Bishop’s Address of 1954

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

A few weeks ago I presided at the annual meeting of the Board of the Girls’ home in Savannah. It was their one hundred and first anniversary. And I told them that it might be their one hundred and first anniversary, but it was my one hundred and last! And so it is with us today. As I draw near to the (late of my actual retirement from active service, my thoughts are chiefly of gratitude. First, I am grateful to God. I know of few men with whom He has dealt more kindly than He has with me. To enumerate these blessings would be a task almost endless. I have been a priest for forty-six years; a bishop for nearly thirty years and the Bishop of Georgia for nearly twenty. Under God, and with the help of loyal friends, both clerical and lay, these works have prospered. For this I give God thanks.

I am grateful to God, and I am also grateful to many people. If I had to name one person to whom I am most grateful for whatever has been accomplished in Georgia during the years I have been here, I would name one who is present in Spirit and who will watch over us forever in loving care, my predecessor Bishop Frederick Focke Reese. He has been in Paradise for nearly twenty years, but his shadow is still long in the land. He was the Fourth Bishop of Georgia, which diocese was the whole state until his time. But he was the first bishop of this unconsidered fragment of marshland piney woods and back country which was remote from the rabidly growing industrial section of the north. The Diocese of Atlanta took of the endowments which had been left in the wills of faithful churchmen and women of the Coastal area and even tried to take our name as the Diocese of Georgia. Savannah naturally became the residence of the new bishop of the new diocese. This was back in the early nineteen hundreds. All important railroads radiated from Atlanta. All highways the same. Even at the end of Bishop Reese’s administration there was no paved road from Savannah to the western part of the Diocese. There were local trains on two secondary branches of the Coast Line and Seaboard which arrived at all of the western points in the diocese at two o’clock in the morning and which returned to Savannah at about the same hour. And most of the stations out in the country were reachable by dirt road only. I have been reading some of the bishop’s earlier expense statements and one item which impressed me was quite a large sum for feed for a missionary’s horse. For the support of his entire missionary work he had much less than we now spend on Camp Reese in a single year. Again and again he plead, and for a long time in vain, for enough money to raise the salaries of married missionaries to $1,200 a year. $800.00 seems to have been almost the maximum. He had no travel allowance to speak of, he rented his own house, he had nothing to build with in the mission field and his own salary was often far in arrears. We owed him something like $2,500 in back salary when I came to Georgia in 1935. And the depression of 1929 cracked the back of everything. He had built the diocese up from very little to considerable strength when this depression hit, and was building it back again when I came to help him. He was then past eighty years of age. He was an earliest Christian and a strong Churchman with the zeal of St. John and the patience of Job. For the laying of foundations on which we have built for the last twenty years, I am grateful to Bishop Reese. I have never known his equal in this Church.

Another man to whom I and this diocese owe a debt of gratitude is J. Randolph Anderson. We were proud of him because for many years he handled the dispatch of Business for the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Church and so won national recognition by the superb manner in which he discharged that most, onerous duty: but he won our love and lasting gratitude by the way in which he handled the funds of this diocese before, through and after the depression of 1929. That was a time when all over the country some banks were crashing and some were saving themselves by receiving deposits through the front door and selling their own worthless securities to trusting customers through the back door; a time to try the hearts and courage and integrity of men: and through those dreadful days Mr. Anderson carried the load of our Diocesan endowments and handed them on to his successors in far better shape than he had found them. In this way he rendered a service which money could not, have bought. Money could have bought his legal knowledge which was great, and his natural ability, which was greater, but it could not have bought. his personal consecration and the love he had for his Church through which he consecrated his natural gifts to the service of his Church and his God. May he rest in peace amid light perpetual shine upon him!

We should also remember the Millers—father and son—Frank and William. They were both Chancellors of this diocese, the only two we ever had since the separation until our own Judge Douglas succeeded. The first was only a memory when I came here.

Judge William Miller I knew and loved and buried. They both were devout members of St. Paul’s Church in Augusta and Frank Miller guided the Diocese through all the troubled years of the division of the diocese and the proper adjustment of properties and endowments. We owe much of what we have to his his ability and consecration and also to that of his son, William, who followed in his steps.

When Bishop Reese began his work, we had many physical difficulties to overcome, and small means with which to begin, but we did have a nucleus of the fittest men this Church of ours has ever produced. I did not kttow all of them for many had died before I came. but I do remember Mr. Anderson of Christ Church Savannah and Judge Cann of St. John’s Savannah and Father McGlohon of St. Paul’s. I cite Marion Johnston of St. Matthew’s who has been a vestryman of St. Matthew’s and St. Stephens for over fifty years and is here today. Here is Roy Breen of Jesup to whose steadfast loyalty I believe the church in Jesup owes its very existence. There is Harry Jones of Darien, there was Frank Aiken of St. Mark’s Brunswick and Mr. Downing also. There was the Rev. Mr. Dodge of Christ Church Frederica, and Mr. Burnet of Waycross; there were the Quinceys and the Dickersons of Douglas, the Balfours of Thomasville; John Davis and the Hillsmans of Albany, John Register of Fitzgerald; Uriah and Frank Harrold of Americus, Dr. J. G. Standifer of Blakely. Mr. Laurel Tonge and Clarke Gurley of Bainbridge and the Tifts of Tifton.

There is Mr. W. W. Walke of Dublin. Miss Lucy Blount of Waynesboro. There is Mr. Setze of Good Shepherd and Mr. Ronald Neal and his wife who have held on and refused to be discouraged at Statesboro until now we have a Church and will have a resident priest in June. I confirmed Mr. Neal twenty-five years ago when I was Bishop of Idaho. I have named the living and the dead as if we were a present living fellowship, WHICH WE ARE THROUGH THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS. I could name a thousand others. I mention these men and women so you may know the sort of men and women we have had in this diocese since the very beginning and the sort of men and women who are now carrying the load. Among these I have named you will discover rich churchmen and poor churchmen; high churchmen and low churchmen and you will have learned from the dead if you knew them, and may still learn from the living that they have gone beyond Churchmanship and have given their love and their full measure of devotion to Christ and His Church and to the spread of His Kingdom throughout the world. These are they whose example call on you to follow that we may build through the years to come as they have built in the past. These are the sort of men whom Bishop Reese had the faculty of drawing around him. I pray that God will give us His grace that we may choose such another tomorrow.

I will now read a few verses from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians: It hath been declared unto me of you my brethren by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. One saith I am of Paul and another I am of Apollos and I of Cephas. Well St. Paul had the perfect answer to this situation. “Who then is Paul? and who is Apollos’? but ministers by whom ye believed. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Well, one says, “We have to be practical in this world. if we think Paul is the right man for us we must get out and work for him with the brains and ability that God gave us.” Well, St. Paul has a good answer to this also: “let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he MAY BE WISE. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Therefore let no man glory in men for all things are yours, whether Paul of Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all are yours and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s! So come what may—and come who may—I beg of you one thing; that you love one another and be united in Christ for His sake. If you will forget yourself in every way; your own hopes and choices, whatever pride you may have in influencing the choice of others; if you will come to the morrow’s communion with open minds and hearts and a full surrender to God and with your soul’s perceptions sharpened on the whetstone of Christ’s “Not my will but thine be done”, all will be well. Consider the ravens which God feedeth, the sparrows for which He cares and the lilies of the field. Your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need. Seek not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, neither he ye of doubtful mind. But rather seek ye the Kingdom of God, and these shall be added. And Jesus sums it all up in these words: “Fear not little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

(Due to the illness of the Bishop at the time of the Convention, this address is not complete.)