Father Rowley and Mark found themselves once more in the drive. The episcopal standard floated in the wind, which had sprung up while they were with the Bishop. They walked silently to the railway station under a fast clouding sky.
The first episcopal act of the Bishop of Silchester drove many poor souls away from God. It was a time of deep emotional stress for all the St. Agnes’ workers, and Father Rowley could not show himself in Keppel Street without being surrounded by a crowd of supplicants who with tears and lamentations begged him to give up the new St. Agnes’ and to remain in the old mission church rather than be lost to them for ever. There were some who even wished him to surrender the Third Altar; but in his last sermon preached on the Sunday night before he left Chatsea, he spoke to them and said:
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. The 15th verse of the 21st Chapter of the Holy Gospel according to Saint John: Feed my lambs.
“It is difficult for me, dear people, to preach to you this evening for the last time as your missioner, to preach, moreover, the last sermon that will ever be preached in this little mission church which has meant so much to you and so much to me. By the mercy of God man does not realize at the moment all that is implied by an occasion like this. He speaks with his mouth words of farewell; but his heart still beats to what was and what is, rather than to what will be.
“When I took as my text to-night those three words of Our Lord to St. Peter, Feed my Lambs, I took them as words that might be applied, first to the Lord Bishop of this diocese, secondly to the priest who will take my place in this Mission, and thirdly and perhaps most poignantly of all to myself. I cannot bring myself to suppose that in this moment of grief, in this moment of bitterness, almost of despair I am able to speak fairly of the Bishop of Silchester’s action in compelling me to resign what has counted for all that is most precious in my life on earth. And already, in saying that the Bishop has compelled me to resign, I am not speaking with perfect accuracy, inasmuch as if I had been willing to surrender what I considered one of the essential articles of our belief, the Bishop would have been glad to licence the new St. Agnes’ and to give his countenance and his support to me, the unworthy priest in charge of it.
“I want you therefore, dear people, to try to look at the matter from the standpoint of the Bishop. I want you to try to understand that in objecting to our little altar for the dead he is objecting not so much to the altar itself as to the services said at that altar. If it had merely been a question between us of a third altar, whether here or in the new St. Agnes’, I should have found it possible, however unwillingly, to ask you—you, who