night pitch dark, the wind blowing very strong, the ship speeding on at 20 knots an hour. Just as the body was brought to the stern, sewed up in a sail loaded with shot, and carried on four men’s shoulders, the rain fell in sheets. The body was laid on a stretcher, covered with a Union Jack for a pall. In the storm I could say no more than ‘In the midst of life’, etc., and then the committal sentence as the body was let slide down over the stern, then the Kyrie, ‘Our Father,’ ‘O Saviour of the World,’ and ‘The Lord bless us and keep us.’ All was over, and we scurried back to shelter, drenched. There were about a dozen of us altogether. You will imagine I did not sleep much that night. I shall not soon for get my first burial at sea.”

Again Father Hall plunged into a heavy schedule back in America. Father Convers, who had been travelling for his health, visiting Bombay as well as Capetown, returned to Saint Clement’s in October of 1890. But his health failed again and he was once more compelled to absent himself from Saint Clement’s, this time retiring to Zanesville, Ohio. This inevitably placed additional burdens upon Father Field and Father Longridge at Saint Clement’s and likewise upon Father Hall as Provincial Superior, even though he had the assistance at this time of Father Charles Edwyn Gardner. Early in 1891 Father Hall undertook a terrific pre-Lenten schedule which carried him to Toronto, Indianapolis, Omaha, Kenosha, and Chicago. [45/46] He conducted eight retreats and quiet days and preached several times—six times in the course of a single day. In the midst of these exhausting labors he wrote to Father Page,

“If this seems an inordinate amount of work and travel in a month, it shews our need of more Mission Priests, whom you must send, for whom our friends must pray.”

The Father Superior General, apparently realizing the gravity of the situation in America, sailed from Liverpool on February 11th, 1891, to make a personal reconnaissance. In Philadelphia he spent a considerable amount of time interviewing the Bishop (Ozi William Whitaker), the Fathers, and members of the vestry, as to the advisability of the Society's continuing to serve at St. Clement's. After going over the whole matter thoughtfully and prayerfully Father Page announced to the vestry that it was necessary for the Society to withdraw. On the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 8th, 1891, Father Page made it known from the pulpit of St. Clement’s that the Society of Saint John the Evangelist would have to leave the parish. The next morning's newspaper headlines read,


In a letter to Father Congreve, whom he had appointed as the Assistant Superior at Cowley, Father Page wrote,

“May God grant that the step may be in the true interests of Community Life, and so for the good of the Church and our Society. Are not some of our Religious Communities at home enfeebling their life, perhaps almost imperilling their existence, by the too great separation of their members in small numbers for good works of various kinds to the almost necessary consequent neglect of the cultivation of the Life, on Community principles, to which they are vowed?”

The feelings of many were expressed in these words of the Acting Warden of Saint Clement's addressed to Father Page:

“Surely you will not expect me to dwell upon the sorrow in the parish at your withdrawal—that is too fresh and keen to stand the deliberate putting upon paper—only believe that we will ever ask your prayers that we may, with God's help, endeavour to continue the work to His honour and glory that we fully believe that your Society has so well carried on in our beloved parish for so many years.”

Thus the Society of Saint John, the Evangelist terminated fifteen years of service to Saint Clement’s Parish in the City of Philadelphia. With their removal from the Church, Father Field and Father Longridge went to Boston to strengthen the life and work of the Society there.


The day following Father Page’s announcement of the departure of the Society from Philadelphia, Benjamin Henry Paddock, the Bishop of Massachusetts, passed to his rest. Writing to England six days later Father Hall said,

“I would ask a remembrance of our Diocese of Massachusetts in intercessions at this time, for the election of a good Bishop at the Diocesan Convention the last week in April. It is in many ways an important and difficult see. Our Bishop died on Monday. The funeral at Trinity Church on Thursday was very dignified, with over 160 clergy in surplices. The night-watch by the body in Trinity Chapel was held by the clergy of St. John’s and Trinity. On Friday with the rest of the Standing Committee, I accompanied the body to Norwich, Connecticut, for interment.”

At the time these words were penned no one realized how greatly the approaching Convention would ultimately affect the life of Arthur Hall and his relationship to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

The Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts assembled in Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston on April 29th, 1891. Most of the delegates had already decided upon their choice. For several weeks there had been frequent mention in the Boston newspapers of the name of Phillips Brooks and of his fitness, or unsuitability, for the vacant bishopric. Some spoke loudly on his behalf. Others considered him a Unitarian at heart, disloyal to the doctrines of the Episcopal Church. On April 30th, on the first ballot Phillips Brooks was elected Bishop by a large majority of the clergy and a still larger majority of the laity.

Father Hall, though an admirer and warm personal friend of Phillips Brooks, did not cast his vote for him. It is important that this fact be stressed in view of later accusations leveled against Father Hall. In a footnote in his book. The Catholic Movement in the American Episcopal Church, George E. DeMille quotes Father Frederick Cecil Powell, S.S.J.E., as testifying that the impression at Cowley was that Father Hall had voted for Brooks. Dean Richardson in the biography, Arthur C. A. Hall, Third Bishop of Vermont, states that Father Hall did not vote for Brooks. Father Page’s letter of September 22nd, 1891, states his understanding that Father Hall voted against Dr. Brooks. In the archives of the Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a letter dated April 19th, 1932, from the Reverend Raymond A. Chapman (then Vicar of Saint Stephen’s Church, Boston) containing this statement:

[49] “It ought to be recorded somewhere that Miss Minot knew that Father Hall did not vote for Phillips Brooks to become Bishop. He only signed the credentials . . . Father Hall told Miss Minot himself and she told me eight years ago when she was in her full faculties.”

These three pieces of evidence should suffice to prove the fact that Father Hall did not cast his ballot for Phillips Brooks at the Convention.

But when Dr. Brooks had been duly elected, then Father Hall attached his signature to the testimonial submitted to the Secretary of the House of Deputies. In conformity to canonical requirements the members of the Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts declared,

“We, whose names are hereunder written, fully sensible how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality or affection, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that the Reverend Phillips Brooks is not, so far as we are informed, justly liable to evil report, either for error in religion or for viciousness of life; and that we know of no impediment on account of which he ought not to be ordained and consecrated to the Holy Office, etc.”

In the fact that Father Hall’s signature was affixed to this testimonial lay the heart of the difficulties which were to arise, for in the minds of many sincere Churchmen a real impediment did exist in the case of Phillips Brooks. As the member of a rigidly Unitarian family there was genuine doubt in the minds of some as to whether Dr. Brooks had ever been validly baptized. If he had not been, then, according to Catholic theology, all his ministrations of a sacramental nature would, by that defect, be invalidated. This was especially serious as concerning possible ordinations. But in spite of this real difficulty, from the moment he placed his signature upon the testimonial. Father Hall publicly and vigorously supported the cause of Phillips Brooks.

Letters and other communications soon flowed fast and furiously across the Atlantic—in both directions. Father Hall began to win more and more unpopularity in certain circles both in England and America because he now espoused two controversial causes:—

(1) He favored the pending Consecration of Phillips Brooks.

(2) He advocated an independent Society in America.

Finally in September, 1891, the Father Superior General (Robert Lay Page) summoned Father Hall and Father Convers to Cowley to confer with the Fathers there on the difficulties which had arisen. [49/50] Father Field was already in England having returned for the July retreat. The result of the Conference was that the majority of the Fathers present made complaint to the Father Superior General, and requested that he displace Father Hall from the Office of Provincial in America. On September 21st Father Page handed to Father Hall a letter in which he requested that the latter make arrangements for his permanent return to England. At a Chapter of the Society convened in the afternoon of that date this decision was formally announced.

Father Hall’s comportment in this grave crisis in his life was magnificent. With the true humility and sacrificial spirit of self-surrender incumbent upon every faithful religious, he accepted the decision of his Brethren and of his Superior as the Will of God for him, and he returned to America to set his home in order before relinquishing the noble work he had been performing there. He made no effort to stir up ill-will in America but maintained a discreet silence until he felt the right moment had arrived at which to make known all that had transpired. The date which he chose was the 17th of October, 1891, three days after the Consecration of Phillips Brooks, when he addressed a letter to the Congregation of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in which he quoted in full a letter addressed to him by Father Page on September 22nd, and summarized the whole matter most accurately. Then in a moving plea for charitableness he concluded,

“I earnestly beg of you not to let any feeling or disappointment or the like make you less trustful in God, less loyal to the Church, less loving to others. Let us show that there may be serious differences in judgment without any breach of charity.”

But despite this request a wave of indignation swept over the entire scene. The Boston newspapers were full of letters of protest and expostulation. The Bishops of New England, with the support of Henry Codman Potter (The Bishop of New York) and William Croswell Doane (The Bishop of Albany), addressed a remonstrance to the Society and communicated as well with the Episcopal Visitor of the Society, William Stubbs, the Bishop of Oxford. So great was the wrath of Bishop Doane that he suggested, in a letter to the (London) Guardian that it might be well for religious orders to be abolished. Both Bishop Stubbs and Father Longridge, who now became Provincial Superior, were the recipients of protests from the parishioners of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist. The original copy of the protest addressed to Father Longridge containing 364 signatures, is now in the archives of the Monastery in [50/51] Cambridge. The signatories express indignation and regret as concerning the recall of Father Hall, and their decision to leave the Mission Church. Two of the staff of the Church also departed—Father Torbert and Father Brent, the latter likewise withdrawing from the Novitiate.

But despite all these unfortunate repercussions Father Hall was determined to return to Cowley. In his final sermons in Saint John’s preached on November 8th, 1891, he characteristically avoided all mention of his departure. He was tendered a farewell dinner at the Hotel Thorndike by over a hundred of the clergy of the Diocese of Massachusetts. On that occasion Bishop Brooks commented,

“We owe much to the Cowley Fathers for the giving to us of Father Hall, and we will try to forgive them for taking him away. This untwining of chords so wrapt around our hearts is both the saddest and richest of our experiences. No distance can ever dim our gratitude to him for his long and precious service to Christ and man, nor separate us from the mutual and long-continued trust and love.”

Father Hall, accompanied by Charles Brent, and by Brother William, who had come to America with him eighteen years previously, landed in Liverpool on the 18th of November, 1891.


ONCE more, as in 1883, the pieces of a shattered parochial picture required re-assembling at the old church on Bowdoin Street. The first service held after the departure of Father Hall was attended by only six worshippers. The choir, the church workers, the people of wealth and influence, and all the agencies for carrying on religious work had been dispersed. Father Walter J. Wyon, who arrived from Cowley in December of 1891 wrote back to England,

“Father Longridge is much overcome with the responsibilities and immense difficulties of his position here. There are no Sunday School Teachers, so that he has to teach himself, as well as to carry on the Celebrations of the Holy Communion and other services. There is worse than no choir.”

Yet in face of all obstacles, the Fathers, like men making bricks without straw, continued faithfully to minister to those who came to them.

The year 1892 brought two rays of light into the dark picture. On January 6th, a new church for colored people located on the corner of Phillips and Anderson Streets, in Boston’s West End, [51/53] was formally opened with twenty-five communicants. The names of Father Hall and Father Brent were, of course, no longer associated with this work, but “Father Field” and “Saint Augustine’s” soon became synonymous expressions; and in a short time Father Field was the recognized leader of activities among the people who lived on what was derisively labeled, “Nigger Hill.”

Then on the 16th of February, the Founder of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist arrived to forward the works of the Society in America by his own labors and by the sustaining strength of his presence. Father Benson, it will be recalled, had been sent to India by the new Superior General. Thence he continued eastward to China, Japan, and Canada, finally reaching the United States to remain for seven and a half years. He realized the difficulties facing the Society in America but, writing to Father Page in characteristic faith and confidence he said,

“The Society seems to be undergoing a great season of trial. I hope it will be like the cauldron of boiling oil—or rather like the reality which the boiling oil served to symbolize. (Father Benson is here referring to the legend that Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, placed into a cauldron of boiling oil, came forth unharmed.) Troubles are very sad, but all things work together for good if we accept them in the love of God as part of His loving discipline.”

That ill-will towards the Society of Saint John the Evangelist still continued in America, at least in the Diocese of Massachusetts, was apparent from the deliberations of the Diocesan Convention held in May, 1892. Charles Brent, who had journeyed to Cowley with Father Hall in order personally to express his indignation to Father Page, returned to Boston to underlie, with Henry Martyn Torbert, the direction of Saint Stephen’s Church in the South End of Boston. A goodly number of Church people, formerly communicants of Saint John’s, transferred to this parish at the time of Father Hall’s recall. “With obvious animosity towards the Society with which he had been connected. Father Brent proposed to the Diocesan Convention that it consider presenting,

“a memorial to General Convention, petitioning that body to define what position, if any, in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, a presbyter or deacon shall hold who is bound by a life vow to a religious order.”

This resolution was passed, and a committee consisting of Charles Brent, the Reverend Thomas F. Fales, and the Honorable Alexander H. Rice, was appointed to report in detail on the resolution. In reporting. Father Brent stressed the fact that the vow of obedience was in need of definition, and that religious communities should [53/54] have some official relationship to the Church. Father Convers, who was present at the Convention, ably defended the Society and stressed the voluntary nature of the obligations of the religious life. He then moved to amend by referring the matter to a committee which should report at the next Convention. Father Torbert rose to plead at length, with both rhetoric and learning, that the matter be submitted to General Convention. The last delegate to speak was the Reverend Leighton Parks who said in substance,

“It would be idle to deal with a dead subject, or to legislate concerning a dead system, and no amount of sophistry on the one hand, or of self-denial on the other, could ever restore to the Society of St. John the Evangelist the confidence won for it by the priest called away, but which was now lost. Finally, such a memorial might be welcomed as in a sense the persecution of a Society, and might so react in its favor, which would not be the end sought.”

At length it was moved and carried that the report and the amendment be tabled.

It was perhaps well that this discussion had taken place. It cleared the air, so to speak. It helped to clarify some of the basic principles of the religious life, and it provided a vent for pent-up emotions. The future was to prove the fallacy of Mr. Park’s prediction that the Society of Saint John the Evangelist had irretrievably forfeited the confidence of Churchmen.

Father Benson was gratified by Father Convers’ defense made at the Convention, but neither he nor the other Fathers became discouraged by diatribe. They went right on with their work in Boston and out of Boston. Father Benson occupied himself with revisiting old friends in Philadelphia, Hoboken, New York City, Peekskill, and Mamaroneck. Father Field journeyed to Johnstown for the third anniversary of the flood. In June Father Benson wrote about a “strawberry high tea” in the basement of Saint Augustine’s Church for the benefit of Saint Monica’s Home for Colored Women. (Saint Monica’s, that devoted project of the Sisters of Saint Margaret, had opened in a room at 79 Phillips Street and then, in 1891, had moved into more spacious quarters at 45 Joy Street.) Later in the summer, Father Benson and Father Field together delivered at Saint Augustine’s a memorable series of sermons illustrated by cartoons of Bible subjects.

On Election Day in November, while the Nation was focusing its eyes on Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, Father Field provided a different attraction. Father Benson wrote to Father Page on November 8th, 1892,

[55] “There is a stir going on today of quite a different kind, a flag floating in Phillips Street, which has neither the name of Cleveland nor of Harrison. It is the banner of the Cross, announcing to the world at large where St. Augustine’s Church is, and in the schoolroom underneath there is an exhibition of Ecclesiastical Art going on.”

Father Field had assembled a remarkable collection of articles. Religious communities in America and England had contributed examples of embroidery for vestments and altar furnishings. A collection of vestments which had been shown at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia was loaned for the occasion. Father Field thus attempted to teach puritanical Boston something of the beauty of worship.


ON the morning of January 23rd, 1893, Boston was shocked by the news of the sudden and unexpected death of Phillips Brooks just fifteen months after his Consecration. In a letter to Father Page, Father Benson wrote,

“This morning we had the astounding news, which, of course, will reach you by telegraph to-morrow in the newspapers—Bishop Brooks dead! One can scarcely realize that it is true. He was holding a Confirmation last Wednesday. There was no idea of his illness until the end came, though he had been keeping his bed. Fr. Field heard him preach a week ago at the opening of the Sailors’ Mission Chapel, and he was at the Monday Clerical meeting afterwards. While there are so many feeble with sickness and advanced in years, death seems to have been lately taking away quite suddenly just those who might naturally have lived on for long. Bishop Brooks has always been very kind in his relations to us.”

Phillips Brooks’ one close friend in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist was, of course, Arthur Hall. During the summer of 1892 they had met for the last time in London. Now Father Hall’s name was again brought forth as the Convention assembled to choose a successor to Bishop Brooks, and he received twenty-two clerical and twelve lay votes. When William Lawrence, the Dean of the Episcopal Theological School, was finally elected as Bishop, the suggestion was advanced that Father Hall be appointed Dean of the School, but that post ultimately fell instead to the Reverend George Hodges. Four months after the Massachusetts Convention Father Hall was called to another portion of the Lord’s Vineyard.

A special Convention of the Diocese of Vermont convened in St. Paul’s, Church, Burlington, on August 23rd, 1893 to select a Diocesan. Arthur Hall’s name was put forward here, and when the [55/56] first ballot had been cast it was announced that he lacked only nine lay votes necessary for his confirmation. A second ballot was then cast, and Father Hall was elected as the third Bishop of Vermont. When the news reached Cowley, Father Hall submitted the matter to the godly judgment of the Society. Surely he did not know how the question would be decided. In 1873 Father Frederick William Puller (who had journeyed to America with Father Benson and Father O’Neill in 1870) had been offered the Bishopric of Central Africa, but Father Benson would not accede to the proposal. Again in 1891, Father Puller had been elected Bishop of Zululand, but this time Father Page would not accept the preferment. Now, however, Father Page summoned a special Chapter at Cowley to consider the action of the Vermont Convention. With only one dissenting vote the Chapter agreed to release Father Hall should his election be confirmed. On October 3rd Father Hall informed the Diocese that

“All has now been done in conformity with the Statutes, and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, with the concurrence of the Bishop of Oxford as Visitor, has formally released me from all obligations to the community, that I may be free to accept your call.”

Three days after the penning of this letter, the Diocese of Massachusetts received its seventh Bishop by the Consecration of William Lawrence. In the thirty-four years during which Bishop Lawrence served as Diocesan there were many happy contacts between him and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. The very month of his Consecration, Bishop Lawrence formally opened the Saint Augustine’s Trade School and commented upon the event as being one of the pleasantest things he had done since his Consecration. The Trade School was located in a large building on the corner of Grove and Cambridge Streets. In classes, conducted in the evenings and on Saturdays, the colored boys were taught carpentry, modelling, and printing. The Boston Reflector, published by the School weekly for several months, was instrumental in effecting numerous reforms in the neighborhood. It was Father Field and his lads at the Trade School who were instrumental in arousing the public interest which resulted in the purchase of the Old West Church on Cambridge Street for a branch of the Boston Public Library. The boys printed and distributed thousands of circulars, and Father Field made a point of seeing that Mayor Matthews of Boston was supplied with clippings from The Reflector. After exposure to such high-pressure lobbying for two years, the City of Boston succumbed and purchased the Old West Church for a library.

[58] Nor was the Church of Saint John the Evangelist to be outdistanced by its Mission in service to the neighborhood. It will be remembered that the year 1893 found America in serious economic straits. A financial panic was the result of many convergent forces; and unemployment, with all its hardships, followed in its train. To proffer some assistance to those in distress in Boston an employment office was opened in one of the guild rooms of the Mission Church on Bowdoin Street. An article in the Boston Herald of December 11th, 1893, commends the agency, and refers also to the church’s attempt to care for the poor by the distribution of food and clothing. The Boot and Shoe Club, the Coal Club, the Guild of the Iron Cross, the Guild of the Annunciation, and the Guild of the Little Sisters of Saint Mary, assisted both in this social service, and in forwarding the work of Saint John’s, so that the Mission Church, despite its setbacks, was able, once again, to regain a large membership of faithful communicants.

It was not until December of 1893 that Father Hall, while conducting a retreat for Sisters, received the news that a majority of the Standing Committees had approved his election. By an amusing reversal of circumstances. Bishop John Williams of Connecticut who had inhibited Father Hall twenty years previously, now, as Presiding Bishop, took order for his Consecration. Before his departure from Cowley early in January, Father Hall knelt before the altar, in the presence of his Brethren, and repeated these solemn words:

“In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. In accepting the release granted by the Chapter with the sanction of the Bishop of Oxford, as Visitor, from obligations to the Society, in order to exercise the duties of the office in the Church to which I have been called—I desire before the company of Heaven and in your presence, my brethren, solemnly to renew my personal dedication to the entire service of God; promising with His help to persevere in the holy estate of Chastity unto my life’s end; promising to live a plain, simple life, and to hold all property of which I may become possessed in trust for my Diocese; and promising to devote myself wholly to the duties of my office and to the trust committed to me. In going forth from the common life of the Society with this intention, I humbly beg continual prayers of the Brethren and ask now the Blessing of the Superior.”

With this Nunc dimittis Father Hall sailed once more for his adopted Country to continue to serve the Church in America with that loyalty and devotion which he had displayed so wonderfully in the past.

The Consecration of Arthur C. A. Hall took place in Saint Paul’s Church, Burlington, on the 2nd of February, 1894. The Society of [58/59] Saint John the Evangelist was represented at the Service by the presence of both Father Benson and Father Longridge. As the Presiding Bishop was attending the jubilee of Bishop Doane’s episcopate, the Bishop of Maine (Henry Adams Neely) acted as Consecrator, with Bishop William Lawrence and Bishop William Woodruff Niles of New Hampshire as Co-Consecrators. The presenting Bishops were Charles Chapman Grafton (who had been consecrated as Bishop of Fond du Lac in 1889) and Leighton Coleman, the Bishop of Delaware. Archbishop J. T. Lewis of Ontario joined with the other Bishops in the laying on of hands. Bishop Coleman preached. Father Benson wrote to Father Page following the Service,

“Bishop Hall was received with great acclamation. It is quite nice to see how hearty the people are in their welcome to him.”

We may be confident that Father Benson meant this genuinely. Whatever ill-will may have been generated in the past had been dissipated, and it was only with earnest blessing and goodwill that the Society of Saint John the Evangelist sent forth its Brother to labor for Christ in the Diocese of Vermont.


The month following the Consecration Service in Burlington an important service was held in Saint Augustine’s Mission in Boston. For the first time in history a Negro was ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in the City of Boston. The deacon thus advanced was Oscar Lieber Mitchell who had been working with Father Field while studying at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge. The preacher at the ordination was Dr. Henry Sylvester Nash (the father of Norman Burdett Nash, the retired Bishop of Massachusetts) a professor at the Theological School. On March 27th, the day of the ordination Father Benson wrote,

“Easter Monday was quite a Red letter—or rather a Gold letter day with us at St. Augustine’s. Our coloured deacon, Mitchell, who has been working with us for some time, was ordained Priest ... You may imagine that we had a large congregation to witness, and, I hope take part in the ceremony with a real interest. The coloured people were very much pleased to witness the ordination of one of their own number for the first time in the city. The service invests S. Augustine’s with quite an historic importance. Bishop Barker, of Western Colorado, acted for our own Bishop, who would otherwise have performed the service; but he was ordained really by letters dimissory for Bishop Nicholson of Milwaukee, to whom he will shortly be going out for a Western Parish. We shall be very sorry to lose him.”

[60] The year 1894, having begun with two memorable services presented a few other less spectacular events. At Saint John’s Father Longridge instituted a monthly recitation of Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel of the Epiphany in the basement of the church. The choir, assisted by voices from the choir of the Church of the Advent, sang Stainer’s “Daughter of Jairus.” Both Father Benson and Father Field attended a dinner honoring Bishop Hall, sponsored by the Episcopalian Club of Massachusetts. Father Benson took time out to report to Father Page the poisoning of Tip the elephant in New York, and that he had seen another elephant, Jumbo, at Tufts College. There were, of course, the usual peregrinations. In June Father Convers and Father Field journeyed to England, and Father Thomas Ernest Bignold and Brother Herbert came to America. On July 23rd Father Benson wrote,

“There is talk of a tunnel or subway which may materially affect our locality.”

He was referring to the proposed Cambridge subway which did indeed affect the locality and eventually necessitated the removal of Saint Augustine’s Mission. But in 1894 Saint Augustine’s was more concerned with the needy than with a change of location and its Trade School staged a rummage sale which was attended by over a thousand customers and provided clothing for many suffering from the depression.

Shortly after his arrival in America Father Bignold became seriously ill and proved a source of great anxiety to his Brethren. Still weak in October he was able to get out onto the grass plot in Louisburg Square under the care of Brother Herbert, and to journey to Saint Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire, with the assistance of Father Longridge. Letters of this period refer to frequent visits to Saint Paul’s on the part of the Fathers and indicate a close relationship between its Headmaster, Henry Augustus Coit, and the Society. Father Bignold, in a letter dated November 7th, writes to Father Page,

“You of course know about S. Paul’s School. It is wonderful to think what has been accomplished within less than 40 years. Dr. Coit began with 3 pupils, and he has now 300 boys under him, and the school is the ‘Eton’ of America. The Doctor is a great friend of ‘Cowley,’ as you know, and often pays us a visit at 44 Temple Street. He has been most kind to me.”

Father Bignold returned to Boston on the 21st of December much improved in health and able to sing the Midnight Mass at Saint Margaret’s Convent. Now it was the turn of his gracious host. Dr. Coit, to become ill and after only a very few days he died on the [60/61] 5th of February, 1895. The funeral was conducted by Bishop Hall as the Bishop of New Hampshire was in Italy for his health. Father Benson, Father Longridge, and Father Field all attended to pay their respects to a beloved friend. In June Father Benson and Father Field were again at the School for the close of the academic year. The latter writes,

“I met many old friends, but everyone missed dear Dr. Coit very greatly. There was a sort pf general feeling that someone was wanting.”

At the conclusion of the exercises at Saint Paul’s School Father Field journeyed on to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, to see two young people he had recently married. Father Field and the other Fathers seemed tireless in their willingness to serve all men. Through their dedicated lives as religious and their faithful ministrations, both in their churches in Boston and in their neighborhood, the Fathers regained the admiration which had so waned at the time of the Hall controversy. Saint John’s and Saint Augustine’s became refuges for all those “in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.” Father Field’s labors among the Negroes of the West End accomplished far more than the Boston Police Department in the moral uplift of that community. In 1895 two Boston papers paid tribute to the life and work of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist—the Boston Sunday Post and the Boston Herald.

The Sunday Post introduced an article on the Society as follows:

“The age of chivalry has passed away, but the age of asceticism has not made its final bow. There are still living steadfast men who have vowed chastity, poverty, and obedience all their lives long, as did the monks of old, who gathered in the gray old monasteries of the Middle Ages. Men have learned the selfishness of being hermits, but the spirit of the old monks now breathes forth in crowded tenement slums of Boston. Taught wisdom by the ages, the gentle scholars of to-day have sought the deepest of ‘the submerged tenth.’ So they seek to find a sweeter life in losing all the world calls living.”

The Boston Herald summarized its lengthy description of the Society’s work in these words:

“Taken all in all, while this is not the only work conducted in Boston by the Episcopal church for the purpose of reaching the masses of the people, it is a work which commands admiration, not only on account of the self-sacrifice and consecration of the clergy who are at the head of it, but for the methods employed in directing and controlling the minds and hearts of the people for the highest ends. It has grown in favor, under peculiar difficulties, because it has stood for truth and righteousness and discipline and real things, and if these clergy and people go on as they have begun they will have as generous support from Christian people in Boston as was ever extended to the former workers in the same field.”

[63] In the same year in which these testimonials appeared in the public press the man who headed the Society thus recognized (Robert Lay Page) made his second visitation to America arriving in Boston on the 11th of October. His full two-month itinerary took him as far south as Washington, D.C., as far north as Montreal. He visited the All Saints Sisters, the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist, and the Sisters of Saint Margaret—all English foundations. While in Baltimore he was taken to see the National Capital and the Holy Cross Fathers at Westminster, Maryland (a place frequently visited by Father Benson). In New York he conducted a retreat for the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist and addressed students at the General Theological Seminary on “Vocation and the Religious Life.” He visited Niagara Falls with Father Longridge and, with great magnanimity, admitted his pleasure in viewing the Falls from the American, as well as from the Canadian side. In a letter to Father Congreve, the Assistant Superior, he wrote.

It was grand having the roar of the waters as an accompaniment to the recitation of our Office ... Kettle and Trenholme met us at Toronto.” (The Trenholme to whom the Father referred was Edward Craig Trenholme then at the Church of Saint Cyprian, Toronto, who later became a Professed Father in the Society at Oxford.)

Father Page’s last visit, before returning to Boston, was with Bishop Hall in Burlington. The Father expressed real joy in seeing Father Benson and his Brethren once again and we may be confident that Father Benson voiced the true sentiment of all the Brethren in America when he wrote,

“Father Page’s brief visit has come to a close, but not at an end, for he has cheered us up greatly, and he has seen a good deal of the Society’s relations with this great continent, which will be helpful on both sides.”

One great help was that Father Page returned from his visit to America convinced that the Society ought, at least for the present, to remain in the City of Boston.

The following May (1896) both Father Longridge and Father Bignold crossed to England for the Annual Retreat and Chapter, and in August Father Longridge returned alone. In September the face of a new Cowley Father was seen in the United States—that of Alfred Frederick Langmore. One day as he was hoeing in the Mission garden at Cowley Father Page summoned him to his office and informed him that he was being sent to America to serve as Chaplain to the Community of Saint Mary at Peekskill. The announcement must have startled Father Langmore who was only 37 years of age, had been professed but one year, and who had had [63/64] little experience in ministering to Sisters anywhere, let alone in America. In amazement he said to the Father Superior General,

“How shall I ever be able to do this? I suppose I must begin by winning the love of the Sisters.”

To this Father Page replied,

“Yes, by winning their love for God.”

The Chaplain’s responsibilities were bound to be heavy for the Sisters at Peekskill were passing through a critical period. The Foundress of the Community of Saint Mary, Mother Harriet, had died on April 5th, 1896. Father Benson and Father Convers had both attended her funeral, the latter serving as a pall-bearer. On the 25th of April Sister Sarah became Mother Superior but it was soon obvious to all that she and her Community sorely needed the guidance of an able Chaplain. Hence a desperate appeal was made to Father Page. At the time more experienced Fathers were occupied in England and the mission field but the Superior General decided to make an act of faith by sending Father Langmore. It turned out to be a wise and happy choice. Father Langmore’s five years at Peekskill as Chaplain General proving a great source of strength and blessing, not only to the Community of Saint Mary, but also to the Brethren of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Boston with whom the Father was able to spend a considerable amount of time.

The late fall of 1897 found the Brethren in Boston busily preparing for the approaching missions to be conducted both at Saint John’s and at Saint Augustine’s. The missioner was to be, not a member of the Society of Mission Priests of Saint John the Evangelist, but a secular priest from England—Robert Ratcliffe Dolling—one of the great heroes of the Catholic Revival in that Country who labored so sacrificially in the slums of Portsmouth. During the week of February 6-12, 1898, Father Dolling preached nightly on “The Good Samaritan” to large congregations at Saint Augustine’s. Some of the people there were so struck by the missioner and his appeal that they attended the second mission held at Saint John’s the following week where attendances were likewise excellent. We read in a little paper called In the Streets and Lanes, published by Saint Mary’s Guild of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, “The Mission at St. John’s was much hindered by the weather, but in spite of this the church was well filled and the extra services well attended. People came back to the church who had not been there for years, and many who had lapsed made a good repentance. Many came from other churches in the city and neighborhood, some even from New York, Chicago, New Haven and Albany, so that the seed sown has been widely spread.”

[66] Father Benson’s sole regret was that more Bostonians did not avail themselves of the privilege of hearing the great English clergyman and he expressed his thoughts after the mission in verse:

“God speaks! who hears the voice? The week is past—
God’s solemn call—and still at ease we sit.
This city’s thousands, all unstirred by it!
But think not death can hush that voice so vast!
The riot of a momentary blast
May shake the trembling multitudes, and yet
With quick relapse shall Nineveh forget
The doom she fear’d. Love’s deathless voice shall last!
The voice of God, so mighty, and so still.
Needs not that myriad memories tell the tale.
But, surely, secretly, it works God’s will
In energies of love that cannot fail.
It comes from God, and God-ward soars on high
In souls made vocal to eternity.

Those lines tell us little of the nature of Father Dolling’s mission but they reveal much concerning the Weltanschauung of Richard Meux Benson. Many who attended the Mission at Saint John s were so moved by it that they presented the Church with a thank-offering—a large crucifix which was blessed on May 5th, 1898, and still stands in the rear of the Church. Father Benson voiced the desire of every missioner,

“I hope the good work of the Mission will be lasting.”


AS SAINT PAUL wrote to the Corinthians, so could Edward William Osborne now write to the Bostonians, “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you.” (2 Corinthians 12: 14.)

Father Osborne had been sent to Boston for the first time in 1878. He withdrew, temporarily, at the time of the Grafton controversy, returning, as we have mentioned earlier, for the second time, in Passiontide of 1883. In 1889 Father Osborne contracted a serious case of lead poisoning which persisted in spite of treatment and rest in St. Louis and Hot Springs. In consequence Father Benson (then the Superior General) thinking an ocean voyage and a short stay in England would prove remedial, arranged for the Father to return to Cowley. The expectation was that he would resume his work in America in the spring of 1890. However the death of Father George Edmund Sheppard (who had worked in both Boston and Philadelphia) in Capetown in 1888 had left a vacancy there and Father Osborne was sent to that post in 1890. In consequence it [66/67]  was not until the fall of 1898, after an absence of nine years, that Father Osborne came to Boston for a third time. He arrived on the 2nd of October and his voice was immediately heard from the pulpit of Saint John’s. Father Benson writes,

“We have Father Osborne with us now. He arrived to breakfast on Sunday morning, and preached in the evening. We had quite a number of the old congregation coming back from S. Stephen’s to hear him.”

Surely it must have been a great source of joy to Father Osborne to be greeted at the Mission House by the Father Founder. There had been changes since Father Osborne last lived within the walls of that building on Temple Street. His former Superior there. Father Hall, had become a bishop, and a new Superior, William Hawks Longridge, directed the work, assisted by his old associate at Saint Clement’s, Charles Neale Field.

But Father Field was not at the Mission House to greet Father Osborne for he was engaged in new acts of mercy. This time his devotion was directed, not towards victims of a flood, but towards victims of a short yet cruel war—the Spanish-American War. An urgent appeal had been sent out for volunteer workers to care for the sick and wounded soldiers at Camp Wihoff on Montauk Point, Long Island, and Father Longridge sent Father Field to assist. We may be confident it was an assignment after Father Field’s own heart. He arrived in New London, Connecticut, just in time to help the men of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment entrain, and in the morning was transported across the Sound to Montauk where there were five large tent hospitals as well as regimental hospitals. It was Father Field’s task to assume the role of an Army chaplain ministering to the soldiers in things spiritual and material. He writes.

Sitting by a poor sick and wounded soldier is not the easiest place to write a letter, especially when one may be obliged to attend to several others in the same watch; but I am getting used to it here, where there are so many hundreds ... On my way back to the General Hospital a poor sick soldier spoke to me, so we sat together on the grass in the shade. Poor fellow, he was sick in body and sick in mind and homesick too. We talked a little while and then I left him quietly sleeping in the grass . . . Yesterday in one of the Dining Hospitals I was trying to cheer up a poor colored man screwed up with rheumatism, and yellow where he was not black, from calentura or virulent malaria, and had just got himself off to sleep when the nurse came over to say that the man two beds off was dying, and she would rather that I did not disturb him. I told her that he should be attended to in a minute, and went directly to him. He seemed to be very near death, but a kind word or two seemed to bring him back, [67/69] and he looked up at me and said ‘O Father, I’m dying and I haven’t got any religion.’ I asked him if he had been baptised, and he said, no! Then I said, ‘My dear fellow, you have never given yourself a chance; you must begin all over again, and be made God’s child.’ He said, ‘Oh, if I only could,’ and his eyes filled with tears. Seeing how real and sincere the man was, I went over to the nurse, and got some water and baptised him. He was intensely thankful, but could not say much. Today he is better, and said this morning when I saw him, ‘I’m so glad that I did not die yesterday.”

Saintly Father Field, wherever he labored, brought peace and joy and gratitude to human hearts. His tour of duty over on Long Island Father Field joined forces with Father Osborne and Father Marcel William Townend Conran, who had come out from England, to conduct a mission at the Cathedral in Ottawa. Describing the mission later Father Osborne wrote,

“We had good congregations and earnest work. About 70 first confessions being made, and many others coming up for help. Theatre services for men were fine, about 1500 being present.”

After the Ottawa Mission Father Field conducted a parochial Retreat at Saint Paul’s Church, Washington, and then continued southward to visit Saint Augustine’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina. How true to form are the words he wrote to Father Page:

“My heart is sore at the thought of leaving all these dear children to-morrow. It did not seem possible that one could have become so interested in them in one week. Please pray for St. Augustine’s School, Raleigh in the intercessions at Cowley. Black America needs many prayers, and which is the blackest part of it no one can tell.”

Increased numbers in America made it possible for the Fathers to accept more requests outside of Boston at this time. Father Langmore, who had made the Boston Mission House his headquarters, continued his ministrations in the houses of the Community of Saint Mary. Each alternate week he journeyed to Peekskill and made the round of the eastern houses, twice each year he visited the Community’s houses in Memphis, Sewanee, Chicago, and Kenosha. Father Benson was busy with retreats and preaching engagements. Father Conran conducted a mission on Prince Edward Island. Father Osborne held missions in Halifax, Perth, and Bristol, Rhode Island. In January, 1899, he addressed, in New York City, a meeting of the American Guild of Saint Barnabas for Nurses, a Guild which he had founded at Saint John’s in Boston in 1886. In 1936 the golden jubilee service of the Guild was appropriately held in Saint John’s, when Dr. Howard Chandler Robbins preached and a solemn Te Deum was sung.


The Church of Saint John the Evangelist inaugurated a courageous experiment in Boston during the summer of 1899.

The clergy and choir with two cornetists and a crucifier processed through the streets in the vicinity singing hymns. When a crowd had gathered Father Convers mounted a backless chair and invited the people to attend the service to follow at Saint John’s. Surprising to say the invitation seems to have been accepted. Another summer diversion was preaching on the Boston Common in which clergymen of several denominations participated, including Father Benson and Father Field. The former writes on August 19th,

“Last Sunday I was preaching upon Boston Common. It has long been one of my desires . . . This year I am thankful to say the Church has made a beginning—Father Field goes there two Sundays hence . . . Each congregation is allowed an hour, and then a new preacher gathers a new set of hearers. Amidst all the discordances of untruth, it is very important that the Church should have the opportunity of bearing witness, and God will bring just those people within earshot who have some capacity for receiving the Message.”

Some of the members of the Society were not in Boston during the summer of 1899, Father Longridge, Father Osborne, and Father Langmore all having returned to England in time for the Triennial Greater Chapter of the Society which opened at Cowley on July 31st. This was a highly important Chapter in the history of the American Congregation. The Fathers assembled at Cowley now realized that after a period of twenty-nine years, the Society had not taken root as they had hoped on American soil. It still remained a British order functioning in a foreign setting. Few Americans, in consequence, were offering themselves as potential members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. In 1899, thirty-three years after the founding of the Society,—only two Professed Fathers were Americans—Duncan Convers, and Nalbro Frazier Robinson. It was felt by all, therefore, that the time had arrived for setting up some form of affiliation, giving a large measure of autonomy to the American Province. Before the meeting of the Chapter Father Osborne and Father Robinson had carefully drawn up a proposed new statute by which the Society would be constituted so as to form two Congregations, an English Congregation, and an American Congregation. The whole matter was carefully considered and discussed in a spirit of great magnanimity. Father Osborne presented six resolutions and they were all passed. The first and chief of these stated:

“That it is desirable to give a large measure of Autonomy to the American Province.”

[71] The proposed new statute was then commended to the Society for further consideration with a view to a statute receiving the assent of the Chapter of 1900. An autonomous American Congregation was not to become an actuality for fifteen years but this Chapter of 1899 represented a long step towards the attainment of that goal.

At the Chapter the Father Superior General had stated his firm conviction that the future of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in America would largely depend upon the first Superior under the new plan but that the Society would send that Father out with the most generous spirit, and with all the support it was possible to give. The man he now appointed to be Provincial Superior in America was Edward William Osborne. Father Osborne made known his confidence that under the new arrangement the future was full of hope and he cast himself upon the prayers and sympathy of the Society. He sailed to undertake his new duties on the 23rd of August, 1899.

The first outward signs of a “new deal” in America was a change of location. The Fathers purchased a house at #33 Bowdoin Street, next door to the church. There is no record on hand to indicate the actual moving dates but a retreat for the clergy was planned for October 9-13, 1899, to be held in the new Mission House. In a letter dated September l4th. Father Osborne writes,

“This year’s retreat will be a happy entrance to our new House and we shall have brethren with us for its benediction.”

In the midst of conducting retreats for others the members of the Society tried to set aside days of retirement for themselves in order to replenish their spiritual energies. Concerning one such retreat Father Osborne says,

“We were planning a Day’s Retreat for ourselves on the Vigil of St. Matthew, but owing to the Sisters’ Retreat we have had to anticipate it. We shall spend the whole of to-morrow at St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea, and the Father Founder will give us meditations. The Church is very quiet and we shall have all we want there. Brother Herbert will carry over a basket, which, as it is a fast day, will not be very heavy.”

The light basket to which the Father refers indicates the Community’s custom as to fasting. By Rule, the members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist observe six days yearly as strict fasts—Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Vigils of the Annunciation, Saint John Baptist, Saint Matthew, and Saint Thomas. On these days a cup of black coffee and a slice of bread may be had at breakfast time and [71/72] no further food is consumed until the evening meal. These quarterly fasts are observed with silence and three formal meditations, each of an hour’s duration.

In the letter of September 14th, to which we have just referred, Father Osborne speaks of a new activity of the Society;

“We are hoping for more help in the coloured work at St. Augustine’s and its dependency, ‘The Congregation of St. Martin,’ than the Sisters have been able to give heretofore.”

Saint Martin’s Mission had been established in the South End of Boston as a result of a migration in the City’s population. Jews were beginning to occupy the West End and the negroes were moving out to live in the South End. Pointing out this trend as early as 1896. Father Benson had written,

“The descendants of the earthly Jerusalem are taking us by storm. In one district close by there are 2,300 children of age for school; over 1400 of these are Jews. They are also driving away our coloured people from the precincts of St. Augustine’s Church.”

Saint Martin’s Mission was an answer to necessity. It began on Westminster Street in the home of a Methodist woman whose son was a zealous churchman but as the Mission prospered larger quarters were required and a vacant store was rented on Camden Street. The next move was to a former billiard room on Shawmut Avenue. Next door another billiard hall still functioned but its patrons became so disturbed by having their carefully-aimed cue shots distracted by hymns and prayers from the Mission that they became discouraged and the place closed up. But the Mission continued.

It will be recalled that Father Langmore, as well as Father Osborne, journeyed to England for the Chapter of 1899 but he did not return with Father Osborne, staying on about three more weeks. It was providential that he ever reached America at all for the Scotsman” on which he was crossing was wrecked on the 18th of September on Belle Isle, off the coast of Newfoundland. At 2 :35 a.m. on the fateful day a tremendous crash shook the entire ship. The first impression was that an iceberg had been struck but when daylight came and the fog cleared it was learned that the ship was lodged upon a rocky ledge. At Father Langmore’s prompting the second class male passengers joined together in reciting the Lord s Prayer on deck. Passengers were gradually transferred to the shore and all were saved with the exception of eleven women and an infant who perished when a lifeboat in which they had been placed dashed against the ship and sank. Members of the crew, taking advantage [72/73] of the confusion, pillaged the passengers’ luggage and broke open the liquor stores to get drunk. “All in a British ship!” This was Father Langmore’s pained exclamation in a letter penned sometime later. In that letter he described graphically details of the shipwreck;

“Before landing, the crew swung ashore all the bread they could find. Then we commenced to climb the great overhanging rock of about 400 ft. About 130 ft. up it we found a ledge protected by a natural parapet. Here the camp was formed and the bread piled up.”

When passengers and crew were together Father Langmore assembled the Anglicans and all voices joined in singing the Te Deum. Father Roland F. Palmer, S.S.J.E., in a letter to the Mother Superior at Peekskill written a few years ago, speaks of having read a reference to this incident in a Roman Catholic musical magazine. The author, a Roman priest, regretted the lack of a Book of Common Prayer in his Church. Father Palmer writes,

“To illustrate what he meant he said that many years before he had been on a liner which was wrecked in the Straits of Belle Isle. When the passengers and crew finally got to shore an Anglican priest, a member of a religious community, called the Anglicans together and they sang the Te Deum. He on his part called the Roman Catholic survivors together and the only common devotion they could use was to recite the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. He felt that the Anglicans had a great advantage in that they all knew the Te Deum and many other common forms, and could say or sing them together.”

Two bitterly cold days and nights were spent at the camp and then began an arduous trek across the island to the lighthouse and rescuers.

All this time Father Langmore served as a faithful chaplain to his flock. One of his fellow-passengers wrote to Father Page,

“Father Langmore is one of the bravest men I have ever met.” On September 27th Father Langmore was in Montreal celebrating his first mass of thanksgiving at Saint John’s Church, and he finally reached the Mission House in Boston on October 3rd. Shortly after Father Benson departed.

In his address to the Chapter of 1899 Father Page had voiced his hope that the Father Founder would return to England and spend his last years with the Brethren at Cowley. At the close of the same Chapter Father Puller was designated to compose a letter, signed by all the Fathers, begging Father Benson to return in order to conduct the Christmas Retreat. This request must have touched the Father deeply. Now, at seventy-five years of age, he saw the realization of his heart’s desire—a Society well established on four continents. Father Benson well knew the meaning of holy obedience and he [73/75] doubtless looked upon this letter from Cowley as a divine summons. He wrote to a friend on September 28th, 1899:

“I expect to return to England shortly, probably to sail Oct. 25. I had not expected to leave this country until I went to a better, but I had such an appeal from our Fathers at Cowley that I could not resist. I suppose in these locomotive days they would carry my bones to Cowley even if I died here, although I should rather have given charge in exactly the opposite way to Joseph. Let my bones be put wherever I happen to die, for every place on earth is the same to us now that Christ is risen. I must therefore save them the trouble. At any rate, I must come and look upon the old country once more.”

Father Benson was back in fair Oxford as the Michaelmas Term opened at the University. Father John Hamilton Cowper Johnson. S.S.J.E., reminiscing about this period recalls,

“I was just beginning my first term at Oxford when I met Father V. S. S. Coles, Principal of Pusey House, who asked, ‘Have you seen Father Benson who has just come back from America?’”

Richard Meux Benson was seen by his Brethren and many of his Countrymen, and he was to look often upon the old country before he was to depart for that better Country on the 14th of January, 1915.

Richard Meux Benson, S.S.J.E.
The Father Founder

Saint John's as the Early Fathers Found It

Father Grafton, S.S.J.E.

The Novitiate, Bridgeport, Conn.

Saint Clement's Church, Philadelphia

The Community at St. Clement's, Philadelphia, around 1882

The Church of Saint John the Evangelist and Bowdoin Street in the Eighteen-Eighties

Father Charles Neale Field, S.S.J.E.
While at St. Clement's, Philadelphia

Father Arthur C.A. Hall, S.S.J.E.

The Old Saint Augustine's Mission, Phillips Street, West End, Boston

Interior of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Boston
In the Early Eighteen-Nineties

Father Longridge, S.S.J.E.

Father Dolling and Father Field, S.S.J.E.

Father Osborne, S.S.J.E.

Father Benson at Boston, circa 1895.

This picture taken in the yard of the old Temple Street Mission House shows not only a group of boys from St. Augustine's Mission, but also Father Field (standing) and Father Longridge (in the door-way).

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