Monthly Archives: October 2015

Why was Keble College built?

“Why was Keble College built?”
“Ask the gingerbread and gilt!”
Answers Burgon. “Oh, that slid on
Quite by accident,” says Liddon;
“For though modest, humble, feeble,
All our work has been for Keble!”
“Humph best plough in broader furrows,
That’s my view of it,” cries Burrows.
“Yes,” adds Bernard, “reason why
We’ve not built it in the High.”
“Stay. I’ll make it clear,” says Pusey.
“College life’s but crêmant Bouzy.
Therefore Keble offers all
Beer that’s Christmas beer, though small.
Yes, the sons who pass her lats,
All go in for Christian greats.
Though like Christmas some be plucked,
All in Christian beds are tucked;
Fed in all on Christian dinners,
Not like us, poor Christ Church sinners,
Who, confessing thus our guilt,
Thank our stars that Keble’s built!”

Punch, May 25, 1878, p. 233.


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Soft Shrift (1940)

I love a gentle eiderdown,
I am its proud possessor.
It is my very dearest friend,
And favourite confessor.

For, when I tell it all my sin,
It seeks no retribution;
But lulls me in its silken folds
With downy absolution.

I know deluded Catholics,
By sinister persuasion,
Are forced to give themselves away
To priests, without evasion.

I know neurotic server-boys,
And women with obsession,
Are lured by curates to commit
Auricular confession.

Yet, sins by which the Romanists,
And foreigners are smitten,
Are hardly likely to infect
The sturdy sons of Britain.

For, though we English have our faults,
Of which we do not chatter;
We seldom find the conscience bowed
By any weighty matter.

Although in church at Morning Prayer,
Of erring sheep the tale is;
Such florid Stuart rhetoric
We take cum grano salis.

To own my failings to a priest,
I dread beyond all measure;
But tell them to my eiderdown
And find it quite a pleasure.

This gospel of the Kindly Quilt,
Is worthy of all spreading.
Let Church of England saints exult,
Rejoicing in their bedding!

From S.J. Forrest, Parish Fashions (Dublin: Coelian Press, 1940), p. 21.

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Beware of the Dogma (1940)

He preached about the Trinity and how the world began;
Explained the Incarnation and the destiny of man.
He carefully expounded every detail of the creeds,
And tried to show their relevance to modern human needs;
He brilliantly upheld the Christian heritage of truth,
And sought to make it lucid and acceptable to youth.
They listened with correctitude, but everybody said,
“He’s far too theological, and quite above our head.”

He gave an exposition of the Church’s means of grace,
Revealing how the Sacraments revive a fallen race;
Of self-examination and the ways of mental prayer,
And why we need Communion, and how, and when, and where.
He spoke of Bible-reading, and to make it all complete,
Gave practical instruction on the value of retreat.
And everyone agreed that it was logical enough,
But only suitable for those who like that kind of stuff.

He chose the Ten Commandments as the basis of a course,
He amplified their meaning and emphasized their force;
He took the eight Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount,
And spoke of Christian stewardship and rendering account.
He did his best to penetrate beneath their toughened skins
With pointed expositions of the Seven Deadly Sins.
They felt a little slighted to be led across this ground,
For morals in suburbia are basically sound.

One day, in disillusionment, believing no one cared,
He flung at them a homily completely unprepared,
Endeavouring his customary quarter-hour to fill,
With sentimental platitudes that meant precisely NIL;
Returning to the vestry in the grip of horrid fears
That people would consider it insulting to their ears.
But no, they were enraptured and devoured every word:
“Oh, Vicar, it was lovely! Quite the best we’ve ever heard!”

From S.J. Forrest, Parish Fashions (Dublin: Coelian Press, 1940), p. 9.

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A-sitting on a Fence (1940)

THE Face of our Anglican Church
Is comely, we dare to suppose,
Because of a steady research
To balance the Ayes and the Noes.

By doctrines obliquely averred,
And slightly ambiguous phrase,
We marshall our dissonant herd,
The blacks and the whites and the greys.

Whenever required to affirm
A dogma of Heaven or Hell,
We use an equivocal term,
To cover denials as well.

When questioners ask for advice,
We find it is prudent to swerve,
By answering, “It shall suffice
As every man’s conscience may serve.”

And so the broad highway is paved
For all, who with penitent thrill,
Cry, “What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe … or deny … as you will!”

It diddles the devil, we know,
And baffles his sinister ends;
He cannot tell if he’s a foe,
Or one of our intimate friends.

To seek indeterminate day,
We trample a dubious fen,
A multi-directional way,
For ever and ever, Amen.

S.J. Forrest, Parish Fashions (Dublin: Coelian Press, 1940), p. 9.

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Gala Day Church St. Mary the Virgin—Roman Fashion (1933)

EACH year, on Lincoln’s Birthday, it is the custom of the Merry Monks of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, New York City, to act as hosts for the acolytes of the metropolitan area and to put on a show of tremendous proportions. Solemn High Mass, two processions, benediction and what not are staged in the latest Roman fashion. The so-called “Catholic” clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church turn out for this annual performance as do quantities of the congregations committed to their charge. Arriving early we took our seats in the nave of the famous “Cathedral” of the High Church on West 46th Street. There amid the gaudy atmosphere of Times Square is nestled the even gaudier Gothic Saint Mary’s, an oddity in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Shortly after our arrival the various members of the local guild of acolytes commenced to prepare the stage for the performances that were to ensue. Hundreds of candles had to be lit, shawls and other draperies had to be put in place for the celebrating ministers, and the incense pots had to be made ready for the rite of fumigation which is such a necessary adjunct to the service of the Lord’s Supper in “catholic” parishes. These, and other menial tasks, were being performed by the sanctuary maids-of-all-work, the Ceremonariuses, of Saint Mary’s. It was a pleasure to see the august and robust Ceremonarius Primus of the church moving chairs about, all with a delicate sense of the arty. A piano stool was at length brought forth and placed on the Epistle side of the altar. The affair was covered with a bit of damask and one wondered just what this would have to do with the proceedings. At length the place was made ready for the opening procession. Readers of The Chronicle are by now acquainted with the general procedure that governs an “Acolytes’ Festival”. It is necessary merely to say that all sorts and conditions of acolytes were there. A mitred bishop appeared as the celebrant. It was his Lordship of Algoma. Algoma is not in the South Seas as many people think. It is a diocese in Canada. Our friend from across the border likes this sort of performance and Saint Mary’s is fortunate in having so splendid a figure perform at these services. A red biretta appeared and another bishop was seen. This was the Lord Bishop of Milwaukee. In resplendent red shawl this fellow recalled to mind that among other things Milwaukee is remembered for its Catholic oddities in the Protestant Episcopal Church. Visiting clergy took seats in the chancel. These were garbed in surplice and biretta. It was interesting to note that many of them wore a crucifix depending from the neck. A sweeping fashion, we are told, in “catholic” circles. In the course of the Mass we looked up and saw a monk in the grey habit of Saint Francis. The young fellow was assisting the fathers at the altar and he continually held a lighted taper. We wondered at first just what he was looking for. Did they lose the Book of Common Prayer? That, of course would be a small loss. The services of Saint Mary’s are not those of the Prayer Book of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, dear reader. Saint Mary’s prefers the American Missal or, better still, the Missal of the Church of Rome. We were led to believe that this ambitious Franciscan was searching in the chancel for a loyal and true member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. We believe, too, that he did not find one for when the show was over he still had the candle. At odd times in the service one caught sight of the celebrating bishop seated upon the piano stool. Some times bishops are weary and so, we suppose, he just sat down for a rest. Few, if any in the place, knew what it was all about, so the good bishop just stopped to take another breath. When it came time for the sermon the second bishop took his turn. Yes, it was an all star cast. At this point the ample Ceremonarius Secundus ushered in a number of acolytes that had arrived late. A Bronx delegation and a Jersey group, no doubt. The position of Ceremonarius must be a rather fine one. These gentlemen seem to thrive on it. One is minded of the Gilbert and Sullivan lyric which, in Saint Mary’s, could be their theme song or leading motive, “Stouter than I used to be, still more corpulent grow I; there will be too much of me in the coming bye and bye”. There are already too many of these in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

The Grand March and Promenade “was just swell.” Incense filled the place as acolytes and priests marched out on display. Our Lord was carried under a canopy by the celebrant and profound and humble were the bows that the congregation made as He passed on his way. At the conclusion the benediction was given. One thought for a moment that the bishop had developed the jitters as he imparted the blessing from the smoke filled chancel. No, he was simply giving the triple blessing, a new wrinkle that is also finding its place in the Protestant Episcopal Church. About the only comment that we can make is to quote a remark made by a little girl whose fond mamma had taken her to see brother march. “It was lovely”, she said, “but mamma, what was it all about”?

From The Chronicle, Poughkeepsie, March 1933, p. 130.

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Back to the Church of England (1916)

Back to the Church of England!
Why did you ever stray?
Hers is the Old Time Gospel;
Hers is the Living Way.

Back to the Church of England!
That’s where the heart beats true;
Children, why do you linger?
Your Mother yearns for you.

Back to the Church of England!
Bring all your treasures rare;
Pike up your golden virtues,
Your Mother craves a share.

Back to the Church of England!
Yes, She has treasures, too;
Why should you live without them?
Children they are for you.

Back to the dear old Mother!
Back to her arms once more;
Jesus, her Lord and Watchman,
Calls you from every shore.

Back to the Church of Jesus!
Back with the victory won;
Buried, all strife and discord
Answered, they all are one.

Back to the Church of England!
Back to the Empire’s Stay;
Hers is the Grand Old Gospel.
Hers is the Living Way.

By the Reverend Canon J. T. Richards, priest of Flower’s Cove (1904-1905).

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Sir,—The death of some, and the sad defection of others, have left me almost the last survivor of those who took a prominent part in the Anglo-Catholic movement at Edinburgh, thirty years ago, who has remained true to his opinions, so that I read the Bishop of Argyll’s remarks on this subject almost as a personal attack upon myself. But I am much more concerned for the reputation of those who have departed; and I trust that you will therefore allow me to explain the facts of the case, which the Bishop so strangely travesties.

I assert, therefore, fearlessly, that the Anglo-Catholic party of the Scottish Church have always felt the deepest sympathy for the Highland congregations. Scarcely had the penal laws been repealed, when my grandfather, Sir William Forbes, bore the whole expense of translating and printing the first edition of the Gaelic Prayer Book; and when he found that the Scotch Communion Office was not contained in the volume, as he had intended it should be, he had it also translated and printed separately. Those who value the Prayer Book as a devotional manual will have no difficulty in seeing what a boon it must have been to the Gaelic congregations to have this help in their worship of God.

I shall pass over the grants from the Episcopal Fund, of which my father was the leading manager for nearly half a century, during a period when sympathy with these poor people was much less fashionable than it is now, and which was then the instrument of the Anglo-Catholic or moderate and old-fashioned High Church party, and supported by them. These grants were given, both to increase the small stipends of the clergy, and also to support schools; an evidence of which may be seen in the reports of our present Church Society, which, under the agreement which the trustees of the Episcopal Fund made with it, has had to give larger sums to the Gaelic schools than to those elsewhere. There was, besides, the Gaelic Episcopal Society, the precursor of the present Canonical Society, which also was of great use during that time of general torpor.

When the wave of the Oxford movement reached Scotland, I myself was beginning to take part in Church matters, and one of the first objects to which my attention was directed was the state of the Gaelic Episcopalians. Amongst other plans, I may mention the Gaelic Tract Society, which I organized, with a committee embracing almost all the leading Episcopalians connected with the Highlands, as well as several of the more active supporters of the Church movement at Edinburgh, by whom (as residing on the spot) its management was practically carried on, as to choice of matter for translation. In spite of great difficulties, owing, no doubt, in part to my own unfitness for the office of secretary, but in part also, I must add, to the apathy and unmanageableness of some of my clerical correspondents in the north, we for several years printed and circulated every month a little tract in Gaelic. Nothing was printed without episcopal sanction, and the publications were such as no sound Churchman could object to—sermons by the good Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man, tracts by Mr. Gresley, tales by Mr. Monro of Harroweald, etc. In fact, it was very [236/237] similar to the plan which I afterwards carried out at Burntisland, for six years, in the Gospel Messenger. But after a while I was obliged to give it up; and I must plainly assert that one main reason was Bishop Ewing’s own indifference and opposition. His sentiments about the Gaelic congregations then were very different from those he now expresses; and I fear that, possibly, other motives connected with the opposition of some to the manner of his election to the bishopric, rendered him unwilling to allow his people to be aided through our hands. At least, it is difficult otherwise to account for the fact, that he who now complains of our not having helped our Highland brethren, then used the authority of his office to prevent us from doing so when we were both ready and willing, and, without alleging a single error or objectionable passage in any of our publications, formally prohibited me from sending any of them into his diocese; so that I had to go before the Episcopal Synod to request their mediation in the matter, and their help to disabuse the Bishop of the fears he expressed; and although this was kindly and promptly granted, I had shortly after to wind up the Society’s affairs.

But our efforts were not confined to endeavouring to supply the Highlanders with sound and healthy religious reading, important though that was. During the potato famine, considerable help was sent through private hands, to be distributed by the clergy among the members of our own communion, who, it was feared, might occasionally fare rather badly if left to the exclusive charge of the general committees, who would mainly consist of Presbyterians. At the same time a plan was started for supplying relief to the people by giving work, which it was thought would be better than mere alms-giving. It was proposed to build at once several chapels or chapel schools in different parts of the Highlands—much the same plan, in short, which Lady Alice Ewing is now carrying out after the lapse of nearly thirty years. The plan fell to the ground through the apathy of some of the Gaelic clergy at the time; almost the only result of it being, that such help was given as enabled the chapel at Duror to be built. But the great want of the Gaelic districts of our Church was that of labourers. My father was always so unwilling to refer to his own works of charity that I can give no details as to what he did himself, or induced others to do, before I was able to take part in the correspondence. But at the period I am speaking of, one of our clergy, at his request, looked out two young men to be prepared for holy orders, for one of whom he got a grant from the Rosse Fund, while he himself paid all the expenses of the education of the other. About the same time, he paid for the training of three young women to be schoolmistresses; and though it ultimately turned out that they were not qualified for working in the Highlands, it does not detract from the merit of his good work that he was duped about it.

And now I come to a still more painful part of my vindication. I need not say that in Scotland the principles of AngloCatholicism, as held by men like the Bowdlers, Sir James Park, Mr. Stevens, Dr. Hook, and Mr. Keble in his earlier days, show themselves in a deep veneration for the Scotch Communion Office. Now, to this, Bishop Ewing (like his predecessor, Bishop Low) entertained a strong dislike, and he used his whole influence, and all the authority connected with his office, to suppress it and keep it away, however willing or even anxious the congregation might be to use it. In the case already referred to,—that at Duror,—the money we had given was returned to us. In another case, which I will not name, advantage was taken of over-confidence in the honour of the recipients, and the money was retained, although it was known by all that it had been given on a distinctly different understanding. Under these circumstances, it was of course impossible for us to continue to offer pecuniary aid.

I will not enter into the question whether a man has a right to accept the office of bishop in a Church when he means to identify himself with one party in it so exclusively. But I do protest against the injustice of first preventing a body of men from carrying out their most solemn convictions, and then taunting them for not having acted.

I am sorry to have had to re-awaken old stories, which had much better have been forgotten, but it is necessary that the Church should know the truth as to this matter. I can only express my astonishment at the shortness of the Bishop’s memory. I do not say that Anglo-Catholics in Scotland did all that they should or might have done, but from the facts I have given, it will be seen that they did not limit their efforts or sympathies as the Bishop states. Something was done in every department; and I believe it was mainly owing to these efforts that the Gaelic congregations continued to exist through the episcopate of Bishop Low, whose appointment I must not scruple to call a most unfortunate one. The respect with which my father was regarded in the Highlands was by no means confined to Episcopalians; but if some of the elder generation had still been alive, such as Archdeacon Mackenzie or Mrs. Fyvie, I suspect they would have given an account of the past history of our Church in the north very different from that of the Bishop of Argyll, who seems to wish to be regarded as its first benefactor. So far from this being the case, I will say that, had he, when first consecrated, taken up his present line about the Gaelic Episcopalians, these congregations might have been preserved, and even multiplied. But now I fear that cannot be, owing to hiB long neglect of them, before he discovered that they could form the subject of picturesque speeches at London House. And to this must be added his real want of sympathy with the national characteristics of the Celtic race, which is the greatest possible barrier to exercising a beneficial influence over a people.

I now leave it to your readers to form their own opinion as to the Bishop’s unprovoked attack after the lapse of so many years, and after the success of his efforts to suppress and destroy the canonical authority of the Scotch Communion Office has led to the growth among us of that ritualism which he must surely dislike quite as much. I trust there may before long be a turn in the tide, and that men may come back from all three extremes—Geneva, Borne, and Germany—to the old paths of primitive truth.

G. H. Forbes,
Incumbent of S. Serf’s.
Burntisland, October 1872.

From The Scottish Guardian, November 8, 1872, pp. 236-237.

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