Citizens with the Saints

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Chapter 4

THE GOLDEN VOICE OF THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS
THE MOST REVEREND
J.A. RICHARDSON, M.A., D.D.


Third Bishop of Fredericton (1907 - 1938)
Metropolitan of Canada (1934 - 1938)

 

J.A. RichardsonThe election of a coadjutor, which Bishop Kingdon's declining health made necessary in 1906, was a difficult process requiring two special sessions of synod. One contender for the office was the archdeacon of Fredericton, Thomas Neales, the long-serving rector of Woodstock, and son of one of the first priests ordained by Bishop Medley—clearly a representative of the tradition established by Medley and consolidated by Kingdon. The other was the young rector of Trinity Church, Saint John, the Rev. Canon John Andrew Richardson—something of a newcomer. A popular preacher with an Evangelical background, Richardson, then serving in the Diocese of Rupert's Land, had visited the Diocese of Fredericton to present the needs of the Church in western Canada. He so impressed the laity of Saint John in a series of children's addresses at St. John's (Stone) Church that he was elected rector of Trinity to succeed Archdeacon F.H.J. Brigstocke in 1899. To a considerable extent, Neales (whose death at the age of sixty-one occurred only six months after the election) was the candidate of the clergy, and Richardson that of the laity. Richardson's election on the nineteenth ballot represented something of a change in direction for the diocese—an injection of evangelical fervour into a healthy, though moderate, Tractarian tradition. Richardson, however, was anything but partisan and, in the words of Dean A.H. Crowfoot:

...he was constantly growing mentally. He was notone of those who never acquire a new idea after 30. He developed. From a keen evangelical he developed into a strong Churchman. Yet his conviction that the Catholic position was sound, never robbed him of his evangelical fervour.

Richardson's consecration by the Bishop of Toronto and acting Metropolitan (Sweatman), assisted by the Bishops of Ottawa (Hamilton), Quebec (Dunn), Montreal (Carmichael) and Nova Scotia (Worrell), took place in Montreal on St. Andrew's Day (November 30), 1906, and he immediately undertook the major part of episcopal duty in the Diocese, also serving as dean of the Cathedral until Bishop Kingdon's death the next year, when he assumed the role of diocesan bishop. He was installed by the Ven. David Forsyth, rector of Chatham for fifty-seven years, then archdeacon of Saint John and soon to be appointed by Richardson to the newly created Archdeaconry of Chatham.

Born in 1868, one of four sons of an English clergyman, who urged his children to emigrate, John Andrew Richardson went to western Canada to farm. He was, however, led from farming to teaching, and thence to ordination, by way of St. John's College, Winnipeg. He married Lillian Fortin, daughter of Octave Fortin, archdeacon of Winnipeg, and a French Canadian convert to Anglicanism. The Richardson family consisted of four daughters and one son. The youngest, Mrs. Mary Sorensen, now living in Ottawa, has provided details of the Richardsons' family life in a recent interview with Janet McLellan Toole, Oral History Archivist with the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. In an address to the 1994 Workshop on Church History at the University of New Brunswick, Mrs. Toole reported that, according to their youngest daughter, the Richardsons:

...had a rich family life, full of fun as well as discipline, surrounded by their father's interest in growing flowers indoors and out, and playing music and singing around the piano which both parents loved. Bishop Richardson sounded like an emancipated man when he offered advice to young Mary—for example, at 15, he told her that she could marry any man she loved, but that if she married a Jew, or a man of colour, she would make life hard for herself.

The family summered at Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, where St. Anne's chapel was built for Bishop Richardson; there he "...found an outlet for his pastoral powers, denied him as a Bishop." It was at this chapel that the Very Rev. A.H. Crowfoot, then dean of Quebec, but for eighteen years a priest under Richardson, preached his informative memorial sermon in 1940.

Richardson was known as an eloquent orator. Dean Crowfoot maintains that:

It was not merely that he was a great preacher, he was that. ...there was that about his preaching which you found nowhere else. It was not merely that he had a beautiful voice. Few voices could come near it. And he knew just how to use it. No matter where you were sitting in Trinity Church, you could hear every word he said. Yet he never seemed to raise his voice. You were not conscious of any effort. It was not merely that the quality of his sermons was good. It was excellent. He always took great pains with them. ... But back of all these qualities there was that personal knowledge of God, such as can alone carry conviction to hearers.

Not only in the pulpit was the bishop's eloquence displayed. In General Synod, Dean Crowfoot tells us:

Whenever [Richardson] rose to speak there was a hush of expectation. We heard once again the ringing tones of that clarion voice. We listened intently to what he had to say. Often he would swing the whole assembly to his way of thinking. An unpopular cause, with him as its advocate, was sure of a fair hearing.

It is small wonder that one of Richardson's successors, the Most Rev. A.H. O'Neil, spoke of him as "the golden voice of the House of Bishops".

Archbishop Richardson's thirty-one year term as diocesan, second only in length to that of Bishop Medley, covers a period of great significance, including the First World War and much of the Great Depression. When Bishop Richardson's first charge to synod was delivered in 1907, diocesan statistics (1906) indicate that the number of church families was 5,867; in 1938, the year of his death, 8,851. The total number of souls in 1906 was 26,959; in 1938, 35,167. The total amount of diocesan trust capital in 1906 was $289,449.40; in 1938, $409,872.60. These figures alone tell a story of growth and progress in an era of many difficulties.

Several events from the early years are of importance. The election, on February 7, 1907, of Mr. J.H.A.L. Fairweather as Treasurer of Synod, indicates the growing importance of diocesan finance and administration. He and his daughter were to serve throughout the Richardson years.

In 1907, Synod authorized the purchase of Rothesay Collegiate School, and in the same year the Church School at Fredericton was closed. The first headmaster of the school under diocesan operation was the Reverend Dr. W.R. Hibbard, who continued in charge until 1938, another parallel of service. In 1923 the Memorial Chapel of the school was erected as a memorial to the many Old Boys who had made the supreme sacrifice during the First World War. In 1930 the school building was erected. In 1938 a bond issue of $40,000 made possible extensive improvements in the school, and the erection of the MacKay Memorial Building was begun. More recently, the school's relationship with the Church has been modified, and the Board of Governors given a considerable degree of independence. The Bishop still appoints members to the Board, and he and two observers sit on its executive. The Chaplain, a priest of the Diocese, continues to play an important role in the life of the school which, since its amalgamation with the Netherwood School for Girls, has become co-educational. R.C.S.-Netherwood has made an important contribution to the life of the Diocese of Fredericton, not least in providing facilities for many years for summer youth programmes, diocesan clergy conferences, and as the venue for the Diocesan School of Church Music.

The first Medley Memorial Canon Missionary, the Reverend Allan W. Smithers, was appointed in 1908. A man of rare ability and legendary wit, Canon Smithers worked closely with the Bishop, until his death in 1932, caring for vacant parishes, and providing ministry in remote areas. Archdeacon A.F. Bate describes him as "...the confidante of our Bishop and the Episcopal troubleshooter", as well as "the friend and advisor of all the clergy". Smithers had served in Albert County, and the lovely stone Church, dedicated to St. Alban, which he built at Riverside Albert, was designated as his memorial. During its construction, so the story goes, the local Member of Parliament, a prominent Baptist layman, visited the site, and was informed by Canon Smithers that he was expected to give a donation of $50.00 towards the project. The M.P. replied that he could see no reason why he, as a Baptist, should contribute to the building of an Anglican Church but would, if Canon Smithers could prove from Scripture that he should do so. Taking out his New Testament the Canon pointed to St. Luke 16:6: "Take thy bill, sit down quickly and write fifty." The cheque was duly written!

Another story involves Archbishop Richardson, who was also endowed with a keen sense of humour and never at a loss for a story. He was travelling in a remote area in Smithers' company, and the two found themselves sharing an airless bedroom in a farmhouse. Richardson could not bear the oppressive atmosphere and, after vain attempts to open a window, he said, "Smithers, take your boot and break that window; we'll pay for it in the morning". The obedient canon picked up his boot, threw it, and there was a satisfying sound of shattering glass. "That's better!", said the bishop, and went to sleep. The pair awoke to be greeted by a broken mirror!

On October 2, 1909, Miss Lucy V. Pickett was formally appointed "David Wetmore Pickett Missionary Nurse", to assist in cases of illness, particularly in clerical families, and this led to the establishment of the Pickett-Scovil Memorial Fund the following year, with a capital of $170.43. This became a project of the Diocesan Board of the W.A. (later A.C.W.) and, through a system of endowed days, the fund grew and gave invaluable financial assistance to the families of the clergy in times of illness. When Medicare and a diocesan health insurance plan made this type of assistance unnecessary, the income of the fund was devoted to assisting the clergy with the costs of dental care.

Early in this period pensions became a pressing topic. The Incapacitated Clergy and Widows and Orphans' Fund had been in existence for many years, but its operation was anything but satisfactory. In 1909 Prof. M. A. MacKenzie of Toronto reported to the Synod that the payments then being required for the Widows and Orphans' Fund were altogether too low to maintain even the very small benefits then being paid. In 1912 an unsuccessful attempt was made to devise an actuarial reserve pension fund. The diocese carried on with the pay-as-you-go method until 1923, when the formation of the General Synod Pension Fund brought a solution to this problem.

From the beginning of his episcopate Bishop Richardson urged improvement in the stipends for the clergy and never rested content with any move in that direction. In 1909 the Board of Missions adopted a scale of graded stipends, providing a base of $600 a year for a deacon and $700 for a priest in the first three years, and a maximum $800 after seven years, together with an allowance of $80 where no rectory was provided. The scale was increased and modified from time to time—and the question of clerical stipends has continued to be a concern to this very day, when stipends are set annually by the Diocesan Synod's Board of Finance, on the advice of its Stipend Subcommittee.

Revisions to the Church of England Act, under which the Diocese of Fredericton operates, were passed by the provincial legislature in 1912, after much study and consultation. One important change from former legislation concerned the distinction between self-supporting parishes and those receiving aid from the diocese, in the appointment of rector, since abandoned. Another provided means for the removal of clergy from self-supporting parishes under circumstances which would not call for the use of the Canon on Discipline. Conditions changed from time to time resulting in amendments to the Act; perhaps the most significant came in 1919, permitting parishes to extend the franchise to women. By 1938 it was apparent that many details in the Act should be removed and enacted as Canons. Thus began the study which brought the 1942 Act into being, and made revision of the Constitution and Canons necessary. With relatively minor revisions, the 1942 Church of England Act is still in force.

In 1914 the generosity of Senator Thorne and his brother, Arthur, provided the Church of England Institute, which had been established by Archdeacon Brigstocke of Trinity Church, as a social and educational centre for Anglicans in the Saint John area, with its present building on Princess Street. This provided accommodations for synod committees and an office for the bishop, still in use, and later for the synod office, until the purchase of its present premises opposite the Cathedral in Fredericton. The Church of England Institute, or Anglican House, still provides valuable service to the diocese in the operation of its book store.

August 4, 1914, marked the beginning of the First World War. It had a profound effect upon every aspect of the life of the Church throughout the diocese. Among the thousands of New Brunswick men who volunteered for the defence of King and country were at least five of the diocesan clergy. Bishop Richardson's 1915 charge to synod indicates no serious disruption in the work of the Church as a result; it would appear that he was able to replace these volunteers. He strongly urged the duty of Church to "...send her sons to fight for our heritage of liberty", and expressed great satisfaction "...that of the first contingent which Canada sent across the sea, fully sixty-two per cent worship as we worship, and believe as we believe." Convinced of the justice of the allied cause, Richardson saw the war as a call to the Church "...to deepen her own spiritual life, so that more effectually she may minister to the nation's needs...[and] give the Empire an example of faith and courage." The Bishop's wartime charges give some indication of the involvement of Anglican people in the war effort, and speak with great sympathy of the grief which was inflicted on countless church families by the high rate of casualties. The "Rolls of Honour" in virtually every church in the diocese speak volumes of the courage and the suffering of so many at that time.

Immediately following the war and evidently because of it, the leadership of the Canadian Church initiated the Forward Movement, the first of several national campaigns with both spiritual and material goals. To what extent the Church advanced spiritually cannot easily be assessed, but the records indicate that the financial side was highly successful. The objective set for the Diocese of Fredericton was $90,000. and at the Synod of 1921, it was reported that the generous response of New Brunswick Anglicans had resulted in pledges totalling $130,992.81. Of this $34,437.74 was returned to the diocese, most of which was placed in the capital account, the income to support diocesan missions.

The 1920's and 30's were a period in which many efforts were made to set the work of the diocese on a firm footing financially. In 1921, the assessment on parishes for the Contingent Account, which covered expenditures not otherwise provided for, was abolished, and placed within the budget. This action eliminated questions about the eligibility of synod delegates from parishes which failed to pay the assessment. After much thought and study, the Budget System, which apportioned diocesan expenses to the parishes on a theoretically equitable basis, went into effect in 1923. Hailed as the cure for all financial ailments, many apparently considered the scheme so good that it would work automatically. Bishop Richardson knew that effort was necessary, and constantly kept the demands of the budget before the diocese. Gradually parish after parish responded, though it was not until after his time that the gain became marked.

1926 brought the campaign for funds for King's College to help finance its move to Halifax after the destruction of its buildings in Windsor by fire. The diocese raised $37,285, somewhat less than its objective.

While New Brunswick did not suffer from the Great Depression to the extent of some provinces, its effect upon church finances was clearly noticeable. Contributions to the budget began to decline and many a parish priest felt the effect on his stipend. The extent of the problem is indicated by the fact that a diocese which had so generously responded to the Forward Movement appeal, was able to raise less than 60% of its quota for the Restoration Fund, a national appeal, launched in 1932 to replace the lost endowments of the church in Western Canada. Despite difficult times, the Diocesan Synod, in 1936, passed a canon to provide for the payment of assessments to the national church.

The effect of the depression fell particularly hard on diocesan missions. While a deficit in the accounts of the Diocesan Board of Missions was no new thing, it had, by 1935, reached an alarming figure of more than $20,000. On the recommendation of a committee of business men, the method of paying the clergy in mission parishes was modified. Their stipends had been paid in full by the Board in return for the payment of an agreed assessment by the parish. Now the grants only were to be paid to the clergy, leaving the parishes responsible for paying the balance direct to the clergyman. This system remained in effect until changes in income tax law required a single salary source, and the diocese introduced a system of Block Grants paid directly to the parishes. The recent introduction of a Central Pay system for the clergy of those parishes which desire it, appears to be a return to the older system.

Under Bishop Richardson's leadership, many changes took place in the parishes of the Diocese. In 1908, thirty-six parishes were listed as Missions. By 1938, eleven of these had achieved self-support. New Missions had been formed, and others joined to neighbouring parishes. In 1938, thirty parishes in the Diocese were receiving aid from the Board of Missions. Richardson had recorded one hundred and eight ordinations to the Priesthood and consecrated some twenty-five churches. Fredericton's apportionment for the General Synod Boards had increased from $4,700 to over $12,000 and was now being fully paid.

In 1934, Bishop Richardson was elected Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada—a fitting tribute to the service he had rendered to the Lord and his Church, both in the Diocese of Fredericton and far beyond its borders. On October 7, 1938, the Archbishop passed into the life of the Church Expectant, and the "golden voice", so long heard in churches throughout the Diocese was stilled. John Andrew Richardson was buried beneath the East Window of his Cathedral, close by John Medley, to whom he was truly a worthy successor as ‹„Bishop of Fredericton and Metropolitan of Canada. The people of the Diocese erected the beautiful carved reredos, now in the Cathedral, as his memorial.