10 April, 1902.
At a distance, Ignacz Timotheus Trebitsch might have been mistaken for Frank Burt. They wore the same spectacles and cloak. The same short length black hair, though Burt’s was straighter. The same drooped face, Frank Burt’s accentuated by floppy moustache.
Burt looked closer to thirty than his fifty. He’d gone from the New Jersey train to his Montreal lodgings, leaving bags, then straight to Reverend George Troop. The diocese secretary listened as Frank repeated his pitch. The London Jews Society was expanding globally so that a Montreal mission could support their Presbyterian counterparts; tap their experience; steer them from failure. McCarter’s resignation had set an unpredictable future in motion. Frank Burt was passionate, urgent, committed. The latest recommendations, he thought, may have altered his plans.
Next he called on the Anglican Archbishop, William Bond. Bond had the aura of a giant, a celestial grandfather. He listened to Burt’s pitch, and then renewed his support, as long as it stoked no rivalry with the Presbyterians.
Burt was to call on support from a member of the Synod, but his first stop was with the Presbyterian missionary at McGill. He was reading the lead, on the Belgian General Strike, when Burt found him.
“Mr. Burt, delighted to meet you.” Ignacz Timotheus took his shoulders firmly. “It’s been a long time coming. I only wish the circumstances were better.”
Burt solemnly nodded. “Yes, I received your letter just before I set out. I’m glad the Presbytery has full faith in you. Although Montreal will have two groups bringing Christianity among the Jews and that is worth re-thinking.”
He watched as Frank Burt’s passion drained into sobriety. Timotheus didn’t react to this immediately. “You are giving a sermon while here?” he asked.
“Several. The first is tomorrow night,” said Burt.
“I will do my best to attend,” said Ignacz Timotheus and made a note in his diary. “I concede your organisation is firmer suited than the Presbytery to draw on capital for this operation. However, I must honestly discourage you. Establishing a second, similar mission will foster division among our churches as well as the Hebrews.”
“Mister Trebitsch. The calling –“
“Timotheus…the mission would proceed only on kindness and co-operation; an understanding that though our practices differ we are of the same family.”
He contemplated this a moment, boiling up a smile.
“Well then, I withdraw my objections. Your approach is a strength I am all for being a part of. Now, how can I help?”
Featured image attribution: Frank Burt, from Bernard Wasserstein’s The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, Penguin Books.