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Charles M. Sheldon
Nazareth Avenue Church was experiencing something never
known before in all its history. The simple appeal on the
part of its pastor to his members to do as Jesus would do
had created a sensation that still continued. The result
of that appeal was very much the same as in Henry Maxwell's
church in Raymond, only this church was far more aristocratic,
wealthy and conventional. Nevertheless when, one Sunday
morning in early summer, Dr. Bruce came into his pulpit
and announced his resignation, the sensation deepened all
over the city, although he had advised with his board of
trustees, and the movement he intended was not a matter
of surprise to them. But when it become publicly known that
the Bishop had also announced his resignation and retirement
from the position he had held so long, in order to go and
live himself in the centre of the worst part of Chicago,
the public astonishment reached its height.
why?" the Bishop replied to one valued friend who had almost
with tears tried to dissuade him from his purpose. "Why
should what Dr. Bruce and I propose to do seem so remarkable
a thing, as if it were unheard of that a Doctor of Divinity
and a Bishop should want to save lost souls in this particular
manner? If we were to resign our charge for the purpose
of going to Bombay or Hong Kong or any place in Africa,
the churches and the people would exclaim at the heroism
of missions. Why should it seem so great a thing if we have
been led to give our lives to help rescue the heathen and
the lost of our own city in the way we are going to try
it? Is it then such a tremendous event that two Christian
ministers should be not only willing but eager to live close
to the misery of the world in order to know it and realize
it? Is it such a rare thing that love of humanity should
find this particular form of expression in the rescue of
And however the Bishop may have satisfied himself that there
ought to be nothing so remarkable about it at all, the public
continued to talk and the churches to record their astonishment
that two such men, so prominent in the ministry, should
leave their comfortable homes, voluntarily resign their
pleasant social positions and enter upon a life of hardship,
of self-denial and actual suffering. Christian America!
Is it a reproach on the form of our discipleship that the
exhibition of actual suffering for Jesus on the part of
those who walk in His steps always provokes astonishment
as at the sight of something very unusual?
Nazareth Avenue Church parted from its pastor with regret
for the most part, although the regret was modified with
a feeling of relief on the part of those who had refused
to take the pledge. Dr. Bruce carried with him the respect
of men who, entangled in business in such a way that obedience
to the pledge would have ruined them, still held in their
deeper, better natures a genuine admiration for courage
and consistency. They had known Dr. Bruce many years as
a kindly, conservative, safe man, but the thought of him
in the light of sacrifice of this sort was not familiar
to them. As fast as they understood it, they gave their
pastor the credit of being absolutely true to his recent
convictions as to what following Jesus meant. Nazareth Avenue
Church never lost the impulse of that movement started by
Dr. Bruce. Those who went with him in making the promise
breathed into the church the very breath of divine life,
and are continuing that life-giving work at this present
It was fall again, and the city faced another hard winter.
The Bishop one afternoon came out of the Settlement and
walked around the block, intending to go on a visit to one
of his new friends in the district. He had walked about
four blocks when he was attracted by a shop that looked
different from the others. The neighborhood was still quite
new to him, and every day he discovered some strange spot
or stumbled upon some unexpected humanity.
The place that attracted his notice was a small house close
by a Chinese laundry. There were two windows in the front,
very clean, and that was remarkable to begin with. Then,
inside the window, was a tempting display of cookery, with
prices attached to the various articles that made him wonder
somewhat, for he was familiar by this time with many facts
in the life of the people once unknown to him. As he stood
looking at the windows, the door between them opened and
Felicia Sterling came out.
exclaimed the Bishop. "When did you move into my parish
without my knowledge?"
did you find me so soon?" inquired Felicia.
don't you know? These are the only clean windows in the
believe they are," replied Felicia with a laugh that did
the Bishop good to hear.
why have you dared to come to Chicago without telling me,
and how have you entered my diocese without my knowledge?"
asked the Bishop. And Felicia looked so like that beautiful,
clean, educated, refined world he once knew, that he might
be pardoned for seeing in her something of the old Paradise.
Although, to speak truth for him, he had no desire to go
back to it.
dear Bishop," said Felicia, who had always called him so,
"I knew how overwhelmed you were with your work. I did not
want to burden you with my plans. And besides, I am going
to offer you my services. Indeed, I was just on my way to
see you and ask your advice. I am settled here for the present
with Mrs. Bascom, a saleswoman who rents our three rooms,
and with one of Rachel's music pupils who is being helped
to a course in violin by Virginia Page. She is from the
people," continued Felicia, using the words "from the people"
so gravely and unconsciously that her hearer smiled, "and
I am keeping house for her and at the same time beginning
an experiment in pure food for the masses. I am an expert
and I have a plan I want you to admire and develop. Will
you, dear Bishop?"
I will," he replied. The sight of Felicia and her remarkable
vitality, enthusiasm and evident purpose almost bewildered
can help at the Settlement with her violin and I will help
with my messes. You see, I thought I would get settled first
and work out something, and then come with some real thing
to offer. I'm able to earn my own living now."
are?" the Bishop said a little incredulously. "How? Making
things!" said Felicia with a show of indignation. "I would
have you know, sir, that 'those things' are the best-cooked,
purest food products in this whole city."
don't doubt it," he replied hastily, while his eyes twinkled,
"Still, 'the proof of the pudding' -- you know the rest."
in and try some!" she exclaimed. "You poor Bishop! You look
as if you hadn't had a good meal for a month."
She insisted on his entering the little front room where
Martha, a wide-awake girl with short, curly hair, and an
unmistakable air of music about her, was busy with practice.
right on, Martha. This is the Bishop. You have heard me
speak of him so often. Sit down there and let me give you
a taste of the fleshpots of Egypt, for I believe you have
been actually fasting."
So they had an improvised lunch, and the Bishop who, to
tell the truth, had not taken time for weeks to enjoy his
meals, feasted on the delight of his unexpected discovery
and was able to express his astonishment and gratification
at the quality of the cookery.
thought you would at least say it is as good as the meals
you used to get at the Auditorium at the big banquets,"
said Felicia slyly.
good as! The Auditorium banquets were simply husks compared
with this one, Felicia. But you must come to the Settlement.
I want you to see what we are doing. And I am simply astonished
to find you here earning your living this way. I begin to
see what your plan is. You can be of infinite help to us.
You don't really mean that you will live here and help these
people to know the value of good food?"
I do," she answered gravely. "That is my gospel. Shall I
not follow it?"
Aye! You're right. Bless God for sense like yours! When
I left the world," the Bishop smiled at the phrase, "they
were talking a good deal about the 'new woman.' If you are
one of them, I am a convert right now and here."
Still is there no escape from it, even in the slums of Chicago?"
Felicia laughed again. And the man's heart, heavy though
it had grown during several months of vast sin-bearing,
rejoiced to hear it! It sounded good. It was good. It belonged
Felicia wanted to visit the Settlement, and went back with
him. She was amazed at the results of what considerable
money an a good deal of consecrated brains had done. As
they walked through the building they talked incessantly.
She was the incarnation of vital enthusiasm, and he wondered
at the exhibition of it as it bubbled up and sparkled over.
They went down into the basement and the Bishop pushed open
a door from behind which came the sound of a carpenter's
plane. It was a small but well equipped carpenter's shop.
A young man with a paper cap on his head and clad in blouse
and overalls was whistling and driving the plane as he whistled.
He looked up as the two entered, and took off his cap. As
he did so, his little finger carried a small curling shaving
up to his hair and it caught there.
Sterling, Mr. Stephen Clyde," said the Bishop. "Clyde is
one of our helpers here two afternoons in the week."
Just then the bishop was called upstairs and he excused
himself a moment, leaving Felicia and the young carpenter
have met before," said Felicia looking at Clyde frankly.
'back in the world,' as the Bishop says," replied the young
man, and his fingers trembled a little as they lay on the
board he had been planing.
Felicia hesitated. "I am very glad to see you."
you?" The flush of pleasure mounted to the young carpenter's
forehead. "You have had a great deal of trouble since --
since -- then," he said, and then he was afraid he had wounded
her, or called up painful memories. But she had lived over
and you also. How is it that you're working here?"
is a long story, Miss Sterling. My father lost his money
and I was obliged to go to work. A very good thing for me.
The Bishop says I ought to be very grateful. I am. I am
very happy now. I learned the trade, hoping some time to
be of use, I am night clerk at one of the hotels. That Sunday
morning when you took the pledge at Nazareth Avenue Church,
I took it with the others."
you?" said Felicia slowly. "I am glad."
Just then the Bishop came back, and very soon he and Felicia
went away leaving the young carpenter at his work. Some
one noticed that he whistled louder than ever as he planed.
said the Bishop, "did you know Stephen Clyde before?"
'back in the world,' dear Bishop. He was one of my acquaintances
in Nazareth Avenue Church."
said the Bishop.
were very good friends," added Felicia.
nothing more?" the Bishop ventured to ask.
Felicia's face glowed for an instant. Then she looked her
companion in the eyes frankly and answered: "Truly and truly,
would be just the way of the world for these two people
to come to like each other, though," thought the man to
himself, and somehow the thought made him grave. It was
almost like the old pang over Camilla. But it passed, leaving
him afterwards, when Felicia had gone back, with tears in
his eyes and a feeling that was almost hope that Felicia
and Stephen would like each other. "After all," he said,
like the sensible, good man that he was, "is not romance
a part of humanity? Love is older than I am, and wiser."
The week following, the Bishop had an experience that belongs
to this part of the Settlement history. He was coming back
to the Settlement very late from some gathering of the striking
tailors, and was walking along with his hands behind him,
when two men jumped out from behind an old fence that shut
off an abandoned factory from the street, and faced him.
One of the men thrust a pistol in his face, and the other
threatened him with a ragged stake that had evidently been
torn from the fence.
up your hands, and be quick about it!" said the man with
The place was solitary and the Bishop had no thought of
resistance. He did as he was commanded, and the man with
the stake began to go through his pockets. He was calm.
His nerves did not quiver. As he stood there with his hands
uplifted, an ignorant spectator might have thought that
he was praying for the souls of these two men. And he was.
And his prayer was singularly answered that very night.