Bishop Turner’s Trip East: August 21, 1890

Bishop Turner’s Trip East – Sights and Scenes

Christian Recorder: August 21, 1890


After discharging a variety of responsibilities since my return from the South on the 23rd ult., pressing duties required my presence in the more eastern section of the First Episcopal District. Therefore on the morning of the 6th inst., I left the city of Philadelphia and moved Eastward as fast as the cars could fly with me. Reaching New York City I halted for short time at the parsonage of Bethel Church, 218 Sullivan Street and spent an hour at least with that princely man, Rev. Theodore Gould. I had heard that his appointment to the mother church of New York City had provoked some opposition and that I had been fearfully excoriated for sending him there. A few moments talk however, with Elder Gould, assured me that that sombre cloud had disappeared and that a better spirit was then prevailing. Elder Gould appeared to the hopeful and cheerful and felt that God had already blessed his labors at that church.

I never saw more bishops in my life in one district than there are in this. One General Conference sends one Bishop to take charge of the work, but when he comes upon the ground he finds about half the preachers trying to exercise Episcopal functions, and nearly half the lay members attempting to do the same.

If rumors be true a large number of the ministers begin to wire-pull and fix up a state of appointments about three months before the conferences begin and jaw and quarrel for about three months after the conferences end over their disappointments. So they have only about six months in the year to try to save souls and build up the church.

Bethel Church, Philadelphia, however, the church above all others I expected the most trouble with is one of the easiest churches to satisfy in the district. Whomever the Bishop sends they receive cordially and settle down to business and that is the end of it. If they get whom they want, they are pleased, and if they do not they make themselves satisfied. Yet they send up to the annual conference grand reports upon every item. While some other churches which do as little as they possibly can, without any show of respect for God or man are the hardest to please and are constantly plotting opposition to the appointing power and seem to gloat over saying, “I don’t care any more for a Bishop than anybody else.” Just as though any Bishop with an ounce of sense cared.

One thing I fear will curse the Negro race for centuries to come, and that is lack of respect for government, the very thing above all others that church members ought to do whether they are Christians or not. But we will not continue with this subject longer.

Having left Elder Gould’s by cars we proceeded to New Bedford and breakfasted with Rev. J. W. Hayslett, who is succeeding excellently judging from the magnificent parsonage in which he lives and full and plenty surrounding him.

A few hours more and we are upon the steamboat on our way to Martha’s Vineyard, one of the grandest resorts for pleasure, recreation and intellectual culture possibly in the United States. The poor and the wealthy, black and white, yellow and brown all mingle on social terms. While it is a summer resort the streets, avenues and promenade walks are equal to the finest cities and the large iron shed which had been erected for camp meeting purposes at an immense cost, certainly excels anything in the land. A description of the place including the beautiful cottages would battle my powers of depiction.

From there we went to Onset Mass., and spent two days at the great camp-meeting ground of the Spiritualists; their place of rendezvous is also grand beyond description. True, there is not so much of human art displayed as at Martha’s Vineyard, but nature seems to have lavished her riches smiles upon the place. The grounds are undulating and shade trees abundant. But that does not tell half of the story. I could write things about their séances, spiritual manifestations and materializations which would be unlawful to tell. I delivered a speech of an hour and a half from their mammoth stand to an immense audience of ladies and gentlemen. They cheered me quite lustily on about almost every subject that I discussed, until I would mention hell. But as soon as I would say hell several voices could be heard exclaiming: “There is no hell.” I told them “well, if there is none, I am safe, but if there be one I am going to escape it if God will help me.” So they would cheer and laugh.

At the conclusion of my speech a hundred or more ladies pressed around me to shake my hand with a large number of men. Some brought me messages from my wife, others from my mother, others from deceased ministers and such messages as they brought me from the spirit world I never heard before.

I do not know what to do with those spiritualist so I leave them in God’s hand and wish them well. I must say, however before leaving them that I never saw a people so free from prejudice in my life. They appear to have no conception of a man’s color.

From Onset I went, upon invitation to Yarmouth, almost at the foot of Cape Cod, a long narrow strip of land extending, as I learned about one hundred and fifty miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Here I cam in contact with another great camp meeting ground almost as artistically arranged as Martha’s Vineyard. They, too, had a mammoth shed build in the grandest style imaginable, cable of seating five thousand people. Myself and Rev. W.A. Rice were assigned to quarters in the presiding elder’s cottage. About eighteen or twenty white ministers gathered around us and again we forgot all about our color. We spent two days at this camp, ate and mingled with the best whites of the land and were shown a respect that was literally wearisome.

Bishop Malleliau, of the M. E. church, was to have been present to deliver an address to the Ladies Missionary Society, but failing to put in an appearance I was deputized to fill his place. Thousands of ladies were present and gave the most earnest attention to the remarks of the improvised speaker. At the conclusion a vote of thanks was tendered the speaker, and a lady took the stand and also delivered an address freighted with the riches eloquence.

While we remained at this camp meeting we heard several able sermons, and heard a few others which were quite ordinary. But when it was announced that a bishop of the African M.E. church would preach it was the signal for a large gathering, and the massive arbor was packed with eager listeners. How well this bishop succeeded with his discourse is another question. Suffice it to say that earnest attention was given. The Yarmouth camp is a great summer resort also with hundred of small but convenient cottages which people rent and remain in for weeks if not months. I did not see over five colored persons during my entire trip upon Cape Cod, and one of them was trying to be white where not colorphobia existed.

Leaving much out that might be said about Cape Cod and that section of the country, Saturday afternoon found us on our way to Long Island. Reaching Boston about 7 p.m., we passed through this great mart of business and halted a few hours at Providence, R.I., and met Dr. J.W. Stevenson and Rev. B.F. Combash is equally cheerful. Sabbath morning found us on Long Island, N.Y., where several points of interest have been visited, and business of great interest to the church disposed of.

This letter being already too long I conclude by saying my next point of destination is Greenville, Mass., where I am to meet D. L. Moody, the nation’s great evangelist.