Planting the church

Daily Reading for April 2 • James Lloyd Breck, Priest, 1876

During the twenty-six years of my border Missionary life, I have been to the East but three times, so that my personal intercourse with Eastern Churchmen is very limited. It was the Nashotah Mission which first inaugurated the primitive form of Associate Missionary work for America, and its glorious fruit speaks for it in terms such as require for it no commendation greater than itself. For nine years, I was Dean of that Mission. It was for this country an untried system, which three young men, just in Orders, attempted. To say they made no mistakes, or could not have done better, had they had older heads upon their shoulders, none of the three pretends to assert. To say they ought to have had a Bishop at their head, is nothing more than to say that the first planting of the Church in America ought to have had a Bishop for it so it ought. But in default of this, which was simply an impossibility in those times, the next best thing was for England’s Church to send over Presbyters. And, in like manner, the next best thing for us to do was to work and to wait—not, as some would have it, wait to work, and never do anything.

In the year 1835, the General Convention of the Church sent forth its first Missionary Bishop, the present venerable Prelate of Wisconsin [Bishop Kemper]; but he was to go forth little different from any Presbyter Missionary, saving the vast amount of territory he must travel over, viz., Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and unborn Territories adjacent. It was expected that members of the second Order of the Ministry would join him; but it was likewise understood that he would distribute and locate these at isolated points, where young cities were likely to spring up; and the Bishop, as a superintendent, would visit them, and encourage them in their isolation.

How different the present plan of operation, with our lately-appointed Missionary Bishops, may clearly be seen; and it will not be thought presuming if I allude somewhat to it, and to that which awakened it in the mind of the American Church. The first aim of the new Bishop now is centralization. He does not count his forces as formerly, and distribute them asunder as wide as the poles; but he looks over his field to find the proper fulcrum; and, establishing himself upon it, proceeds to rally his men at the centre, and here puts them to work, and from this they radiate along with him over the whole diocese.

Thus the Associate Mission is at last in its right place. Twenty-five years ago, it was necessarily a Presbyter Associate Mission, because there was not a Bishop in the Church who felt prepared to adopt its system. But now it has become rooted in the soil of the Church, is recommended by the General Convention, adopted by the Board of Missions, and every Bishop, who loves aggressive work, will have his Association of laborers for all manner of Churchly work.

This Associate plan for Evangelizing a country such as ours, or any heathen land, was inaugurated at Nashotah, because it was primitive and catholic. Under this system, Nashotah has sent forth one hundred Missionaries already, and caused the Church in Wisconsin to bud and blossom as the rose. This same system in Minnesota was an offshoot from Nashotah. . . . It has, as a Diocese, the foundation strongly laid; and, at this point in its history, it becomes me to leave it, to lay foundations anew in waste places.

From a missionary letter of James Lloyd Breck to his “Brethren of the Clergy and Laity” written in 1867; found at

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