Born September 27th, 1886; Ordained Deacon in the Diocese of London 1910; Died at Montreal, May 21st, 1917, when on his way to England to offer his services as a Chaplain to His Majesty's Forces.
Shanghai, June 8, 1917.
My Dear Dean,
Your request that an ordinary layman should supply a foreword to your excellent sermon on our late Sub-Dean recalls a special characteristic of Mr. Price's--his success in persuading men reluctantly to resume the long-abandoned work of writing essays, which he could never understand to be less within our compass than strirring addresses were within his own. Excuses faltered into silence before his compelling ardour.
He was not shy of calling upon us to help him in our humble way. Indeed shyness was, I think, incomprehensible to him, not because he deemed it to be only "vanity inverted"--he was not prone to judge others--but because his own message so fulfilled his life that he simply had to deliver it without taint of self-consciousness. Not the least of many obligations to him is deliverance from the squeamishness that would confine mention of spiritual things to church.
This brings me to what seemed always his great quality. While for many of us religion, however earnest, tends to become a thing apart, for him religion was life. His belief pervaded his everyday course, although never violently obtruded, and never casting gloom or shadow over a most human cheeriness. I had no doubt of the frequency of his private prayer and the rigour of his regular fasting: but both were kept to himself.
It was the sense of his absolute sincerity that reconciled most of us to what in another man might have been objected to as extreme ritualism and undignified preaching--not that his sermons were often obnoxious to such criticism but that, doubtless in his keen desire to dispel apathy, he did occasionally introduce unexpected departures from the usual seemly course of worship.
In a letter prefixed to his "With the Fleet in the Dardanelles" occurs the following passage, which better acquaintance confirmed and which may atone for the freedom of the last paragraph: "It is, of course, no surprise to perceive how the ship and the padrew suited at once, for soundness is the keynote of life in the Navy, and you are of a disposition as nobly 'general' as the Norwich physician boasted himself of. Moreover, you have the talisman open to all honest hearts and souls--the self-forgetfulness that marks the followers of the Master."
I am, My Dear Dean,
Yours very truly,
The Sermon Preached on Trinity Sunday, 1917.
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isaiah VI. 8.
Each of the lessons for Trinity Sunday morning tells us of a Vision of God, and of a messenger sent by God to convey the vision to others. The prophet Isaiah and St. John the Divine were both vouchsafed a vision of eternal things, and both were sent by God to go and testify to what they had seen. Last week we heard of the death of one who had indeed been to us a messenger of God testifying to what he had seen of things divine, bearing record of the Word of Life, as of something which he had heard and seen and known. When we said goodbye to William Harold Price on March 18, 1917, we little thought of death; we felt sure that he had before him a career that would be certainly useful and probably also prominent. We have since learned that he was born into the world for the sake of this Church and the people of Shanghai. His long training, the apprentice-ship of his first curacy, was all for some three years' work in China, and then his task on earth, but not above, was done. This thought seems to me to hallow our outlook upon his life and work, and to make us feel that in a very solemn and sacred sense he was God's gift to us, that he belongs altogether to us and that we should preserve his memory with that loving care that one would feign bestow upon a cherish possession. It was the Lord who said to him, "Go to Shanghai."
But while with all reverence and gratitude we thank God for His goodness in sending to us His servant, we must not forget the privilege that is granted the servants of God of being able to accept or refuse the mission. "Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said I; send me." The call came to Mr. Price very early in life. To be ordained by God to serve men in things pertaining to God was to him the highest possible happiness. Fortunately there are now in the Church colleges to which men can go who in the old days would have been lost to the Ministry solely through lack of funds. At Kelham a man is charged the cost of his training, and he pays for it whenever he can. You will be glad to know that since Mr. Price came to Shanghai he was able to pay off in full his indebtedness to his college. To him this was a great happiness.
At Kelham the men live the life of a religious community. The most menial work is done by the students, and they are taught that it is folly to say that you are willing to wash a brother's feet unless you are at least willing to shine a brother's shoes. The three years' Arts course is thorough, and the four years theological course is comprehensive. Kelham is a true seat of learning. Much time (as we perhaps might reckon it) is spent in prayer and fasting, but feats are kept with joy and mirth. The rule of life has to be kept, and if broken no excuse of any kind may ever be offered. But there is plenty of good fellowship and hilarity, and those who love Kelham love it with all their hearts. Of these was our brother.
East India Docks.
It was the Vicar of All Hallows, East India Docks, who gave Mr. Price a title. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London in 1909 (I think at Michaelmas) and ordained priest in the following year, after the shortest possible diaconate. There he worked till he came to Shangai in 1913, and there he received his first shock of disappoiintment, that shock which must inevitably come to the really keen. It was prophecy fulfilled. "God and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not: make the heart of this people fat, and make their eyes heavy; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." It was not that he did not know the London poor; he knew them and loved them. He had spent a night or two in a Church Army shelter disguised as a deadbeat; he had wheeled a barrow loaded with chopped wood across London to a house at Hyde Park corner to see how it felt; he had donned the red neckerchief and argued in the parks with stump orators; he loved the people to whom he was sent and truly believed he had a message for them,--gospel from heaven; he knew that they had not accepted it but he blamed the way in which it had been presented, not the people who had refused it. And still nobody cared. With a heart aglow with fires from the altar of heaven, the keenest parishioners could only say that the new young curate was not too bad. There was no response to his enthusiasm. And why be surprised? If Romans had failed and Protestants had failed, what hope for our Church with its avowed middle course between two extremes? But his faith did not fail. "The island," a particularly unrighteous quarter of the parish received him, and a great dock strike gave him scope and wonderfully renewed his hope.
The Offer from Shanghai.
But as time went by an old wish to get abroad revived. Arrangements were all but completed for him to work among the Bushmen of Australia, when he found that the emoluments were such that he could not hope to repay anything for many years to his beloved Kelham. Loyalty to his college decided him not to go. It was at this juncture that his eye fell on the announcement of the vacancy in Shanghai. With characteristic impetuosity he threw the paper across the breakfast table at the clergy house and exclaimed, "Goodbye, I'm off to China." He has since told me with delighful candour that "When I looked you up in Crockford, things didn't seem very hopeful." But he persevered. Mr. (now Captain) F.C. Heffer, whom he first saw, Bishop Montgomery, Bishop Molony and Bishop Norris all felt that he was a man of exceptional powers and for your sakes spoke of me far beyond my deserts. When the letters about him reached Shanghai, the wardens readily agreed to my offering him the appointment.
Of course it was a venture. Our training, our schools had been so different. Friends on either side advised against it, and in England it is hardly possible that it could have happened. It seems but yesterday that we drove up together from the Hongkew Wharf, and for the first time entered this house of God, not yet as friends, but both honestly desiring to work as friends. And so we worked and walked together. He with his keen clear intellect, his accurate theological knowledge and I with the rougher experience of life in cities and at a University, great but no longer ecclesiastical. We had as it were a common stock from which to draw at will. Any subject he would discuss clearly and frankly, and sermons were seldom preached without mutual criticism before or afterwards. Gladly do I acknowledge my great indebtedness to him, and proud should I be if I could think that in any way I helped him.
Priest and Preacher.
The question of ritual never caused difficulty. "That is for you to decide," he would say in his cheery manner, "Mine to keep my vow of obedience." Many a time he asked me to tell him if he did anything I did not like. Never was such a colleague. An elaborated ritual was to him a natural expression of the great love of God. He hated barren ritualism. I cannot but hope that somewhere in Canada he found the ritual which from his earlest days he had been accustomed to.
Of his public ministry in Shanghai, it is less necessary that I should speak, for you have heard him and know him. I suppose he became best known in the place as a preacher. The early promise of Kelham and London ripened into those inspired appeals made here during the National Mission. He always had faith in visions. The ideal was not a creation of man but a revelation of God. How often he insisted upon this. Whether for the individual, the nation or the Church, there was one and only one thing to go for, the best ideal, the truest vision. And in that vision freedom always had a prominent place: the liberty wherein Christ has made us free. He saw that the greatest danger to the Church was to adopt an average in the place of an ideal, and he held the average man to be a greater danger to the Church than the sinner. "The drunkard at all events was dissatisfied with life, and drowned his sorrows."
But stirring though his sermons were, he doubted the efficacy of much exhortation and would rather rely upon instruction. As a well-trained theologian he knew how to balance the parts of Christian doctrine, and while always definitely dogmatic he made dogma a living thing. People have often told me they liked Mr. Price's sermons because there was no dogma. They little knew that they liked them because the dogma was so clear. Not long ago he told me that my sermon had caused him much pain; it was full of heresy and most unorthodox. It might be his painful duty to report it to the Bishop! I knew the chaff hid something he wanted to say. We had our talk and the matter dropped with some kind comment from him. Next Sunday he preached my stuff but without a suspicion of strange doctrine. The subject was the passion of God. The article saiys that God is without body, parts or passions.
When War is Over.
But if best known as a preacher, he was greatest as a priest. How highly he valued his office, ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he might offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins as the ambassador of Christ: to have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way. The crown of his glory is the praise of the souls he has led to Christ.
And now as we look back, we are glad we were not selfish. We are glad he went to the Triumph, and to Hankow (twice) and to Chefoo for Missions. Such was the man who answered God's call, "Whom shall I send, who will go for us to Shanghai? Then said I, Here I am; send me."
And we had hoped that he would come back to us, his last word to me was that he would when the war was over. Yet he is still ours. As a friend I feel I cannot lose him. Like the two little brooks that starting from different sources, met at length and in a great current were conjoined, so our lives have met and been conjoined in the current of eternity. And in that better sphere, that higher life where now he is, he will still have in a fuller, freer measure the great desire that in Shanghai the Father's name may be hallowed, the Father's kingdom come, the Father's will be done here in this place as it is in heaven. Requiescat in pace.