James Clement Sharp.

John Cotton Brooks online

. (page 3 of 7)
Online LibraryJames Clement SharpJohn Cotton Brooks → online text (page 3 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ested in a certain worthy family came to
see him about sending them away for the
summer months. The mother was ill
and needed rest, while the father had been
unable to find employment. It was sug-
gested that if he could go with his family
he might find employment in the country,
and not return to require further aid from
the parish. "But," said Mr. Brooks with
warmth, "we want them to come back,
they are just the kind of people we want
in our church." Later that family no
longer needed aid.

Of the limits of his parish he was ever
watchful. No person lived too far away
to receive a call from him. Some of the



GROWTH OF PARISH 67

most constant attendants lived farthest
from the church. He was careful about
absenting himself from the parish, lest
perchance he might be needed. How
he kept up this work year in and year
out was a puzzle to many. It was devo-
tion, the devoted spirit of the man.
A minister who knew him well, said, that
after making a friendly call upon Mr.
Brooks he came away feeling humbled
and inspired from listening to his talk of
parish work. Another said that his work
was always in the essentials, with no waste
on the mere machinery. To him, the
best method was personal relationship.

Instances of his helpfulness could be
shown in various ways. They all show
how the growth of the parish was helped.
During the early days of his ministry, a
certain church family, living at a distance,
had permitted their children to attend



68 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

another Sunday school. During an epi-
demic of diphtheria, before anti-toxin
days, several of the family were stricken
with the disease. No nurse could be
found. The neighbors were afraid to
venture near. The only person beside
the physician who entered the house
was Mr. Brooks. Although he had
children of his own, he was most faithful
in his visits and aid, and when they re-
covered, the distance to Christ Church
was not too great for them to attend.

He was ever on the alert to help those
in sickness or distress, and he was prompt
to relieve. He would consult a doctor at
once, procure a nurse and buy medicines,
or he would assume the responsibility
himself, if necessary in some cases, and
take a child or adult direct to the hospital.
Nothing was too trivial to escape his
attention if it would aid the suffering.



GROWTH OF PARISH 69

It was his genius for detail, expressed in
what he felt was the Master's work.

The same spirit of helpfulness was
shown in his relations with young men.
He invited them to his study and talked
over their aims and ambitions. He found
money to help some to go to college, and
while at college he made it his own busi-
ness to help others to employment. One
whom he helped has written, "He was
of great assistance to me. When I left
the Springfield High School I applied for
a position. Among my references I gave
the name of Mr. Brooks. The firm
decided that I could not have the position
because of my handwriting, which was
then very poor. When I told Mr. Brooks
of this, he called at the place, and prom-
ised on my behalf, although I knew
nothing about it, that if they would give
me a trial, he would see that I took writing



70 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

lessons in the Springfield Business School.
As a result of the efforts of Mr. Brooks I
obtained the position. Without his assist-
ance I know that I would not have had
the opportunity." He went from store
to store sometimes, seeking a position
for one of his parishioners.

In these practical ways throughout his
ministry he aided many people, and as
the years went by many of them pros-
pered, and by their loyalty to the church
and their respect for him they made it
possible for him to help others as he had
helped them. His parishioners never
failed to give him their loyal and liberal
support when money or other means
were needed in any work he undertook
for the welfare of others. They knew
that he was wise in his judgment, and
instead of eliciting criticism, he inspired
them with confidence.



GROWTH OF PARISH 71

Thus he became a refuge for many a
man and many a woman when in trouble
or distress. "Unconsciously he became
my pattern, for if he could bear the
anxieties and sorrows of life, he must be
sustained by some power which I must
gain to help me in my despair. No
wonder I became a faithful attendant
upon the church services, when I de-
pended upon them for comfort," were the
words of one of the many who recognized
the spiritual power which was in John
Brooks.



CHAPTER V

THE SUCCESS OF THE SOCIETIES

THE building of the parish house
proved to be a wise move on the part of
Mr. Brooks. It became the center of the
parish activities, and was admirably fitted
for the work of the church organizations.
On the first floor was a capacious room,
readily divided by glass partitions into
smaller rooms, in which a fireplace ad-
ded an atmosphere of hospitality. Here
the various societies met, the Girls'
Friendly Society, the Woman's Auxiliary,
and Junior Branch, the Mother's Club,
the Men's Club, the Young Communi-
cant's Society, the Parish Aid, and other
organizations from time to time. Above
was the chapel, where the Sunday school



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 73

met each Sunday, and where all the early
communion services were held. A well-
furnished chancel, a pipe-organ, and
memorial windows by LaFarge made the
chapel a place of worship exceptional in
the quality of its furnishings, while the
memorial windows made it an object of
pride to the people of the parish. In these
things Mr. Brooks showed his artistic
taste, as he did in later years, when by
the approval of the donors he planned the
subjects for five memorial windows in the
chancel of the church.

It was in this parish house that the first
convention of the new Diocese of Western
Massachusetts was held, and here the
first bishop, the Rt. Rev. Alexander H.
Vinton, D. D., was elected. Here also
the hospitality of Christ Church was
shown to the ministers of other churches
as they each month assembled as the



74 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

Ministers' Association of the City of
Springfield.

After Mr. Brooks' death every society
claimed that it was his special favorite,
thus showing that the members of each
organization considered their society a
successful one. The success of these
societies was due to three facts, first,
the careful selection of leaders in the
work, second, Mr. Brooks' knowledge of
the details of the work of each organiza-
tion, and third, his ability to impart to
others his own enthusiasm and spirit, and
a sense of their individual responsibility.

Mr. Brooks was one of the first to
recognize the value of the Girls' Friendly
Society, and to form a branch in Massa-
chusetts, which from its inception in
Christ Church, July 3, 1888, proved a
success. Young women, not only of the
parish but also of other churches, were



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 75

eligible to membership, and in a few
years the enrollment was over a hundred.
In this society might be found on Tuesday
evenings during the winter months classes
pursuing work of various kinds, such as
basket-making, millinery, and cooking,
and study on current events, literature,
and travel. One evening a month was
observed as a social meeting. Mr. Brooks
always kept a part of Tuesday evening
free, in order to attend the meetings of
the society, and the members appreciated
his interest in them. "How could we
help it?" said one of the members. "At
our socials he was ever ready to tell stories
at a moment's notice. I recall in parti-
cular a ghost story which he told at one
of our Hallowe'en parties, and it was
thoroughly appreciated by all."

While spending his vacation at Andover
one summer, he was invited by the



76 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

rector of Christ Church of that town to
his summer home at Boxford. The Rev.
Mr. Palmer tells the following incident:
"I had invited the Girls' Friendly Society
of my parish to Boxford, and also Mr.
Brooks, to take tea with us. After tea
some of the girls came to me and said
that they were desirous to have Mr.
Brooks tell them something about his
brother, the late Bishop. When I carried
the request, he refused. He said that
there was nothing to be said in public,
which the public did not already know.
But when I urged, he finally consented to
say just a few words. We had meantime
gone into the dining-room of the old
house, with its low, beam-crossed ceiling
and large fireplace. The girls sat on the
floor while he stood in front of the fire
and began to tell us about the life of the
home, where he and his brother were



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 77

children. Soon he became rapid : and
for nearly an hour he went on, recalling
incidents of that early life in Boston,
which was so like my own there that I
could see again the center-table of an
evening with its astral lamp, and the
father reading aloud, while mother and
the children sat looking and listening.
The big fire threw flickering lights about
the otherwise unlighted room. The girls
sat rapt in attention, with hardly a rustle.
His tall figure, his earnestness, his quick
utterance, his face strongly lighted on
one side and thrown into shadow on the
other, it all stamped itself on my
mind, and has remained as a clear-cut
picture. No one can interpret the per-
sonality of another without revealing his
own, and in the description of Phillips
Brooks we saw John Brooks."

It was this ability to adapt himself to



78 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

various occasions and his ease of manner
at such times that always made his per-
sonality felt, whether in the business or
the social meetings of the parish. When
a visiting member of the Girls' Friendly
Society was suddenly taken ill, he became
at once "a help and benefactor." A
letter came soon after from a member of
the visiting society saying, "I do not
wonder at the success of your branch
with such a chaplain and rector. I was
charmed with him all the evening, until
his tenderness with poor Ruth capped the
climax, and made me for always his ardent
admirer." She called the conference most
successful, and said, :< Christ Church
people have a genius for conferences."

When the admission services to the
Girls' Friendly Society were held, his
aim was to make them impressive and
helpful, and he talked to the girls as if



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 79

they were his own children. It was then
that many have said he was of the most
assistance to them. He seemed to see the
world as it looked to the schoolgirl, the
girl at home, and the girl at work. At
other times he would be ready with some
suggestion for better carrying out the
Society's motto, "Bear ye one another's
burdens." He helped every girl that
needed help, and when one was ill he
provided a bed at the hospital, if neces-
sary, and made sure that she was well
cared for; he noticed the careworn and
tired faces of those who needed a vacation,
and made it possible for them to go away
during the summer months.

One who was active in the Society for
years comments upon his efforts to make it
a success: "He would come to see me
and always give me something to do. To
call on this one and to ksk that one to



80 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

attend the Monday afternoon society.
And when next we met, he would remem-
ber to ask about these people. I used to
be astonished to know that he held so
many details in his mind. He told me
that he had very little time to call upon
the regular attendants at church. He
said that he needed to devote himself to
the new-comers, and those who could not
or did not attend church regularly, and
that he thought of each member of the
church in their relation to others, and
what he might do to help them. So when
he came to see me, I knew that he had
something for me to do. The Society
was very dear to him, and if possible he
was present at some time in the evening.
I have heard him say that he was proud
of being the only man allowed to be a mem-
ber. The girls always felt that a meeting
was more enjoyable for his presence.'*



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 81

An instance of how he encouraged
others, and planned during the summer
for the winter work is shown by this
quotation: "I am exceeding glad to
think about the Girls' Friendly Society,
as your welcome letter calls me to do. I
like your circular about the conferences in
all respects and have nothing to alter or
add. It is full and explicit but has
not Northampton a right to be included
in the list of parishes having Branches?
And now send it out early, and do not be
discouraged if but a very small propor-
tion of parishes respond cordially, for it
is the first approach, and I shall count on
a few earnest and devout women, enough
to hope for now am looking forward
to all the privileges of the winter work.
I shall be back Sept. 3rd. Have many
plans to tell you."

He became so interested in the work

6



82 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

of each society, that when the leaders or
members came to him they were always
sure to find a ready listener to all matters
pertaining to their work, and the hearty
support he gave to each one made it the
most natural thing to appeal to him. "I
felt that he left me alone almost too
much," said one of the leading workers.
"I always had to go to him, but when I
sat down in the study for a talk he always
made me feel that there was no work in
the world so well worth the doing as this
work. And that a little part of that work
was for me to do. He gave me fresh in-
spiration."

He selected the leaders for different
organizations with great care. Once he
asked a certain person to undertake a
particular work for which he felt that she
was especially fitted. "I never shall
forget," she said, "what a real help he



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 83

was to me. I used to go to the rectory
study with correspondence which troubled
me, questions which worried me, and
never was he too tired or busy to hear
and counsel. I do not think I would have
had the courage to undertake or the per-
severance to continue during those years
if it had not been for him. I remember
how he used to lift me out of the nervous
depression following those first public
meetings, when it seemed sometimes as
though I could never face another, and
even inspire me with a faint reflection of
his own indomitable courage. He always
seemed to grasp quickly the highest signifi-
cance of things ; he rose to the occasion
invariably, and in times of special need
we were never disappointed." From an-
other comes the same note of his ability
to inspire others, "I would go from his
study walking on air, feeling that there



84 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

was not anything I might not accom-
plish of God's work for me." He tried to
make others realize that it was their in-
dividual work that counted, and he did
not fail to let such people know that their
efforts were appreciated.

On Wednesdays for a number of years
a company of forty or more women would
assemble at the parish house. This was
called the Mother's Meeting, practical
talks were given each week, sometimes
a short business meeting was held, and
afterward there was a social tea. Mr.
Brooks usually appeared towards the
end of the afternoon. One might think
that this gathering of women, represent-
ing the different families of the parish,
came together as a matter of course. It
is easy for an outsider to get the idea that
church organizations grow without par-
ticular effort. Those who have attended



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 85

church for years on Sunday mornings,
and have heard the notices given out for
the various meetings of the week, often
think that that is enough to bring people
together. But church societies seldom
grow in that way, notices are evidences
of their existence, and that is all. People
who come from different parts of a city,
who are unlikely to meet in their own
neighborhood circles, must be drawn to
the church by some personal influence;
they must be invited again and again.
For years Mr. Brooks and his assistant
worked along this line, until one by one
the meetings grew. Here, as well as in the
other societies, were persons to be con-
sidered when confirmation came. Every
year each society was represented in the
confirmation class.

The influence of the missionary map
on the wall of the nursery in his early



86 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

Boston home never ceased to be felt dur-
ing his life. He had the true missionary
spirit, and instilled it into the missionary
societies of the church. "He was always
interested," said a member of the
Woman's Auxiliary, "always inspiring,
always lifting things to a higher plane of
thought, a higher level of service. He
would throw a society on its own resources,
ever desirous that the members should be
aware of his unchanging interest." To
another member he said one day, "Don't
let them think that Mr. Brooks is all ab-
sorbed in the new things. Tell them I
am just as interested as ever, though I
am not always able to attend the meet-
ings." How well he succeeded from year
to year in work for missions is evidenced
by the quality and quantity of materials
that were sent away, and by the money
that was raised. It is not too much to



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 87

say that few ministers have had a more
loyal and indefatigable band of workers
in missionary work than he.

During the latter years of Mr. Brooks'
ministry a Men's Club was formed, and at
its meetings, which were attended some-
times by a hundred men from the parish,
men of note addressed it. Among these
were Richard H. Dana, Talcott Williams,
Evarts Wendell, R. Fulton Cutting, and
Charles S. Hamlin. While the work of
the Club was carried on by the members,
Mr. Brooks was always much interested
in procuring the speakers.

Mr. Brooks gave such loyal support to
his assistants that it was a delight to
work with him, and because of his ap-
preciation of every honest effort, and his
own example and optimism, they were
spurred on to better work. It was a
work together, and not in different direc-



88 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

tions. Every morning he met his assist-
ant and talked over with him the plans
for the afternoon, as well as the work of
the preceding day. What one had ex-
perienced, the other learned; there was
none of the superior's air about Mr.
Brooks in these interviews; his frank
criticisms and words of encouragement
were helpful and often inspiring. Fol-
lowing the Rev. Daniel Dulany Addison,
his first assistant, came the Rev. Newton
Black, the Rev. William E. Hayes, the
Rev. Edward L. Atkinson, the Rev. James
DeW. Perry, Jr., the Rev. James C. Sharp,
the Rev. Edmund J. Cleveland, and the
Rev. Donald N. Alexander.

Mr. Brooks always kept in the closest
touch with the Sunday school organiza-
tion. In later years he seldom taught
a class himself, but devoted some of
his time to hearing the catechism, class



SUCCESS OF SOCIETIES 89

by class. Every Monday morning he
went over the class lists of the Sunday
school, learning thus the names of every
scholar and interesting himself in their
progress from year to year. When it
came time for confirmation, he would
often consult the teachers in the day
schools as well as the parents. In con-
nection with the Sunday school, the in-
terest which he took at Easter and
Christmas in the music was shown by his
efforts to procure the best of carols. One
of his unique methods to obtain these
was to write to his clerical friends, asking
for a copy of the carol which was his Sun-
day school's favorite. In that way he
obtained the best from other churches.

After returning from his summer vaca-
tion one year he was met by his new
assistant, who declared that he did n't
know what was going to be done about



90 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

the Sunday school, as more than half of
the thirty teachers had signified their in-
tention not to come back. Mr. Brooks
was amazed at this, and when he asked
the assistant what he had done, was an-
swered, "I thought I would find out if
they were intending to return, so I wrote
to each of them a letter." "No wonder
you are discouraged," said Mr. Brooks,
"you have made them suspect that they
are not wanted by your letters." The
next week Mr. Brooks called upon each
one personally and explained the error of
his new assistant. They all returned.



CHAPTER VI

TRAITS THAT HELPED

ONE September evening Mr. Brooks
stood upon the rectory steps, saying good-
by to a parishioner who had called to ob-
tain a letter of introduction to the rector
of another parish. "At this time of the
year," said Mr. Brooks, "I too receive
letters from other clergymen, saying,
* Dear brother, the star of my parish has
set." Then, with a whimsical smile he
turned, and presenting a letter that he
had just written, jokingly said, "I copied
one of those.'*

He was a man of rare humor and wit,
and it was a blending of humor and ten-
derness that sweetened his friendships.



92 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

Some, who regarded him only as a most
faithful and devoted minister, could have
had no suspicion of this trait, for in no
sermon or public address did he ever in-
troduce a touch of it: in them he spoke
with the deep earnestness which he
thought the pressing things of God's
Kingdom required. But those who knew
him as a man learned to appreciate with
delight his rich vein of wit and humor.
To a friend who had known him from
college days, "he bubbled over with
bright remarks, seeing the attractive and
droll side of events and people, without
one suspicion of malice. It was a joy to
sit with him for hours and enjoy his point
of view, so pat and illuminating when our
own was prosaic." A clergyman, an old
college friend, said of him, "I remember
on a visit to preach for me how our chil-
dren, usually shy of a visiting parson, and




.S S

w *






o

1 1

'



TRAITS THAT HELPED 93

deeming his coming somewhat of an afflic-
tion, were eager to sit in the study and
hear John talk. To this day my daughter
remembers the joy and laughter of that
visit."

His sense of humor was never studied
or for effect; it was natural and sponta-
neous. He did not try to preserve stories
for particular occasions, but always had
one that was a propos when the time came.
He passed easily from the lighter to the
more serious side of things, and was always
ready to treat serious matters seriously,
no one more so than he. By his sense of
humor, he would in a light, but merciless,
manner, ridicule sham and sentimental-
ity, for which he had no sympathy. To
tell how this trait entered into all the rela-
tionships of his daily life would be to reveal
how he won the lifelong friendships of his
people; how they learned to know him



94 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

and love him as a man; how he helped
and comforted them in the sorrows and
anxieties of life. He who possessed such
a keen knowledge of care and trouble
likewise had a keen sense of joy and
humor. Like Abraham Lincoln, a hearty
laugh would rest him and relieve the
strain. It refreshed John Brooks amid
the cares of his own life, and enabled him
to bring to others a courage and an op-
timism that often seemed impossible.

"How much he enjoyed my eightieth
birthday, when he came with others to
celebrate it," said one of his parishioners,
"and when Dr. Tomkins was here, Mr.
Brooks introduced me as belonging to his
infant class." It was a rare nature that
could joke in such a light manner, and
yet be for years a respected and honored
spiritual guide.

"I love to remember him at the Christ-



TRAITS THAT HELPED 95

mas tree exercises," said one who grew
up in the parish, and had attended them
for years. "His jocularity and wit al-
ways captivated the children, and grown-
up people as well. He entered so heartily
into the evening's fun. No one laughed
with more glee than he, and no one had
a better time." The next moment on
such occasions he might be found inter-
viewing some boys who had invited them-
selves to the festivities, regardless of their
non-union with the Sunday school of Christ
Church, or he might be found lecturing a
disorderly boy who knew in his heart that
he deserved the correction. Then he was
stern. There was little humor at such
times. His strong sense of what was right,
and his high idea of what right conduct
should be in Sunday school and choir,
made many a youth fear him at times.
But they would always find in him a friend.



96 JOHN COTTON BROOKS

In after years they realized that he had
acted for their best good and interests,
stern and unjust though they may have


1 3 5 6 7

Online LibraryJames Clement SharpJohn Cotton Brooks → online text (page 3 of 7)