The small church, the chapel on “the bottoms,” the work of the college students and the increasing circle of converts and friends made the work attractive to me, but I had entered the political field in order to protest against and possibly remedy something civic that savoured of Sodom; and for a minister that was an unpardonable sin. The “interests” determined to cripple me or destroy my work. This they did successfully by the medium of a subsidized press and other means, fair and foul. It was a case of a city against one man—a rich city against a poor man and the man went down to defeat—apparent defeat, anyway: I packed my belongings and left. As I crossed the bridge which spans the river I looked on the little squatter colony on “the bottoms” and as my career there passed in review, for the second time in my life I was stricken with home-sickness and I was guilty of what my manhood might have been ashamed of—tears.
MY FIGHT IN NEW HAVEN
The experiences of 1894, ’5 and ’6 gave me a distaste—really a disgust—with public life I felt that I would never enter a large city again. I sought retirement in a country parish; this was secured for me by my friend, the president of Tabor College, the Rev. Richard Cecil Hughes.
It was in a small town in Iowa—Avoca in Pottawattomie County; I stayed there a year.
In 1897 I was in Cleveland, Ohio, in charge of an institution called The Friendly Inn; a very good name if the place had been an inn or friendly. My inability to make it either forced me to leave it before I had been there many months. It was in Cleveland that I first joined a labour union. I was a member of what was called a Federal Labour Union and was elected its representative to the central body of the union movement.
Early in 1898 I was in Springfield, Mass., delivering a series of addresses to a Bible school there. My funds ran out and not being in receipt of any remuneration and, not caring to make my condition known, I was forced for the first time in my life to become a candidate for a church. There were two vacant pulpits and I went after both of them. Meantime I boarded with a few students who, like their ancestors, had “plenty of nothing but gospel.”
They lived on seventy-five cents a week. Living was largely a matter of scripture texts, hope and imagination. I used to breakfast through my eyes at the beautiful lotus pond in the park. We lunched usually on soup that was a constant reminder of the soul of Tomlinson of Berkeley Square. Quantitively speaking, supper was the biggest meal of the day—it was a respite also for our imaginations.
The day of my candidacy arrived. I was prepared to play that most despicable of all ecclesiastical tricks—making an impression. I almost memorized the Scripture reading and prepared my favourite sermon; my personal appearance never had been so well attended to. The hour arrived. The little souls sat back in their seats to take my measure.