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All Saints' Church, Brisbane 1862-1937

By D. L. Kissick, B.A.

Brisbane: Published by All Saints' Parish, 1937.

The Rev. Douglas Price, M.A.

These eight years are the saddest and most disheartening in the history of the parish. There had previously been times when the steps of the parishioners would have wandered from the path of Truth but wisely and firmly they had been called back by their pastors. Now it was the pastor who, in his passionate pursuit of what he thought to be Truth and his relentless refusal to tolerate any equivocation, led his followers by devious ways from the reality in a search for a vain chimera of a religion of reason, from the true Faith to the man-made tenets of Modernism.

Douglas Price, born of Quaker parentage in Birmingham, had been six years in the business world before he came to a realisation of his vocation to the priesthood. In preparation for this vocation he went to Durham University and, after obtaining his degree, came to Brisbane in 1903. After being for some time minor canon of the Cathedral and priest-in-charge of All Saints', he was made Rector of the Church and Parish of All Saints' on February 5th 1905. In 1910 the Bishop requested that he should present certain of his sermons to him for his perusal and, since these showed evidence of teaching contrary to the doctrines of the Church, he was requested to resign. His resignation took effect from 19th April, 1911.

The Rev. D. Price then founded the Brisbane movement known as "Progressive Christianity" or "Modernism," and was its guiding spirit until his untimely death in 1916. It is interesting to note that his last public address given on the Sunday before his death was entitled "Intolerance." In 1921 it is said that the movement which he had led had become "moribund if not entirely dead."

Perhaps before discussing his work at All Saints' and his final break with the Church, it will be well to quote the words of the editor of the "Church Chronicle" on the occasion of his death. "The news of the death of Mr. D. Price came a shock to us all, and brought back many memories. We do not, of course, forget the serious and fundamental differences of belief which separated him from the Church he once served as a priest, but it is still possible to pay a sincere tribute of respect to him as a man and a citizen. In him the poor and needy found a constant and unfailing friend, and he was always ready to support the cause of social purity and unselfish living. His public lectures on literary and philosophical subjects doubtless helped many to develop an interest in the imaginative side of life and, in a country whose characteristic danger is materialism, this must be counted for gain. But, above all, we gratefully remember that when the controversy was raging around his resignation of All Saints' he allowed no single word of bitterness or recrimination to escape him. His passion for reality and truth, and his impatience of conventional formulas, led him, as we believe, through devious ways to disastrous conclusions, but it was a genuine passion."

A remarkable preacher with a magnetic personality but a rather harsh voice, his unique and daring utterances, his love of beauty and his ascetic life made all feel Christ to be a poignant reality and "he made one feel for Him a sublime love, an adoration, an utter humility, a longing to follow Him. He saw in His life the delight of beautiful living, of playing one's part gently and lovingly, going through the world with eyes that can see beauty in the simplest things, a heart that is open and friendly to the commonest people."

An agnostic but never an atheist, he finally denied Christ to be the Son of God, holding there to be many sons of God and, of himself, he said: "I aspire to pass all barriers, even the bounds of personality, to yield myself to illimitable love, for I know I am one with God." The victim of a painful disease, he hid almost constant suffering throughout his life by his ready wit and boyish sense of humour and was indefatigable in his efforts to lead each and every person to find joy through beauty. While "willing to suffer and eager to die" he had a passionate love of the beautiful things in life, "the beauty of the mind, physical beauty, lovely words that blaze like jewels, music that frees the soul, and Nature, Truth and kindness. Ugliness and cruelty he regarded as sin." He said: "The greatest of arts is the art of life--to live beautifully, to clothe our pain in purple, and in silver our joy, to see in common bushes the very fire of God."

On leaving All Saints' he built his home, Puck's Palace, on a high bank with a magnificent view of the river and in no nook or corner of it would he allow to creep any of the sordid ugliness against which his soul revolted.

The disrepair and general dinginess of All Saints' in 1903 must have been a sore trial to him. The church was in need of painting and reroofing; hangings, carpets and books needed renewing and there was a debt of £350 in addition to Synod arrears of £150. Within a few months, new cassocks and surplices for the choir were made and a new Bible and Altar Book given, as well as a set of embroidered white linen vestments. The old articles which these gifts replaced were given to the New Guinea Mission. In 1906 the church was cleaned and painted and a new chancel carpet given, a new carpet for the aisle was bought with the baptismal offerings, a font ewer was presented by Mrs. Vanneck in memory of her two sons, and the rectory was reroofed and painted. In September, 1903, daily Matins and Evensong were recommenced and, from January 1st, 1904, daily Eucharist became the rule. "A really important step and we hope that communicants living near will make an earnest endeavour to be present when possible. It will also offer an opportunity to devout church people of making their communion on their birthdays and other great anniversaries of their lives."

At the next annual meeting the priest reported "The daily Eucharist has been a great blessing to the parish and we have been fully justified in making the choral Eucharist the chief service of the day on two Sundays in the month instead of one. So far from its driving the people away, the congregations have steadily increased and I feel confident that sooner or later you will ask me to arrange for the Choral Eucharist every Sunday, as is the obvious intention of the Prayer Book." In a few years this prophecy was fulfilled but as the Rev. D. Price's teaching was unfortunately not Catholic, the change proved detrimental in that the number of early communicants dwindled very steadily while the bulk of the congregation returned to the bad habit of late non-fasting communions.

By Easter, 1904, the Synod assessment debt having been cleared off, the Rev. D. Price wrote in the Chronicle: "Now it is paid All Saints' basks once more in the warm sunshine of Diocesan favour" and the wardens in their report more seriously said: "We are once more an active and component factor in the Diocese, and able to give voice in its policy." (The injustice of the parish being assessed on the non-existent Peattle Fund had been removed.) The wardens' report continued "all changes in the services and conduct of church business have been made with the full knowledge and approval of your wardens. Your wardens wish to place on record their appreciation of the services. of the Rev. D. Price, and it is their intention at the first available opportunity to secure him as our rectory."

So bad were finances at this period that the Rev. D. Price was only in receipt of a stipend of £183 and the rectory was let to the Diocesan Council for use as a Theological College. During 1904 Miss Slawson was appointed as mission sister within the parish. The pulpit, prayer desk and font were repainted by Mr. Gunderson and there is a note in the service book saying that, on March 27th, "the Musical Walk-in was converted into a procession." On February 5th, 1905, the Rev. D. Price was appointed as rector of the Church and Parish of All Saints' and was inducted by the Bishop of Brisbane, Dr. St. Clair Donaldson. The previous year had been one of progress materially, £120 having been paid off the debt and a new chasuble and Altar linen having been given.

During 1905 Matins as the main service on Sundays was abandoned, Choral Eucharist taking its place; a nurse gave free services to the sick and poor and the Rev. D. Price began the publication of his popular quarterly, "The Cygnet," being a paper of essays, religious and literary, but containing no parish news as it was not wished to usurp the place of the "Church Chronicle." 1905 too, marked the commencement of the literary lectures which, although held in the church on week nights, attracted a large body of listeners. The first of the series was "Poetry, the Handmaiden of Religion." This year saw the revival of the practice of holding daily evening addresses in All Saints during Holy Week. The first year they were taken by the Rector, the next by the Rev. F. M. Nightingale, the next by the Archbishop, the next by the Archdeacon and another year by Canon Tomlin.

At the Easter meeting of 1906, the parishioners were asked to give serious consideration to the possibility of removing All Saints' Church since it was so close to the new Cathedral which it was planned should be opened at Easter, 1910. The proposal met with no approval so the matter was allowed to drop until 1909 when, at a special meeting on June 17th, the Archbishop took the chair and proposed that:

The congregation should migrate to St. Luke's Church and that All Saints' property should be handed over to the Diocesan Council and sold, part of the proceeds to be used to endow St. Luke's and the rest to go to the Cathedral Fund. The feeling of the meeting being strongly against this proposal, the meeting was adjourned for one month in order that the proposal should receive due consideration.

At a parochial council meeting held a fortnight later, three alternatives were suggested:

(1) That All Saints' should continue as at present.

(2) That the property be sold and the proceeds be used towards the endowment of St. Luke's and the Cathedral Fund.

(3) That All Saints' should join the Cathedral.

These three proposals were put to a parishioners' meeting on July 14th, the voting being by ballot. The first motion won by 200 to 9. A subscription list to wipe off the debt (£400) was then opened and £117 was promised before the meeting closed. The decision of the congregation to keep All Saints' open was communicated to the Archbishop by Mr. C. Mant, the people's warden and the following reply was received.

"The All Saints parishioners have, in my opinion, missed an opportunity of doing a really public-spirited thing, and setting a fine example to the Diocese in the interests of the Church. If All Saints' could have thus looked beyond parochial interests, the whole church would have been inspired by their action. I quite recognise, however, that what I asked of them was a hard thing but, while I regret their decision, I do not intend to place any difficulties in their way.

My fear is that All Saints' and the Cathedral may hinder one another and that the Cathedral may be prevented from becoming a really strong centre for the City and Diocese owing to the competition of a Church so near at hand. I do not, however, surrender the hope that All Saints' people may come some day to see the advantage which would come of amalgamation to the whole Church, and may even yet see their way to consent to it.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed) St. Clair Brisbane.

We may venture to think that Archbishop Donaldson wrong in his judgement upon All Saints' decision; at the time the Peattie Will Case was before the Court and a decision in favour of the Church practically assured. With the Cathedral fund mounting but slowly and no adequate way of knowing whence the building, when completed, would draw its congregation since its old congregation was served by St. Luke's and All Saints' drew the people from the immediate vicinity of the new Cathedral, certainly the best way to assure it both a congregation and an income was to close All Saints', sell the property and transfer its endowment. The land would even then have been worth quite a large sum. Although the Archbishop had promised to put no difficulties in All Saints' way, actually he did so. It was unkindly hinted that he found no reason to question the Rev. D. Price's orthodoxy until after the congregation had refused to accede to his wishes but, although he acted rightly in taking this step one cannot but condemn his attitude in causing almost constant friction between All Saints' on the one hand and himself and the Cathedral on the other which the Rev. F. M. Nightingale records during the early years of his rectorship.

During the whole of the period of the Rev. D. Price's rectorship the finances were ever in a precarious condition, the heavy burden of the initial debt remaining almost stationary and in one year the Rector gave £88 to prevent its increase--a large sum when his Stipend stood at only £183 per annum.

In 1907 a sale of work was held in conjunction with--the Brookfield Church. This little church bears testimony to the fact that, even in his old age, Canon Jones' zeal for the care of the people in the sparsely populated areas was unflagging. While Rector of Indooroopilly he extended the ministration of the Church by building a number of mission churches served from Indooroopilly. In 1934 this work became too heavy for the rector of Indooroopilly and the district of Brookfield was put into the charge of the rector of All Saints'.

In 1907 and the following years the Rector of All Saints' was almost overburdened with work for there was still no curate (although Mr. Mant in his capacity of lay reader helped with the services) and the rector was chaplain to the Tufnell Home, the Refuge and the Society of the Sacred Advent in addition to his work at the Normal School, his editorship of the "Cygnet" and his weekly literary lectures. In 1910 the rector ceased holding weekday masses except on Thursdays. He wrote at about this time: "I am learning to appreciate more and more the blessings we have in our beautiful church and the keenness of its workers." In June, 1910, the Full Court gave the decision that the Peattie Will was valid and that the arrears from the cessation of payment in 1899 should be paid. This decision was based on the grounds that a Church of England has recognition apart from Synod, that All Saints' was never vested in nor controlled by Synod and that the gifts were not in favour of Synod but were intended for charitable use. Well it was for All Saints' that the parishioners against the Bishop's wishes, had continued to elect trustees and had not vested the property in Synod in 1901. The Court did not in this first decision indicate how these arrears were to be used. On October 23rd, the Archbishop requested the Rev. D. Price to resign but decided to hold the resignation over until the final decision regarding the Peattie monies was received. The arrears and interest amounted on account of the Curate's. Fund to £2561, and that for the poor fund to £768 (the expenses of all parties having been paid out of the estate). In 1911 the Full Court determined that the Curate Fund arrears might be used to pay the church debt and repair the rectory and directed that the residue should be invested and the interest thereon appropriated towards the payment of the Rector's stipend; the interest on the arrears of the Poor Fund was to be used as a yearly increment to that fund. Thus once again the Church was restored to wellbeing through the benevolence of its great benefactress, Mrs. Peattie.

On January 23rd, 1911, a special meeting of parishioners was convened to make public the discussion of the Archbishop's request that the Rev. D. Price should resign. The hall was packed, the people holding that it was the Archbishop's wish to dispel All Saints' and so bring the control of its endowment into his own hands. The Rev. D. Price assured them that this was not so, and requested them to accept the Archbishop's ruling that he should resign and so smooth matters over that his successor would not have a hard time to keep things in order. The meeting decided to send a petition to the Archbishop, and as this was not favourably received, the Rev. D. Price dated his resignation from April 19th, 1911.

At the Easter meeting he announced that the Rev. F. M. Nightingale, an old friend of his, was to be the new rector and asked for him the same liberal support that he himself had ever received. He went on to say: "This Church has still a large work to do in our city. I hope you will welcome your new rector right royally and give him your hearty support. It is with great sorrow that I now sever my connection with this church and congregation where I have spent the happiest years of my life." He concluded his address by advising the congregation to re-elect Mr. Mant as their warden as he had such a thorough knowledge of the Peattie Fund. The congregation, however, would not re-elect him as he had upheld the Archbishop and stood against the congregation in the controversy which raged around the Rev. D. Price's resignation. It was a pity that Mr. C. Mant, a fine and loyal churchman, should have been so shamefully treated in this matter. A staunch churchman, a willing worker and a keen businessman, he had used his time, his talents and his money in the service of the Church. In addition to the time he had spent on the Peattie Will Case, in which he represented All Saints' trustees, he had been church warden, lay reader, superintendent of the Sunday School, trustee and Synods and also he had borne the brunt of the financial worries of the parish even to the burden of the large parish debt in order that the church might be spared paying interest on it. But the congregation, incensed at the impending departure of the rector, was blind to the fact that Mr. C. Mant had chosen the higher loyalty in remaining true to his Faith in preference to his friend, for such the Rev. D. Price ever remained to him.

The church wardens' Easter report in 1911 closed with the words: "We sincerely regret that we are to lose the services of our rector on April 19th and can only add that we wish him 'God Speed' wherever he may be at all times."

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