Ordination of Phebe Hanaford
February 19, 1868 — First Universalist Church, Hingham MA
My Dear Sister: —
It becomes my privilege, as the representative of the order to which we belong, to extend to you the fellowship of the churches, and of the ministers representing our denomination.
You have entered upon a work most important in its results upon the human race — a work of labor, and often one of trial. You will be called to scenes of sorrow and mourning; it will be yours to weep with those who weep, as well as to rejoice with those who rejoice, to sympathize with suffering in its various forms. And it will be your privilege to do this, and all the duties which fall to you, in reliance upon Him in whom is all your trust. It will be yours to instruct the young. It will be yours, sometimes, to offer words of rebuke; to administer words of warning; for the Gospel comes as a warning against all sin. It knows no respect of persons; when you preach it, you are to preach it fearlessly. ‘Some one has said, “Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may;” and this seems to me a fitting precept to be applied to this work. Have no fears then, in presenting these truths which Jesus taught, but apply them wherever there may be occasion and necessity. Jesus knew no distinction of persons. He used but one code of morals; sin was sin, wherever found, and it is for you to call all to the same standard of excellence which Jesus Christ himself presented. Sin is not to be overlooked because excused by society in a certain class; but men and women, whoever and wherever they be, alike need to be called, to purity and holiness of life. Spare no position or sex, but reproved, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
As a woman, you stand in some sense as a representative; as one of the earliest to assume the high office of the preacher, it is yours to maintain the position in which you now stand. Remember the words which you heard from the Scripture, “let no man despise you.” In your office, show yourself worthy of your high calling. Perfect yourself in the performance of those duties assigned to you. Be faithful, devoted and earnest. Assume every duty, every prerogative which pertains to the minister, and let it be your purpose to discharge them well. Let no one have occasion to say that you have come short in one particular, even the smallest of the duties which pertain to the Christian ministry.
It will be yours, as a woman, to sympathize with and aid suffering woman, who needs the sympathies of her sex.
It will be yours to strengthen those who suffer from the evil influences of the use of intoxicating drinks. Give them the hand of helping, and lift them up out of their sad estate.
Young women will look to you for instruction and guidance — for that sympathy which they have not found in the ministry in the years that are past. Be it yours to call them to a higher life. Jesus died for women — for all — to make known to use the Gospel; to make us free in that liberty which the Gospel alone can give. It will be yours to call these young women to the earnest defence of the Word, to awaken in them a true life, to teach them to live for God and humanity. And my prayer is, that you will have opportunity to lead some of the young women of your parish to consecrate themselves to the work of the ministry. I would that you might lead them up, to be sharers with us in this work.
In your work you are not unaided or alone. You are upheld by the most glorious faith that was ever revealed to the children of men; it will be to you inspiration and help. It will enable you to speak with authority because you speak of the same glad tidings that were published by Jesus Christ eighteen hundred years ago. You have always the consciousness of the presence of Jesus, and you may feel, too that the great cloud of unseen witnesses, spirits of the departed, of the fathers of our faith and of lovers in all ages are hovering near, speaking to your soul.
And more visible, but not more real, stand the great company of living witnesses, the whole household of your faith, dear brothers and sisters, who are praying for our success, earnest preachers of the Gospel who have preceded you in the Lord’s work; grave D.D.s who will hail with joy the coming of another devoted laborer; professors in our theological schools who should see in each cultured preacher of the word and added power for education and for truth. Young students of divinity who will look up to you as an example and a leader; all these will be with you in this glorious cause and in the name of all these, as their representative, I to-day offer you the right hand of fellowship in the Universalist denomination. You shall have our co-operation, our sympathy, our best wishes and our prayers.
You are welcome to the work — welcome to the labors, welcome to the triumphs, welcome to the sacrifices (for there are sometimes, yes, oftentimes, sacrifices to be made by the Christian minister), welcome to the rewards and the joys that come from the consciousness of doing good. And may it be that your ministry with us, will be long and richly blest. May God prosper you; may you see the fruits of your work, blossoming here about you like the sweet spring flowers, carrying joy to your heart, and to the heart of every beholder. Amen.
Source: Services at the Ordination and Installation of Rev. Phebe A. Hanaford: As Pastor of the First Universalist Church, in Hingham, Mass., Feb. 19, 1868; Sermons by John G. Adams and Olympia Brown, pps. 29-32.
Also: Suffrage and Religious Principle: Speeches and Writings of Olympia Brown, ed. Dana Greene, (Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1983), pp. 87-89.