This page contains the following chapters:
Being Notes of Common Life and Pastoral Work
in Saint James's, Westminster and in Saint Georges'-in-the-East
by the Rev
Harry Jones, Rector of Saint George's-in-the-East (Smith, Elder & Co, London 1875)
Pastoral and Ecclesiastical Economy
Pastoral and Ecclesiastical Economy
|This chapter argues that the parson should indeed be engaged in what he terms 'semi-secular' work, at what we now call the strategic level, by working for the improvement of living conditions, through housing and sanitary reform, for example (for this, as Scott Holland
said, is what an incarnational theology is all about); but that he
needed to be freed from the round of petty claims on his time as a
dole-giver and form-filler for the needy.
In the course of this book I have necessarily perceived that if I set
down my honest impressions I must not omit those concerning the Church
and position of the clergy which I have received in reviewing and
contrasting clerical work in the West and the East of London. And thus
I may as well speak of these matters at once. But, as I am conscious of
differing from some whose character and labours I respect, I approach
this part of my subject, not with misgiving, but with that sense of
possible exposure to unpleasant misapprehension which always
accompanies the utterance of sentiments which are not sure to meet with
general acceptance. This part of the subject is, however, in my
judgment, the most important, and I must say my say at the risk of
being misunderstood, and, in so far as I am fortunate in having
clerical readers, being possibly censured by some of them.
As in other professions, the work done by a clergyman depends upon the
man himself. It may be measured either by the way in which he
discharges his duty, the number of duties he undertakes, or the
character of the work to which he devotes himself. There is, however,
no work which may be pared down so close as that of the minister of the
Church. His commission is solemn and enormous, but the defined routine
of his labours is practically small. When he lives a decent and sober
life, performs the conventional services of his Church, reads a couple
of sermons aloud on Sunday, and holds himself ready to advise and
exhort the people committed to his care, 'as need shall require and
occasion shall be given' — he being virtually the judge of such need
and occasion — it would be difficult to bring him to book for any
neglect of his duties. Compared with that of many in other callings,
his fixed work is very light. It presents a remarkable contrast not
only to that of the day-labourer, but to that of men in most liberal
Practically the best part of his time is at his own disposal, and it is
to the credit of the clergyman when, as is frequently the case, he is a
busy or hardworking man. Though he is not paid for overtime, it is the
exception to find him contented with the discharge of the bare duties
of his post.
The question then arises, how shall he supplement these fixed
functions, in what way shall he spend himself for the good of the
people among whom he is placed? How shall he so use his position,
opportunities, time, and strength, as best to serve God in the
promotion of truth, righteousness, and love?
To some degree the form which his labours shall take has been
conventionally determined for him. His weekday ministration, especially
in the cities and towns of England, has somehow assumed a definite but
often a small, monotonous, and depressing shape. He is frequently
occupied in the discharge of minute fragmentary details which have come
to be accepted as characteristic of his ministry; but the pressure of
which sometimes, I fear, tends to dissipate or weaken his perception of
the weightier matters of the law — the great law of God, which rules
the world. The importunity of small continuous demands upon his time
and strength disposes him unconsciously to overlook or miss the operation of the great principles of life.
'Pastoral work', as it is called, moves mostly in narrow ruts, and
gives limited and broken views of the field of labour. House to house
visitation, sick visiting, provident clubs, penny banks, institutes,
day, night, and Sunday schools, classes, lectures, mothers' meetings —
with the inevitable accompaniments to all these things of local
regulations and petty discrepancies of practice — occupy his time. And
yet, in the face of all this strenuous carefulness of industry,
inspired by incessant desire to be doing good among the 'poor' or the
'working classes', what is really their general attitude towards the
Church as a centre and channel of Divine influence?
for an example from one of Harry Jones' brother clergy, at St Matthew
Pell Street, of someone needing a form to be signed but objecting to
any enquiry about her spiritual well-being.
I refer mainly to that recognition of the minister's work which is
be seen in the attendance of those classes I have alluded to at the
public services of the Church. This is, of course, not a final measure
of righteousness, but it certainly is a fair test of the concern shown
in the purely spiritual work or assumed spiritual work of the minister.
And I fear that the most experienced will agree with me in saying that
in cities, at least, this daily care and toil results in the smallest
appreciation of the clergyman's spiritual mission by those for and
amongst whom he mainly works. They value him chiefly for what they can
get out of him in a worldly sense. I know that there are exceptions to
this statement. Every clergyman can give examples of satisfactory
religious appreciation of his weekday pastoral ministry. But, looking
at the multitude of those amongst whom he works, these examples are not
so much examples as exceptions. As a rule the bulk of them must be
counted indifferent or suspiciously accessible. Let the parson grind
ever so arduously in this semi-secular mill of pastoral routine, let
him be provided with ever so much kind help in the way of district
and the like, and what is the result? The poorest, most pauperised, and
dependent among the working classes, look on the Church as a reservoir
of tickets; and the most independent shrink from, or civilly tolerate,
any intercourse which professes to be religious, but which is quietly
supposed or assumed to be tainted with a desire to patronise and
dictate on the part of the parson and his church helpers. Thus his
weekday work, especially in a crowded London parish, often comes to be
small, monotonous, and depressing.
I am far from saying that I think these lesser ministrations should be
despised or stopped. While people have bodies as well as souls, there
must be care and kindness shown towards the physically helpless. It is
impossible, however, for a clergyman to attempt the substantial and
direct relief of the mass of 'those who want' within the limits of his
cure. Other national agencies exist for this purpose. While he should
be quick to perceive the necessities of those who by a judicious
helping hand may be kept from slipping down into pauperism, his chief
aim in that part of his work which is not directly clerical, but
supplements his 'spiritual' duties, should be aimed at the causes of distress. A parson must not be
above small ministrations, or affect unconcern for the least cares of
the most commonplace life; and every parish should be provided with
pastoral machinery fitted to aid him in the exercise of true kindness
towards the miserable and degraded ; but there is an incalculably
higher side to worldly ministrations than is exhibited in the constant
effort to trim the ragged edge of pauperism and improvidence.
And even in the most judicious exercise of pastoral care for the needy,
it is not the chief or conspicuous business of the parson to attend
personally to these details. We have a very early example of the
hinderance to the larger phases of ministerial work caused by the
serving of tables, and the daily ministration to querulous widows. The
first apostles soon found that these items of pastoral work hindered
them in their proper business, which was chiefly 'the ministration of
the Word'. And now the same little circle of minute importunity ever
surrounds the man whose charge is, in the language of the Ordination
Service, 'Take thou authority to preach the Word of God and to minister the Holy
Sacraments in the congregation where thou shalt be lawfully appointed
Now I am sure that the parson of the parish is often perplexed and
distressed in the consciousness of the pressure of duties not strictly
in accordance with this charge. Many people, however, have small idea
how much he is pressed with secular parochial personalities which have
little or nothing to do with his real office. I must, therefore, for a
little while, return to the picture, familiar to the eye of most
parsons in London who serve in an anywise populous parish.
The same sort of people apply daily for letters to the dispensary or
hospital, when in many cases all they want is a twopenny powder for the
baby, or a pill to correct the disagreeable effects of too much gin.
Every parish, too, has its share of floating semi-paupers who beg
wherever they see a chance of netting a shilling or a ticket, and who
are never radically bettered by the alms they manage to get. True,
these alms occasionally serve to quench the hunger or warm the flesh of
some poor body, and so shed a few rays of physical comfort on a
miserable life, but they do not raise that life into a higher level. It
is, however, very painful to adopt an attitude of constant resistance
towards these dull suppliants, and to refer them to the relieving
officer. It is, on the other hand, distressing to spend so much of year after year in blocking the weak balls which
they bowl at the wicket of 'Charity'. It is also depressing to submit
to their importunity, and, after having been thanked thousands of
times, to find that part of the procession which is under your eye
become perhaps a shade more importunate and shabby, while you are
conscious that, as it disappears, another, I can hardly call it
'fresh', squad is moving into notice, inheriting apparently the very
clothes and difficulties of the first.
All this and such as this goes far to make what has in many instances
(though with a deviation from the original purpose of his office)
become the prescriptive daily work of the parson, sadly monotonous and
disheartening. Especially is this the case in a commonplace town
district, which is a fold without a fence, ever invaded on all sides by
wanderers in the desert of London; and, after years of such toilsome
application as I have just indicated, presents the same phases of
improvidence and distress as challenge the enthusiasm of the new comer.
I cannot resist the growing conviction that far too much is made of
these details. The parson must do some semi-secular work, but I am
persuaded that it should be mere organic and radical than it frequently
is. If the minutely toilsome style of pastoral ministry which at
present characterises the labour of a large proportion of the most
devoted among the clergy is to be measured by its effect in attaching
those on whom it is bestowed to the religious ministrations of the
Church, it must, as I have already said, be pronounced a failure. If,
on the other hand, this ministerial trouble of which I speak is taken
merely with a view to relieve the most distressed among the poor of a parish, it resolves itself into an
attempt to do what should be done by the law, and a parson becomes
little better than an amateur relieving officer. The result in either
case is the perversion of a sacred office and the promotion of a false
feeble standard of clerical duty, or a waste of energy which might be
better employed. The clergy, as a rule, are thus far too much exposed
to the wearying service of tables. Many fret at and resent it with the
distinct consciousness that the force and heat which should be reserved
for their services and sermons, and for larger, more organic work, is
frittered away. But they find it difficult, I will not say to shake themselves free from
the accretions of accumulated parochial ivy which smother them, but
even to loosen the clinging grasp which this system of petty secular
ministration has got upon their order. I am sure, though, that in many
a parish, especially in London, the oppressed and entangled parson
would find an incalculable lift in his real work and genuine influence
if he would draw freely upon his moral courage, and delegate to others
many of these worldly ministerial details; or, if he cannot find others
to attend to them, simply leave them undone while he puts his back and
heart into the work of his Church, into his services and sermons. These
should come first.
I am the more forced to this conclusion by the aspect of that part of
the metropolis in which I now live. The East of London is conspicuous
for its preponderance of poor or working people. The perception that he
is surrounded by thousands among whom he can hardly find a family or a
person of leisure might compel the clergyman to shrink from any attempt
to cope with the burden of toil he would bring on his shoulders if he
set himself to minister individually to the detailed wants or
importunity of everyone who might be likely to apply to him for some
form of relief. He cannot, however, see distress, ignorance,
improvidence, and dirt without the keenest pain. lie must do his best
to abate it. How shall he try to do so? My answer is, by allying
himself with the larger forces of order and health; by working on
radical organic principles, and not plaguing himself with the
correction of the last ultimate details of the mischief that results
from social imperfections. A parson is generally a man of liberal
education, and capable of large
views if he will use his eyes, and step outside the narrow field of
vision traversed by a procession of semi-paupers, and spotted with
little parochial sores. The minute experience necessarily gained in the
sight of these should raise him from the letter to the spirit of
is, moreover, frequently, in the East of London, one of the very few
persons resident in his parish, who are in a sufficiently independent
position to take a leading part in wide measures of sanitary and social
improvement. Let him realise this, and not think to forward the real welfare of his district by only pottering after pauperized seekers of dole, and sitting at the receipt of halfpence and the distribution of tickets. He may do much more important and righteous secular work. Let him strive to promote any likely measure of social reform. Let him look for and use the wind of genuine public sentiment to fill his sails, and not make his back ache with paddling his canoe about the parish pond, and distressing his nostrils with the odours stirred up by every stroke of his oar. There is always some large wholesome scheme for the bettering of a district on hand, or capable of being set in movement. Let him turn to this. The parson should be in the forefront when a question about the cleansing, rebuilding, or sanitary bettering of any part of his parish is in doubt or under discussion. Let it be known, moreover, that he aids in this divinely, in the cause of righteousness. This helps to consecrate and strengthen the parochial influences that may be in operation. Few people, moreover, are so blind as not to see that this phase of clerical toil marks the exercise of a godly office. Thus his work cuts both ways. The message of the God of order is felt to be in utterance. The truest and best friends of social improvement respect the aid a parson thus gives, and see in him a man who is not only 'kind' to the poor after a small and fragmentary way, but who is an ally and promoter of righteousness in the largest sense of the word. And they hear with deeper confidence what he has to say in the more direct professional discharge of his sacred office. They look on him as a leading worker and colleague in social reforms, and not as a mere kindly man whose visits are always tinged with a suspicion that he is about to ask alms in aiding some little scheme for helping poor people, which generally results in leaving them where they were, or perhaps in encouraging the improvidence and beggary which all deplore. Moreover, his strenuous pains in promoting hearty services and good preaching in his church will, as it gathers a sympathizing congregation around him, chime in along with and further these larger ways of work. Just as Christianity spread at first, by appeals to the centres of intelligence and civilisation, the great cities of the then world; so Christian work, closely allied to 'the ministration of the Word' in the congregation, is forwarded by recourse to the wider organic movements of mankind, rather than by a minute, laborious, and persistent attempt to knit up the ragged fringe of distress caused in great measure by improvidence, and ignorance of the laws of life.
I am convinced, moreover, that devotion to small ways of work not only diverts energy from a much more effective way of working, but it weakens a man's power to 'minister the Word', which is a leading phase of a clergyman's duty. I do not refer merely to the physical exhaustion inevitably attendant on prolonged pastoral visitation which, week after week, leaves a man to sit down to the Saturday preparation of his sermon with his boiler half empty of steam, but also to the sense of failure which accompanies a phase of parochial toil that does not result in bringing the poor to church, and to the small habit of thought which this is too likely to engender or confirm.
Perhaps my reader may think this is all very well, but what has it to do with the East and West of London? I reply, that though I, for one, cannot realise my ideal of what preaching should be, the necessity for pains in preaching has presented itself to me more than ever since I moved from the West to the East. In the West of London a clergyman frequently finds a relief from the irksomeness and depression of unappreciated week-day ministration among the poor, in the presence of a Sunday congregation mainly composed of educated well-dressed persons, who belong to a class which has inherited the habit of attending divine service, and who in some parts of the metropolis go to church as a duty, be the preacher never so dull and the service never so dreary.
I do not think it is so in the East. You could find, I take it, very few churches there which 'fill' as a matter of course. People as a rule don't attend service unless they are really interested. I do not say they do not come to 'worship'; they certainly, however, are not indifferent to the sermon, and do not attend in any numbers where they are likely to hear a dull or lifeless one.
everywhere, an able and earnest preacher has a special 'following'. But
I am persuaded that some men with no very marked natural gifts of
preaching would find themselves well repaid in righteous influence and
result, and lifted into interests which would sweeten and correct the depression of week-day toil, if they would devote very much more pains and time to the preparation or choice of their sermon than they do. Nay, I believe that, except perhaps in strictly pewed churches where the poor are virtually repelled by the arrangement of the fabric, they would find a grateful increase in the number of the working classes who attend the services of their church, if they would take more trouble about the 'ministration of the Word'. Working people in London do not attend public worship unless they are directly and distinctly interested in what they hear. It is not the custom of their class to do so, and thus the proper ministration of the Word to them is not solely a matter of divine impulses, but should involve carefully divine work. The putting of his freshest thoughts into the best language he can find, i.e. the best suited to his people, is part of the preacher's work. Let him jot down his hot thoughts, then let him hammer them — whether for 'extempore' delivery or not is not to the point; but he should cook his dish as well as he can, and not give it to the people raw. And when a man feels that he has a message to deliver, and takes pains to deliver it to the best of the ability that God giveth him, he is pretty certain to find some people of all classes willing to hear it. I am sure that if he worried himself less about the details of semi-secular ministration, or, by system, and by the getting of other people to attend more to them, shifted their continuous importunity from his mind, and used the time and force thus saved in the preparation of his sermon, i.e. in the ministration of the Word, he would anywhere work with larger aims, a better result, and more hopeful prospect.
I can fancy, however, that some might say, 'Oh, you really draw people to your church by mixing with them in their homes, and taking part in their social life'. I doubt if everyone can produce this result.
A man of kindly human heart, who in the daily intercourse of life is obviously ready to 'weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice', will naturally draw people by his ordinary conversation to attend the services of the church which he serves. He exercises the magic of charity, even though he does not bestow his goods to feed the poor. But the most conscientious and methodical system of ticket relief and tea-drinking entertainments does not lead them to church, unless, indeed, these doles and treats in the vestry or the schoolroom are made to depend upon their attendance in the house of God. In this case, however, the whole business of alms and worship is worse than useless. It degrades those who give and those who take.
The only legitimate 'attraction' to public worship — I use the word in its best, not in its histrionic sense — is to be found in the reverence with which the services are conducted, and the godly sense and warmth with which the Word is preached. Men are drawn to any good purpose only by devotion and truth, not by bribery. And this holds good whatever the sense may be to which the bribe appeals, or whatever the shape it presents.
chapter is a detailed argument against the creation of 'district
churches' (which in due course become separate parishes) within large
urban parishes - a practice widespread in London and elsewhere at the
time. It is based on his experience both at St Luke Berwick Street and,
perhaps to a lesser extent, St George-in-the-East, where prior to his
coming district churches had been established at Christ Church Watney
Street (1841), St Matthew Pell Street (1848), St Mary Cable Street
(1850), St Peter London Docks (1866) and St John the
Evangelist-in-the-East Golding Street (1869). His preference is
for retaining large parishes, with which people identify more naturally
(a district church 'has no traditional corporate vitality'); which
relate - more or less - to local government structures; and which can
be run with a team of clergy staffing mission churches and other
projects, the whole organisation benefiting from the economies of
scale. He includes comments on the ritualism riots at St
George-in-the-East - acknowleding that he is treading on 'thin ice' - and argues (though this was not the case here) that
a free-standing 'district' church is more open to 'extremism' because
it lacks appropriate checks and balances. He concludes by considering
how a parson can relate to his people: it is no more possible for him
to relate to, say, 5,000 in a district church than to 25,000 in a large
parish. The answer lies in collaborative working with clergy and lay
colleagues, and other agencies (such as the Charity Organisation
Society). This is what today is termed the 'minster model' of parochial
organisation: a central 'mother' church working closely with a number
of local 'plants', and with secular organisations.
The general drift of this last chapter now leads me to remark, that I think the excessive entanglement of the clergy in minute semi-secular pastoral work, has been unwittingly promoted, to some extent, by the subdivision of large parishes in the poorest part of London. I would now, therefore, venture to say a word about this process, which has been adopted in order to meet what are termed the spiritual needs of large populations. In several places these subdivisions have been productive of much good. Some young broods dismissed from the parent nest have been able to take care of themselves. They have indeed not
carried with them the vital spark of corporate life, but having within
their boundaries a large admixture of classes, they have risen above
sheer Congregationalism, and become fresh centres of parochial
vitality. In the case, however, of poor districts cut off from a mother
parish, and having neither inside their limits, nor within easy reach,
any reserve of well-to-do people, it has been found exceedingly
difficult to rouse them to a feeling of corporate life, or even to
retain such as the new district had originally contributed to the
well-being of the mother parish. In these too often the 'new vicar' has
been plunged, and left up to his shoulders in a pond of poverty. In
some instances his individual enthusiasm and industry has floated the
district during his incumbency, but it has sunk under other management.
The 'poor' district parish gets no 'way' upon it, as a sailor would
say. Its parochial life is intermittent, according to the energy of the
incumbent. If he happens to be ill-suited, or to become exhausted,
almost the whole parochial life stops.
This, of course, is in some measure true of any place or post, but it
is sometimes specially and sadly conspicuous in the case of those which
have no permanent parochial machinery that goes on working somehow,
however deficient in energy and ability or fitness the incumbent may
be. One of the thoughts that presents itself to me with recurring and
special prominence, now that I am attached to the Mother Church of a
large parish, though by no means a rich one, is the disadvantage under
which some incumbents of what we call 'District Parishes' labour. I
never before so appreciated the importance of the 'parochial unit' in ecclesiastical as well as civil life.
A 'District Parish' marks a departure from one principle of a national
or established Church. It has no traditional corporate vitality. It
inherits next to nothing of that which is historically associated with
the idea of a parish, and which binds it together. Those secular
affairs which are sometimes not sufficiently appreciated by the
clergyman — though the connection of these with his post in a
national Church is involved in the fact that the Rector or Vicar is
generally the chairman of the vestry — and which secular affairs deeply affect the relationship
between the people and the parish priest, are discharged by the vestry
of the mother parish, in which body the distinctive existence of the
district parish is unrepresented and unrecognised. Indeed, in most
large parishes there are civil parts which do not coincide with its
ecclesiastical districts. Along with the new portions cut off by the
Ecclesiastical Commissioners are 'wards' or 'divisions' having no
separate interests, but contributing to the convenience of central
management. The ward or division has, however, no connection with the
District Parish or its objects. That, for example, in which I worked
for some fourteen years — I mean the district of St. Luke's, Berwick
Street — though lying entirely within the parish of St. James's,
Westminster, is not conterminous with the 'Berwick Street Division' of
that parish. Its Incumbent and churchwardens, as such, have no place or
voice in the body which administers its parochial law, and is responsible for
sanitary and other regulations. If they take any part in any civil
movement which concerns the ecclesiastical division of their parish, it
is not an official part. The district churchwarden may happen to be a
member of the vestry, but, as churchwarden, he is impotent and ignored.
The incumbent fares worse, for though the old rector or vicar is
generally ex-officio chairman of the vestry, and thus the interest of
the clergyman in the civil government of a parish is recognised in the
National Church, the new vicar can belong to the body which regulates
the parochial concerns of the inhabitants of his district only by
dropping his ecclesiastical claims and seeking election as a civil
representative of ratepayers. It is true that in one way or another I
myself, while at St. Luke's, Berwick Street, frequently interfered in
questions which concerned the welfare of the mother parish, and
involved that of the district; and I many times spoke to the Vestry. I
did not, however, belong to it. I had simply a voice by courtesy, but
no vote, and no right to speak.
Moreover, in a District Parish even its peculiar socially religious
business, such as that of baptisms and marriages, is frequently carried
on with small reference to its separate existence. Almost all the
marriages — from that of St. Luke's, Berwick Street — were celebrated
at the mother church of St. James's. Though called 'a parish for
ecclesiastical purposes', it has often in the public mind no recognised
corporate religious status. Being without those inherited social
processes which compel the recognition of such an existence, and hold a
parish together, it becomes practically a body without bones, a fold
without a fence. To recur to my own experience, the residents,
especially ratepayers, in St. Luke's knew very well that they lived in
St. James's parish; but unless they were specially told so by the
Incumbent or his assistants, they very seldom knew that St. Luke's was
ecclesiastically the church of their parish; and when they were so
told, they did not care two straws about the information. Indeed,
repeatedly in the earlier part of my incumbency I was told by persons
on whom I called, and who looked on me as a touter for local 'patronage', that they preferred attending the
services of their 'parish church', i.e. not that of their
My morning congregation was chiefly composed of outsiders, and though
in time my evening congregation was fairly representative of the
district, and was a good one, its members took no corporate interest in
its existence. I state the following fact especially in support of what
I have last stated. For fourteen years a meeting of residents in the
district was summoned every Easter Monday to choose district
churchwardens. And we never got a meeting. On each occasion we were
obliged to send out to beg two or three neighbours to come in, so that
the small quorum might be made which would enable us to discharge our
The flock of the district parson is, indeed, not so much a flock as a
fortuitous concourse. His church work is mainly congregational, not
parochial. Of course he differs from the congregationalist pure and
simple in being the servant of anyone, let his religious persuasion or
creed be what it may, who lives within the boundaries of his district.
This is, indeed, the great practical use, the raison être,
of the Establishment. There are frequently people who have occasion to
use the services of a clergyman, but who are without, and have no
desire to create, that claim upon his ministration which is involved in
their being 'members' of his congregation or supporters of his schemes.
Their wants are met by an Established Church. The parson is the
minister of all within a fixed limit. Anyone living inside one of the divisions mapped and hedged by the Ecclesiastical
Commissioners, after ignoring the parson for years, may summon him to
discharge religious, ecclesiastical, and some social acts which legally require
his concurrence. He has no right to refuse these ministrations to any
within his bounds. He is a parish servant. But his public ministerial
work generally takes a congregational shape; and in the District Parish
this Congregationalism is inevitably most prominent; for there, as I
have said, any corporate church life depends almost wholly on the
personal influence and organising powers of the incumbent for the time
I was very much struck by this on coming to
St. George's in the East,
and comparing my reception by the residents in St. Luke's, fifteen
years before, with that accorded me, a stranger, by the parishioners of
St. George's. It is true that in time I made many kind friends at St.
Luke's, but though I came with a good character from my last place in a
neighbouring parish, the district, as such, did not care a button about
the new man. It was otherwise at St. George's. There, on my first
Sunday, a large number of representative parishioners attended the
church simply because it was the parish church in which a fresh
incumbency had begun; and a very considerable proportion of these were
Nonconformists, who, though they had their own places of worship, and
were strongly attached to them, entertained the parochial sentiment so
deeply as to leave them deliberately for that day, and give the new
Rector a welcome. It was indeed distinctly intimated to me at the time
that the concourse arose from inherited regard for the Parish Church,
and that I could not expect to see the majority present themselves
again. Now, considering that St. George's in the East has been made a
bye-word of parochial reproach, and supposed, most unjustly I think, to
exhibit an attitude of antagonism toward the Rector, as such, this
reception of a stranger made a deep impression upon me. Numbers of
Nonconformist parishioners went out of their way to greet him thus,
simply because he represented a tradition which they respected, and a
corporate sentiment which they felt. Here was, to me at least, a
revelation of the strong life resident in the parochial body, and of
the radical value of the parochial unit which is well-nigh lost or
non-existent in a 'district'.
I must confess that this personal experience has, among other things,
led me to question the wisdom of that continued subdivision of 'poor'
London parishes which has lately been much in vogue. No doubt in all
parts of the metropolis valuable zeal has been called into play under
that sense of personal responsibility which the district Incumbent
feels, and in the wealthier parts of London these subdivisions have
been followed by a large increase in the work and the good done by the
Church. Such new districts having a fair admixture of classes within
their limits, or near at hand, have been able to hold their own, and in
many instances have become fresh centres of corporate life. But the
mere abundance of population in a parish is not, I think, a sufficient
reason for dividing it. In some cases the new district is not only
started without any tradition of distinct and self-contained existence,
but is from the first viewed with the scant respect accorded to a 'poor
relation'. I believe that the good contemplated can sometimes be done
without severance of relationship to the parent stock, and at a very
much less cost than the creation of a new district parish involves. As
it is, great expense
is incurred in the building of new churches, which expense, moreover,
involves considerable permanent expenditure to keep up a fixed
consecrated building, when cheap mission-rooms, officered by a
well-paid staff, attached to the Mother Church, would have done the
needed work as well or better. I will speak more of this presently. As
it is, the help which might have been granted to the central work is
sometimes drained or begged away for struggling districts whose
to maintain a separate and costly 'plant', and are always up to their
ears in pauperism. Moreover, the sympathetic support and society likely
to be enjoyed by a strong central body of clergy is lost in a partition
of interests. I cannot help thinking that there has been enough of this
carving of the old centres of parochial life in the poorer parts of
London. You may cut slices off the original body, but you cannot
inevitably propagate parishes, like verbenas, by cuttings. The new
district is a new creation — in some places an excellent one; in others
a new centre of despondency, in which the Incumbent has to fight an
exceptionally sore battle, heavily weighted to begin with, and is
cumbered with what is now an increasing care — the provision of
assistant-curates who, as a rule, prefer the parish to the district
Of course it may be asked, What should be done in cases where the
incumbent of a large mother parish is idle or incapable? Should not his
incapacity be remedied by the introduction of fresh blood, and
thousands of neglected souls be saved from the mischief resulting from
central impotence? It must be remembered, however, that the character
and capacity of a central Incumbent is necessarily uncertain. His
ability is no more to be questioned or assumed than that of any
Incumbent. An old populous parish may possibly, from illness, or
accident, or other causes, be deprived for a time of suitable
supervision, and during that time be so split up that a man of fair
administrative powers, who could have organised the work of the whole
place, finds himself positively hampered in his work by a partition of
interests, in the creation of which large sums have been sunk.
Possibly, too, in some cases, divisions of the original parish may be
badly looked after. But they are 'parishes for ecclesiastical purposes', and
he cannot interfere; he cannot use the traditional corporate life of
the mother parish with which he is associated, in remedying the
deficiencies of the district.
I now feel that I have reached a patch of thin ice in my ecclesiastical
course, and prepare to cross it with some apprehension. But it lies in
my way, and it is not I who have made the path 'dangerous'. I must get
over it as well as I can, unless I shirk the spot, and devote myself to
keeping in a safe and roundabout road. The point which I now wish to
draw attention to is this. While considering the effects of parochial
subdivision, we cannot avoid noticing that it is in district churches
that the tendency some clergymen feel toward a development of their
sacerdotal appetites has conspicuously grown, especially in London. I
am here only observing a fact. I do not want to throw stones at
Ritualists, for I hope I have sense enough to appreciate and rejoice at
any good that may be done within the law. The true catholicity of a
Church is measured, not by the number of those within its border who
hold the same views, but by the varieties of opinion allowed to such as
profess loyalty to its principles and doctrine. Still it must be
conceded that they are chiefly district churches in which differences
of opinion and practice have been pushed to an extreme; and it is there
that they have struck such roots as they have. The Incumbent of a
parish church is, however, necessarily associated with a body of
laymen, who have it in their power to check excessive ritualism; but in
a District Parish the case is otherwise. There the Incumbent may
generally do pretty much what he likes. It is mainly in district
churches — I speak of the metropolis — that the confessional has been erected, that system of sacerdotal direction been revived, which, joined with a minute observance of ritual, has led to much disrespect for, and complaint against, the National Church on the part of the great body of laymen throughout the realm. These things are not tolerated in a parish which possesses a traditional governing body associated with the minister. I make no personal reflection on anyone. I appreciate and admire the ministerial devotion of many so-called Ritualists. All I want to do is to notice a fact; and a fact is sometimes made clearer by an example.
My present parish, St. George's in the East, was once unhappily conspicuous for its riots; but it must be remembered that the feeling out of which these riots grew was originally one of resentment towards what the bulk of the parishioners, rightly or wrongly, believed to be illegal sacerdotalism. Indeed, they were actuated originally by precisely the same sentiment as moved the House of Commons to pass the late Public Worship Act. It must be allowed, that though there were, no doubt, very disgraceful scenes witnessed under the roof of our church as the dispute grew, and though very many outsiders came from all parts of London to take one side or another in the strife, and though the strife was encumbered by the presence of some who cared nothing for the merits of the case, but came only because they liked disturbance, and wished to insult anything in the shape of religion, the original cause of complaint on the part of the parishioners was intelligible enough, and some form of resentment on their part defensible.
|The Public Worship Regulation Act
of 1874 - a response to various ritualism trials in the secular courts
- created a church court to deal with matters of doctrine, ceremonial
and ritual, and section 8 gave archdeacons, churchwardens and
parishioners the right to allege 'offences' to the bishop. It resulted
in a number of prosecutions, and five clergy were imprisoned for
contempt of court. There were no prosecutions after the 1906 Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline
which recognised a breadth of practice in the Church of England, but it
remained on the statute books until the 1960s, when the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved
was created for this purpose (it has only met twice): recent revisions
of clergy discipline laws have continued to except doctrine and ritual
matters from their ambit.
I must here pause to say that I do not think that these 'riots' were rightly apprehended. Each side naturally exaggerated that which was reprehensible in the conduct of the other. The scene was a curious one. Little thinking that I should ever become connected with the parish, I myself happened to be the clergyman who read prayers on the occasion of the police being first withdrawn from the church. When I came out of the vestry in the north corner to make my way to the reading-desk, I found not only every seat in the body and galleries of the building densely packed, but all the standing room filled. I had, at the risk of having my surplice dragged off my back, to work my way, shoulder first, to my place. Once there, I soon discovered that the pervading sentiment of the assembly was keenly theological. Almost all the congregation had prayer-books, and when the Psalms began, the effect was remarkable. There was a surpliced choir in the gallery which chanted, and some hundreds of sympathisers were present, furnished with Psalters, and chanting with them at the top of their lungs. But the bulk of the congregation preferred reading the Psalms, which they did in a sort of quarter-deck voice. The strain of human throat — the rush of sound — was tremendous. Another phase of resentment I found to be associated with a certain red-edged book on the desk of the reader of the prayers. I think it was the hymn book. I know that when I took it up in my hand, and thus showed its scarlet rim, there was at once a deep inarticulate growl from all parts of the building. I remember that I several times tested the connection between this and the sight of the book; for when I lifted it up, apropos to nothing in the service, the growl came as surely as sound follows the laying of the hand on the keys of an organ in full wind.
Harry Jones claims that the sight of a 'red-edged hymnal' had the same
effect on Charles Kingsley. But which hymnal was it? Hymns Ancient & Modern
(originally regarded as dangerously 'High Church') was not published
until 1861, after Bryan King had left the parish. But there were several earlier books, among them some that included
I have referred to the 'riots' at St. George's only as an illustration of my remark, that it is very difficult for a clergyman to introduce what the parishioners believe to be illegal ritual in a Parish Church. Even excessive ritualism, on the contrary, is frequently allowed to proceed without protest in District Churches. In these, or associated with these, there is no corporate body to originate or give distinctive weight to a protest, even though many or most of the inhabitants dislike the form of service used in their church. The residents in a 'district' are as a heap of sand, without natural coherence. If they do combine, their combination presents the appearance of pointed sectarian opposition; whereas, associated with a Parish Church, there is always a standing body of representative laymen wholesomely jealous of innovation, and whose protests arc not necessarily connected with the spirit of factious criticism. I grant that many clergymen, especially those who are eager for what they believe to be improvement in the services, are likely to fret under this authoritative, or, at least, operative supervision; and I have no doubt that real improvements are sometimes prevented by an undue amount of dogged local conservatism in old parochial vestries; but the fact stands that in Parish Churches questionable innovations are not likely to be tolerated, and that those who dislike excessive ritualism have to thank the practice of subdividing the old centres of ecclesiastical life for the introduction of services which the bulk of laymen resent, if, at least, their opinions are exhibited in the voice of their representatives in the House of Commons.
There is another point worth noticing in the subdivision of large parishes in the poorer parts of London, and that is the temptation it offers to poor people to beg all round. One of the objects of the Charity Organisation Society, now well known, is to prevent what is called overlapping in the application for and the distribution of alms. It is obvious that where there are several centres of distribution in one original parish, this mischievous overlapping is likely to prevail. I am sorry to say that poor souls in needy bodies sometimes do their best or worst to sell their adherence to this or that struggling congregation, or even small band of communicants. I have seen instances of this servile profession of piety again and again in different parts of London. The other day a poor man, with a wooden leg, stopped me in the street. He had originally been one of the communicants at St. George's, and I distinctly recollect his being one of the first to greet me when I came to the church with a great effusion of what, I thought, sounded like patronising compliment, and which seemed to say, 'You may count, if you conduct yourself aright, on my support'. He had left the district of the parish church when I afterwards met him in the street, and it was not my business to follow him, for I knew he had gone where he could be sure of careful clerical visitation. 'Reverend Sir,' he said, 'I know that I am not now living in your district, but as you arc Rector, perhaps you may have the power of calling where you like. Now, I want to ask you whether you will visit me if I promise to attend your church.' He had prepared quite a little 'speech' with which he had loaded his piece. He had then carried it about at full cock ready to let fly when he should happen to get me within shot. I knew that he meant he would return to swell the number of our communicants if I would give him an occasional shilling, and of course I was obliged to disappoint him. But his request betrayed a feeling which I know to be a common one, and is in divers places encouraged by the practice of avowedly giving the sacramental alms only to poor communicants.
Some months before I came to St. George's the former Rector had left, and the duty was done by a 'locum tenens', I ascertained that latterly during this interregnum not a single poor person came to the Holy Communion. Directly I began my duties here a sad procession of them presented themselves at the altar rails, and early in the week made their appearance in the vestry to ask an alms. Finding, however, that I did not confine our alms to communicants, they forsook the church. Where they have gone I cannot say. My old friend with the wooden leg was a sort of leader among them, and obviously wanted to make capital out of the fact that there was, as he conceived, a division of interests in the parish. The card he wanted to play was to get what he could out of the district parish as a resident, and net an extra coin or two by occasionally lending his countenance to us. Now, where a large poor parish is managed from a centre, with mission-rooms in various
parts, there is no chance for the exercise of this commercial piety,
which, I fear, is grievously prevalent in parishes where there is that
partition of interests which must almost inevitably follow a
splitting-up of a district originally attached to the Mother Church,
into say a dozen district parishes, each of which has its own
struggling charities and separate plant to support. Curiously enough, I
have reason to believe that some local semi-paupers seldom beg of the
clergy beyond the area of the mother parish. The Congregationalism
which I have alluded to as being specially characteristic of district
churches, helps a clever pauper. He distributes his presence over as
wide a religious field as he can, and with infamous catholicity appeals
to the sympathies of several clergy, when if there were only one centre
of charitable distribution in a parish his trade would be so far
impossible. As I have said, it is a chief object of the Charity Organisation Society
to prevent this overlapping, and to spot these piebald sheep. And its
areas are in many cases conterminous with the original mother parishes.
Thus it would appear that much of the evil which this Society has been
created to remedy has been caused by the sub-divisions of which I speak.
|See here for more detailed comment about the Charity Organisation Society, which Harry Jones refers to several times in his book.
I must now venture on a word about one assumption in connexion with clerical work in London, which I think is in some degree fallacious. It does not indeed exclusively affect district parishes, though its acceptance has been one of the motives that have led those in authority to subdivide old parishes, especially such as had a large population of 'poor'. I refer to the assumption that if a man is incumbent of a parish with a population of only, say, 5,000, he is able to know the individuals who compose it, and so bring his flock under strictly personal pastoral influences. This assumption has been conspicuously operative in the action of the Bishop of London's Fund Committee. I desire to speak of that fund with the greatest respect, and I wish it to be understood that my remarks apply only to those large old parishes which contain the chief 'masses' of the 'poor'. As I have distinctly said, some subdivision, where the new swarm contains a large admixture of classes, has been found to be eminently desirable and useful. But it is otherwise with the section of an old parish which is almost entirely inhabited by 'working people', and is made into a new parish for ecclesiastical purposes, with a population of, say, 5,000. An incumbent is supposed to be able to know this to a great extent individually, and so make them into a 'flock'. In the first place, this theory of a congregation attending a district church strictly from its district will generally be found to be baseless when looked at in the light of fact. I believe that most incumbents will bear me out in what I say. I have heard the statement uttered again and again, and I might give many cases in which the congregation of, especially, a district church is not composed of those who live within the limits of the district assigned to it. I will, however, quote what I believe to be a representative example. Some time before I went to the district church of St. Luke's, Berwick Street, it had an exceedingly popular incumbent. He gathered a large congregation. I have before me the list of those who took pews under his ministry, and their residences. Not above one-fifth lived within the limits of the district assigned to his church. It was much the same while I was there. People go where they please, and not where the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would send them. They attend churches where they like the clergyman or the service.
But to recur to the case I have mentioned — that of a district of 5,000 poor to which a new incumbent is appointed, and which has been cut off from an old parish in order to be brought under the influence of a pastor having the cure of their souls. I doubt if they are better looked after on the score of an additional minister being what is called an 'Incumbent'. He cannot really visit them himself. The question is not one of sentiment or ecclesiastical economy, but rule of three. It is decided by the inexorable authority of arithmetic. Taking the typical parish of 5,000 souls, or say, 1,000 families; and assuming that he has 250 days in the year available for house-to-house visitation, the incumbent would have to make the acquaintance of four fresh households every day in order to pay one visit only to each family in the course of the twelve months. It would be discovered in practice that, allowing for Sundays, vacations, and other calls, nothing like 250 days would be found in which he could sally forth with enough enthusiasm and time to put himself fairly in rapport with four fresh households. Then think how difficult he would soon find it to remember even the names and faces and homes of those newly-visited sheep. Take only six days' work of the kind I mean. That would give twenty-four new families, wholly unconnected with each other, whose acquaintance would have to be made. What possible pastoral influence could be exercised in respect to these on the score of that visit, when every succeeding six days of visitation added twenty-four more families to the flock supposed to be thus brought under individual supervision? It must be remembered, too, that impressions, however deep and vivid, could not be renewed or retouched till more than twelve months had elapsed, during which time a procession of strange faces and households would have gone on obliterating the remembrance of those which had been seen weeks and months before. Moreover, the visitation I am supposing allows nothing for repeated visits to the same family, which, in the case of sickness, are necessarily made, and which in a population of some 5,000 would frequently occupy the whole of the time which a man could give to this kind of pastoral work.
A personal acquaintance with, and some measure of individual influence over, his flock is possible to a parson in some country parishes, for there the inter-relationship of the people helps him in getting to know them. Everybody is everybody's cousin. I judge by my own experience. Many years ago I had charge of a country parish of about 500 souls, represented by some eighty or one hundred households. There I certainly did know, and know something about, every man, woman, and child in the place. But, though I say it myself, this was done at the cost of really strenuous and repeated visitation. Now this population, centred in an old village, represents only one-tenth of a parish of 5,000; and I was very much aided in becoming acquainted with the individuals composing it by that inter-relationship to which I have alluded.
But in London the parson has little or none of such help. There the resident in the parlour by no means necessarily knows the lodger in the garret. Moreover, the poorer people in many metropolitan districts shift their lodgings continually, and are constantly flitting over the ecclesiastical border, while some from another district take their places. There the 'parish' becomes like a reach of a river, through which fresh fish are slways swimming. Now if the incumbent, who is pressed with many duties peculiar to his position, tries to visit these systematically, he is overburdened, or he can visit them only by starving his other work. It comes to this, that, except in some possible cases of singularly exceptional and untiring energy, ability, and industry on his part, the notion that the incumbent with a cure of souls in a parish of 5,000 in London can by personal visitation exercise anything that deserves to be called pastoral supervision over his flock, is practically a delusion. He visits here and there as occasion arises, but he must look to other agents and agencies in order to 'work' his parish. He should indeed be captain on his own paddle-box, and know how the details of duty should be done; but he is compelled to do them by means of his staff.
And if he thus virtually delegates detailed and comprehensive individual work to his assistants, he might 'look after' a parish of 20,000 as easily as one of 5,000. Indeed, he might do it in some respects more easily. The same character of machinery would serve for either. He only wants more helpers — a larger crew. And a large ship is in several ways easier to command, more effective in warfare, and safer in storm, than a small one. But, if some theorists had their way, the ecclesiastical or parochial navy of the metropolis would be converted into a fleet of gun-boats — not invariably carrying guns.
I might also illustrate what I mean by an example from agricultural operations. A farm of 1,000 or 500 acres is not necessarily better tilled by breaking it up into a number of small holdings. On the contrary, the effect of the subdivision is to check the outlay of capital, and to lose the influence of organised and extended supervision. You get a number of struggling tenants who are unable to apply radical force of culture to the soil, and are yet individually encumbered and burdened with the expense and responsibilities of cramped independent command. So with the splitting up of some large 'poor' parishes into districts that are either too large or too small. They are too large for detailed personal visitation by the Incumbent, and they are too small for effective superintendence. In a parish of 20,000 or 30,000, however, you can have pastoral superintendence on a scale that admits of extended and organic work, that involves the use of corporate life and traditional powers. This maybe effected by a very simple exercise of organisation. Let each visitor have either his own particular cases to look after — which, on the whole, is probably the best plan — or his district.
Anyhow every case is registered in one book. Every week the clergy and visitors meet and go through the list. A special advantage attached to this method is, moreover, the counsel which may be taken in difficulties. The whole staff takes some interest in each case, as it comes up at the weekly palaver. Each knows what is going on in the parish, and yet each has his district or set of cases, and probably his mission-room, where he forms his own congregation. There is no overlapping either in the allotment of alms or in visitation.
All this power of central organisation is lost in the splitting up of the original condensed and crowded 'poor' parish into a number of districts, each of which has its Incumbent, burdened with the cares of incumbency and the expense of maintaining a separate Church Plant.
Another recommendation of this centralised system is the escape it gives from the difficulty now felt in getting assistant curates. Far more lay-helpers could be used, and the clergy would be available for strictly clerical work. Services in mission-rooms could sometimes be conducted by laymen. Instead of there being half-a-dozen clergy in different churches to baptize each half-a-dozen children, or perform a single marriage per week, one clergyman would baptize fifty children and take a dozen marriages. The people would come to the Parish Church for baptisms, churchings, marriages, &c. The vestry of that central building would be open during certain hours daily for all ecclesiastical and religious inquiries, just as the civil Vestry Hall is open for all secular applications.
There would be one church thoroughly well-worked, with plenty of services for such as chose to attend them on week-days, and security for immediate attendance in case any sudden need arose for religious ministrations, instead of half-a-dozen open for a short time during the day, or on two or three days in the week, perhaps at an inconvenient hour. I know, indeed, that some District Churches are seldom closed. But in truth, taking facts as they are, and as they are likely to be, it can hardly be expected that underpaid and undermanned District Churches should be constantly accessible, and kept going under a full head of steam.
The Parish Church, moreover, in the case I am contemplating, would be officered by a sufficient well-paid staff of clergy, amongst whom changes would not be seriously felt. But where there are half-a-dozen or more district parishes lying close round the Parish Church, each with, say, an Incumbent and a Curate, half the Incumbent's time is taken up with replacing his assistant, and much of his energy is spent in scraping together money with which to make up his stipend when he is got.
Now, except in the cases of widely separated or outlying districts, or where a large admixture of classes provides material for the abundant support of a new corporation, had the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, instead of creating new 'poor' parishes at very considerable expense, provided the old parochial centres with funds to pay assistant clergy liberally, I believe that the 'spiritual destitution' of the poorer parts of the metropolis would have been better provided for than it now is. These well-paid assistant clergy would have been provided with cheap mission-rooms, in which they would have formed and kept a 'following', and where the services could have been conducted with greater freedom than is possible in a regular church; and they would have been aided by the sense of much individual responsibility, without being pressed by the cares which inevitably accompany the maintenance of a separate and costly establishment. They would not, moreover, have been exposed to that sense of isolation in their work which too often depresses the 'new vicar' of a parish almost wholly comprised of poor, and who frequently cannot get a curate to help him.
Of course I am conscious that it is almost idle for me to write thus. The principle of the subdivision of poor crowded parishes has been, I fear, finally accepted, and has been widely adopted.
Churches have been built by the dozen which are more than half empty, and which are kept going, in many cases, only by repeated public appeals for assistance. Those who do attend them by no means live in the district which is assigned to the church. The clergyman is severed from the sympathy, and, I must add, inspection or control of those who represent traditional corporate life in the parochial unit, and the parochial system is, so far, virtually broken up. This, I fear, will have to be admitted as one result of the process which has been largely followed in the diocese of London. In the most thickly populated parts of the East, especially, the public would be surprised to learn how very thinly some comparatively new churches are attended — ay, and old ones too. Though, e.g., we have on Sundays, in the evenings, a fair congregation in the body of the church at St. George's, the galleries are not filled, or anything like filled, except on some special occasions.
But, in divers cases, even where the Mother Church is scantily attended, a new district is formed, a man is sent to break ground there; he gathers a congregation together in a room which holds perhaps from one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons. Then comes the cry for a permanent church; but when he gets it, after distressing his soul with a period of importunate begging, the people who were willing enough to attend services in an unostentatious room are daunted by the primness and size of the new consecrated edifice; and the result is, in some cases, another permanent church with a vanished congregation. Had small rough and ready licensed buildings been used, and the old ties with the traditional parochial sentiment been retained, I believe that more genuine work would have been done among the 'poor', and money sunk in irremovable brick and mortar would have been saved for the liberal payment of missionary curates, who would, nevertheles, have not been cut off from the life that unquestionably survives in the old Parish Church, but which is weakened and impoverished by the partition of interests that inevitably accompanies the subdivision of a centre of parochial vitality. Had the old Parish Church been supplemented by mission-rooms, they might have acted as feeders from which some people might have passed on to the appreciation of the more formal services of the Church, while others might have preferred to worship ordinarily in a more homely fashion, using the Parish Church only for churchings, baptisms, and — as is now mostly the case — for marriages.
Moreover, provision might well have been made for communicants by increased number of celebrations of the Holy Communion at the central traditional church, at which celebrations the missionary curates could have officiated. Again, mission-rooms, not being consecrated, could, without any legal difficulty, be allowed to lapse into secular use in case a change in the character of the population, the displacement of buildings, or any other cause, should make such a lapse desirable. I must be allowed to repeat that the Parochial Economy which I have been considering in this chapter is applicable only to large populations of 'poor' resident around an old Parish Church, and not to those districts in the suburbs of London where a population containing a large element of church-going people could not be provided for by an old Parish Church, and where a new building is filled as soon as it is opened.
Bearing on the whole question which I have ventured to touch in this chapter is the far larger consideration that many other influences are now operative which were very weak when the 'people' were supposed to be tended in parochial folds by such as had cure of their souls. Then public teaching from the pulpit, and private sacerdotal direction really represented or involved the chief recognised means of popular guidance, and these were notably strengthened by some ecclesiastical discipline. The people were, moreover, in a great measure stationary and illiterate. But now the growth of cheap literature has provided a channel of information and instruction so wide and strong as to dwarf all commonplace clerical influences, and, eminently in towns, to dislocate the fabric of parochial economy. Moreover, such phases of ecclesiastical discipline as were once recognised and effective, and traces of which still survive in some of the rubrics in our Prayer Books, have practically died out, and, except in the dreams of sacerdotal enthusiasts, will never appear again.
The growth of public primary schools — supplemented, if not superseded, as this now is by legislation involving a comprehensive scheme of popular education — tends still further to depreciate that mediaeval machinery for the instruction and guidance of the people which exhibits its chief feature in the arrangement implied in the term 'cure of souls'. In cities people no longer attend their parish church or consult their legal parson except on purely personal grounds, or where certain documents can be legally signed or certain ceremonies legally performed only within prescribed limits. 'Congregations' are formed quite irrespectively of ecclesiastical demands or assumptions.This makes the severe multiplication of fresh 'cures' in cities somewhat questionable. The people are already provided with that right in a parson's ministrations which still survives as a useful feature of the parochial system. Everyone is a parishioner of some parish, and, if need should arise, can command clerical services. But, as I have said, the very large majority of those in large towns who care for the public religious ministrations of the clergy choose their own minister, without any respect for ecclesiastical districts; and if a parish is so large that one or two men are not enough to supply the demand for private spiritual ministrations within its limits, all that is wanted is only an increase in its staff, which is furnished at less cost than a new cure with its accompanying church, which is frequently doomed, in poor districts, to stand nearly empty.
|This chapter is basically a plea - graphically told - for the massive
endowments of the little-attended churches of the City of London to be
released for mission and ministry where the need was greater. This was
a 'live' cause at the time, and one with which Harry Jones' curate R.H.
Hadden was particularly involved, through his Curates' Alliance - more
including the more extreme views of Stewart Headlam of the Guild of St
Matthew who argued that these churches should be available to all
irrespective of attendance at worship. (See too the evidence
of R.H. McGill of Christ Church Watney Street on the general issues of
the chronic under-endowment of district churches.) Harry Jones goes on
to argue that City charities should be used to improve housing for the
THE foregoing considerations lead me on to say that, instead of adding to the number of churches in poor neighbourhoods, such as now exist might be made more effective by the abolition of some which have become practically useless, and the application of the money thus liberated to the provision of assistant curates in ill-endowed parishes. I do not plead for any considerable increase in the official income which the Incumbent has to spend, but for more money to pay for the work that should be done, and which money should be made payable to assistant curates, so that no greedy rector or vicar could pocket it himself. The unequal distribution, however, of such endowments as can support curates is prominent in the present parochial system. That system assumes that every parish shall be provided with sufficient parson power, and this assumption implies that means should exist to pay for it. But the official ways and means of the Establishment in the metropolis have now come to be unfairly applied. Lapse of time, change of population, and various other causes, have seriously disturbed the relation between clerical wage and work, which once, it is to be presumed, was fair enough.
There is, indeed, some recognition of this in the procedure of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and prominent witness is borne to it by Additional Curates and Pastoral Aid Societies; but the existing unfairness is so outrageous, that perhaps its very grotesqueness militates against its alleviation. If Congregationalism were the law, we might expect stipends to be measured by the poverty or wealth of a congregation, but the parochial system means the provision of a parson in each parish. And where the population, and therefore labour, is or ought to be great, common sense indicates that the revenue of the individual church should bear a fair proportion to the duties which are or ought to be done in the parish to which it belongs.
But, in fact, this is not the case. Some large parishes, generally of the poorest, are left without adequate provision for the parson, who is responsible for their 'cure', while others in London deserted by the parson in the week, and by the population on the Sunday, are excessively endowed. Their churches lie, dingy and silent, in the midst of a simmering world, like disused hulks anchored in the tideway of a busy river — paralysed witnesses to their original purpose, ghosts of parochial vitality — sepulchres of departed prayer, temples of consecrated vacuum.
Their priests frequently live away, perhaps in the pleasant places of the country, and on Sundays come up with two sermons in a little black bag, which they read to a sleepy beadle and a row of bare-elbowed charity girls, who look down from the gallery upon a congregation of solid and empty pews. This statement is rather exaggerated. Of course there is some one in church. I have before me a return, carefully compiled by an inquisitive but accurate friend, of his visit on Sunday mornings to fifteen of the City churches. He visited, indeed, a far larger number, and the congregation in the great majority was very thin. The fifteen I refer to were the worst attended. Still there was a congregation. In each case he scrupulously counted it. The result gave as the sum total of attendants in the whole of these fifteen churches only 291.
Among these worshippers my friend included every child that could walk, but he did not reckon officials or schools that were brought to church as a matter of course. The average number present in these fifteen churches was thus less than a score, all told; and of adults probably little more than a dozen. But in either case the proportionate attendance of parishioners was possibly fair enough, for these parishes are almost empty of residents. Looking at the whole of the City proper, statistics give fifty-one parish churches to a population of about 27,000 within the walls. But this is taken from the census of 1871, and since then such changes and ejections have taken place that the total resident population of the 'City' is calculated to amount now to only about 20,000. And their use of the fifty-one churches which still stand in their midst is lessened by other considerations. The condition of their residence, in some cases, is that they should stay within doors, and thus many are unable to attend even if they would. The contrast between some of the rich City rectories, with this their scanty flock of human house-dogs, which keep Sunday watch over the locked-up safes, and the teeming perpetual curacies of the labouring suburbs, is absurd. It is as if a handful of wet sticks were lit to warm a draughty barn full of shivering souls, while a roaring furnace was kept up in an empty parlour. It must be remembered, moreover, that this crowd of fifty-one churches for 20,000 people does not include St. Paul's, which stands in their midst; and that there are other places of worship within the 'walls' of the City.
This conspicuous inequality is, I know, supposed by some to be mitigated by the consideration that there are so-called 'Prizes' in the Church. But this is a melancholy and degrading consideration. If it means anything it means that a poor parson, overwhelmed with undone work — for that makes the pressure of his burden — is supported by the hope that some day he may, possibly, get rich and easy promotion. But what becomes of the parish meanwhile? The provision of an adequate official income is for the place, not for the man. The parson is made for the parish, not the parish for the parson. Though the parson may be promoted, the parish is not. That is left in ecclesiastical indigence or 'spiritual destitution', as it is called, and so the work remains undone. The tendency of the motive, moreover, is to lessen the poorly paid parson's interest in his duties, and to make an ill-endowed laborious cure of souls a mere possible stepping-stone to an easier or more lucrative office. I do not assert that this motive always or often operates. I believe, on the contrary, that the great bulk of clergy in poor parishes are devoted to their work, though in many cases they cannot get it done because they are not provided with sufficient funds to pay assistants. But
the motive I have referred to is supposed to be operative; it is supposed to mitigate the scandal of present inequalities. And all I can say is, that if it did generally operate, the richest and easiest offices in the Church would be filled by those who ought never to have borne sacred office at all; and if it does not operate, it is idle to quote it as a consolation and support to those who suffer from present inequalities of endowment.
If the Incumbent of a poor parish involving laborious work were provided with funds to work it properly — and in such provision, I think the assistant curacies should be endowed, so that the Incumbent would be obliged to provide himself with a sufficient staff — it would be fair enough for him to look forward eventually to some easier cure, and hand over to younger arms the oar that he had pulled so long; but, as it is, the toilsome posts are in many cases comparatively unendowed, and those where there is least to be done are associated with the richest official incomes. Moreover, it is not even as if a lieutenant, charged with subordinate duties within his compass, received less pay, and might fairly look for promotion bringing more responsibility and stipend, but it is as if some colonels of the line received five times as much as others who commanded regiments demanding more special toil and expenditure in their management and supervision. It is as if, in the distribution of work over a farm, one field had £20 worth of labour spent upon it, while another, far larger and harder to work, had only £2 worth set apart for its share. It is as if the furnace of one engine that stood permanently on a siding were supplied with a ton of coals, while that of another that had to drag a train was stoked with a peck of cinders.
I do not think that the public realises the enormous inequality of the income of benefices in the metropolis. These fifty-one churches, for instance, still standing 'within the walls' of the 'City', with its aggregate population of only some 20,000, have an average endowment about thrice as great as that of the Parish Church of Whitechapel with its resident population of 15,000. I have under stated the contrast, for no accessible or easily accessible returns give the amount of these City endowments, since a 'parsonage' there frequently means a house that the Incumbent lets for business purposes at a very high rent, while he lives elsewhere. Indeed, he really has no need to reside within the limits of his cure, and, of course, no blame whatever can be attributed to him personally. He does the duties of his post, such as they are, and it is no fault of his that he is excessively paid. Indeed, in many cases he chafes at the very small scope left for his enthusiasm and powers. We want, however, a brave thorough readjustment of the glaring inequalities to which I have alluded. In the case of the City, if some forty churches were done away with as practically useless, and — all regard being had to existing interests — their incomes applied to the levelling up of ill-paid cures, and the provision of endowments for assistant curacies within them, very much of the inadequacy now set forth by Pastoral Aid Societies would be remedied. And if the sites of the suppressed churches, with their parsonages, were sold, it would be difficult to calculate the enormous sum that would be liberated to supply the deficient parson power of large and laborious parishes.
It would, without the exhibition of that gigantic importunity which is needed to scrape this fund together, go far towards providing as much as the Bishop of London's Fund ever tried to raise, and would do for the 'spiritual destitution' of the diocese what the Parochial Charities of the City could do towards the decent housing of the working classes of London.
It has been calculated that the Parochial Charities of the City could, without serious inconvenience to anyone, produce two million pounds; enough, according to an estimate of Sir Sydney Waterlow, to provide, if properly applied, sufficient sites for as many improved dwellings for working-people as are needed in the metropolis.
|Harry Jones returns to housing issues in a later chapter, where there is more detail about Sir Sydney Waterlow.
WHILE I am committed to this rambling review of Church work and parochial economy, I am led to ask myself what kind of religious services seem to be most appreciated in the East of London, and I confess that I am perplexed what to say. The East of London is not a place which exhibits or requires a special ritual. Indeed, I fancy that, within reasonable limits, the form of service matters little, either there or anywhere else. People are generally most influenced in their estimate of the service by their own common sense or prejudice; and their attendance at any particular church is mostly determined by the character, sense, and energy of the individual minister. The habit of church-going is, however, not strongly marked in the bulk of those who live in these parts. There are comparatively few who attend public worship as a matter of course. We have no class which represents the unoccupied ladies who form the staple week-day congregations in some parts of London; and on Sundays, as I have noticed elsewhere, hardly any church in the East is filled as a matter of course. There is a marked respect felt for the old parish churches, though in divers of these the congregation is small; but the man generally determines the congregation, and supposing he has got something to say for himself, and says it heartily, I doubt whether the congregamuch care whether the service is what is called plain or choral.
The people like good congregational singing and hearty ministration; though, from what I hear, there is less appreciation of what is called advanced ritual among them than in some other parts of London.
As to the prevailing religious sentiment, I am inclined to think that while the people here are more individually critical and independent in their tastes than some I have been associated with, there is more distinct and thoughtful appreciation of what is generally understood by liberal theology in this than in other parts of the metropolis with which I am acquainted. We read and, I hope, think more than some would perhaps give us credit for. For instance, there is a lively Book-club among the leading parishioners, and thus the majority of the members of our vestry take in the monthlies, not excluding the 'Contemporary' and 'Fortnightly' Reviews. When I came to St. George's I was much struck by the interest which those conected with the parish church showed, not so much or so immediately in the form of service I proposed to have, as in the view I took of the great facts of religion. The first question I was asked in St. George's, in reference to my prospective interest in it as incumbent was, 'Are you acquainted with the Dean of Westminster?' On my replying in the affirmative, my questioner added, 'I hope some day you will get him to preach to us'. And when after a while I did so, and he was kind enough to come, the church, in the morning, was crowded to the utmost corners.
In respect to the form of our worship at St. George's, which, as many know, has been a ticklish subject here, I was impressed by the very little advice I received from residents. But I was conscious of being most keenly watched as to the line I should take. Some two or three outsiders, however, who were anxious to see what people call a ritualistic bent given to our services, pressed me rather, till they found that I was hopelessly determined to follow my own judgment rather than theirs. There are, I fancy, few clergymen who have not been subject at one time or another to external pressure in this direction, not so much from bona fide members of their congregation, as from volunteer advisers, who, with unattached catholicity, look for openings in which to sow seed. But I have found that these gentlemen, mostly young, are far more desirous to make a parson claim sacerdotal authority than to obey him when he tries to exercise it over themselves. While I was at St. Luke's, I was several times the subject of an effort to bring on some development of ritual in our worship. There is, I believe, a migratory brotherhood, or confraternity, which takes as its mission to go about and push 'Catholic usage', as it is called. I remember once we were invaded by a gang of these devotees, who scattered themselves here and there in the congregation, and by studiously devout bowings and crossings tried to promote what they conceived to be improved gestures of reverence among the people. They gave us up, however, in about a month, and disappeared suddenly, like swallows.
I made very little change in the form and conduct of the services which I found here, except that, with the ready consent of the churchwardens, I relinquished such pew-rents as there were, and made the church wholly free. I also changed the hymn book, and introduced early celebrations of the Holy Communion, and Daily Service.
As for myself, I am of course well aware how interesting, even in an antiquarian point of view, all old usages become; and that in ecclesiastical matters the question of vestments, attitudes, and gestures is by no means so trifling as some would make it out to be. It is nonsense to speak of ecclesiastical dress as a matter of mere church millinery, or even of aesthetic interest. The warmest and best instructed advocates of Eucharistic vestments do not care two straws about their intrinsic gracefulness or colour. The point is not the mere shape, texture, and tint, but the identification of the garments with those used in ancient Catholic days. The charm of the dress is not its beauty, or supposed beauty, but its significant antiquity. And those who oppose its revival do so thoughtlessly if they imagine that the mere attractions of colour and cut are desired. These could be secured while at the same time all that so-called Ritualists contend for was abandoned. Indeed there is radically nothing peculiar to any phase of doctrine in the making a church or service beautiful. It is a sentiment of religion that God illuminates His covenant with man in the colours of the rainbow.
The question, however, of ecclesiastical adornment does not, as I have said, now turn upon its mere splendour; and the ridicule frequently aimed at an insistence on such and such a gaudy sacerdotal garment is altogether wide of the mark. The thing in which those who strive for it are interested is to them as important as that represented by a flag. A flag is not a mere scrap of bunting tied to a stick or a pole. It is significant. It is not only used with especial prominence as a signal, but upon the lowering or raising of it the honour of a nation, or the issue of a battle, is made to depend.
Thus, too, when in the last sitting of Convocation a debate arose as to whether the word 'bread' in the Communion Service should be spelt with a ' b ' or a ' B ' — though one could not help thinking of the Bigendians and Littlendians immortalised by Gulliver — it was plain enough that deep matters were involved in this apparently trifling discussion.
Surely, however, we must all come to see that the great questions of the day lie beneath not only aesthetic arrangement but Catholic usage. They are incapable of being solved by the most devout and learned reference to the procedure of long ages past. New facts have come to light, new complications have arisen or been perceived, fresh methods of enquiry have been found; and though extreme sacerdotalists do not deserve the sneers about church millinery which are cast at them, but rest their usage on a deep foundation, the time surely must come when they will look deeper still for the true grounds of faith, and the principles on which a matter which has ever interested men so much as the conduct of worship, should be decided.
Let us get back to St. George's and its ritual.
As the clergy of the Church of England are expected to wear some sort of ministerial garment when they officiate, I use a surplice in the pulpit. It is the handiest to put on, and involves no change of dress during the service.
It is not, however, for me to talk much about the mode in which our public worship is conducted. I believe it is done 'decently and in order'. I may say, however, that we have had a steady increase in our Sunday congregation and offertories. Our morning congregations, however, are what I call decidedly thin, though in the evening, especially during the winter, the body of the church is sometimes well filled, and a fair sprinkling of people may be seen in the galleries. Some forty years ago, or less, I am given to understand that it was difficult to find room in the church on Sundays. The conditions of the neighbourhood have been wholly altered since then. The chief men of business
connected with the parish resided within its borders, and divers of
them kept carriages and livery servants. Now, a very large proportion
of our manufacturers and traders live elsewhere. Railways, steamboats,
and trams have created a residential revolution. One result of this has
appeared in the gradual thinning of the congregation of the Parish
Church. Indeed I have been told that now it is hopeless to think of
filling it again. It has, people say, been deserted too long.
However, the chief object of the parson is not to 'fill' his church. He
can but do his best, and preach according to the proportion of his
faith, avoiding at the same time anything like a request on his part
that such and such persons should 'come to hear him'. When I have found
a man attending no place of worship at all, I have sometimes advised
him to use this neglected phase of life and interest; but I have never
asked anyone to attend my church.
In respect to those who choose to come, I am glad to say that the
congregation joins very heartily in the services, and is as
intelligently attentive to the sermon as any I ever preached to. The
number of our communicants has also grown. They are very few in
proportion to our population, but their number increases. Last Easter
Day we had about 100. In our ministrations we are happily much helped
by the fact that the acoustic properties of the church are excellent.
Every syllable is perfectly heard from the desk, communion table, and pulpit.
The church is a solid roomy structure of the Wren type, built by
Hawksmoor and Gibbs some 150 years ago; and its proper name, according
to parish archives, is 'St. George, Middlesex'. Its internal lines
strike me as being remarkably good, and it is capable of much genuine
decoration in the way of colour, and especially of mosaic. The fittings
of the church are of oak, and the pulpit is a roomy imposing fabric,
which they say originally cost some £100. It is elaborately carved and
inlaid, and is made of the same wood as the seats. The building itself
is constructed of Portland stone, and has a tremendous tower, which
shows far above the line of roofs, when the atmosphere is clear enough,
to a spectator on
London Bridge. Indeed I am told that its height is within a few feet,
one way or the other, the same as that of the Monument; and I can well
believe it, for the view from its summit is remarkably extensive.
Looking down on the red brick rectory from this altitude, my house,
though three stories high, shows like a brown box in the churchyard,
and the tombstones seem no bigger than dominoes. From the summit of our
tower we fly a huge flag on all suitable occasions; and I must pause to
notice a singular accident which befel it one day last summer. A great
storm had come on, with thunder and lightning. I happened to be away
for a few hours, and on my return only half the flag was flying from
our staff. It had been severed by or in a flash of lightning. Several
persons saw the outer half of the flag cut clean off from the rest and
flutter down into the churchyard in the middle of a great flash. Sure
enough there was one half on the ground and the other still flying; and
the division seemed to have been made as accurately as if it had been
rent in twain by an invisible hand. This was in Whitsun week.
But I must descend, and mix once more in the living world below. Though
I have been always fortunate in my lay as well as clerical colleagues,
I could hardly have expected to find churchwardens more interested in
the work of the church and conduct of the service than those I have
hitherto been associated with here. They are both appointed by the
vestry, the rector's right to nominate one having somehow lapsed. In
the first year and a half of my incumbency they collected and spent
£400 in the internal equipment of the church, without my asking a
single parishioner for a penny. This, however, was a strain upon our
resources, and there is much more to be done. For instance, our organ,
the relics of which are concealed by an imposing case in the west
gallery, is pronounced to be hopelessly beyond repair. We do not use
it, but lead the choir with a small instrument which is placed in the
chancel, and which we are obliged to hire.
As to local sentiment and life, it strikes me that here in the East the
people are eminently freespoken and keen to criticise. I have noticed
on their part a shrewd sense of humour and a quickness to resent any
imperious pretensions. A thoughtful friend, who knows this part of the
metropolis well, once said to me, 'The East of London is the place to
learn courtesy'. I hope I may not miss the value of his suggestion by
any rude or clumsy comments of my own upon it. He does not mean that we
find here any strongly marked relics of feudal obeisance. These are
chiefly to be discovered in the still nooks of the country, where the
old order gives place but slowly to the new. And as a yet living
inheritance from the strong past these relics are not to be sneered at;
and he is no true philosopher or reformer who would hastily laugh them
down or stamp them out. But other conditions and shapes of life have
arisen in places where the directly dependent relation between
different classes of society has become obliterated or been much
watered down. In cities especially this is sometimes succeeded by an
attitude or expression of bumptious independence on the part of those
who form what are called the working classes. A man, however, who has a
healthy perception of human life will see that there can really be no
individual independence in a civilised community. We are every one
members one of another. But the outward expression of marked respect
comes to be reserved for those who are felt to deserve it. Here the
people are civil enough when accosted civilly by a well dressed
stranger, but there is no touching of hats to goodly apparel and a gold
ring. The original ground upon which they go — the principle assumed by
Easterners, whether Liberals or Conservatives — is equality. This is an
excellent place for a man to find his level in. If he is really
respected, respect is shown freely to him, but if he gives himself airs
lie is made aware of his mistake. I cannot quote instances, but I have
somehow felt that any pomposity on the part of a local public man here
would soon make itself unpleasantly felt by him. This recoil of
imperiousness is much more likely to be felt here than in the West of
London. There a man may, perhaps unwittingly, give offence by his
manner or what not at a local gathering or parochial celebration; but
unless some Christian friend rebukes him to his face, or takes the
trouble to inform him by letter of the bad impression he has created,
it is possible that the offender knows nothing of the matter. But, even
supposing that he is thus rebuked, in the first case few beyond those
present at the meeting know anything of the remonstrance; and in the
latter, even though he makes some wholesome resolve in the way of
improvement, the censuring epistle goes silently into his waste basket.
Here, however, machinery exists for immediate public reprisals in the
shape of a local press, which none are too big to be hit by.
We have, indeed, a large circulation of the leading London penny
journals — the Standard, Daily News, and Daily Telegraph. The Times is
little read. We file it at the Vestry, but it is too dear for local
use. I take it in, but unless I ordered it I could not get a copy at
any of our newspaper shops. I fancied, however, that I had found a
neighbour with a special literary or political interest in the leading
journal. My copy of the Times goes on the second day to a worthy
butcher hard by, to whom it thus comes cheap. On one or two occasions,
however, when I wanted to refer to something in the copy of the
previous day, and sent to beg the loan of it, I found that it had been
torn up. The truth gradually revealed itself to me that my practical
neighbour preferred the Times because of the toughness of its paper. He
desires to have the news, but is content to get it rather late if
printed on material tenacious enough to hold small parcels of meat
But we read the leading penny dailies extensively. Beside these,
however, there are several local papers conducted with considerable
ability, and read by all. These keep a sharp eye on everything that
goes on, and no local public man can make a slip without its being
known by each one of his neighbours. In the West of London there are no
such generally recognised inspectors of social and parochial life. Most
people there take in only the large London journals, and a parochial
event must be of exceptional magnitude to find its way into them.
While, e.g., I was working in St. James's, Westminster, I caught no
steady echoes from any local publication; and on taxing my memory,
though I believe that there was some parish organ, I cannot tell its
name, and cannot recall any influence it exercised. Here we have at
least three or four weekly papers, either of which is a looking-glass,
giving reflections of every local event or gathering in the least out
of the ordinary parochial routine, and chronicling the speeches at all
the fixed parochial parliaments. And these are generally read by all
the residents in the parish. None are too great or too grand to feel or
profess no interest in them. Moreover, sermons, lectures, &c. form
a very frequent feature of their contents. They are obviously much used
by the clergy, ministers, and congregations of churches and chapels.
Some months ago, e.g., there was a prolonged controversy on the
Catechism between several prominent clergymen and Nonconformist
ministers carried on in their columns. Such public strife would, I am
inclined to suspect, be almost impossible in the West of London. The large papers would not
record it; and if any others did, the chances are that few in the
congregations of leading West End clergy would know anything at all about the
business. Here, however, week after week, in the East London Observer,
the Eastern Post, and the Tower Hamlets Independent — besides, I have
no doubt, other papers which I do not happen to take in, but which
represent important local influence — the 'Catechism controversy' held
a prominent place, and was read, or at least was printed, with the
expectation that it would interest and be read by, all. And very sharp
it was while it lasted. There is now, too, while I write, a public
debate concerning the truths of Christianity going on between Mr.
Bradlaugh and a minister, and the blows of the two battledores are
heard in our local press. I, for one, regret the making of a creed into
a shuttlecock, and the tempting of the public to suppose that real good
can be got out of a game like this. But anything in the shape of a
contest is always interesting. However, my illustration is too tame;
this is a fight, not play, and as here the combatants mean fighting,
and have no tips to their foils, I suppose that some especially care to
see which of the two will in their estimation get the best of it.
Happily the poor creed is in such encounters least thought of, the
concern of the spectators being chiefly to see who can hit hardest or
stab deepest. These conflicts on presumably great truths soon pass into
personal strife, even though both sides may manage to avoid
personalities. The most decorous people have no objection to see their
man slay his opponent, provided he will do it politely.
While, moreover, these popular local organs render it impossible for
anything to be done in a corner, and visit an offence or presumed
offence upon the head of the offender at once, they provide an
eminently useful channel for announcements, and the utterance of
opinions which, elsewhere in London, or at least in the Western portion
of it, a clergyman could not well convey to the bulk of his
parishioners without the very expensive process of printing a pamphlet
and circulating it amongst them. Here, by the courtesy of their
editors, I, like others, can generally speak through them to the whole
of the parish; and if anyone wants to criticise myself, he finds no
difficulty in doing so with complete local publicity. Indeed, in this
respect, East London resembles a provincial town. These papers thus
provide means for a very fair test of Eastern public opinion about the
conduct of the services in the various churches and chapels, and I seem
to know in a couple of years very much more about my clerical brethren
and their ways than I could have known in a lifetime while in St.
James's, Westminster. We all see and hear one another. And it strikes
me that if there is anything which the Easterners are sure to resent it
is what I might term dictatorial sacerdotalism on the part of a
clergyman. They don't seem to have any marked objection to such
features in the service as surpliced choirs, &c.; and in those
cases of 'advanced ritual' which do not mean mere show, but sincere and
loving work, I do not recal any unkind comments. The intention of the
business is recognised as good. But let a man give himself airs, let
him exhibit any of the excommunicating spirit, and then the public —
represented by both the Liberal and Conservative local press — is down
upon him with a vengeance.
As an instance, moreover, of the free and independent spirit in which
religious questions and practices are sometimes approached here, I
might quote the coolness with which the services of Messrs. Moody and
Sankey were dissected by our local press. These revivalists came with
amazing reports of their popularity and success in the North of London;
and then, after a week or two of inquiry and inspection, the 'East
London Observer', which has the character of being our most widely
circulated paper, sat upon them with supreme disregard of the
accumulated laudations they had received, and proceeded quietly to
dissect the whole movement; approving of some things, but disapproving
of much that went on at the Bow Road Hall, and the influence it was
likely, in the writer's mind, to have upon the interests and progress
of sound religion.
Much as I thought I knew of the independence of our local press, I
confess that I was surprised, in the full metropolitan blaze of the
revivalists' popularity, and while some of the large London journals
seemed puzzled what to say, to read in a local paper, widely read among
those who were most likely to be attending the services in question,
criticisms on the movement, written as coolly and philosophically as if
the scene of the revival lay at Chicago itself.
|It is interesting to compare this account of the newspapers read locally with that of the 1848 report on the Christ Church District. Since then, various London-wide and national papers had become established:
The local papers he mentions are
founded in 1827 but becoming a daily morning paper in 1857 (with the
Evening Standard two years later): circulation rose as a result of its
war reporting (the American Civil War, and and Austro- and
Franco-Prussian Wars); it is now a free evening paper across London
- Daily News, founded as a radical rival to the Morning Chronicle
by Charles Dickens in 1846 (he edited the first seventeen editions
before handing over to John Forster who was editor until 1870, when it
absorbed the Morning Star) - it ran until 1900
- Daily Telegraph: founded 1855 and continuing as a national daily broadsheet.
Ira David Moody & Dwight Lynam Sankey
were American YMCA evangelists whose tours of Britain, beginning in
1873, spawned the 'Great Awakening' - the most famous episode in
Victorian revivalism. In 1875 they hired four venues in London, including Bow Road Hall, a wooden structure
- East London Observer, weekly from 1857
- Eastern Post & City Chronicle
- Tower Hamlets Independent & East End Local Advertiser, weekly from 1866, continuing today as the East London Advertiser
Perhaps this would be the place in which to say a word about the help
which some laymen resident in the West have been kind enough to give in
the pastoral and social work of the East. I cannot help thinking that
this matter has been much misunderstood. An impression has somehow got
abroad that the East is in so degraded and miserable a condition, that
a man of means and leisure who devotes some of his spare time to
visitation among those who reside in it, is a sort of missionary
martyr; but that, if he can bring himself to penetrate the dim regions
beyond the City, his mere presence there will be sure to shed sweetness
and light. Now I believe that any man anywhere, who in all truth,
humility, and godliness seeks to do good, will see of the travail of
his soul. The assumption, however, that the East of the metropolis is
really worse in a moral sense than the West, is one that needs the
testimony of fact. It is true that here, as a rule, there are more poor
in proportion to the rich than in the West, and I am sure that we
should be benefited by a better resident mixture of classes. There is,
I fear, not much chance of this, since a sort of centrifugal force,
which is in operation over the whole of London, is ever sending the
most successful among its traders and manufacturers away from the scene
of their daily business to reside in or near to the country. As it is,
we residents in St. George's are almost all of us obliged to work for
our bread. We have no gilded youth, we have few idlers. But I have yet
to learn that a region is necessarily degraded because it has no opera
house, polo clubs, or footmen in powder. Indeed, at the risk of being
considered an ungracious heretic, I am inclined to think that if it
comes to a question of teaching and example, the West has quite as much
to learn from the East as the East from the West. The East is
distinguished by a steady and laborious discharge of duty, which before
God is of great price. It seems to me that the West does not apprehend
the force that may yet be latent in a famous sentence once uttered
concerning the interest of the poor in the Kingdom of Heaven, and which
can hardly be obliterated by any exhibition of the small enjoyment they
feel in the services of those various chapels and churches which are
half empty in these parts. Goodness may not be altogether measured by
attendance at public worship. And 'our betters', to whom we should
order ourselves lowly and reverently, are by no means necessarily to be
recognised by the clothes they wear, or the nicety of the food they
eat. I grant that a larger proportion of families among us, not pressed
with the necessities of toil, would have a wholesome influence. They
might make themselves useful in many ways connected with the local
advancement of desirable social and civil measures; and the resident
attached presence of more men of ability and leisure would help in
breaking the dead level of labour, and bring fresh blood into our
veins; but I think that people in general hardly realise the sterling
industry and independence of the present East of London. It is not a
colony or concourse of Lazaruses, sitting distantly at Prince's Gate,
and desiring to be fed with crumbs of comfort from Pall Mall. The poor
in the parish of St. George's in the East certainly 'beg' much less
than in that of St. George's, Hanover Square, or St. James's,
Westminster. I was once curate at St. Mark's, North Audley Street, for
five years, and know that what I say is true. As to St. James's,
Westminster, when I first went to St. Luke's I frequently found some
forty or fifty applicants for alms at our daily session in the vestry;
but here, to my surprise, when I came, and therefore might have been
supposed to represent a possible fresh store of tickets and shillings,
comparatively very few beggars made their appearance, though some of
the regular 'poor' communicants soon presented themselves to ask an
alms. But as for such sheer begging as I knew in the two great Western
parishes I have referred to, all I can say is, that we have nothing
like it in this part of the East. I have frequently known a week pass
without a single application for alms at our vestry. The Eastern
poor are more virtuously independent than the Western. Moreover —
barring the laxity of crews on shore, and their dissolute parasites, of
which I must say something more presently — there seems to me less
drunkenness in our streets than I saw in those of Soho. We have, it is
true, much grievous intemperance, but I fail to see, e.g., as I did in
the West, those groups of tipsy tailors, who represented much of the
resident work of the place; but, especially on Monday mornings, might
be observed lounging at most corners of the street. The working
classes, on the whole, are an independent, industrious race in these
parts of London. Now, if a gentleman who has contracted the habit of
associating toil with degradation comes amidst our workers with a full pocket and a soft heart, he is likely to do more
harm than good. You can hardly expect poor people to have virtue enough
to refuse unexpected doles. Anywhere, I fancy, a smiling lavish
donation of money would buy blessings and thanks by the bushel. But a
man who thus purchases these must not think, as he drives home
Westward, that he has really benefited the people amongst whom he has
made a descent. I have reason to believe that some districts have been
seriously pauperised, and thus injured, by means of the Western money
that has been thus given away in them.
It might be asked, then, what would you have those do who reside in the
wealthy parts of London, but are honestly desirous of helping such as
inhabit the region of strenuous labour that lies East of the City?
There is a scope for the exercise of their kindliness and the outlay of
their money, without pauperising those whom they would aid. Let them,
e.g., come and help, in a kindly way, in concert with those who know
most of the place and people, and who are trying to benefit them
organically. If they are able and inclined to relieve cases of
individual distress, let them do so in co-operation with the local
Charity Organisation Society.
Or let a man do a defined Christian work, gathering together and
periodically teaching and counselling a class of lads. Let a lady make
friends with a class of girls, or undertake the kindly visitation of
certain chronic sick. There are many ways in which a person of leisure
and perseverance, living in some other part of London, could do a
distinctly good work in the East. But a mere gadding about of a Lady
Bountiful, with halfcrowns, would do much more harm than good. Any
work, moreover, here — as well as elsewhere, to be of use — must be
punctual, sustained, and done in a spirit of respect for and civility
towards those whom it is intended to benefit.
If would-be helpers of the East wish to work on a larger scale, they
may, e.g., promote the erection of new dwellings. It is obvious that
these are more easily provided where sites are cheap, and such,
dwellings are not only appreciated, but pay the promoters a fair
interest. We have much room for improvement in respect to houses for
the working classes, and the price of land, which checks these
operations Westward, is not a hindrance here. Let those who would
benefit us also help in the provision of such institutions as baths and
washhouses. Let them aid in the establishment and conduct of Penny
Banks, or anything which tends to make people help themselves, but let
them not think to aid us by opening out fresh ponds for beggars to fish
in. Let them not peril or impair that sturdy independence, which is, as I think by comparison of it with the West,
one of the striking features in the East. We want, moreover, some
phases of decoration, some touches of beauty and refinement, for the
promotion of which we have small leisure and little money.
But I must not pursue, in this chapter, the consideration of several
matters which belong more fitly to our review of the physical and
social aspects of the East of London; or might suggest themselves when
I come to say a word about some of the various trials, hopes, and
prospects which it has been my lot to make or entertain in working
either in the West or East.
to help without pauperising is the theme of this chapter, and it is
interesting that Harry Jones perceived that there was less ouright
'begging' in the East than in the West. The 'lay help' of which he
writes is that provided by affluent benefactors from without,
rather than from licensed workers such as those described here.
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