« PreviousContinue »
NEW BEDFORD, Sept. 27, 1892.
To the Members of the First Congregational Society in New Bedford:
MY DEAR FRIENDS,- The time has come when I am constrained by a sense of duty to announce to you my desire and purpose to withdraw from the pastoral office which, by the kindness of this Society, I have held nearly thirty-three years.
I am moved to this action by no sudden impulse, nor is there need to assure you that it arises from no break in the harmony of our parochial relations.
For a considerable time I have contemplated such a step,- not with the view of retiring from the ministry, but that I may be free, after possibly a brief interval of rest, for a somewhat different kind of professional labor; or, at least, for carrying elsewhere the religious message which these years have made so familiar to you. During the period of active work which remains to me, and which I trust is not to be brief, I am convinced that I can use my resources to better advantage in a different field.
It is to be, I am aware, no easy nor pleasant incident thus to sever the various ties which bind us together-ties professional and personal, which, for many of you as for me, have been forming through the lapse of a generation. In bonds of sorrow and of joy, as well as by the interests of united religious endeavor, our lives have been knit into each other.
Nowhere else can I expect again to establish the home-feeling which has grown up for me among you, and in this place so near the spot of my birth and
the homes of my ancestors and kindred, and I shall hail it as a kind fortune if I shall be permitted, after my working days are finished, to return hither to spend in this community the remnant of my life. But that time is not yet; and meanwhile the voice of duty rather than sentiment is to be heeded. Believing that in the years immediately to come I can labor more advantageously elsewhere, I ask that you will grant me a friendly release from our compact.
By the terms of my settlement, notice of a desire on either side to terminate the relation was to be given six months previous to the act of dissolution.
The Society, however, would confer on me a special favor, if it should so far waive this condition as to allow my resignation to take effect on the 28th of next December, which will be the anniversary of my ordination and will bring my ministry to the full period of thirty-three years.
I feel the more free to request this concession, inasmuch as the junior pastor, who in his three years of service has proved himself amply and acceptably equipped for all pastoral duties, will then have returned from his absence in Europe, and will be on the spot to take up the work of the parish, with no break in its interests. I am happy in the thought that I can thus leave the Society well organized in its various departments, and advancing under earnest and vigorous leadership to improve new opportunities.
In the future as in the past, the harmony, progress, and welfare of this Society will ever be dear to my heart. By its generous liberality and aid, I have
been enabled to do what must now stand as the main work of my life. Both parochially and individually, beloved friends, my best wishes will remain with you and for you; and all your successes in the things that make for the highest interests of human existence will find grateful place among my own purest satisfactions.
With sincere and affectionate regard,
Reluctantly acquiescing at last in Potter's own view of the matter, the Society accepted his resignation with universal sorrow on October 2, in the following resolutions:
WM. J. POTTER.
Resolved, That the Senior Pastor shall on the 28th of December next be liberated from all duties to us in New Bedford, to the end that he may be enabled to preach or publish elsewhere the views so faithfully and well preached in our pulpit. He has been a moral power and intellectual centre in our city.
"His preaching has profoundly satisfied the loftiest spiritual and religious needs of ourselves and the many visitors to our services.
"While our love for him and our estimate of his value to us would never permit us to voluntarily allow his departure, yet, as it is solemnly required by him, we can still rejoice that others in other churches and in distant communions may share in the high expositions hitherto confined so much to us.
"Though we are but pupils of his, yet the views
upheld here are widely deemed to represent the status of this church, and it is fitting that in some sense we have our missionary. We extend to him our earnest wishes that his efforts may be blessed with success, and, to assist him therein, we request that he will accept from us the sum of $2,000 annually for five years to assist him in his proposed work.
"We shall be glad to hear his reports of the progress of the Liberal Faith, wherever he may be. We sincerely hope that the kindness of the future may enable us to hear his voice often, and in accordance with his request now accept his tendered resignation, to take effect as above."
The story of this beautiful and unique termination of so long a pastorate will be brought to a full and fit close by the following responsive letter:
New Bedford, Dec. 10, 1892. To the First Congregational Society in New Bedford: DEAR FRIENDS,- Most grateful acknowledgment is due to you for the very kind terms in which you have accepted my resignation of the pastoral office, and for your generous proposal to share the responsibility for the religious work which I have in mind to do elsewhere.
It is especially gratifying to me thus to have your moral support in the work, while the material aid you ask me to accept will relieve me from certain. anxieties and make me much freer in the work than I could be without it.
I am pleased, therefore, to stand in this relation to
you, as your missionary preacher in other parts of our land.
Since, however, unforeseen circumstances may arise which may make it desirable to modify or terminate the relation before the five years named in your vote shall expire, I assent, with the understanding that this arrangement shall not be binding beyond the time when either party to it may desire its dissolution.
Let me also take this opportunity to return my deeply felt thanks for the numerous individual expressions which have come to me of your friendly regard and affection. Though I am to hold toward you but little longer the pastoral relation, it will be to me a constant happiness to keep your religious sympathy, and to deserve, if I may, your continued friendship and good will.
Most sincerely yours,
On Christmas Day, 1892, Potter preached his farewell sermon on "Thirty-three Years: their End a Beginning." Henceforth he was a free missionary of free religion. Leaving Boston about a fortnight later, he preached in Chicago on January 15, 1893, and soon afterwards proceeded to California, where he spent about five months, preaching (mostly in Unitarian pulpits) in Pasadena, San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Francisco. In June he went to Colorado, where he spent the summer in resting from the fatigues of the winter and spring. Towards the last of August, he returned to Chicago, to attend