Chapter Eleven

The Episcopate of the Right Reverend Samuel Babcock Booth, D.D.

 

SAMUEL BABCOCK BOOTH became the choice of the next special diocesan Convention for the election of Bishop Coadjutor, which met at St. Paulís Church, Burlington, in February 1925.


A graduate of Harvard and of the Virginia Theological Seminary, Mr. Booth began his ministry as rural missionary in the diocese of Pennsylvania. Here with his unusual intellectual gifts and his winsome personality, together with his inexhaustible energy he had made a notable success, and his work became known throughout the diocese of Pennsylvania.
 

When the diocese of Vermont began to look for a priest who might be peculiarly fitted for the problems of this rural diocese, the name of Samuel Babcock Booth was presented, and he became the choice of the diocese.
 

Bishop Booth entered upon his work with enthusiasm, making friends quickly among both the clergy and laity, and having from the first the hearty cooperation of Bishop Hall who committed to his charge unreservedly the missionary work of the diocese.
 

For seven years as Coadjutor, Bishop Booth loyally and aggressively carried on the missionary work of the diocese, gaining the confidence of clergy and people alike. Then he was called to assume the sole charge of the diocese by reason of the death of Bishop Hall.
 

Full of years, with his mental faculties clear and unabated, yet with physical infirmities, Bishop Hall had so far as his health permitted con-tinued to make his visitations in the diocese for about twenty years after his health began to fail. His last visitation was at St. Lukesí Parish, St. Albans, where he had, while at the Rectory, made a misstep and had fallen downstairs. Though he partially recovered from the fall, it is believed that it hastened his death, for the end came a few weeks later at his home at Rock Point.
 

After an Episcopate of thirty-five years, with the reputation of a scholar and a preacher, not only in the diocese, but also throughout the country and in England. He laid down his work and entered into the larger life - February twenty-sixth, 1930.
 

After the burial service at Sr. Paulís Church, Burlington, on March first, attended by a large proportion of the clergy, and representatives from the laity from all parts of the diocese, the mortal body of the Bishop was interred in the burial plot at Rock Point.
 

Bishop Booth, taking up the burden of the Episcopate, thus laid down by his Father in God, challenged both the clergy and the people of the diocese to a renewed and heightened manifestation of Christian service. He was intensely devoted to what he felt was paramount, the surrender of manís whole being, body, soul, and spirit to Christís way of life through the acceptance of the teachings of the Catholic faith.
 

In his interpretation of this faith, he was an Anglo-Catholic, and he was convinced of the importance of this method of the interpretation of the Christian faith, yet he was tolerant in his attitude towards those who differed from him.
 

Bishop Booth cherished the plan of making Rock Point a diocesan center where clergy and people, young and old, might come for conferences, for fellowship and for retreats.
 

He was successful in developing this plan during the years of his Episcopate, and he was ably assisted in the details of these conferences and Retreats, involving the entertainment of many groups, by Miss Doris K. Wright who, as secretary of the Church Mission of Help, was able to enlist the aid of the girls of the school in helping to provide meals for the guests.
 

Bishop Booth was also instrumental in the building of the Outdoor Chapel in the grove at the Point where he initiated the custom of a Diocesan Rally Day each year for worship, inspiration and fellowship.
 

On the day of Bishop Hallís death, several members of the clergy met in conference at Rock Point to consider plans for the development of the diocese.
 

As a result of this conference it was decided to plan for the raising of a Centennial Memorial Endowment Fund.
 

It was regarded as a fitting time to enlist the interest of the diocese in such an effort as the one hundredth anniversary of the setting apart of Vermont as a separate diocese was at hand. The memorial character of the Fund was defined as consisting in raising a living memorial to the Bishops of yesterday by the extension of their labors and carrying on the plans for which they made such sacrifices.
The Bishops who were named in this memorial were: - The Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, DD, the first Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. William Henry Augustus Bissell, DD, and the Rt. Rev. Arthur Crawshay Alliston Hall, DD
 

Bishop Booth, aided by the Executive Council, the Trustees of the Episcopal Institute, and an Executive Committee with Hon. William H. Wills as chairman, were very efficient in this enterprise, supported by a staff of diocesan workers.
 

The results of this effort for the raising of a Centennial Memorial Endowment Fund, though disappointing in the amount actually contributed, owing to the financial depression, were large enough to warrant the undertaking and have aided materially in the furthering of the missionary work of the diocese.
 

Bishop Booth, by his forcefulness as a preacher, and by reason of his winsomeness and his sympathetic understanding of the spiritual problems of young people, became recognized as a spiritual leader not only in the diocese but beyond it; and for this reason the demands made upon him to conduct Retreats, and to engage in conferences in addition to his diocesan labors, were beyond his physical strength.
In 1934, the diocese granted him a leave of absence, and he went to France for a rest and while there he was in charge of the American Church in Paris. Returning after a few months and conscious of the needs of the diocese, he at once began to undertake the strenuous duties of diocesan life. Though far from well he did not spare himself, and while on a visitation at St. Petersí, Bennington, he became ill during the service and was taken to the hospital.
 

His sickness proved to be pneumonia, and after a heroic struggle for about a week, upheld by the prayers of the diocese, the Bishop was unable to cope with the disease and was called to the higher life on June seventeenth, 1935. His death in the prime of his service, so valuable to the diocese, and to the church at large, was a great shock to the diocesan family by whom he was so greatly beloved, and a deep bereavement to his wife and children.
 

The Burial Service took place at St. Paulís Church, Burlington, on June nineteenth, where a solemn Requiem Eucharist was celebrated, attended by the clergy and lay people of the diocese, and the Bishop was laid to rest under the Chancel of the Outdoor Chapel, one of the fruits of his labors.

 

 

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