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The beginnings of the Church of the Holy Spirit
letter, McIlvaine, Bedell, church
Bedell, G. T., "Letter to Charles Pettit McIlvaine" (1866). Charles Pettit McIlvaine Letters. 366.
Private & Confidential
To be read carefully & preserved for a time
Gambier Jan. 13 1866
My dear bishop
We have had a good deal of conversation & correspondence on the subject of rearrangement of the spiritual oversight of these Institutions. The practical question, the [modus] in quo, is encompassed with difficulties. Yet I feel more & more persuaded that something must be done; and ought to be done speedily. One who lives here sees what no one else can. You are a better judge than any one of the Trustees for you have felt the trouble and yet, in the particular phases of later troubles, even you can hardly appreciate the unexpected evils of the present system.
There is no centre of units among the schools. There is no acknowledged spiritual head. Even in the College the spiritual authority is divided between the Chaplain & President. There is collision; and there have been collisions between every Chaplain, & the Authorities. Clements was the most successful; but he at last came into collision with the Students. The Parish has become a “third estate.” It is a power outside of the Institutions, claiming its rights, and being a sort of court of appeal for the Rector against Authorities. Consequently it [becomes] a power, easily moved on other occasions, against wholesome discipline. And the interests of the Parish necessarily receive attention to the [injury] of the spiritual care of the Students.
Now to arrange any plan [which] will reach all the rights of the case, and amend all the [?], is a task for an angel.
Unity might be given by creating a Chancellorship, as in Trinity College Hartford, for the Bishop of the Diocese.
Spiritual unity (which is probably the most feasible) may be given by restoring the bishop of the Diocese to the actual spiritual oversight, intended (as I suppose) by the [Charter]. He should actually direct all the religious services of the Institutions as a whole; and the particular services in the College, Hall, & Seminary. He should arrange the Monday morning Bible exercises in College; which are rapidly degenerations.
When there is a Bishop resident the Diocesan might act through him; or consent to his being actual, spiritual Overseer, only reporting to the Diocesan.
So long as there is a Bishop resident, much of the evil would be saved by abolishing the chaplaincy, or appointing him Chaplain. The former plan is preferable; for he would then assume all duties of Chaplain & the proper official spiritual relation, as by right of office & Charter. All questions then would be saved. He stands by office above all Professors. He is the only who does. It would be an advantage to the Institutions were there no Parish organisation; at least were there none connected with the Chapel, or holding a traditional right there.
When there are so many good preachers on the hill, it seems a waste of ministerial strength, to [being] another, who cannot do his duty without [shutting] the [mouths] of [able] men around him. The Institutions can provide for all its own wants without going beyond itself. And the Professors will retain their [?] [?], be much more [?] & practical, & have a far deeper interest in the student, by feeling it to be their duty to preach & minister to their wants.
The Institution is not [?] to provide for the Parish. And yet it might provide for every want, except during vacations, by not going outside of its own Professors. If the Parish were not content with the able men who could preach to them from the Sem., they would have the resource of every other parish. They could provide for themselves.
Somewhat to meet these various ideas, the following outline has occurred to me to be submitted to you.
Abolish the Chaplaincy, so long at least as a Bishop is resident at Gambier.
Assume again as Bishop the spiritual oversight of the Institutions.
[?] certain [functions] to the resident.
Recal the permission to use the Chapel, given to the Parish, and place the entire [controul] of it in the hand of the President.
Make it his duty, in connection with the Professors, to provide for all services during term time and except as hereafter suggested.
Place the $500 in his hand, to pay for each sermon $5.
Allow him to employ an Assistant; who should take all responsibilities of filling the pulpit when the Bishop is absent. If the people choose to pay this Assistant, he then to act as Pastor when required. If it is best to continue a [nominal] Harcourt Parish, the assistant to be called Rector, or perhaps better to have seat in Convention as assistant. A Rectorship might lead to trouble again.
The Chapel then to be thrown open to the people except so much as the Spiritual Overseer— (?) what is that but Bishop—reserves for the Institution. The Professors to be saved the expenses which they are now put to ($25 each) for pew rents for unnecessary service. The People being provided for by the Institution would necessarily exercise no rights of control in Chapel affairs. Such is an outline of a possibility.
A new tune is given to the whole thing, and perhaps an easy solution placed in your hands by an occurrence on my visit to New York, which I have not had opportunity to report to you.
As soon as I applied to my old Parish, for Gambier interests, it was suggested that the [ascension] ought & would be glad to do some one thing; and to give it the character somewhat of a personal matter whilst benefitting Gambier.
You will not be surprised that on consultation the subject of a Church was suggested. Dr. [?] was earnest in this matter; for he had felt many of the difficulties referred to. The idea took immediately. It naturally pleased the people to when I had so long ministered to present a Church to their old Rector, for his use so long as he should live, & to be the Diocesan Church forever. It was a thing in which all could take part; chancel, font, windows, tower, bells, each preserved opportunity for individual gift.
The question was how could it be most available for Gambier? I had mentioned the importance of a Library & [Cabinet].
Why not then turn Rosse Chapel into Rosse Library? A building most admirably suited for the purposes of a Library & [Cabinet]. For many years to come, it might be used for all the purposes of Library, [Cabinet], Reading room, Lecture Hall; and on Commencements for that purpose. The only serious change needed for several years would be the erection of a gallery on [iron] columns, for the [Cabinet]. Library cases might be arranged round the walls. The whole central area would be left for other uses. The idea seemed feasible to me. I promised to broach it to you. There was no time to consult you before acting.
I therefore consented to present the subject to the Congregation on Dec. 31st, with the understanding that it should be laid before yourself and the Trustees. On Tuesday 2nd, the only day I had to give to the City, I collected $10,000 towards this plan. No doubt $10,000 more will be given. Dr. [Smith] [thinks] that in the course of a year or 18 months, he can raise the whole to $30,000. I doubt it. But $20,000 I think is sure. Now I do not see [but] that this plan will give us what we do much need—a Church entirely [appropriated] to Divine Worship, & in every way [fitted] to its purpose; and a Hall which for many years will supply Library, [Cabinet], & College occasions.
The ascension proposes, if it meets your view, to ask [if] the Trustees [?] to erect a Church as a Gift to [me] and the Diocese & [Institutions] after [me]; to be a Church, in which my old pulpit shall stand (for they have substituted a platform desk in ascension) and over which I shall have spiritual oversight.
Now may not this idea solve many, perhaps all, the questions raised; and may it not, in the Providence of God, establish the spiritual interests of Gambier as a satisfactory and permanent [footing].
In such a Church you would have your seat. There the Bishop would speak by authority. You would have, as I have longed to see you, a place where you would be the centre of this great Diocese.
It would be a place for Ordination, & Convocation, & meetings of Clergy. The Bishop would not be compelled to ask leave of a Rector to utter himself, on to solicit opportunity to open his mind.
I trust it will [strike] you as it does me & a thing to be desired & arrived at. It will need to be nursed. The end is not yet. But there is nothing [?] to the beginning save your assent, your influence, the consent of Trustees.
And then wisdom to know how to reconcile all [conflicting] interests and [opinions] at Gambier.
Perhaps there will be less difficulty here than I [imagine]; perhaps there will be more.
But the [modus] we can think about. I want now to know your mind.
Of course it is important not to say any thing about it until we have settled it.
If our friend near you gets mind of it, [pray] do not express yourself to him.
Praying God’s direction I am affec. yrs.
Rt. Rev. Dr. McIlvaine