Bishop’s Address of 1949

Bishop’s Address of 1949
Given by the Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

(Memorial prayer for the Rev. Theodore Patton.)

The year since the last convention has been marked by material growth. Extensive repairs have been made on the rectory at St. Mary’s. A new rectory has been built at St. Mary’s Church in Augusta. A new parish house has been completed at Jesup, which is one of the nicest in the diocese and reflects credit on the church in that city, and all who had a part in the building. A new church and parish house have been completed at Valdosta on one of the nicest locations in that city, just across the street from the Woman’s College; a new church and parish house have been completed for St. Matthew’s church on West Broad Street in Savannah, and this has resulted in the most remarkable growth of interest I have ever seen, both among our own members, and also among people who never had been inside of an Episcopal Church before. On several occasions we have had to place the parish house chairs in the aisles and rear of the church building, and even then to turn many people away. I foresee a brilliant future for this congregation in their beautiful new buildings. I hope we may find time to visit this church, located at Anderson and West Broad while we are here. One of the last things Bishop Reese said to me, before he left us, was, “Don’t neglect my Colored brethren.” I have tried to keep faith with him, and I am sure he is rejoicing in the progress which the former churches of St. Stephen’s and St. Augustine’s are making, united as they are in the new St. Matthew’s. On my last visit there, Palm Sunday night, I confirmed nearly sixty persons, The truth is that a lot of the better educated Negroes are looking for the things we have to offer, in our services and our Church life generally. These are beauty and order, without ecclesiastical tyranny; and liberty without license. Outside of our church they have to choose between these two.

The total cost of the building program so far carried out is about $165,000.00. Toward this the diocese has assumed, or is now asked to assume a responsibility for about $35,000. As a result of this interest and encouragement on the part of the diocese, the people of these missions or parishes have raised and secured from other sources the remaining $135,000.00 We have secured nearly twenty thousand dollars from the National Church through the interest of Bishop Harris of Liberia, formerly secretary for Negro work, and of the Rev. Tolley Caution, present secretary, and through the interest of the Rev. George Weiland, secretary of Domestic Missions of the National Council, and a friend of mine since our early days together in the North-west. All in all, I feel that we have much to be thankful for in the growth we have so far made. A most encouraging thing it is to find the people so ready to go forward when the diocese is ready to give leadership PLUS a little help.

A most beautiful parish house has also been completed .at St. Michael’s in Savannah, which is being paid for entirely by the people of this parish. The parish itself is growing rapidly in its splendid location. They started two years ago, a parish kindergarten, and last year added the first grade, and plan now to-open a second grade next fall. This has been done under the splendid leadership of Mr. Patton, whose death was a tragic loss to the parish and to us all. The evolution of St. Michael’s from the small frame plant at Harmon and Anderson streets to the present complete fire-proof plant at 47th and Waters during the past ten years has been most encouraging, and reflects credit on that faithful group of people, and their rectors, who have by their faith and sacrifice added a strong parish to the Diocese of Georgia. Such faith—and work, never fail.

In addition to these improvements we have mentioned throughout the diocese, many others are now under way, or contemplated. Ground has been broken for a new parish house at St. Paul’s, Albany, and another is in process of construction at Calvary, Americus. These parishes plan to finance these undertakings without diocesan help. Among the missions, several are planning advances, if they can secure some help from the diocese, and this help we are planning to give through the present laymen’s campaign. Christ Church, Augusta has torn down, or is tearing down, its old condemned parish house, and is saving the sound timbers for reduction of cost of the new one which is contemplated. With this saving, and the architectural cost donated by Mr. Arthur Hazard of Augusta as part of his contribution to the laymen’s campaign, and the building superintendence donated by Mr. John Buck, a contractor and builder who is a member of the Christ Church vestry, they expect to complete a parish house for $13,000 or less, and will ask for help from the laymen’s fund. There is no place in the diocese where a parish house is more badly needed. The old parish of the Atonement, now a mission, like Christ Church is at work among many under-privileged people, and some center for social work is badly needed. A rectory is hoped for in the Hawkinsville and Cochran field, for which we already have five thousand dollars, so we can send a resident minister there. Both a parish house and rectory are needed in the growing city of Moultrie, and some help may be needed in Bainbridge. Waynesboro is planning a small parish Hall if they can secure some help from the diocese, and it is my hope that we can help a little with completion of payment on their rectory and parish house and also help the little church at Fitzgerald with repairs which are necessary for the saving of the church.

It will be noted that with the single exception of St. Matthew’s Church for Colored people, none of these works which we have aided or plan to aid, are parishes. We fully realize that the improvements under way in the parishes are as valuable to the diocese as are the improvements contemplated in the missions, but the parishes are stronger and more able to finance their own improvements, while the missions never will be parishes unless they are stimulated to become so. Even the rejuvenation of St. Michael’s in Savannah was started when I managed to get together a small sum of money, partly from the sale of other property. This is the method we plan to use with the money now being raised by the laymen. In every instance it will be for those who are willing and ready to help themselves.

Before I pass on from these material improvements, I must mention the splendid work that has been done and is still going on, by the laymen who have undertaken the responsibility of raising $75,000, for the development of work in the diocese under the slogan, Our Diocese Our Responsibility. I cannot name all who have helped, for many have helped unknown to me. But I would like to mention the General Chairman of the Steering Committee, Mr. Dewey Cooke, and the Campaign Director, Mr. Varnedoe Hancock, and the co-chairman in charge of the work, and giving active leadership to it, of Mr. E. B. McCuen, chairman of Big Gifts Committee and Mr. Reuben Clark, Treasurer. I would like to commend the laymen of St, Thomas, Thomasville who unanimously deferred some local improvements, and who went out the next day and raised their quota, I would like to commend the people of Jesup who still needed $1200 to complete their parish house, and who had $1200 on hand for this purpose, but who used that $1200 to pay their quota in this drive and borrowed $1200 with which to complete their parish house. I cannot mention all of the instances of self-sacrifice, nor all of the men and women who helped, but I can say that they have encouraged their bishop beyond measure, and have brightened the future of the diocese immeasurably. So I thank God and take courage. The committee in charge of this whole effort will make their report later in this convention. I have not tried to list every need in the diocese: and I have listed the points named above merely from memory, and sometimes memory fails. If any point with existing needs has been omitted, it is not because these needs are unknown to me, nor does it mean that they will not be considered. A committee will be appointed at this convention to canvass all needs and to make such allocation of the funds raised as seems best to them. When this committee is named, I suggest that you make requests in writing, setting forth your plans, and the total cost, and how much you are able to raise yourself and how much you will need from the diocese. In this way we shall try to satisfy everybody, and will of course, not succeed.

Now let us turn to something discouraging. It is something to which I have not found the answer, and about which I do not know that you can do anything directly, now, except to pray that the Lord will send forth laborers into his harvest. For that is the trouble; we have not enough men to man our churches. The trouble is not local. It spreads throughout the Church. In the last forty years the communicant strength of our church has doubled, while the number of clergymen we have is practically the same. The church cannot continue to grow, unless its leadership grows with it. When a boy has finished High School and turns to college, it still takes seven years of study to make him a deacon and another year to become a priest. So that if we could find a thousand High School boys to volunteer for the ministry today, they could not help fill this shortage for eight more years, and by that time another thousand would be needed for deaths and retirements. The simple truth is that we have got to step up production of ministers. In the business world that would mean (if you had to step up production) that you must hire more help and build more factories, and either one would be useless without the other. It means the same thing in stepping up the supply of ministers. In this sphere we don’t “hire help”, but you lay people must dedicate more of your sons to the ministry. Get over the idea that the future minister must be a pious kind of a boy with no human instincts. Some of the best ministers—and bishops—I know, were very bad little boys when they were young. They were very justly spanked. And their mothers cried over them and wondered if they would be hung! If you have just an average boy, talk to him, and explain the ministry as a career of usefulness, not “Piety”, or what we ordinarily mean by that term, for nothing is more useful in this mentally and spiritually muddled world, than to teach people to think straight, in the sight of God who rules the world, and THAT THE MINISTRY STILL DOES, and always will. The Church controls and guides the thoughts of men along right lines more than any other agency in the world, for the Church does not depend on advertisers and influential clients, but preaches the eternal truth of Christ, straight from the shoulder in any age. So if your son is a little rough-neck and likes to fight, guide him into the Church. There he can engage in the age-long fight of good against evil, which is basic in this Godward-struggling world. That is the way we have to “hire help” in the ministry.

When it comes to building factories, we have not enough Theological Seminaries to educate the men who are already applying. If you are a person whom God hath blessed more than other people, and are looking for a worth-while place to give some money, you cannot do better than to consider our Theological Seminaries, which are working to capacity and still cannot supply our need. This need is basic,—and will not build a single mission church in Georgia for many years to come, but ultimately it will build many here and elsewhere, and it is for the ULTIMATE that we are really building.

At present we have two men coming from the seminaries, the Rev. Harcourt Waller for Bainbridge and the Rev. Robert Peeples for Cordele. We need men for St. Michael’s, Savannah, an assistant for St. John’s, Savannah, a missionary at Port Wentworth, the most rapidly growing suburb of Savannah, and Hawkinsville and Cochran; at Moultrie and Quitman to take the place of the Rev. Saxton Wolfe, who to our deep regret is soon leaving for the diocese of South Florida, and I fear soon we will need one at one other place, where our minister is being called and may I say tempted, to a larger, a MUCH larger field than he has at present.

Maybe I have made a mistake in the last fourteen years. I have tried to gather together the finest young clergymen I could find, and in this, I think I have succeeded, but the trouble is, that when you get a lot of fine young clergymen, other bishops and parishes are always trying to steal them, and most dioceses are richer in money, and maybe I might add opportunity than we are. They then come to Georgia and offer them wider fields and greater opportunity—and last of all—better salaries than we can pay: so what can we do?

So, we have two men coming in, and need six more. So we shall have to do what they are doing; go out and steal from others, who are poorer than we, and so on ad infinitum! And at the end there is a deficit somewhere, and God’s people are going unshepherded.

I think we make the way into the Episcopal ministry too hard. I am continually having applications from men in the ministry of other churches who want to come to us. But the path is narrow and the gate is straight, and the canon law of the church interferes. At some General Convention of the Church we might make a start at remedying this. It would help us if we could. We are a Protestant Church with a lot of Catholic attitudes. Some day we ought to make up our minds one way or the other.

A movement, somewhat new to us, which is developing in the Church is that of parish day schools. For some strange reason we have always associated “Parochial Schools” with the Roman Catholic Church, but whatever else we may think of this Church, they have always been practical realists. When they met the Public School of the United States which was, and overwhelmingly is a Protestant Country, they realized that if they were to indoctrinate their children into the life and thought of their church, they must begin with them when they were young. One of their famous teachers said, “Give me a child until he is seven, and you may have him for the rest of his life.” All that this means is that the impressions of Childhood are enduring. So in Protestant countries they began to segregate their children into schools of their own, and in the United States which is the greatest and the richest of all countries, they have been particularly militant in regard to the whole school program. This was primarily intended to keep their own from the destroying influence of Protestant Public Schools, for in those days, the Public Schools were really Protestant, reflecting the norm of the country’s life. The Bible was read at morning chapel services, and in many places talks were made on the importance of simple Christian life.

But things have changed. Such a program has been changed by political pressure from two groups. The atheists and the Roman Catholics have fought it in many communities and states, the Atheists because it was religious, and the Roman Catholics because it was Protestant, with the result that today, our Public Schools are, to all practical purposes, without any religion. This fight has been carried to the Supreme Court of the United States, and they have decided that the Public Schools shall teach no religion at all. . . . So that from now on, our Public Schools are purely Pagan. The Roman children in their Parochial Schools are taught religion for six days in the week. Ours get about thirty minutes each Sunday Morning, IF they come to Sunday School. This is the situation all over the United States, and people speak of the “Growth of the Roman Church” as if it were surprising.

We have got to teach our Protestant children Religion. but we cannot do it in thirty minutes a week, in competition with the Romanists who do it on Sunday and five other days in the weeks, six full days in all. This is particularly tragic when we have so much more to teach. We have that Religious Freedom from which Democracy has sprung, and without which it cannot live. If you do not believe this, look at those countries where the Roman Religion has prevailed. Spain is a typical example.

To the pressure of Atheism on the one hand and Romanism on the other, has been added the utter inadequacy of our own public school system to meet the growing needs of education. So much public money is spent in vote buying enterprises, like farm subsidies and price control, soldier pensions and bonuses, old age pensions and unemployment insurance schemes, socialized medicine and other Utopian plans under which men can live without work, that there is nothing, or little left for the basis need of public education, without which our Democratic ideal of government cannot live, and without which also, our children cannot get the education they deserve. For this education is more than the three R’s of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, it is the four R’s of reading, writing, Arithmetic and Religion, And even if the public schools had the necessary money, and the public schools were not over-crowded, under Supreme Court decrees they still could not furnish the vital fourth R which is religion.

Get away from the idea of the Roman Parochial School, and look at the Protestant Episcopal Parish School. There are many of them over the country, and we have made a beginning here. We have one at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta, Our pioneer school in Georgia which has been running now for three years in a building near the Church; which has been bought for that purpose. We have another at St. Michael’s in Savannah, which has been running for two years, in an enlarged parish house built for that purpose by the parish under the leadership of the Rev. Theodore Patton, for whom a successor must be found who will carry on the same program. We will soon have a third in Albany under the leadership of the Rev. Ralph Madson, where right now a parish house is being built for the accommodation of the school. The establishment of such a school is a very simple thing in any of our larger towns or cities where we have an adequate parish house. In almost any such towns young women can be found, coming back from college, with nothing to do, who are trying to make their lives useful. They can be had as teachers. There are parents of little children who are dissatisfied with the conditions of public school-life, and the teaching standard prevailing, and there is in Georgia the threatened strike of thousands of public school teachers who are dissatisfied with prevailing wages and living conditions. There never was a better time or place to put the Church into the lives of our children, and it does not cost, anything to do it. The monthly tuition parents will pay, more than pays the salaries of the teachers. And with the teaching of the three R’s the children absorb the fourth, which is Religion as THIS church knows it. And a school will draw uninterested parents into contact with the Church, and the children will carry some, religion back into irreligious homes, I could cite examples of both from the few contacts I have made with the school at St. Michael’s here. Many of our own children and the children of other Protestant churches are even now going to the Roman Catholic Parochial schools, and it is quite possible that we shall ultimately lose many of them to Rome unless we do something about it. And a school will furnish to the minister many pastoral contacts which he would not have otherwise, and so contribute directly to church growth. If you are interested in this matter, I advise you to talk to the Rev. Allen Clarkson. He has shown what can be done.

There is another problem which is continually arising in this diocese, and I suppose in other dioceses also, it is that of receiving unconfirmed persons to the Holy Communion. Some rectors take the position that it is not to be permitted, and repel from the table persons who like our Church, and worship with us often, but who hesitate to break the tie which hinds them to some other Church. This is due in most cases to childhood training, or to an abiding and thoroughly praiseworthy loyalty to the Church of their fathers or mothers. There are many such persons who are reluctant to take any formal step which would seem to be a repudiation of their former spiritual home, in which they have been trained as Christian men and women, but who love our Church and its services and the food which through it, our Heavenly Father provides. And then there are other Clergymen who openly invite all Christian people to come. “It is the Lord’s table,” they say, “and it is open to all of His children.”

We have these diversities of opinion, and of course we have a right to them. The trouble comes when we put our opinions into practice, and tell our people that our opinion is the Church’s Rule and Order. People therefore who live in one town learn one rule, and those who live in another town learn another, and when they move from one town to another, they have to learn and abide by a different set of rules. This situation really becomes critical at a place like Camp Reese where persons of such widely different training face the problem of the Lord’s table, and when even on the same faculty we have such contradictory forms of teaching. The people become confused, and to some extent I suppose, lose confidence in such contradictory teaching.

For the teaching of the Church we ought to go to the Prayer Book rather than to the opinions of men, and one thing which people often forget is this: the Prayer Book reflects the mind of the Church as well as molding its present conduct, and for that very reason is not as clear as it seems it ought to be, but it seems to me that its real intent is clear enough when we study it. It is true that there is a rubric which states that “none shall be admitted to Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed”, but it is very significant that this rubric comes at the end of the Confirmation service which is strictly a family affair within our own communion. The Confirmation service is for our own baptized children, and the rules which govern those children are found in the service. Our Church evidently intends that the norm of life for Her own family is baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion. I do not think She ever intended to make rules to govern the life of members of other communions. Nor do I think She intended to clutch for Herself only the Heavenly food which the Father wishes to give to all.

When it comes to the Service of Holy Communion, the Church is very specific as to the manner of its administration, and as to the persons to whom it may be administered. It is very specific about love and repentance and faith, and has no less than three long exhortations laying down the conditions under which persons may come, but not one word is said in all these exhortations as to the necessity of confirmation. The conditions of coming are clearly laid down in condensed form in the shorter exhortation: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins and are in love and charity with your neighbors and intend to live a new life following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in His Holy ways, Draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”

That is the Church own invitation, read to all the people present, placed in the very heart of the Communion service, and ought not to be conditioned or limited by a rubric placed at the end of another service intended for a different small, selected well trained group, and under entirely different conditions. In all of the communion service, with its many rubrics and directions and limitations, which are quite rigorous, the necessity for confirmation is not once mentioned.

I think the answer is this, the confirmation service and its attendant rubrics are for us Protestant Episcopalians. The Communion service is for the repentant, believing and spiritually hungry people of God. No other kind would wish to come, and I personally, would be afraid to keep such kind away. “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep,” said Christ. “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

We cannot help our opinions. They are the result of our backgrounds and of our own different training in early youth, and of our own temperaments, but we can refrain from trying to make those opinions the norm of life for all around us, and from holding them up as the Church’s one true standard. I think a fair unity of practice might well be to repel no one from the holy table except those notorious and evil livers, and those haters of their fellow men, specified in the communion rubrics on pages 84 and 85 of the Prayer Book, and to invite none to come in our public services save in the beautiful and inclusive words of the-short exhortation on page 75. In this way we shall not go beyond the provisions of the prayer book in either direction. I hope that this may become the normal practice of the diocese, and I hereby do declare that it shall be normal practice at Camp Reese, and all other diocesan institutions whose religious services are under my control.

I have received from National Church Headquarters reports on the survey made last Fall by the Rev. Clifford Samuelson and Dargan Butt, and by the Rev. Tollie Caution, Secretary for Negro Work in the Church. I have not had time to read and digest these reports, though I know about what as in them from conversation with these leaders, and we are modifying our missionary set-up in the Diocese to conform as far as possible with their recommendations. I think that the Diocese owes a debt of gratitude to these three gentlemen for the tireless and self-sacrificing job they did. Their coming to us was a benediction, and I hope some one will make a motion during this convention that the Secretary send them letters expressing our appreciation.

On the whole, we have had a good year, and God has blessed us in many ways. We pray for His continued guidance during the coming year. We thank Him—and take courage.