If the people of the twenty-first century are going to read anything I write, I am sure they will be most likely to be interested when I write about what I know, and not about what I may think or hope. I shall therefore simply try to give some account of the experiences which come to me as a Minister of the Episcopal Church, resident here for almost six years, and consequently an old enough inhabitant to bear witness to the character of our life in this city.
In the first place, as is probably the case with all who live here, my life as a Minister has many very agreeable features. The possibility of spending much time pleasantly in the open air, affects the Minister's work advantageously. If he makes calls, almost always he has bright and sunny weather for his visits. Many ministers make their parish calls by means of the bicycle. The roads being good, one can thus gain much time. This has been my own practice, very largely, until the last year, when, for health's sake, I returned to natural means of locomotion. When the bicycle is constantly used for business, I have found the temptation to hurry too great. Walking, then, is always something to give pleasure and healthfulness to the business of parish calling, which naturally constitutes so much of a minister's work.
Again, in the preparation of sermons, it is a great help,--this being so much out of doors, and getting closer to nature. I don't see how a man can be bookish or pedantic in his preaching here. Possibly the danger is that one gets too little of that reading, which, as Lord Byron said, "maketh a full man." And yet I find it quite possible, both in winter and summer, to do much reading out-of-doors.
Another agreeable feature of the life of a Minister here,--bound as he is to come in contact with so many people-is the high type (or types) of human nature one finds abundantly here. Of course, Colorado Springs' people are not all saints; there is room for a good deal of the reforming and elevating influences of the Gospel and the Church. Still, a Minister runs across a large number of people who think seriously, who speak frankly, and try to make kindness their rule in dealing with one another. Two reasons, perhaps, may account for this high average of character,--one, the fact that the sickness, which so often exiles people to this place, frequently attacks the more refined and spiritual-minded; --and the other reason is that, among those who are here for other reasons, one finds the more energetic and more bold, who are not content to abide in old conditions, but strike out for new fields. It is sort of "natural selection" which for this reason brings to the West the more ambitious and soaring spirits. And it is true, in the whole, that largeness of aim in connection with material development is more conducive to charity and truth than a clarified and narrow vision. So it is good material, this human nature that a Minister has to deal with.
Yet one must often feel how little gain we make, in comparison with the ideal, in the matter of bringing this promising field of human nature under the cultivation of the Gospel method of training. Is it because of Sectarianism-the splitting up of organized Christianity into little groups? Or is it, perhaps, the revolt of strong minds, under the expansive influence of natural science, against the narrow conceptions of religion which have held sway too long in some quarters?
As a priest of the Episcopal Church, be it understood, I stand upon the primitive Catholic Creeds-the Apostle's and the Nicene. But I stand upon them at a charter of liberty, and not in any sense as being hindrances to the most appreciative welcome of all truth which God may give us to know. And when I pray for the better realization of Christian Unity-the doing away with Sectarianism, and its wastefulness, its rivalry, its flabby sentimentalism, the unity I pray for does not mean mere lifeless uniformity of belief or worship but the bond of a rational, broad, Catholic, and intensively human spirit of faith and obedience.
However, I am falling away from my experience, into the realm of hopes and dreams. Yet the hope sprang from the reflection that, as a matter of fact, the present work of the Church is not satisfactory in reaching personally and vitally the multitudes.
I may add that social unrest has undoubtedly something to do with this failure to realize the ideal of an all-embracing Christianity. And Colorado Springs is not wholly free from the spirit of discontent on the part of those unfortunates in their outward conditions. A Minister runs across this phase very frequently. It is true that the problem presents itself to him worthy in individual cases of misfortune. And often it happens that these cases of unfortunates that come before a Minister are the cases where one finds human nature at its worst-cases of moral and physical degeneracy, of hypocrisy, of fraud. The Minister ought to use here the help of "Organized Charity." If I used it more, I am conscious that it would be better for the right use of my Pool Fund, or Communion Alms. Still I feel that in this problem, or group of problems, we do not see very far yet.
Perhaps we have allied Christianity too much with a debased "Charity," and have not taken pains enough to discover the true foundations of Social Justice. So a Minister is prone to wonder, amid the repeated claims made upon him for help to go to Denver or Pueblo, or to get employment or to teach families to live peacefully, and to keep their children clean and well-behaved. One feels that in all these questions for action, apparently so petty, the great principles of environment and of heredity enter.
Is there not good excuse for this thinking laboring-man, finding Christianity, as represented by its modern experiments, timid in attacking the problem broadly and fundamentally, when he turns his back upon the religion which, perhaps, he has never seen presented in its fullness and truth? Will the solution to the questions-large and small-come through the spirit of Christianity backed up by some economic system more social in its principle than that which we live under?
But again I have to "pull myself together," and remember not to philosophize so generally, but deal with Colorado Springs in particular.
Undoubtedly, in this place a Minister faces many practical cases where help is needed, on the ground if the sickness, or tendency to sickness, which has driven some person here, to seek his living. Here, then, the Minister's problems touch upon those of the physician. And in this connection one must call attention particularly to that phase of a Minister's life here, which, almost inevitably, in these days, suggests itself to the mind. I mean the Ministrations to the sick, of all classes and conditions, who are gathered at this health-resort. This part of the work calls for courage, faith, and tact. Woman's hand helps here. There are such ministrations as the brightening of the sickroom with the glow and the presence of the "flowers of the field," so abundant here.
In such work as this, as in all other departments of his work, a Minister who has a good, bright, unselfish wife does infinitely more good than he ever could do alone-as I know from a blessed experience. This part of my letter, at least, I am not ashamed to have read by my descendants-if I shall have any-of the twenty-first century.
But the life of a Minister is not all work. There is room in it for play. And here in Colorado Springs, one is thankful to say that a degree of freedom from conventionality exists, which makes it possible for a Minister to enter into the lighter things of life with zest. It is true that I personally believe in the advisability of a distinctive uniform for Ministers of the Church, and I wear this when on duty, usually. But every officer is privileged to don a common civilian's suit when off duty. So, for Gold, or for a walk in the caņons, I use all liberty, and no one, I believe, resents my practice.
A minister, as I can testify, leads here a life of varied activity. Yet I trust it is a healthful life, profitable to others. What my church may be in the twenty-first century I know not. But this I know, that it is now a place of bright worship; that the Book of Common Prayer-that great religious heritage of the English race-is used there without interpolation, change, or omission; that the Gospel of Salvation and hope is preached there, as earnestly as I know how, in the name of the Triune God and in the Spirit of Jesus; that people of various walks of life and diverse temperaments, (tho' not as many of them as I could wish) unite there in worship and in work. And my hope is that more and more this church may be intelligently presented to the people of this city, and may become everywhere, more truly than now, "a House of Prayer for all people."
So with trust in , and praise to the Eternal One, in Whom both you and I live, and shall ever live.
Rector of Grace Church
August 3rd - 1901.
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