Bishop’s Address of 1910

By the Rt. Rev. Frederick Focke Reese,
Fourth Bishop of Georgia

My Dear Brethren of the Clergy and Laity

I welcome you in the name of the Lord to this Eighty-eighth Annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia, and pray God that our deliberations may be directed by the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and love towards one another and towards all men. Let us desire nothing, think nothing, say nothing and do nothing, save that We may promote God’s Kingdom among men in the upbuilding of the Holy Catholic Church. It is not important that you or I should have our way, but it is vital that we should all sink self in the common purpose of knowing and doing God’s way. I trust we shall spend little time in useless debate upon unimportant matters, such as parliamentary procedure, and that amendments to the Canons will he limited to those which are seen to be serious and necessary.

The Church has been called upon during the past year to mourn the loss of two of our Bishops.

The Rt. Rev. George deNormandie Gillespie, Doctor in Divinity, Bishop of Western Michigan, passed away on March 19th, 1909, aged 89 years ; and

The Rt. Rev. William Hobart Hare, Doctor in Divinity, Missionary Bishop of South Dakota, died October 23rd, 1909, aged 71 years.

Bishop Hare had spent thirty-six years of his life as an apostle to the Indians of South Dakota, amid the marvellous results of those labors are known of all men. His life is an inspiration to all of us to believe in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to turn the hearts of men to their Father, for it was the demonstration of that power working through his faithful servant, this devoted Bishop of the Church.

We are grateful to God that during the year the ranks of our clergy have been unbroken by death ; but I must not omit to commemorate two of our laymen who have been called home:

Mr. M. Temple Taylor. Member and sometime vestryman of St. Paul’s Church, Savannah, and repeatedly a delegate to this Convention from that parish, died July 6th. I knew Mr. Taylor well and esteemed him highly, a faithful Christian and loyal Churchman. He died full of years and labors, a quiet gentleman, who through much tribulation kept the faith and is at rest.

Mr. J. L. Googe, Treasurer of St. Matthew’s Church, Fitzgerald, died in November, 1909. Mr. Googe was unknown to most of you, and I knew him but a short time, but long enough to conceive for him a high regard and great confidence. Though suffering with what proved to be a fatal illness, he gave himself with cheerful courage to service on the building committee of the vestry of St. Matthew’s, but God willed it otherwise, and the new Church when completed will contain his just memorial.

After presiding during a portion of the time at our last Convention I discovered that a modest amount of labor was not dangerous to me, and on February 28th I held my first confirmation and preached for the first time in nearly a year. Since that date I have been holding appointments and doing other work continuously, excepting during my vacation. On April 1st I formally withdrew my request from the Standing Committee to act as the ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese.

I am glad to be able to say that the condition of the Diocese is now quite encouraging. All of the missions are now supplied with clergy, though two of our parishes, St. Andrew’s, Darien, and Grace, Waycross, are vacant. We have added to our clergy several excellent men, who will, I am sure, prove valuable additions to our staff. I am happy to say that all the missionaries have received their salaries regularly and are paid in full to January 1st. The result has been accomplished without the necessity of borrowing money, though it was feared that we should have to do so during the Summer. The payment, however, by one of our parishes of a considerable stem of money at that time rendered it unnecessary. This excellent result is due to the support given our missionary work by our parishes and missions and by the faithful and efficient efforts of our Treasurer for Diocesan Missions. I wish to thank all whose faithfulness has contributed to this result and to express the hope that the record of promptness and regularity in paying the salaries of our clergy will never be broken. If all of our parishes would fall into line and recognize their responsibility and privilege in contributing to the extension of the Church in our Diocese, there would he more joy in the hearts of the Rectors and the Bishop and the work would be correspondingly advanced. I hope the time will cone when every priest and layman will consider it a cause of congratulation that his parish or mission has met its obligations fully, and be filled with shame when it has failed to do so. I shall speak more fully about the opportunities for missionary work at our missionary meeting to-night.

The missions have shown a commendable desire to increase their measure of sell-support and I have met with encouragement on every hand. There is, however, much yet to be done in this line. The expense of maintaining missionary operations in a Diocese like ours is very great. Small missions widely scattered make it impossible to provide missionary services and adequate salaries without large grants from the missionary treasury. The Diocese is paying about $6,500 in salaries to clergymen to whom the missions they serve pay less than $4,000. I see no way at present to alter this condition, but shall use every effort to induce the missions to increase their payments year by year.

The Vestry at Cordele is earnestly working to make a considerable increase in their salary, and some others have made smaller increases. If we can keep our clergy steadily at work without frequent vacancies I feel sure that the results will be seen in increased stability and encouragement in our missions. But if we are to keep our clergy we must pay them adequate salaries, and when possible provide rectories. Men cannot work when oppressed by inadequate support. It is poor policy to pay men insufficiently for their labor. I want to see every married man have $1,200 and a house. That is little enough in these days of ascending prices, but in addition to money support, the clergy must have the united loyalty and interest of their people in their spiritual work. Fault-finding and captious criticism, splits and factions among the people are crimes against the Church and the Master. The men or women who get their feelings hurt and stand aside for slight or no sufficient reason are traitors to the cause. Peace, love and loyalty among the laity are conditions without which no priest, however efficient and faithful, can accomplish results. When I first came to Georgia twenty years ago somebody told me that Southern people would do anything for a clergyman, except go to Church. My experience has not been such as to make me forget that comment, either positively or negatively. When a parish has 500 or 600 communicants, not to speak of the baptized members, a congregation of 200 or 300 on a good Sunday is not loyalty to God nor to His priest. But when a mission has 10, 20 or 40 communicants, a like proportion of attendance on the services is a bitter discouragement to a faithful minister. The thing seems almost microscopic. Brethren of the laity, your regular presence at the services of the Church is not only reverence for God, but common justice to your leader. If you do not do it you need not be surprised to discover that he has worn out his spirit in his futile efforts and has accepted a call elsewhere.

At the same time I must appeal to the clergy for that sort of courage and pluck which, if necessary, is to lead forlorn hopes and to stick to their work until victory is purchased out of apparent defeat.

During the year I sold a lot which I held in trust for the Church in Valdosta for $4,500. This lot was purchased over thirty years ago for $100. With a part of the proceeds we have purchased a lot in a desirable portion of the City large enough for Church, Rectory and Parish House, when needed, and plans have been accepted for the immediate erection of a rectory.

Plans have also been adopted for a new Church at Fitzgerald, after many years of delay in endeavoring to decide where to build it.

A movement is also on foot to build a rectory at Douglas on a portion of the Church lot.
New mission stations have been opened at Vidalia, at Blakely, in Early County, at Dawson and at a point near Americus. All of these initial efforts are the result of the missionary zeal of one of our younger clergy, though Vidalia has been placed in charge of another priest. These mission stations are, of course, experimental, but only in such experiments can permanent results be attained in some places.

The Apportionment.

I much regret to be compelled to note that the Diocese has fallen far behind in meeting its apportionment for General Missions during the past year. This apportionment is not a tax nor an assessment, but an apportionment and based upon the current contributions and the communicants of each Diocese. It costs so much to operate our missionary enterprises. It is estimated that our portion of that expense is, say, $3,000, and we are asked to give, that much at least. That seems to be a fair proposition, and I hope we shall not be content until we put ourselves into the honorable list of those Dioceses which pay their apportionment. The clergy must not be discouraged by the prevalence of the un-Christian opposition to missions. It is quite unaccountable on Christian principles and most of the reasons assigned are venerable for their decrepit antiquity rather than respectable for their originality or reasonableness. I recommend and urge that a standing committee of this Convention be constituted to divide at once the Diocesan apportionment among the parishes and to continue during the year to assist in urging payment, and that the apportionments be printed in the Journal.

It is refreshing to note, on the contrary, that our Sunday Schools gave as their Lenten offering for missions during the past year $1,039.15, an increase of $458.51 over the previous year, a record which promises, we hope, letter things for the future when these little ones have grown to maturity.

The University of the South.

The University of the South is a Church university and it belongs to the nineteen Dioceses and Missionary Districts represented in its Board of Trustees. It is, therefore, partly our institution. It appeals to us with a justifiable insistence for support and development. It is also a high-grade college and is worthy of support. It absolutely requires endowment and it needs more students.

The Theological Department depends upon the Dioceses for its maintenance in the payment of its professors. The amounts asked for from each parish and mission are matters of the highest degree of honorable obligation, and I ask the Rectors and Vestries to give respectful attention and assistance to the Clerical Trustee in his efforts to pay our assessment to the University.

We shall have the pleasure of having with us, at my invitation, Dr. William B. Hall, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, and I ask that opportunity he afforded him to address the Convention.

The Sunday Schools.

The works of the Sunday Schools of the Church has been greatly improved of late years in its efficiency by improved methods of administration and teaching.

Text-books constructed on scientific methods have been published, and there is a growing disposition to take the Sunday Schools seriously as schools for instruction in Christian truth. Much good has been accomplished by the Joint Commission of the General Convention on Sunday School Instruction. The New York Commission has been most active in promoting improvement and has issued numerous excellent text-books and other appliances for effective work. The joint Commission will send to any clergymen who desires it a copy of their report, which I hope every one will ask for from the Rev. Herman L. Duhring, D.D., Secretary, 225 South Third Street, Philadelphia.

I am also desirous that in the Diocese we should organize a Sunday School Institute for teachers and officers. Such institutes are becoming yearly more numerous, and they are quite necessary if we are to keep abreast with the times and escape ossification and senile inefficiency. I recommend that a committee be appointed to report a forum of organization of such an institute in this Diocese and that this committee be a standing committee of this Convention.

The Diocese of Atlanta.

It was my pleasure to attend the opening service of the Council of the Diocese of Atlanta in December last, and I wish to express now my grateful appreciation of the cordiality of the greeting offered by my friend and brother, and yours, the Bishop of Atlanta, and other old and new friends in the Council. I suggested to them that the two Dioceses, for so long a time one, should maintain intimate relations with one another, and to that end that we each should annually appoint a deputation of one clergyman and one layman to carry our greetings to each other. I am glad to say that the Bishop and Council of Atlanta accepted the suggestion, and I now recommend that this Convention reciprocate their action and elect a similar deputation to be present at the next annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta.

General Clergy Relief.

In 1907 the General Convention appointed a Commission “to raise a sum of not less than five millions of dollars” for the General Clergy Relief Fund, especially for clerical pensions. This Commission is actively at work and has asked that committees be appointed in each Diocese to co-operate in the effort. It may have been wiser to set a goal not quite so distant, but still we must co-operate in an effort to secure so important an end. Quite a sum of money has already been secured, and much more will doubtless be. I have appointed a committee as requested, and regret that in so doing I overlooked the fact that a similar committee was appointed last year by the Standing Committee. But I shall ask my appointees to serve, and I offer apologies to the Standing Committee and their appointees. I beg that the Rectors and Vestries and congregations will generously encourage and co-operate with any efforts this Committee shall make to further their work.

Candidates for Orders.

The Diocese of Georgia has at this time on its roll one postulant and one candidate for Holy Orders. The first is a resident of Massachusetts and the second is a student at Sewanee, transferred to me from the Diocese of Dallas. No Georgia youth has appeared to give himself to the priesthood of God’s Church. This, brethren, is a serious matter. It should he considered seriously by the Convention and by every father and mother of a boy in the Diocese. The ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ makes its sacred appeal to the boys of the Church, consecrated to His service in Holy Baptism. No calling makes a nobler appeal to the spirit of youthful enthusiasm for the service of mankind. It offers opportunity of service and sacrifice and toil and labor, without hope of reward save the saving of men’s souls and the building up of God’s Kingdom. It is no easy task, but it is a task full of joy to those who enter upon it in the Spirit of Christ.

It is true that under the changed and changing conditions of modern thought and life the old idea of the priest’s work must give place to broader conceptions of the functions of the ministry. But institutional work should not be allowed to overshadow entirely the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. But the preaching of the Gospel must take account of the movements of modern thought and life, and that Gospel must be interpreted, with fidelity to the Catholic Faith, in the terms of men’s living and growing experience and thought. The great emphasis to-day is upon the social aspects of Christianity. It is a Gospel to the world as well as to individual men. How so to preach it and to minister it as to meet the conditions of modern life is our problem. It is still a Gospel to the sinning, sorrowing, perplexed, despairing soul for his individual salvation into a better life, but nowadays, as never before, the individual is conceived as a part of the great organism of human life, influenced by and influencing the persons and conditions among; which he lives, and the Gospel must mean social righteousness and salvation. Theology must be a growing science and keep pace with religious experience, just as the law must be a growing science and keep pace with the enlarging complications of human relationships.

For the work of the priesthood the best men are needed, men of sturdy Christian character, men of sympathy with life, men living in the present, men of ability, men capable of leadership. The faith abides, but life grows and expands. The priest and prophet must be rooted in the ancient foundations of the faith, but sanely and judiciously sympathetic with its relations to the living world.

Such a work ought to and will appeal to earnest youth. Sacrifice will not deter those who are truly nurtured in the Christian life. It is a great and splendid opportunity for splendid talent as well as for the faithful services of the less gifted. I appeal to the boys to search their hearts and keep them open to the voice of God calling them to this service. Let no Christian youth determine his vocation in life until lie has asked God to guide him, and until after prayer and effort to see the way God wants him to walk in, it is plainly manifest that the holy ministry is not God’s will for him.

I appeal to the fathers and mothers to realize the privilege and duty of giving their sons to this sacred calling. What honor is greater for a woman than to have borne and nurtured a man to serve at God’s altar, to minister to human souls the glad tidings of their Father’s salvation and to be to this generation of troubled, perplexed souls, seeking light and finding oftentimes only glowworms, a witness of the faith and the life, the ideals and the hopes, of the Holy Spirit that lives in Jesus Christ and broods within each of us. A priest and prophet of God in truth and sincerity, a witness to a Catholic Faith, surely, men and brethren, you will not, as I fear not a few have done, stifle and discourage the desire and ambition in your sons to become such ministers to human need and life. No Church which does not breed and contribute of its life to the holy ministry can he considered as possessing its full measure of the life of our Lord. Its worldliness must be causing its light to flicker with an uneasy prophecy of its gradual extinction. No truer test of spiritual life in the home and in the parish can be found than that which expresses itself in the offering up of young lives to the spiritual service of men for Christ’s sake and in His Spirit. And, my brethren, I say to you affectionately, but with a solemn emphasis, the Church in Georgia has never realized that standard, if my knowledge of its history is correct, and it is not doing it now. And I ask you to join with me now in putting into the petition in the Litany every time we say it our passionate desire to God that He may answer our prayer for laborers in His vineyard.

The Work Among the Colored People.

My brief experience as a Bishop, ministering to the negroes, has excited in me a much greater degree of sympathy and interest in the Church’s work among them than I felt before. It is, I think, always true that when we are endeavoring to help other people under a sense of duty, our interest and sympathy in them are quickened, and our prayers will follow, if they did not precede, our efforts. Most of us have been in contact with negroes in one way or the other all of our lives, and all people who give a serious thought to the questions and problems about us have felt the seriousness and gravity of the situation as a problem. But problems as such do not affect anything in us but our minds. So long as they remain only problems they do not necessarily arouse our conscience or our sympathy. Contact, immediate or remote, with masses of people who constitute a problem does not affect us deeply, and. the problem can easily be dismissed from mind. If persistent and perplexing such problems become wearisome and we are only too glad to get rid of them. We will postpone them or leave them to future generations. The problem of the negro is such an one. We have had it with us so insistently and it is such an immense and complicated problem that we are tired of it. And, indeed, it is quite impossible of solution satisfactorily and completely by our generation. It is one of those issues, social and political, that must work itself out, while we tinker at it as opportunity and emergency require.

But there is one thing that we can and must do. We must be just and merciful and open-minded, without prejudice and harshness, as far as we can, to this race of people in our midst. So far as in us lieth, we must live peaceably with these men as with all men. We must do our duty. Just in so far as we believe ourselves to be a superior race are we responsible under God to be calm and patient and just and kind. Noblesse oblige. We Southern people realize, as our Northern brethren cannot, the seriousness and delicacy of the situation. Our contact with the negro is more intimate. It is more irritating. We suffer from his limitations and infirmities. We know a great deal about them. Our domestic life, our civic, political and industrial life are all affected by them and affected disastrously too often. Our wives are the victims of their unreliability and inefficiency. Our courts are the witnesses of their evil and vicious tendencies. I am speaking of them as a race, a class. You and I know exceptions to the rule. There are faithful servants and reliable negroes. There are many who are exceptional in many ways, industrious, sober, capable and honest. There are some who are educated and refined. The latter we see and know little of. They are forming a life apart from ours. But of the mass of them much that is bad and discouraging can be and must be said. In what I am going to say further I wish it to be understood that I recognize the situation and will take it for granted for the sake of argument, that all the evil possible to be said reasonably by any man has been said.

But then the question presents itself to us and will continue to present itself, what ought we, the superior and favored race, we Christian people, who are supposed in a measure to think and feel about people as Jesus Christ thought and felt about them, what are we going to do about it? What are we Church people going to do about it? The Church has been trying, to do something, a little, not very seriously and not very enthusiastically, but she has not solved the question as other religious bodies have done, except the Roman Church, by cutting them adrift and letting them shift for themselves. In our own Diocese something has been done in a small way. And it is in contact with that work and with the individual negro, clergy and people and children in time schools that my sympathies have been so deeply stirred. The situation of these people is pathetic. In some ways it is a tragedy. Human need, poverty, ignorance, weakness must touch any man whose heart is not steeled against them. And among these people are all these conditions. Make the most of it. But surely ignorance and poverty and weakness will not cure themselves or the wretchedness and sin that follow them. We cannot, dare not, look God in the face and say we will have nothing to do with it or them. As Christians and Churchmen we dare not. We must help them. We must give than the Church’s ministry and service, her sane gospel of a religion of righteousness. We must give to their children, so many of whom are growing up vagabonds and criminals, an education which will not only quicken their wits, but “enlighten their minds, purify their hearts and sanctify their wills.” And I bear testimony that so far as we are doing any work we are reaping results worthy of our efforts. Our colored clergy are, I believe, faithful, earnest men. Some of them are exceptional men among their people, men of character and devotion. They are laboring under great difficulties and with a poor and inadequate support. They are making bricks with but little straw. As their Bishop I sympathize with them and must stand by them. As your Bishop I must appeal to you to sympathize and stand by me and them. The cost of the work in this Diocese is about $7,600. To meet this the Board of Missions gives us $3,693 ; the Georgia Mission Fund, $1,295; Diocesan Missions, $125; local support from the missions and tuition fees contribute $1,090, leaving a deficit of $1,400. That means that there is no regular income to pay the salary of a deacon and his wife who are teaching a school of over sixty children in Albany under most discouraging conditions as to equipment, but with a courage which is most remarkable. This salary I must provide in some way. It means also that no clergyman is at work in Camden County, where we have two mission churches, and none can be placed there.

Brethren, where shall we look for money for our work ? To the Board of Missions ? They reply politely but negatively. They are overburdened with demands, and the Church’s gifts do not permit further appropriations. And when I know that we do not pay our apportionment and that our Southern people give practically nothing to the Board for the Church’s work among the negroes I am somewhat abashed. Shall write letters and make appeals to individuals and Churches in the North? Surely they ought to help us in this great emergency that is upon us, but which is not our sole responsibility. But, brethren, do you not think that we people ought to measure up to our duty a little better and not so readily turn our eyes Northward when we need a little money for our missionary work? True, there is enormous wealth in the North. But we are not so poor as we were after the war; we are not as poor as we think we are. Pleading poverty is not a dignified business. And “begging” is not any more agreeable to a Bishop than it is to other people. So that what I am trying to say amounts to this : We, Southern Church people, and we in this Diocese, must conscientiously realize the Christian obligation more than we do of assisting in the work of redeeming and elevating the negro. We must not allow antipathies and prejudices to get into our hearts when we are thinking of the ignorant and sinful black people. We must not carry to the Lord’s table feelings which outrage the Lord’s Spirit. And we must really try to do more and to give more for the work in our own Diocese, for it is certain that we do not now do all that we could or ought to do. I appeal to the clergy to be courageous and tactful and to press upon our laity this solemn and sacred obligation. The attitude of some of our people is neither honorable nor Christian. They are in a condition of panic or of very cruel indifference. And I appeal to you of the laity to think and to pray that God may make us see what we ought to do and to give us grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same. God bless us and give us a more abounding love for the sake of and in the name of our Blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ.