Bishop’s Address of 1926

The Rt. Rev. Frederick Focke Reese
Fourth Bishop of Georgia

My Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

I thank God that He has granted me the privilege of meeting you again in another Convention of our Diocese, the one hundred and fourth. I pray that we shall all be impressed with the dignity and sacredness of our duty here, and be enlightened and guided by His Holy Spirit. We must be thorough in what we do, give earnest consideration to the matters which come before us, and do nothing in impatience and haste.

Since our last Convention only two of our Bishops have passed away, and both of these died during the meeting of the General Convention last October.

The Rt. Rev. Frederick Burgess, D. D, LL. D., the second Bishop of Long Island, died October 15, 1925; 72 years of age and in the 24th year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Edward Melville Parker, D. D., D. C. L., fourth Bishop of New Hampshire, died October 22, 1925, age 70 years and in the 20th year of his Episcopate.

Our own Clergy ranks have been unbroken by death during the year. I recall, however, two of our laymen who have passed away since we last met, both of whom had been members of this House. Mr. A. B. Moore had been for many years a delegate from St. Paul’s Church, Savannah, and in many ways an honored and useful layman of the Diocese, a Vestryman and warden of his parish for a number of years, Treasurer of the Board of Missions. At the time of his death, which occurred on October 9, 1925, he was, and had been for a number of years, a member of the Standing Committee and was also a. member of the finance Department and the Department of Christian Social Service of the Executive Council. In every capacity he served the Church cheerfully and efficiently. Dr. N. A. Teague, who died suddenly on December 20th, for a number of years was a Vestryman of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, and was also a member of the executive Council, serving also on the Department of Christian Social Service and the Field Department. I recommend that the Convention adopt suitable minutes in memory of these brethren. In this connection I also suggest that there be added to our Standing Committees one on “Memorials” which shall be charged with the duty of ascertaining and reporting the names of laymen who have served as members of the Convention with such details of their service to the Church as may be supplied by those who are competent to do so.

During the calendar year 1925 I dimitted three of our Clergy to other Dioceses, received one and ordained five Deacons, one of whom was immediately dimitted. I also ordained one Deacon at the request of the Bishop of Colorado. One Priest is now serving under license, and we had on January 1st 35 Clergy on our Diocesan roll. Three of these are retired; five are non-parochial, two being Deacons and students of divinity whom I expect shortly to ordain to the Priesthood. We have at this date one Candidate for Orders, three Postulants. One Candidate has withdrawn during the year for good reasons not affecting his moral character.

I am encouraged and gratified to note the fact that the number of persons Confirmed during 1925 is the largest since the division of the Diocese. As I have felt it necessary for several years to comment upon the falling off in the number Confirmed, it is with the more pleasure that I note this marked improvement, in 1924, 258; in 1925, 414. I congratulate the Clergy to whose zeal and labors this is mainly due. But I cannot but believe that our faithful lay people are beginning to realize their responsibility and privilege in this sacred duty of Evangelism. May it please God to fill us with even greater zeal and more devoted and intelligent labor for the gathering of souls into the fold of His Church.

I hope, however, you will not consider it ungracious at this point to draw your attention to some other facts in the same line which are not so encouraging. Since the Convention of 1909 when I first began my work as Bishop to and including 1924, the reports show that there were 4,365 persons confirmed in the Diocese or an average of 257 a year. In 1908 when the first Convention was held after the division there were 4,439 Communicants in the Diocese. Including 1924 there were 5,562, a gain of 1,123, or about an average gain of 60 a year. There is nothing peculiar to our Diocese in such figures, but they are none the less startling. Two hundred and fifty-seven Confirmed per annum and a gain in Communicants of 60 per annum. What became of the others? Some died and many removed from the Diocese. Some, however, must have moved into the Diocese. I wonder how many of those going and coming brought and took letters of transfer? Or how many of their former Pastors knew what became of them? This is a difficult matter. The Clergy are not wholly responsible. The lay people either know nothing or care nothing about letters of transfer. They sometimes leave silently and unobserved, certainly from the larger cities, like people who are running away from their debts. But whatever the cause, there is always going on a loss from active Communion of a large number of Communicants. That, of course, means sometimes to them the loss of any active interest in the Church or in religion. They are, so to speak, the waste product of the Church. Industry is utilizing more and more its waste product. It frequently means the difference between profit and loss. I think we, Clergy and Laity, are not sufficiently concerned about our waste product. It is a serious matter to the Church and to the lost Communicants. We should be more active and diligent, even under the discouraging circumstances, under which so many leave us, in seeking information from every possible source as to the destination of these people and following them up with commendatory letters and transferring them to their new parishes. We should be as diligent in doing so as the manufacturer is in locating his waste of material or power. And this responsibility rests also upon the lay people, to assist the Clergy in following up these wanderers. Stockholders in corporations are deeply concerned by failure to receive dividends, caused by inefficient management. Every true Churchman should be concerned as deeply about the growth of the Church and the gaining and keeping of souls in its fold. Our Blessed Lord at any rate is deeply concerned and we ought to remember that we are his agents and may have to account for our negligence in this matter.

The report of the Executive Council will give information about the work of the Diocese through its several Departments. There are, however, some aspects of the work upon which I should like to make comment. In the first place I must express my satisfaction that by the co-operation of Clergy and Laity in the annual Missionary Campaign and canvass we have received sufficient funds from the pledges of the people to meet for several years the obligations of our Diocesan budget and to pay our budget quota to the National Council. This is a very gratifying record and we have set for ourselves a standard which we shall certainly maintain. In the confidence in our people that we would do so, the Executive Council pledged to the National Council for this current year, the full payment of our budget quota. I feel sure that the people will not fail us in this but will redeem their pledges so that we can do this and also meet all of our diocesan obligations. The pledges received for 1926 amount in all to $28,086.68. The Diocesan budget and National quota amount to $25,511.79. There seems to be a good and safe margin so far as the budget items are concerned. But we must remember that we have obligations for advance work in the Diocese for $1,000 and for the National Council of $5,000, or $6,000, in all, making a total obligation of $31,517.17. We shall be therefore still in need of $3464.51 in order to do our full duty. It is also to be noted that probably all of the pledges will not be met in full. In 1925, $27,691.52 were pledged and $25,726.02 were collected or about 93 per cent. This, however, included some special gifts not included in the pledges. Of the amount pledged, ten and one half per cent were not paid. A similar loss in payments this year would reduce our income to $25,137.58, which would be just about sufficient to meet our budget responsibilities, and would leave us nothing to pay on our obligations for Advance Work.

I am particularly concerned this year that we should pay our Advance Work quota to the National Council. The General Convention in October last adopted a program for 1926 which included a list of special objects of Advance Work, and which the Church is asked to provide for. Dioceses, Parishes, and individuals are asked to select one or more of these objects as their special obligation, the cost of which could be the same or more than the quota for advance work assigned to these Dioceses. In accordance with this method, I have asked the Treasurer of the National Council to assign to as a project the cost of which is $5,000.00, the amount asked of us, and I have accepted the assignment. This project is to provide the laundry and other needed equipment for our Church Hospital in Ponce, Porto Rico. I have as your Bishop undertaken this responsibility. I ask you and this Diocese to stand by me, and provide the money. No other Diocese will give anything for this purpose. It is up to us. If we do not do it the Hospital will not get its equipment. If we had not assumed the duty of providing it, some other Diocese might have done so. This constitutes a serious responsibility. I have not accepted for the Diocese any larger responsibility than our full quota for budget and advance work. I have merely specialized it, made it concrete—not a mere matter of so much money, but a hospital doing fine work, and needing a laundry, etc. That is the thing before us. If we do it, we shall have the satisfaction of having done a special and needed thing to advance God’s work.

My reason for believing that it is quite possible for us to do this is, first, that a number of our parishes have not pledged their full quota. With the special object presented them, I believe that they can appeal to their people individually with the fair prospect of interesting them and securing from some larger gifts for the concrete object. In the second place, there are men and «omen in the Diocese whose gifts for missions as represented by their pledges through their parishes do not measure up to their ability and possibly their willingness to give. If they are property approached, some of them will be interested and respond. It will require some generous gifts—not spare change. But it can be done. The Woman’s Auxiliary officers have offered their help and I am sure, knowing the zeal of our women, that all the Auxiliary women will give their labor and time to help. I appeal to the Clergy and Vestries to help. There are some Congregations which have pledged their full quotas. I do not wish to be understood as asking them to make general appeals for this object. But I do not think it unfair or impracticable to appeal to individuals in these Congregations for a special gift for this purpose. Many of our people are most generous. Some of our Vestries have loyally stood by the Diocese and General Church in guaranteeing the payment of their full quotas for budget and advance work. I am personally deeply grateful to them. At the same time I feel that there are many who can give more than they do and would give if properly approached with explanation of the reason for the appeal. There are not a few of our people whose incomes and personal and family expenditures indicate that they can do much more than their share of a parochial quota. When I see the evidences of prosperity in the expenditures for automobiles or for private entertainment, for instance, I am not impressed by the fear that we are giving too much money to God and His work. Some are, no doubt, giving to the point of sacrifice and doing their duty generously and unselfishly. To them I have nothing to say except, “God bless you.” I ask this Convention to express its endorsement of this effort and to give myself and our women and our Executive Council the encouragement of its approval.

I hope it may be helpful if I make some comments and, a sort of review of our work in the Diocese, as it is being carried on under the authority of the Convention by the Executive Council and its Departments. What are we trying to do? And what measure of success are we attaining? Of course the main object is to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to advance the Kingdom of God among our people in this part of the State of Georgia. Under our Department of Missions we are endeavoring to minister the Word and Sacraments of the Church. It is, first, to give our own people the blessings of the Church’s faith and worship and its moral and spiritual nurture. In most places this means that we are helping our small groups of Church people to maintain the services of a Clergyman, for whom they are unable to provide a living. We have fourteen white and two colored parishes, with thirteen white and nine colored organized missions, to which should be added thirteen white and three colored unorganized missions, nine and one Mission Stations and four and two parochial missions. The parishes are self supporting; the organized Missions have Church buildings and a regular organization and representation in the Convention. The unorganized Missions have buildings, but only two or three officers and no organized vestries. The Mission Stations are places where we have one or more resident Communicants and where Services are held by a priest with greater or less frequency. The Stations vary more or less from year to year due to removals and the discovery of Communicants not known before.

Among all of our Missions we have suffered during the last few years serious losses due to removals, mostly to Florida. Some of them have been much depleted and their ability of self-help greatly impaired. Doubtless in time these losses will be made good. But growth is necessarily slow. The shifting population is a constant cause of change in their condition. Many of the persons who belong to these Congregations are not native to the localities, in many cases, not Georgians. Our Georgia people in overwhelming numbers belong to other Communions and we and our Church are strange and unfamiliar to them. They do not think that we have any religion, that is, religion as they understand it. They are courteous to our Clergy and to me but they regard it as a misfortune, if not as a spiritual disaster if any of their people are Confirmed in the Church. Family and Ecclesiastical influence exert great pressure to prevent individuals from becoming affiliated with us. I make no criticism of our brethren of other Communions. They are earnest and devoted in their labors for the propagation of the Gospel and the saving of souls. But in many respects they have a different point of view from ours. They do not apparently understand or appreciate fully the Sacramental element in Christianity. However I do not wish to elaborate these differences. Let us work with them as far as possible in promoting the Kingdom and in the work of human redemption. But let us be loyal to our standards of faith and order and bear our testimony to historic and catholic Christianity and at the same time be stimulated by their earnest activity to greater zeal for our Lord and His Church. We are justified in our efforts to maintain and build up the Church for two reasons. First, we are obligated as Christian brethren to assist these small and scattered groups of the Church’s children in maintaining for themselves and their children the spiritual blessings which we enjoy as members of this Church, its faith and worship and its sacraments and spiritual nurture. Secondly, we believe that the Church as a branch of the Historic Church has a great contribution to make to the religious life of the people. In all humility and sincerity we believe this. Having this treasure we must bear our testimony to it wherever we find opportunity and with loving kindness and fellowship with others, we must endeavor to make them understand and win them to accept what we have. I do not mean, of course, that we must be aggressive in proselyting. But we must show in our own fidelity to our Church in the manifest sincerity and reality of our lives that She is nurturing us into the love and service of our Lord, and promoting truth and righteousness among men. Whether the Church grows large and imposing in numbers is not so important nor, as whether we are exerting an influence in our communities for the Christian life as the Church conceives and develops it in us. We can afford to wait. We can be patient and diligent and steadfast and friendly and the time will come as it has in other sections of our country when the Church will be honored and accepted and he able to accomplish that for which She is sent into the world.

One thing, however, I fear we sadly lack, Clergy and Laity, and that is the spirit of Evangelism, the spirit which preaches and ministers the Gospel for the saving of the souls of men. Our Clergy must not think that they are merely to minister to our own people. They must realize more deeply what it is to be a Missionary, not as a title but as a commission from the Lord. Preaching and pastoral Activity must be thought of and expressed as a means to convert sinners and gather them into Christ’s fold. There are plenty of sinners everywhere. There are plenty of men and women who are not connected with any religious Communion, men and women who for one reason or another are adrift intellectually and spiritually and sometimes morally. Among such we must look for Confirmation candidates and be active and diligent and on fire with the love of souls. “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season . . . do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy Ministry.” This is an injunction to Laymen as well as Clergymen. The Clergy are to be leaders in their great adventure for God, the great enterprise of saving men and women from sin unto holiness. But they cannot lead unless the people follow. Every layman is by his Baptism a Missionary and should bear on his heart and in his prayers the duty and privilege of being an Evangelist for God. Because we have not been as consecrated and diligent in this kind of endeavor as we should have been is probably one reason why our Church fails to grow, not merely in numbers but in spiritual life. At any rate
this is what we ought to mean by Diocesan missions. If any doubt exists in our minds as to their value, that doubt can be removed by our own increased love and zeal in doing the work of Evangelists.

The next phase of our missionary endeavor is in the promotion of religious Education. I cannot and probably need not undertake to convince you of the imperative need of supplementing our secular education by other more effective instruction and training in morals and religion. That means the development of good character based upon belief and reverence for God as the author of the moral law. It is an appalling fact that millions of American children receive no definite religious training and in very many cases no definite moral training in their homes or sometimes not in the system of public education. The results of this deficiency are seen by men who are in a position to judge, in the record of juvenile delinquency and crime. We need no defense for the money we appropriate for our Department of Religious Education. The amount is almost ridiculously inadequate. But in spite of this limitation we have promoted with admirable success the adoption and use in our Church schools of the Christian Nurture Series. These are far and away better than anything we have ever had. It is certain that children who go through our schools under this system of instruction, efficiently used, will become instructed Churchmen and trained in the virtues and habits of a Christian life. If their parents are as interested in their children’s religious welfare and as sensible of their duty to co-operate in their Christian education as our faithful Clergy and teachers are the result will be all the more to the good. The object of this course is not only to inform the mind, to teach the Bible and Prayer Book as text books, but to develop character by helping the children to form in practice the habits of Christian living—to apply in specific act the teaching about faith and reverence for God and Christ, about love and kindness to our fellowmen. This is the value of the mid-week activities of our schools. With the co-operation of the parents all of the children in each school should attend these sessions as regularly as the Sunday morning session.

In addition to the work of our schools we must face the problem of the adolescent young people. With that in view we are endeavoring to organize and encourage Young Peoples’ Service Leagues in all of our Congregations. There was formerly and is now to too great an extent a chasm between Sunday School and Church. Into this chasm many boys and girls fall and are lost to the Church. These young peoples’ activities are building a bridge over this chasm. If encouraged by their elders and wisely guided, they are capable of accomplishing great good, and keep the young people in living contact with the Church and in the service of their God and Saviour. Our young people at school and college go through a very critical part of their life. If they have wise Christian parents and Christian homes, they are greatly strengthened to meet the issues, intellectual and spiritual, which they must face as they grow from childhood into manhood and womanhood. If they have not such parents and homes, they are set afloat on m tempestuous sea without definite convictions and the safeguard of good religious habits. This will make their voyage a hazardous one. We are doing what we can for these boys and girls. It is not much that we can do, but we do at any rate try to express to them by occasional bulletins and letters the loving interest of the Church for their religious welfare. I think that the parochial Clergy can do more in this way than they do or realize the importance of. They can co-operate more completely with the efforts of the Executive Secretary and myself. There is a disposition sometimes to discourage and even at times to resent what is felt to be an intrusion and interference into the affairs of a priests’ care. I am sure this is, where it exists, due to want of an understanding of the purposes contemplated and I am equally sure that the assistance of the Diocesan department is of incalculable benefit when accepted and acted upon. It has already proven to be so, for I think that the work of our department has increased the efficiency and the quality of the work done in our schools and among our young people.

There is just one more matter of which I wish to speak. For two years we have conducted a young peoples’ camp on St. Simon’s Island. It began most modestly and last year showed an increase of interest and attendance. It is hoped that this coming June, the attendance will be still larger, as the length of time for the camp will be increased. For ten days or more a group of boys and girls meet for study, devotion and play. Lectures are delivered on the Bible, Prayer Book, and other proper subjects. Wise and sympathetic Counsellors are present. An immediate personal touch is made with individual children which cannot but be helpful. In some neighboring Dioceses such camps are attended by hundreds of girls and boys. Is it impossible that we should after a while meet with a similar success? I commend the subject to the interested attention of the Clergy and the Lay Delegates, to fathers and mothers and ask their help in promoting this effort.

The second great commandment of our Lord is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This has a wide and far-reaching significance, much wider than we usually attach to it. It expresses the Divine law of social relations. We are all members one of another in a very vital sense. What concerns the one concerns the other. There are no limits to the comprehensiveness of these relationships. Distinctions of birth, breeding, social position, influence and power, and of economic standing, are all secondary to human brotherhood. This commandment is intensely, democratic in the truest sense. It has been said that one half of the world does not know how the other half lives. Possibly it is our business to find out how the other half lives. Brothers would naturally be concerned to know.

Now Christian Social Service is the endeavor to apply to our human relations the spirit of the second great commandment. It has many and varied applications all intended in some way to establish juster, more kindly, more helpful relations with our own human brothers. The geographical center for this effort is in our own community and the circumference reaches unto the world’s end. To vast numbers of human beings life is a sad and bitter experience. Some are ignorant and weak, some suffer from poverty and disease, frequently preventable. Some are the victims of the imperfect and social industrial order. They are often times exploited by those who are stronger and more privileged. Some live under conditions which make health and virtue frequently impossible. Vice and crime and debauchery are only too often the result of conditions for which the victims are not responsible. I cannot catalog all the problems which our complicated and artificial social and industrial conditions produce. But they are many and intricate and difficult.

They are not merely academic questions to be thought about in schools of sociology, but they are human problems, involving the well being and the salvation of our neighbors. If we listen intently we can hear the cry of distress which goes up from these unprivileged neighbors.

Those who are avowedly His disciples have been too indifferent to this aspect of their religion. The Church in her corporate capacity has been in the past too indifferent. It is true we give food and second-hand clothing to the poor. We build and operate hospitals and orphanages and homes of various sorts. We indulge in certain comfortable and easy acts of what we call charity. All these are good. They are Christian. The impulse out of which they sprang is the impulse of love and sympathy born of the life and death of our Lord. But in spite of this excellent work, the condition in our prisons, for instance, remains generally a disgrace to our civilization, which we think is Christian. The housing conditions under which many of the people live in our cities and country districts are shameful and are festering sores, breeding disease and vice. In spite of our pride in our educational system, illiteracy and ignorance shackle the minds and souls of many, some at our very doors. The conditions under which thousands labor are unjust and cruel. Some very respectable Christians are probably living on dividends earned in industries where child labor is exploited and childhood is prematurely throttled. We have not learned as a fundamental principle of Christian ethics that human rights take precedence of property rights. The poor and weak and unprivileged have been exploited by the strong and rich ever since the world began and they are today.

Is it any wonder that labor has organized and exerted the power of its organization to defend itself? Is it any wonder that finding themselves strong they have been tempted to abuse their power as they have done? Is it any wonder that there are restlessness, disturbance, and strikes? From whom did they learn this lesson of undisciplined power? They learned it from those who first had wealth and power and used it to gain more wealth at the expense of their fellow men, those who have so frequently treated human beings as a commodity to be bought and sold like raw material and finished product.
It is true, thank God, that there is a growing consciousness of responsibility and that these grave problems of social amelioration and social justice are receiving serious attention. Intelligent and conscientious efforts are being made to improve conditions. Conditions have improved in many respects and in some quarters. The recognition of the necessity of putting religion into social relations is increasing. A better day is dawning and we can hope and pray that as time goes on it will broaden into a noon-day of light and peace and good will among all classes and conditions of men. But we are still a long way off from an earthly paradise. Whether we shall ever attain it I do not know. There is yet plenty to do to approximate the fulfilling of the second great Commandment.

To do something, at any rate, toward that end, is the object and purpose of Christian Social Service and our National and Diocesan Departments. In Georgia we have done something, however little. We have at last called attention to our social duty. We have investigated and to some extent thrown light on the conditions of our jails. We may have, in some instances, possibly influenced some improvement in their conditions. With our negligible amount of money and with so few concerned we think it better to work at one thing and do something than to dissipate our energies. The best thing we can do is to create a deeper sense of responsibility among all our people and a spirit of human sympathy which will stimulate them to greater interest and activity. I trust that all of these social service committees in our parishes which our department reports will arise from the dead and learn something and do something.

I can not speak to you of the work of our Finance, Field, and Publicity Departments though each is doing good and useful services. I can only assure you of my happiness in being permitted to speak to you and to endeavor to lead you to greater zeal and devotion for the Kingdom of God and to thank you all for your loyalty and co-operation in what we are trying to accomplish.