Project Canterbury

All Saints' Church, Brisbane 1862-1937

By D. L. Kissick, B.A.

Brisbane: Published by All Saints' Parish, 1937.

The Rev. F. M. Nightingale, M.A.

The Rev. F. M. Nightingale, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and of Lichfield Theological College, came to Queensland as Mission Chaplain in 1906, about four years after his ordination. He was at Charters Towers from 1907 until his appointment to All Saints' in 1911. Twelve years later he resigned, and, returning to England, held the cure of Verwood until he succeeded Dr. Wand, now our Archbishop, as vicar of St. Mark's, Salisbury, in 1925.

More fortunate than his predecessors at All Saints', he found the parish free of debt and in receipt of a sufficient endowment to ensure the services of a curate to assist in its manifold activities. The curates during his rectorship were the Rev. W. F. N. Eldershaw, R. H. Fowler, C. James, C. Smith, B. Brazier, A. J. Mills and C. Dunn.

But although all was well financially with the parish, spiritually it was in a very bad way. The modernistic tendencies and teachings had so permeated it that many thought the appointment of an evangelical rector the only means by which those who had followed the Rev. D. Price would be brought back into the Church. At the latter's resignation, the bulk of the congregation had left and were urging upon him the establishment of Modernistic services. He at first refused to accede to their wishes in this respect but afterwards gave way to their pleadings and began the services known as "Progressive Christianity," publishing as its mouthpiece the "Modernist."

Father Nightingale writes: "No one who was not in Brisbane during the last few years of Douglas Price's incumbency can have the faintest idea of how things had degenerated, nor of the bitterness of the Cathedral congregation. In those days (when first I came to All Saints') I had to tolerate a large number of communicants at the Sung Mass. There were prejudices galore, in those days. Wretchedly poor linen vestments were in use when I took over, but I at once used silk and also unleavened bread. There was a bit of a fuss but the storm arose when I used the cope on All Saints' Day--we lost one man who used to contribute £1 every Sunday, in consequence. There was absolutely no recent altar linen. Mr. Douglas Price had grown indifferent by that time. I started the use of the dalmatic and tunicle, much to the Archbishop's dismay and disgust. There was a sung Mass at 11 o'clock but nearly everybody used to depart after the sermon. To stop this I had notices printed and placed around the walls stating that people must remain until after the blessing.

I have always regretted that I did not have the church photographed before I altered it but it was so dark that it was well-nigh impossible. The floor level ran downhill to the bottom of seven steps upon which the Altar stood." (The chancel was on a level with the vestry floor.) "A huge stone prayer desk blocked the way across the chancel entrance. The choir was hidden in the hollow, and the chancel carpet was in rags.

The corner where now the chapel is was used to store odd seats. It was an awful blot. Lighting was the old 'harp' shaped gas brackets down the centre aisle. The seats had huge fleur-de-lys tops." Father Nightingale had these cut off except on the ends of the short seats against the walls.

"When the Chapel was first erected, it caused a lot of talk. It was called a peanut stall, a confessional box and worse. The rose windows in the shallow transepts used to be hidden behind the wooden ceiling. I had them opened up and fitted with stained glass, Miss Vanneck paid for one but I forget who paid for the other.

The Archbishop was absolutely against everything until Father Kelly visited Brisbane. Moreover it was the Archbishop's wish to wipe out All Saints' in favour of the Cathedral, hence there was no sympathy. He never came without some grumbling as the result. I started the Sung Mass and luncheon on All Saints' Day. The Cathedral responded by arranging a huge service with the Archbishop as preacher on the same day. I fought it out with the Archbishop and got him to promise that in future All Saints' Day should be left to us. The Cathedral also copied my 9.30 a.m. Mass on Sundays and changed to 7.15 a.m. on week days. There was always opposition. I started the Requiem on Anzac Day and had the church packed and also a large number in the church yard. The next year the Cathedral did the same and used three copes.

"At first the Archbishop threatened to forbid the vestments but I simply said I should resign and, as he did not desire to open afresh the awful rows which occurred before I accepted the living, he climbed down. I should be very sorry to have to go through another time such as I had then to face. Archbishop Sharp made all the difference. My first years at All Saints' were very dreadful, we stood absolutely alone. The properties were all in a ruinous condition. The war came all too soon and hindered advance."

Such was the condition of the Church and the two following anecdotes will amply illustrate the attitude of the parishioners to the new rector.

"On my second Sunday evening, directly I began the sermon, someone got up and stamped to the door and banged it. No sooner had he done this than someone else repeated the action. This went on until six or seven had performed. At first I was upset and got hot, then it struck me as funny and I laughed right out. That stopped it, I only received abusive letters afterwards.'

"The organ-blower used to be situated under the organ. The organist used to join him through a trapdoor during sermons-once during a pause there percolated the cry 'Euchre!', they were playing cards!"

Father Nightingale's first steps were to revive the envelope system, to ensure greater reverence on the part of the organist and to amend irregularities in the services. Such speedy results followed that the All Saints' Day services of 1911 were said to have been the best and most devotional for many years past. During 1912 the service times remained as they had been in the previous years, Holy Communion at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays, and at 7.15 a.m. on Thursdays. On Wednesday evenings there was Evensong followed by a sermon and there were morning and afternoon Sunday Schools. Mass was said daily throughout Holy Week. At Easter, 1913, the rector said in his report: "If once we let the Eucharist slip to a secondary place in our worship and estimation, then we have betrayed our Church's trust and violated the faith once delivered to the Saints. We must take great care that we come to the Holy Table only after due preparation. The week day celebrations justify their existence, but the Sung Eucharist shows a greater appreciation while at Evensong there is no diminution of the numbers present. But we have yet to realise that regularity should be the keynote of our spiritual life. Place more and more in the forefront of your thoughts the truth that the Master has a personal love for you and looks for your response to His yearnings. Make your religion a true and personal matter with Him and your church-going a deliberate meeting with Him and the irregularity will soon disappear."

The past year had been the jubilee (50th year of the church) and was marked by the restoration and beautification of the building. The chancel floor was built up to raise the choir above the level of the nave and a number of "new and worthy things for God's service" were given, including the sanctuary lamp, the money for which had been collected by Mr. A. Greed. The responsibilities of the rectorship were heavy and criticism was unceasing but the wardens reported the church to be "not only a popular Church but a powerful one in the support of the Anglican work in the State."

At the close of 1913 Canon Scott and P. S. Wigram conducted a ten days' mission. A year later the missioners paid a return visit and held a quiet afternoon.

In 1916 the first Anzac Day Requiem was held, 300 soldiers being present and Canon Garland being the preacher, as he was the following year. In 1916 also the first blessing and distribution of palms took place. High Mass was sung for the first time on Easter Day of that year and in May Father Blood conducted a mission. There is a note that arrangements were made to use the processional cross during the mission, seemingly indicating that it had fallen into disuse during Douglas Price's incumbency.

On Sunday, February 24, 1918, the War Corner was dedicated; designed as a Lady Chapel, the many prejudices still existing precluded it from being publicly called by that name, although it is so designated in the service book. A faculty had been granted for a side chapel with a second altar and complete furnishings and ornaments, the whole to be surrounded by a parclose screen. The altar given by the Rev. T. Jones in memory of his son at his death in 1871 was removed to the chapel while a new altar as a High Altar was bought with donations given to the rector for that purpose. The chapel screen was completed later and, after it was placed in position, it was dedicated by Archbishop Donaldson on August 25th, 1918. The crucifix on the altar was given in memory of A. J. Greed, who had been killed in action, and the matching candlesticks were given by the Ward of St. Mary and the parish of Taunton, England. The silver vases are those which were given in memory of Mr. H. K. Shaw in 1878. In 1919 a beautifully chased cross made from a spent shell picked up in Flanders and mounted upon wood, was made and given by Gunner E. Chapman to be hung at the entrance to the chapel, and the following year Mr. Seaborn Jones, as a thank-offering for his safe return from the front, gave the very beautiful sanctuary lamp. It was designed by Mr. Tute and is of brass coppered and silver-plated. It is set with six crystals and hung by an unusual device of chains. In 1924 the Rev. F. E. Maynard had a tabernacle built into the altar retable, and in 1936 the chapel received a gift of a new carpet and hangings.

By 1918 a daily Eucharist had become the rule once more, and a children's Mass was said one Sunday in the month at 9.30 a.m. This was found so successful that it very soon replaced morning Sunday School every Sunday of the month.

There was also a Eucharist for members of the Ward of the Holy Child at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Still there was much criticism of the services and of the really beautiful copes. 1919 was kept as the jubilee of the rebuilding of the church and the Dedication services were transferred from the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to September 28th. In 1920 this festival was for the first time held on its rightful date, September 8th, and in the "Gazette" (the parish magazine which had been commenced some two years previously) Father Nightingale wrote: "The Dedication Festival is held in thanksgiving to Almighty God for the building and preservation of our Church. Very many souls have been blessed through the sacraments administered therein." During 1920 the church was given a green cope, and the envelope system was recommenced. The following Easter the Rector said: "I would urge you to join the weekly envelope system, it is the most certain method of fulfilling your duty of devoting a fixed portion of your income to Almighty God. The strain and anxiety in connection with money matters becomes almost unbearable."

The effect of the post-war rise in prices was already becoming evident and the trustees were asked to try to invest the Peattie monies so that they would bear a greater interest, but this was found to be impracticable. The wardens felt an extra £100 per annum to be imperative. But for the Sewing Guild's yearly donation towards the General Fund there would have been a heavy debt. During these years Sister Una Mary, S.S.A., was the parish sister and doing good work among the children, but the rector spoke with regret of "children leaving Sunday School as they go to work. Nothing can stem this leakage except the recognition of the Christian obligation to attend the Lord's service every Lord's Day. When our Church returns to the plain intention of the Prayer book in this most important duty then, and then only, will she keep her children." At the Easter meeting in 1922 Father Nightingale announced, that the Rev. F. E. Maynard had accepted the charge of the parish and he reported "this is the eleventh time that I have been privileged to report on the work at All Saints' Church and, alas, it is to be the last. No one is more sorry than I that circumstances necessitate my departure from your midst but health is an important matter, calling for and insisting upon careful consideration. In my first year at All Saints' 2915 communions were made, this year the number was 5781. I do indeed thank God that I can carry away with me the memory of so great an increase in this most important part of church life. I have pleaded from the very first the urgency of placing the Eucharist in the forefront of all spiritual effort and Worship, and my last words must be a reiteration of my oft-repeated warning, that no Christian can neglect the Lord's own service on the Lord's own day without causing sorrow to the Saviour and loss to his own soul. The week day Eucharists have been better attended this year than ever before, many have realised that religion is not for Sunday only. May we let our life and its many interests centre in the Holy Eucharist."

"The small congregations on Sunday evenings are causing anxiety, I am inclined to think that it means many half-hearted church folk have given up even the small hold they had upon religion and have adopted attendance at the 'band' instead of Evensong. 'Weekend camps are becoming popular at the expense of practical religion, but we must remember that nothing but the most urgent necessity can excuse anyone from attendance at the Divine mysteries." The Rector then went on to speak of the present day fashion of decrying modern music and clamouring for plainsong, but thought that it was merely a craze which would pass away.

Father Nightingale had announced his resignation of the rectorship of the parish in the "Gazette" of the previous March and at the end of the month had been presented with a petition asking him to reconsider his decision. He replied that he regretted not being able to accede to their wishes as the doctor had advised him that the Brisbane climate was unsuitable for him. He had already had one health trip to England but after his return had almost had a nervous breakdown. He left on June 15th, 1922, with a heavy heart, for there was no other parish suitable for him in Australia and the old country had ceased to have any pull upon his desires and affections.

No better summary of his work can be given than that written by Archbishop Sharp in the "Church Chronicle." "Mr. Nightingale's work at All Saints' has sustained throughout a high spiritual note. In Catholic Churchmanship he has been an example and an inspiration." By dint of loving and arduous labour he had reclaimed the parish from the quagmire into which it had been led by the Rev. D. Price and had brought it to the safe ground of the true Faith. Both Church and rectory had been repaired and painted, the Lady Chapel had been built, a new High Altar given and many new fittings and vestments had been obtained in order that the services could be rendered in a seemly manner but, above all, the congregations had been attracted to church not by mere sensational preaching but by the true conviction of the obligation and necessity of public worship as a component part of the duty which each person owes to Almighty God.

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