1886 History by Rev. Burler. (Added Feb., 2009)
Pioneer Collections, Michigan State Historical Society, Vol. VII, 1886
TRINITY PARISH, BAY CITY, MICH.
By Reverend A. A. Butler, Rector
We stand to-day midway between two anniversaries. Thirty years ago the 4th day of last month Trinity Parish was organized. Twenty-four years ago the 10th of next month Trinity Church of that day was consecrated; but the history of our parish, like that of all others, begins much earlier than the day of its actual organization.
Over forty years ago the Reverend Daniel E. Browne, rector of Flint, an heroic missionary to an unlimited portion of Northern Michigan, visited the scattered churchmen dispersed through the wilds of the Saginaws, holding public and private services, and signing “with the sign of the cross” the widely scattered lams of the church's flock. So are as know, Father Browne, as he was familiarly called, is the first clergyman of the church that visited the Saginaw valley. On March 3, A. D. 1843, in the village of Lower Saginaw, as Bay City was then called, in the comfortable log house of Mr. and Mrs. James G. Birney, she being a communicant of the church, he baptized their infant son Fitzhugh. This is the first known administration of the sacrament of holy baptism in the village. It is recorded that three years later he visited Saginaw City, and it is believed that he visited Lower Saginaw also. Doubtless there were one or two visits between, but the difficulty, the almost danger of a journey from Flint to these wilds would necessarily make such visitations rather infrequent. The only mode of conveyance from Flint to Saginaw City was by lumber wagon, over rough corduroy roads, through swamps and thickets. In those days there was no “East Town,” no railroads, hardly a highway; and newspapers, salt wells and banks were not thought of. There was not even a bridle-path from Saginaw to this lower village. The canoe was the usual mode of conveyance and a stout Indian the motive power.
Lower Saginaw at this time was a small Indian trading-post. The red man, the squaw, the papoose, were numerous, but a few families of doubtful complexion and five or six of unmistakable white made up the entire population. The village consisted of six or seven houses scatter along the river bank. What is now Water street was an irregular line of stumps, in and out among which wound a grassy foot-path. A sod of unbroken green sloped to the river's edge, and the yellow waters of the Saginaw, unroiled by mills, rafts or steamers, flowed by in amber clearness, while large trees of elm, ash and linden spread their grateful shade over the low frame house of the few settlers. The open fields with the stumps standing in the water and out of the water, ended near the present line of Jefferson street, while back of it stretched and unbroken forest, a cover for the deer and a home for the wolf. It was a day's canoe ride from Lower Saginaw to the city, usually broken by a midday lunch under the “lone tree” or on Willow Island. From the city to Flint was another long, tiresome journey, so that the missionary who left his parish on Monday morning was happy if he found himself, after a visitation, at home again on Saturday night.
A letter written about this time by Father Browne to the bishop urges him to visit the Saginaws, but advises him to come in winter, when, with good sleighing, the journey would be less difficult and laborious. But there is no certainty of the bishop's having visited this northern wilderness until seven years later. After A. D. 1846 there is no record of the presence of any clergyman of the church during the next four years. Indeed, the village was strangely destitute of spiritual ministrations of every sort. The stores were open on the Lord's Day and liquor was free to all customers. Not infrequently the sick died without the consolations of religion, and were buried without the prayers of the church. It was during this interval that a communication of the church, Mrs. James G. Birney, out of pity for the spiritually neglected children, established the first Sunday school. Its sessions were held in a small brown school-house, the only public building in the settlement.
In A. D. 1850 the little village was increased by the arrival of many new families, among them Mr. and Mrs. William D. Fitzhugh, and with their advent came the first attempt at regular church services, and the hope of a parish in the distant future. Mr. Fitzhugh was a man of energy and public spirit, ready for any work that would benefit the church or build up the village. His wife was a devout communicant, earnest in all good works. Her love for the church is manifest by the fact that during the winter she rode sixteen miles to Saginaw that she might be present at its service and participate in its sacraments, and this she was known to do until the ice became secure that she was obliged to leave her sleigh and complete the journey on foot. To the zeal and fidelity of this family, nobly supported by the families of Israel Catlin and Colonel Henry Raymond, the parish owes its existence and preservation during the hard struggles of its infancy. They exerted themselves to establish regular services in the village, and through their influence the Reverend Joseph Adderly (deacon), missionary at Saginaw City, held the first public services of the church in Lower Saginaw in the fall of A. D. 1850. He was here but three or four times, his visitations being cut short by his resignation that same winter. He usually came down in a canoe or sail-boat, and the services were held in the old brown school-house already mentioned.
The Reverend Daniel B. Lyon, missionary to Saginaw city, was the second clergyman to visit Lower Saginaw, holding services here five or six times between December, A. D. 1851, and July, A. D. 1852. He came down in the state, on the ice, and the services were still held in the little brown school-house that stood near the present location of the Detroit and Bay City depot. At this time Washington street was quite in the woods, and those who went to worship and those who went to hunt on the Lord's Day were sometimes brought in close contact. We are told of a certain Sunday when the reports of the sportsmen's guns, the noise of falling pigeons, and the excited exclamations of the gunners clashed strangely with the reverent words of the church service.
The first clergyman of the church to visit the field regularly was the Reverend V. Spaulding, who became missionary to this whole region, with headquarters at Saginaw City, in January, A. D. 1853. He officiated here on the third Sunday of each month, for which he received from the little flock for his services one hundred dollars per annum, and small as this sum appears, it was large than that received by “the rider,” as the Methodist minister was then called. This arrangement continued for five years and the missionary's official acts, as far as known, are recorded in the parish register of St. John's, Saginaw. About a year after the arrival of the Reverend Mr. Spaulding, and on the fourth day of March, A. D. 1854, this parish was organized under the name and title of Trinity Church, Lower Saginaw. The meeting for organization was held in “the new school-house,” a building much enlarged since those days, and now known as the old Second Ward School. The corporate members were Henry Raymond, Israel Catlin, Daniel Burns, John Drake, George E. Smith, Elijah S. Catlin, Johnathan S. Barclay, Burzillai B. Hart, Henry Young, Curtis Munger, Richard Padley, Henry H. Alvord, Thomas Carney, N. C. Alvord, H. H. Chapman, and James H. Hayes. The Reverend Mr. Spaulding presided at the organization, and Colonel Henry Raymond acted as secretary. Israel Catlin was elected senior warden, and Richard Padley, junior warden; and Curtis Munger, George B. Smith, B. B. Hart, Danile Burns, J. S. Barclay, Henry Raymond, Thomas Carney, and H. T. Ferris, vestrymen. It is pleasant to note that out of the ten families represented in the first vestry, six of them are, in person, or by their descendent's, identified with the parish to-day. It is also a happy indication of parochial stability that the senior warden elected so long ago has, for thirty consecutive years, faithfully filled the same honorable position.
The first services in the new parish were held on May 2, when the bishop of the diocese confirmed a class of six in “the new school-house.” Previous to this, services had been held in what was know as the “Ball Alley' a long building standing on the corner of Third and Saginaw streets, originally built for bowling, but early converted into a school-house, and afterward used for nearly all public gatherings.
In A. D. 1853 the whole village united in building the present Methodist house of worship, which for many years was used for all religious services. This was before the time of gas or electric lights, and most of the services were held by daylight; but when called in the evening the faithful churchman was to be seen picking his way between the stumps and ditches, with a prayer-book in one hand and a tallow dip in the other; and in the primitive light of the candle the clergyman read the service and the congregation the responses.
The river continued the highway between Lower Saginaw and the city. A small steamer made occasional trips, and if the missionary failed to secure a passage by steamer or canoe, as was sometimes the case, his only alternative was to follow the Indian trail> through brush and swamp along the river bank. It was a severe and laborious walk, though sometimes shortened by the kindness of Colonel Raymond or Mr. Burns, who, riding half way to meet the missionary, dismounted and allowed him to occupy the saddle while the faithful parishoner trudged along through the mud at his side. In those days the religious outlook was not very cheering, and in Reverend Mr. Spaulding's first report he says: “My services have been distributed between Saginaw City, East Saginaw and Lower Saginaw. The three villages contain a floating population of about 1,500 people, among them are very few that continue steadfast in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship,' and an unusually large proportion of such as disregard religious worship of any kind, altogether.” Notwithstanding the many impediments, a sanguine hope is entertained of establishing here a permanent nursery of those who shall be “heirs of salvation.” At the end of the five years he reports ten communicants, and the amount of the year's offerings, $19, and he adds: “With the exception of a few weeks in the spring, when the river was impassable by reason of bad ice, I have kept up services in this place regularly one Sunday out of three. The morning services have usually been attended by a respectable number and the people have seemed to receive the work gladly, but it has not yet produced much compliance with the positive institutions of our religion, its sacraments and ordinances. Thought the number of communicants is smaller here than at either of my other stations, they have shown more alacrity and liberality in sustaining the church, with their time and money, than I have found elsewhere. I have good hope that the Art of God will at last find a permanent resting place here. Some of our generous friends abroad have testified their kindness to the church by presenting to it a handsome melodeon. Lots have been secured to erect a church upon, and the building would have been commenced, perhaps finished, this year, but for the severe pecuniary pressure which bears with the special weight upon the lumber manufacturers, who, in this country, are our chief dependence in an undertaking of this sort.”
The Rev. Mr. Spaulding resigned in June, A. D. 1858, and for nearly two years the parish was without a pastor; nevertheless, in this inter-regnum the faithful churchmen were not idle; a Sunday school was established and sustained through the exertions of the senior warden, assisted by Mrs. Raymond and Mrs. Moore. Its sessions were held sometimes in the bowling alley, and sometimes in the Methodist building, and it was counted a great day when there were fifteen or twenty scholars present.
As early as A. D. 1855 the vestry had appointed a committee to procure plans for a church and also a site upon which to erect the same. The great need of a church was impressed upon the minds of the congregation by the discomforts of Birney Hall, in which they were holding their services; the building being two-story frame, and the services held immediately under the roof, upon which the midday sun poured with burning intensity. The congregation at this time number twenty or twenty-five persons, and it was believed that the securing of a proper place for worship would largely increase both the congregation and its comfort; but the edifice which Reverend Mr. Spaulding had longed to see was not commenced until a year after his departure.
In the winter of A. D. 1857, William D. Fizhugh, Israel Catlin, and Henry Raymond took possession (by depositing some lumber thereon) of one of the best of the plats that had been generously set apart for church sites by the original patentees of Lower Saginaw, and on it was begun the erection of Trinity Church. The lumber first deposited was the gift of Mr. Fitzhugh. Mr. Burns had intended to enlarge his own house in the spring, but gave much of his seasoned lumber for finishing the interior of the church; and with here a little case, and there a few boards, the parish managed, with some help from abroad, to erect a neat and substantial edifice. The original church consisted of that part of this building now occupied by the organ and choir, with that portion between the chancel steps and the first two posts, the original building having since then been sawed apart and the transept inserted. It contains eighteen pews, and would accommodate from eighty to ninety persons.
May 10, A. D. 1860, was a red-letter day in the parish's history, for on the morning of the day, two years after its commencement, the new church> was consecrated by Bishop McCoskry to the worship of Almighty God. It was complete except the chancel window ( a gift from Mr. Doty, of Detroit), which had not arrived. The day was raw and cold, and the high wind rendered it difficult for parishoners on the west side (Banks) to cross the river in boat or canoe, their only ferry; nevertheless, the church was filled to its utmost capacity. The service were those usually rendered, but the strangers were surprised at the procession of bishop and missionary from the front door to the chancel, while the well-informed churchmen were equally surprised at the omission of the offertory. It was the third church erected in the village, the Roman Catholic edifice and the Union or Methodist having been erected lower down on Washington street. The location of Trinity was rural and pictureque. The forests still came down to what is now Jefferson street, while in the open field between the church and the woods the children in spring-time climbed over the mossy logs and among the fallen timber, to gather the wild strawberries, and in the later summer to gather red tiger lilies and golden moccasin flowers.
Ten days after the consecration the Reverend Edward Magee, by an arrangement with the vestry of St. John's, Saginaw City, took charge of the parish devoting to it one-half of his time, and receiving therefor three hundred dollars per annum. This arrangement continued for one year, then he resigned his charge of St. John's, and devoted his whole time to Trinity Parish, until sickness compelled him to leave, about six months later.
The parish had now passed out of the days of its childhood; with a consecrated house of worship, and services on every alternate Sunday, it was considered to have attained a condition of permanence, and the Reverend Mr. Magee reports sixteen communicants, a Sunday school of thirty-one scholars, and an annual contribution of one hundred and forty dollars; and adds: “Notwithstanding the pecuniary embarrassments that now prevail here, it gives me no little pleasure to be able to state that my charge is in a growing and prosperous condition. How often have I thought, when foot-sore and weary from the journey of the day, of the self-denial of my predecessor, the Reverend Mr. Spaulding, who for five long years thus heroically met his appointments in this village. It is true that the journey is not one whit shorter, even though a highway if found where in his day only an Indian trail, but the impediments are fewer. Literally his ways of falling the tree and clearing away the brush, but he ought not to be forgotten while a trace of his work remains, for, net to God, our gratitude is due to the early and faithful laborers in His vineyard.”
The next year the number of communicants reported is twenty-one, and the Reverend Mr. Magee adds: “Considering the few months that the parish has been the undivided labors of a resident clergyman, it certainly has covered much ground and bids fair ere long to reach a position of influence and self-support.”
We are sorry to record that the resignation of the Reverend Mr. Magee was followed by a vacancy of nearly one year, but during this time the Sunday school was kept up, mainly through the exertions of the senior warden; and services were held with more or less regularity by clergymen from Corunna and Saginaw, and also with an occasional service from the Reverend Father Browne, who still continued his faithful labors at Flint and parts adjacent.
In November, A. D. 1862, the Reverend Gilbert B. Hayden assumed the rectorship, and held the position for less than one year. To no clergyman who remained for a short period is the parish under so many obligations. Up to this time there had been no parochial records. Such ministerial acts as were recorded at all, found a place in the parish records of St. John's, Saginaw, but in too many instances official acts and parochial statistics could only be ascertained from the bishop's addresses and scattered reports to the convention.
The Rev. Mr. Hayden, with funds from the communion offerings, purchased prayer-books for desk and altar, and also the first parochial register, and, by repeated trips to Saginaw and diligent searchings of the diocesan journals, gathered for the first time the early history of the parish, and spread it upon our records, bringing narrative to a close with these words: “This parish register shows what has been done up to the present date, A. D. 1863, and it is to be hoped that it will always faithfully do the same.” we doubt not that his earnest labors and wish have had much to do in preserving for us a complete record from that day to this.
Mr. Hayden had the reputation of being, in his day, the best reader and preacher in the diocese. He was a man of very precise ways and methodical habits, as all his records show, and he should have the credit of being the first rector who started a fund for the communion vessels, and first arranged that in parochial record and service all things should “be done decently and in order.” He was, however, a very impulsive man, and in August, A. D. 1863, one of his several resignations was accepted by the vestry, and the parish was again rectorless.
In October, A. D. 1863, Reverend Ammi Lewis assumed the rectorship. The church was already too small for the congregation that crowded through its small central door, and in Auugust of the next year it was enlarged at an expense of twelve hundred dollars, the congregation being deprived of it use for over two months. In this, the first enlargement, the original was cut in two, moved apart, and the present transept built. The number of pews was increased from eighteen to forty-two, and the sittings from less than one hundred to over two hundred. Thanksgiving day was celebrated by the opening of the new church and the renting of the pews, much interest being manifested in securing sittings.
Although the parish had maintained regular services for over ten years, it had not owned a set of communion vessels, the Holy Sacrament having been celebrated with vessels of glass and china. In his first report, however, the Reverend Mr. Lewis mentions with satisfaction the purchase of a silver plated communion set, at an expense of twenty-nine dollars, the same that has been in constant use from that day to this.
Donation parties had always occupied a prominent place in the social history of Lower Saginaw, and the same report records a cash donation to the rector and his wife of nearly two hundred dollars, while the next year reports a similar donation of over three hundred dollars. Altogether nearly two thousand dollars were raised in the parish during A. D. 1864.
With the resignation of Mr. Lewis in September, A. D. 1865, we may consider the early history of the parish closes. It has had over ten years of organized existence, and was now considered on the strong and permanent institutions of the young city. Therefore, before entering upon more recent history, we may profitably linger a few minutes among the parochial records of its early years.
The first two communicants of the church in Lower Saginaw, Mrs. Elizabeth Birney and Mrs. Ann Fitzhugh, removed from the village before the parish organized. The first nine families whose names appear upon the register are those of Colonel Henry Raymond, Israel Catlin, Richard Padley, Allen Carter, Daniel Burns, William Smith, Thomas Carney, J. S. Barclay and John Drake. And it is a singular fact that while all these families, in person or by descendant, are still identified with the parish, after a lapse of thirty years, and while there are many scattered names that have been on the records almost as long, there are not to be found in the whole list nine other consecutive names of families that have been in the parish for even three years.
The first record of baptism, the first record of confirmation, the first record of a male communicant, the first record of a senior warden and the first record of a superintendent of the Sunday school, all inscribe one and the same name, that of our well-beloved father, Israel Catlin.
Baptisms were not very frequent in the early days. There were three the first year, and the six years passed before the fourth was recorded. It is to be hope there were some unrecorded, but we have our doubts, for it was seven long years between the first and second confirmation classes.
The first class confirmed numbered five persons, namely: Helen V. Raymond, Amelia M. Raymond, Helen Stephenson, Margaret M. Stephenson and Selina Carter.
The first marriage on the register is that of Charles E. Jennison and Florence Birney. It had been appointed for early twilight, but the wedding party waited until ten o'clock before Missionary Spaulding arrived from Saginaw. The good man had attempted to come down in a dignified way, on chance steamer, but went aground on the bar, concluded that he would have made better speed in the old-time canoe. Detained hour after hour he was seriously contemplating swimming ashore and completing his journey on foot, when the steamer happily floated of and reach his destination in safety.
When one notices that there was an interval of two years between the second and third marriages, and an interval of six years before the next one, one is brought to a realizing sense of the rarity of wedding fees in primitive times, and therefore is not surprised that some of the early pastors considered the receiving of one a matter of sufficient importance to be made a part of the parochial records.
The first marriage in the new church was that of H. J. Clark and Helen F. Barclay; and although the building had been consecrated for over five years, the faithful women of the congregation worked hard to get the new carpet down before the wedding. We hear nothing about foot-rests or pew cushions in those days.
The first delegates elected to represent the parish at the diocesan convention were Messrs. Israel Catlin and Charles C. Fitzhugh.
During the first ten years of our parochial existence there were twenty baptisms (nearly one-half of which belong to the eight months' rectorship of the Reverend Gilbert Hayden), nineteen confirmations, seven marriages and eight burials; figures which fall below our present reports for a single year, but which in these days of easy traveling and comfortable churches, convey little idea of the prayer and hardship then necessary to accomplish such results.
The last twenty years' history of Trinity Parish being so largely a matter of public record, we shall not attempt to reproduce it in detail. The Reverend Fayette Royce entered upon the rectorship March 4, A. D. 1866, and directed the spiritualities of the parish for nearly three years. During this period one hundred and six were baptized, fifty-one presented for confirmation, a parish library founded, six hundred dollars of old indebtedness paid, a portable pipe-organ purchased, and the church building again enlarges at an expense of nearly seven hundred dollars. This time the four corners of the present building were added, and the shape was changed from that of a cross to that of a parallelogram.
In his first report Rev. Mr. Royce says: “The parish is in a flourishing condition and bids fair to become one of the most important in the diocese. The church edifice is too small, by at least one-third, so rapidly is the population of the city increasing.” His last report states that “the church edifice has been made one-half larger, and is now capable of seating three hundred and fifty people. Our congregation is growing rapidly.”
A vacancy of five months followed the resignation of the Reverend Mr. Royce, and during this interval this much-enlarged building suffered a third expansion, making the fourth time it had been built or rebuilt within fifteen years. At this enlargement the chancel, vestry and library rooms were added, gas was introduced, and the interior thoroughly renovated; the expense some twenty-five hundred dollars, being, in large part, raised by the ladies of the parish.
On April 11, A. D. 1869, the Reverend John Wright entered upon the rectorship of Trinity Church, and continued its beloved rector for nearly five years, his being up to that time the longest and most prosperous rectorship in the parish's history. He entered upon his duties with earnestness and enthusiasm, and his own efforts were so well seconded by the congregation, that in his first annual sermon he is able to say: “We have not labored in vain, for God has made it a year of prosperity. We have seen success attending nearly every effort put forth in the cause of religion.” He also announced the liquidation of the debt, the division of the congregation into committees for parochial work, the increase of the Sunday school from four teachers and twenty scholars to twenty teachers and eighty scholars, the establishment of Children's Church, the purchase, mainly by the Sunday school, of a marble font, the establishment of a parish paper, the addition of seven communicants by confirmation, and of forty-eight by letter, the great increase of the congregation and of the offerings, and an income of the pew rentals fully equal to that of to-day. And then follow these wise words: “Let us look to the future. We are not premature in asking that steps should be taken toward erecting a permanent church building. The present locality is too near the business part of the city, and a few years will place it in the very center of trade. Would it not be better to establish a building fund? Take up annual offerings, add to them through other channels of benevolence, and with the money purchase lots in a better location. When funds have accumulated sufficiently, a church might be erected answering for generations of worshipers. It is well to anticipate a new church and to work for it.” Those words were spoken fourteen years ago, and it is safe to say that, had the rector's suggestions and efforts been carried out and the erection of a church begun before the close of his rectorship, the parish to-day would be, in numbers, financial abilitiy, and all that constitutes material prosperity, at least twice its present size and strength.
In his second annual sermon (A. D. 1871) the Reverend Mr. Wright “thanked God and took courage” both in his text and in his discourse. Among other causes for thankfulness he enumerates – first, great parochial growth and prosperity, the increase of membership being larger than that of any other parish in Michigan, save one; second, the continued unity and harmony of the congregation; and thirdly, a one-fourth increase of numbers in the Sunday school. He also reports the first Sunday school offering toward a chancel window for the new church, and calls attention to the spiritual and parochial importance of that branch of church work, and to its great need of separate rooms for infant classes and Bible classes, and earnestly pleads for a chapel adapted to Sunday school work, truly affirming that every dollar spent upon the Sunday school would be a wise and profitable investment. Again he warmly urges planning and giving for the new church, “that ll efforts may end in a work that shall be permanent;” and is thankful to record a legacy to the parish of two thousand dollars, from one of its earliest communicants, Mrs. Elizabeth Birney, and also the gift of three building lots from her daughter, to be devoted to the erection of a stone church.
The third year of the Reverend Mr. Wright's rectorship was spent largely in Europe and the Holy Land, and the minister who occupied his place is one in whose administration there is much to regret. The character of his work may be judged from the fact that out of a class presented for confirmation, said to number nearly one hundred and ninety, the present rector, five years later, after diligent searching, could not find even twenty.
During this year the legacy and gift already mentioned were wisely invested by the vestry in the Center street lots for a new church.
On the fourth anniversary Mr. Wright reports continued parochial growth, the establishment of missions at Wenona, Portsmouth and Banks, the increase of the Sunday school to over one hundred and fifty scholars, and of its annual offerings to over three hundred dollars, very large additions to the roll of communicants, and a parochial income of over five thousand dollars.
On January 28, A. D. 1874, the new organ was used for the first time in divine service, and on the following Sunday the Rev. John Wright preached his farewell sermon. Then followed the usual vacancy of five or six months, a period during which the moral and spiritual life of a parish suffers more decay than an energetic rector can restore by a twelve-month of earnest labor.
The Reverend George P. Schetky, D. D., became rector of Trinity June 21, A. D., 1874, and continued in charge something less than three years. In his first report he speaks of the past year as one of anxious pastoral solicitude on account of the difficulty of ascertaining who were, and who were not, communicants of the church and members of his flock. He gives the following sad figures: Communicants last reported, four hundred and sixty-three; total dropped from the roll, lost and transferred two hundred and ninety-one; present number one hundred and eighty-nine. Startling as these figures are they erred on the side of forbearance; for, three years later, the present rector was obliged to drop nearly ninety additional names, Dr. Schetky's second report shows continued and laborious toil, both within and without the parish, and increased attendance at the Holy Communion, and he adds that amid may discouragements he cannot but hope “that the spiritual prosperity of the parish will follow, if not in my time, in the near future.” No rector in all our parochial history was called to the work at a more difficult hour than he. It was his to prune and cut back the vine, not to increase it, and the task was to him, as it always must be to anybody, one of sorrow and pain. Yet he was able during his brief rectorship to report fifty confirmed, one hundred and fifty-three added to the roll of communicants and one hundred and sixty-three baptized into Christ.
A vacancy of six months preceded the advent of the present rector, who entered upon his duties October 1, A. D. 1877. For the most of you there is little need that I should tell the familiar story of the past seven years. To acknowledge that they have not been perfect years is simply to say that rector and people are human. Nevertheless they have been earnest, toilsome, happy years; I have spent none happier since my ordination. And they have been peaceful and prosperous years. God has blessed our work far beyond our merit, and ours has been the joy of seeing the fruit of our labor. Seven years ago a bonded debt of three thousand dollars rested upon the parish. To-day we are practically out of debt. In the meantime a beautiful stone edifice, the parish rooms, has been erected at a cost of eight thousand dollars for building, and two thousand dollars more for glass and fixtures. In all, the parish has raised and expended during the last seven years over forty-one thousand dollars. I am most thankful to add that none of this large sum has been obtained by modes of questionable morality, and that the most of it represented downright Christian giving.
But no record of this period, however brief, would be complete without mentioning with grateful affection the Reverend Thomas C. Pitkin, D. D., who, with loyalty to the rector and faithfulness to the flock, filled the pastorate during my eight months' absence in Egypt and Palestine.
During the seven years last past the baptisms number three hundred and fifteen, the confirmations one hundred and four, the marriages fifty-six, the burials ninety-six, and the public services over one thousand five hundred.
The parish record shows that since the first establishment of the church in Lower Saginaw, one thousand one hundred and sixty-five souls have been added to holy by baptism, five hundred and forty-one have been confirmed, nine hundred and eighty-two communicants have knelt before the alter, six hundred and thirteen families have been enrolled, one hundred and fifty-nine marriages have been solemnized, and three hundred and sixteen have bee laid to rest in God's Acre to the sweetly solemn words of the burial office. But how inadequate are these figures, how inadequate is everything that I have told you of the thirty years that are gone, to convey any true idea of all the human hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, the smiles and tears, the glad communions and solemn vows, the anxious prayers and grateful thanksgivings, the labor and struggle, the self-sacrifice and tender love, the fearless faith on earth, the sweet rest in paradise, and the angelic joy in heaven, which have made them blessed years to hundreds of weary souls now at rest forever in Christ Jesus, their Savior!
My story is told. Next Sunday closes our loving record as pastor and people. To-day ends our worship in this time-worn house of prayer. I am glad that the two events overlap, that the man is last in the parish, that the supreme importance of this hour to our parochial life overshadows every personal consideration.
I know that many of you cannot think of leaving these old walls without sadness of heart. In these pews you have knelt in prayer and stood in praise, at this font your little ones have been signed with the cross and consecrated to God, from this pulpit you have heard God's word, on yonder altar has been offered the spiritual sacrifice, around it you have knelt in sweet and holy communion, and before it you have come with your dead to receive the Church's benediction. One is thankful to-day to remember that the larger part of this old building has never been consecrated, and also that everything that is endeared to our hearts by holy association, altar and font, prayer desk and pulpit, lectern and chancel window, pews and organ, all are to go out with us and meet us again in our new place of worship.
I have dealt too long upon the past. Let us in closing briefly look toward the future. The old edifice is sold: you are committed to building the new stone church. That is settled beyond all questioning. If you will realize this now, and at the outset also realize that you are entering upon the most important, the most enduring, the greatest and grandest earthly work that the parish has ever undertaken, or will undertake during the remainder of your earthly life, then you will know that your prayers and your alms must be commensurate with the magnitude of the work before you. No petty plan of selfishness should be allowed to interfere with the prosperity of the parish; no personal benefit for this year or next should be allowed to impeded a building that is to stand for the glory of God and the blessing of immortal souls, long after our broken bodies are mouldering in the dust.
You can do this noble work, and you can do it easily “if there be first a willing mind.” Not one parish in fifty enters upon the building of its permanent home with the advantages that are yours. There is to be no breaking up of the congregation and scattering of the Sunday school by moving into store or hall. You have a comfortable and beautiful chapel, where the spiritual building can be edified while the material structure is being reared. And you have from the sale of this property twelve thousand dollars, fully one-half of what the new building is expected to cost. Yes, you can build your new house speedily and happily “if there be a willing mind.”
Take ye heed how ye build. You have raised more money the last five years than during any other five in your history, not because money was more plenty or givers more numerous (the pew rentals were larger in 1870 and 1871) but because you worked by Christian methods and God has blessed your efforts. Be true to your Saviour's words during the coming years, let your church funds be the fruit of Christian denial, not how little, but how much can I give for my Father's glory and my brother's good. Remember that, in its highest and holiest aspect, the building of the church is not your work but God's work which He permits you, the steward of His wealth, to do for Him. Do it, then, with Christian denial and loving faith, and you shall build with joy, and God's undying blessing will rest upon your labors.
Vestry – Israel Catlin, Senior Warden; Thomas Cranage, Jr., Junior Warden; John Drake, B. E. Warren, Wm. Keith; F. L. Gilbert, F. P. Brown, Orrin Bump, C. E. Malone, E. T. Holcomb.
Treasurer – John W. Thompson.
Building Committee – Thos. Cranage, Jr., B. E. Warren, C. E. Jennison.
Finance Committee – B. E. Warren, Orrin Bump, C. E. Malone.