Diocese of Connecticut

Seabury —a Scottish Retrospect

It was in an obscure upper room of a Meetinghouse ‘down the darkest and dullest alley that was ever contrived to shut out the light and the fresh air of heaven’ wrote J. D. Symon in 1924, called Longacre in Aberdeen on Sunday, 14th November 1784 that the memorable event took place. At the time, this meeting was illegal, but it was described by an Archbishop of Canterbury preaching the Centenary Service in 1884 held in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, as ‘one of the turning points in the history of the Church of God’. Which event —you ask? The event was the Consecration of Dr Samuel Seabury of Connecticut to be first bishop of the fledgling Protestant American Episcopal Church. Seabury was a courageous man determined to reach his goal and free the American ecclesiastical deadlock for lack of a bishopric. Nothing of course is ever straight forward when sovereign states are in disagreement; Seabury showed that his tenacious drive brought him the dividend he desired — and fortuitously, gave birth to the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Aberdeen’s first ‘American’ Canon

According to the Statutes of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese, Honorary Canonries may be conferred by the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney from time to time. In 1927, it was agreed that the Chapter would award two honorary Canonries to the Episcopal Church in America in view of the Seabury association. On Sunday 29th April 1928, Bishop Deane installed the Revd John Forbes Mitchell DD as the first American Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral. It appears from newspaper reports from Aberdeen Press & Journal that Canon Mitchell, the brother of Anthony Mitchell, Bishop of Aberdeen (1906-1912) had originally been conferred Canon at a ceremony which took place in St Paul’s Chapel Broadway [New York] about two months before in the course of the 1928 tour of Bishop Deane and Provost Erskine Hill, raising awareness…and money, on behalf of the Bishop Seabury Memorial Cathedral scheme. The appointment was a grateful tribute to the valuable work Dr Mitchell did for the Seabury Memorial in America where he acted as chairman of the Memorial Committee and gave up his ordinary church duties for two years in order to carry the scheme to it’s conclusion which was marred by the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Changes in the Constitution of the American Church

Actually, up to 1949, the American Connection was only recognised as a courtesy, by the respective Dioceses. Connecticut did not change the Hartford Cathedral Statutes to allow for ‘Aberdeen’ Canonries to be officially recognised until this date, the first American Canon conferred an Aberdeen Canonry under the new rules being Revd Canon H. Francis Hine on 1st October 1949.

It is to Walter Gray [Bishop of Connecticut 1940-1973] that we owe the clarity of the regulations that govern our American Canonries today. Through his work, it was established that “the Provost of St Andrew’s Cathedral becomes Canon of Christ Church Cathedral Hartford, whilst the Bishop of Connecticut is responsible for nominating to the Aberdeen Diocesan Synod, priests to fill two American Canonries, one of which is reserved for a priest serving with the Diocese of Connecticut and tenable only while he continues to do so.” [As an interesting aside, Margaret B. Smith, archivist of the Diocese of Connecticut, writes that all Aberdeen clergy conferred a Canon of Hartford Cathedral were listed in their Clergy Directory as being on the staff of the Cathedral!]

Companion Diocese

Since the grand invitation to all American Bishops to attend the centenary event in St Paul’s Cathedral, London and at St Andrew’s Church, Aberdeen [then not yet the cathedral of the diocese] in 1884, the Seabury Consecration has always engendered the most cordial relationships between both Provinces.

There have been many exchanges for both sets of ‘Canons’, some of the Aberdeen Canons having made extensive tours of America, giving lectures and evoking conversations on subjects of mutual concern. Most American Canons have made extensive tours of both the Aberdeen & Orkney dioceses.

In 1928, as previously reported, a Seabury Memorial Cathedral was proposed but abandoned in 1929 due to a downturn in the American economy. Eventually some money already raised was used to beautify St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, as a memorial to the great ‘Seabury’ event.