Detail from the Last Supper stained glass window in All Saints Parish Church Croydon, in memory of Sophia Mirabella Sandilands, wife of the rector 1859 'An Account of all the Inhabitants of the Parish of Croydon
in the County of Cambridgeshire commencing from 1 January 1843'
by Reverend Francis Fulford 1803-1868 (Rector at Croydon 1841-1845).
Additional notes by Reverend R S B Sandilands (Rector 1845-1864).
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Francis Fulford
150th Anniversary

Tuesday, July 25th, 2000

Celebration evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, marking
the 150th anniversary of the consecration of Francis Fulford in Westminster Abbey
to be the first Lord Bishop of Montreal.

A commentary by David Ellison | Online edition by Steve Odell


Part of the anniversary sermon given by the
Rt Rev Andrew S. Hutchison,

Bishop of Montreal

This liturgy begins a year of 150th anniversary celebrations for the Diocese.

We are gathered today to celebrate and give thanks for a .... moment in our history. 150 years ago Francis Fulford was a priest of the English gentry, living in the ancestral mansion near Exeter, which his family had occupied for more than 650 years. The Fulfords had been influential in the English court back to the time of Richard I. Francis was appointed by Queen Victoria to be the first Lord Bishop of Montreal. To the best of our knowledge he had never set foot outside England. He was the last Bishop in Canada to be directly appointed by the Monarch. He was consecrated on this very day in Westminster Abbey.

Slightly more than two months later Bishop Fulford was to arrive in Canada, where his new Diocese awaited him, neither Bishop nor Diocese nor the wider community knowing much about one another. The Bishop would know, of course that the Anglican Church had had a significant presence in Montreal since the 1760's, that it had first been ministered to by Bishop Inglis from Nova Scotia, and later was part of the Diocese of Quebec.

He would have held the letters patent from Queen Victoria establishing the new Diocese of Montreal, and declaring his See City to be the City of Montreal, and Christ Church to be his Cathedral. According to English policy at the time, only centres that had a cathedral and a bishop could be known as cities.

He would have been aware that early Anglican life in Montreal had a delightfully confusing and decidedly ecumenical flavour to it. Its first Rector, David Chabrand Deslisle had begun services in a Franciscan Recollect Fathers' Chapel, the only Anglican place of worship in Montreal for more than 20 years.

He would know that from 1789 until the fire in 1806 Christ Church made its home in the former Jesuit Church, on what is now the site of City Hall, the last Jesuit having left Montreal in 1800.

He was probably told that Abbe Deslisle had reported back to the Missionary Society that most of his early parishioners were in fact Presbyterians who had no Church of their own. He would no doubt have heard that after the fire it was the Presbyterians who welcomed the Anglicans to their own new Church.

He might also have been told of the petition to Bishop Inglis from 40 German-speaking parishioners that he send them a German-speaking pastor, and of another asking him to send an English pastor, because Abbe Deslisle's sermons could not easily be understood by his English congregation. That the early confusion and ecumenical goodwill continued into his time was signalled by the fact that his Roman Catholic colleague was at the landing in St. Jean to greet Bishop Fulford on his arrival, and a great friendship is said to have developed between them.

Francis Fulford c1865

Francis Fulford
Lord Bishop of Montreal
Photographed in Canada by W M Notman in the 1860's
.

It is hard to imagine what might have been in the mind of Bishop Fulford standing in Westminster Abbey 150 years ago. It is hard to imagine the apprehension of a Diocese knowing nothing of the person who was about to come among them with an authority that knew very few of the constitutional restrictions on that authority that we now take for granted. A new Christ Church had been erected in 1814, and was to serve as his first Cathedral until six years after his arrival, when it too burned to the ground.

For 18 years Bishop Fulford exercised his episcopate with energy and vision, establishing churches, clergy and institutions throughout an area somewhat larger than that now served by the Diocese. Streets, institutions and even whole communities in Quebec bear his name. A part of his legacy is this beautiful new cathedral built under his watchful eye.

Bishop Fulford was the first Metropolitan of the Province of Canada, and it was he who was instrumental in establishing the synodical system of government for the Church, now emulated throughout the Anglican Communion. Despite the heavy demands of the local Church, it was also he who with other Canadian Bishops was instrumental in bringing about the first Lambeth Conference, and led the first Canadian delegation to it in 1867, a year before his death. The Lambeth Conference continues to bring together bishops from throughout the Anglican Communion about every ten years.

Bishop Fulford died in a little house here on these grounds during a Synod in 1868. It is reported that the bells of all the churches in the City, including those of Notre Dame, tolled as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery, which he had consecrated, - Mount Royal. He is remembered forever in the striking monument, erected beside the Cathedral in 1870, and now all but restored, thanks to a grant from the Government of Quebec. It bears an inscription which I, as a successor in the episcopate he established, read with humility and gratitude - "One man soweth; another reapeth". Following the service, as an act of thanksgiving for the courageous ministry of our first Bishop, the monument will be rededicated. During the act of dedication I shall be holding, as nine others before me have done, the simple wooden pastoral staff that was made for Bishop Fulford, and first held by him.

Francis Fulford was .... somewhat larger than life. Leaving all that was familiar to him he gave the remainder of his life to following the living Christ, and becoming a true fisher of men and women in a new land. Because of his efforts we inherit a living faith for our generation, reaping the spiritual and material harvest of what was sown under his leadership.

[The full text of the sermon is here]

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