Tate's first assignment came as assistant minister at Christ Church, Indianapolis, where he organized a school and a mission church called Holy Innocents. Tate was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Cruikshank Talbot of Indiana on 19 May 1867, and by the end of the year he accepted a call to become rector of St. Paul's Church in Columbus, Ohio. There he introduced a vested choir of men and boys that processed in behind a processional cross. The practice was popular in High Church dioceses, but it was opposed by Ohio's bishop, Charles McIlvaine. When the bishop ordered him to abandon it, he refused and was placed on trial at the American Church Union, a non-diocesan body designed to arbitrate in matters involving liturgical disputes. Tate had the confidence of his congregation, but decided to leave the Diocese of Ohio by the end of 1872, when he accepted the call to Trinity Fort Wayne. Bishop Talbot was more hospitable to Oxford Movement innovations and vested choirs.
Tate arrived in town with his wife Maria and their children, Wallace, Maria, and Colin. He was just in time to preach at Christmas Eve services in 1872. He began the new year by trying to instill a sense of discipline in the parish by encouraging the placement of limits on the amount of food and drink consumed by parishioners. This new asceticism may have had its roots in his training at Nashotah House, but the precise program he promoted is unclear. During Lent, he banned all church-related socials and attempted to kindle a new sense of piety withing the congregation by hosting a series of lectures by clergy from around the state. Tate planned his own sermons around the topic of temptation, looking successively at the temptations of the Prophet Joseph, King Davis, and Judas Iscariot. After Easter, he organized a choir, the church's first, which a church newspaper praised as being better than "the feeble performance of a quartette."
In 1873, in the wake of a national Depression, Tate spent much of the year focusing on a Social Gospel message, criticizing the church for not doing enough in Christian outreach and reaching the unaffiliated. He also became a strong advocate for temperance and decried the widespread abuse of alcohol in society. He also criticized the practice of pew renting, believing it promoted distinctions between rich and poor, but he made no changes to prevailing system at Trinity.
Tate was interested in promoting a High Church liturgy within the parish, and to that end, he secured from Lavinia Ewing Bond in 1874 the donation of a marble altar in memory of her late husband, Charles, the church treasurer. Constructed by Klaber and Company of New York City, the expensive fixture reflected his growing attention tot he way the Eucharist was celebrated. He also obtained a new silver communion set with two chalices, a tankard, and a paten, donated by Frances (Edgerton) Alvord in memory of her late husband.
Tate's evening sermons throughout the 1870s were often covered by the press and gave him the opportunity to preach on topics outside of the daily lectionary. A series of sermons given in 1875 featured such topics as "Religion among the Masses" and "Religion among Men." He was critical of the feminization of religion, saying that for many young men, going to church "is the equivalent to being as nearly like a girl as possible." He countered that view by emphasizing the masculinity of Christianity and the fact that Jesus preached more often to men than women.
In the late 1870s, Trinity was struck my lightning, but the ensuing fire did comparatively little damage except to a small section of the roof. In the wake of financial trouble in the parish in 1878, several vestrymen urged Tate to resign, which he did in July 1879 and gave a farewell sermon in August. After leaving Fort Wayne, he served parishes in Niles, Michigan, the Church of the Holy Communion in Chicago, and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Blue Earth City, Minnesota, where he organized a vested choir of men and boys. He died in Minnesota on 5 March 1904.
This page references:
- Maria Westin Tate, wife of Colin Campbell Tate of Fort Wayne
- Sarah E. Tate of Louisville, Kentucky, wife of John Tate and mother of Rev. Colin Campbell Tate of Fort Wayne
- Rev. Colin Campbell Tate of Blue Earth County, Minnesota, with Vested Choir, ca 1900
- Rev. Colin Campbell Tate, rector of Trinity Fort Wayne
- Rev. Colin Campbell Tate, rector of Trinity Fort Wayne, taken in Minnesota ca 1900
- Rev. Colin Campbell Tate at school ca 1850s
- Rev. Colin Campbell Tate at Trinity Fort Wayne, 1870s, line drawing