Project Canterbury

Dean Church
by D. C. Lathbury

The English Churchman's Library
London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. , 1905

Transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G. Melillo
AD 2001

Chapter VII
First Years at Saint PaulÕs

Dr ManselÕs death, in July, 1871, placed the Deanery of Saint PaulÕs at Mr GladstoneÕs disposal, and he at once offered it to Church. Left to himself, he would have unhesitatingly declined it. In the first instance indeed, as we learn from a letter of LiddonÕs dated August 19th, he did decline it. "But I think," adds Liddon, "I prevailed on him to pause. We both returned to Mr Gladstone."

On August 25th Church writes to Cardinal Newman: "It was settled on Wednesday, Gladstone would not let me off. Whether I was weak in yielding I cannot tell." And then he quotes a verse from Ecclesiasticus which is seldom, perhaps, on the lips of those nominated to great offices. "Much has been said about coveting great places, and much about shirking responsibilities. I think that there is still something wanting to be said about the doctrine of the Son of Sirach, about a manÕs trusting his own soul and about there being no man living more faithful unto him than it. ÔFor a manÕs mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than Seven Watchmen who sit above in a high tower.Õ" The shock of the coming change had not grown less, when, on the 10th of October, he wrote to Asa Gray: "I wish I could say I was reconciled to what is to be. But I am not; and I cannot expect to be. I have made a great mistake, the mistake of not knowing hot to say ÔNo!Õ to warm and pressing appeals from people whom I respected, when my own judgement was really quite the other way."

After much and anxious thought, this was the conclusion that remained with him. He had made a great mistake. It was a strange prelude to a period of strenuous and eventful service, but it also was the prelude best fitted to give the lie to the fears expressed in it. Even as Church wrote it, he felt that it was "idle and vain talking," and promised Gray that he should have no more of it. But the prospect of the work before him ø to make Saint PaulÕs "waken up from its long slumber, and show what us it is of and how it can justify its existence as the great central church of London" ø only filled him with a conviction that he had "neither aptitude nor experience" for what he would have to do. Yet for once the Son of Sirach was wrong, and the Seven Watchmen measured ChurchÕs powers, and read his future, more accurately than he did himself. Doubtless his regret for much that he had left behind at Whatley, most of all for the delight of "being able to worship and serve away from the strife of tongues," remained with him. But against this must be set the sense of new powers, and new opportunities of using them that came to him as the years went on.

What these opportunities were is admirably described by Dr Scott Holland in a chapter which he contributed to Miss ChurchÕs book. Hitherto Saint PaulÕs had been "waiting for the discovery of its activities." Twice a day a "tiny body of cultivated musicians" hidden away behind the solid wall of the organ-screen "sang to a sprinkled remnant of worshippers." At other times, "over the length and breadth of its large area, cold, naked, and unoccupied, mooning sight-seers, roamed at large." Dr Holland then enumerates six directions which the work of reform had to embrace. There must be continuous worship. That worship must show in ever detail the marks of reverent and loving care. The Eucharist must no longer be "the privilege of a secluded know who have it all to themselves at the obscure end of a Sunday morning service."; it must open each day with its sanction, and on Sundays show itself as the "culminating moment of public worship," to which music and art should minister of their best. The worship thus reorganised must cover the whole area of the building, a requirement which necessitated the removal of the organ-screen and a great increase in the number of the choir. The cathedral must be open to all worshippers. There must be "no challenging vergers, no obstruction to free movement, no inquiries, suspicions, no exclusions, no shaking of the money-bag." And finally all the various work and activities of the Church ø "missions, committees, guilds, leagues, societies, associations" ø must find their natural home there.

But this was only a part, and the least difficult part, of the work which lay before the Dean and Chapter. The activities that have been enumerated represented the edifice which had to be erected when once the ground was cleared to receive it. That ground was cumbered, however, by a distracting variety of obstacles. The officials of the Cathedral were separate corporations, with their separate rights, and these had to be dealt with before the work of reconstruction could be begun. It was to this part of the work that the new DeanÕs distrust of himself specially pointed. His high ecclesiastical imagination painted, we cannot doubt, a glowing picture of what Saint PaulÕs might be made. But what would not the task of making it involve? "What would it not ask at every turn" ø I am still quoting Dr Holland ø "of him who was to head it? What breaches would have to be driven into ingrained habits? What collisions with vested interests, and obstructive traditions and solid blocks of resistant sloth?"

A Cathedral ideal had to be created and recommended to men whose whole conception of what a Cathedral ought to be was hostile to that of the innovators. The work was gigantic, and, but for two advantages which Church found ready to his hand, it would have been impossible. Without a sympathetic Chapter he might have been out-voted at every turn. That is the common fate of Cathedral reformers. They find themselves alone among uncongenial or inactive colleagues. The various parties in the Church are too often so well represented in the Chapter that the activity of each is neutralised, and as none of them can do what he wants, they agree to do nothing beyond what is necessary. But at Saint PaulÕs the whole Chapter had died out within three years, and in consequence Gregory had been appointed a Canon in 1868, Liddon in 1869, and Lightfoot in 1870. Church was thus sure of warm and enlightened support in every thing he took in hand. But no amount of enlightenment can carry costly improvements though if the funds are wanting. The changes which were to revolutionise Saint PaulÕs had to be paid for as well as ordered, and this necessitated the command of large funds. Happily the large funds were within reach.

The arrangement between the Cathedral and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were still unmade, and in Gregory the Chapter had a treasurer who could be trusted not to repeat the mistake which had been made at Westminster Abbey. Well as Dean Stanley loved the material fabric of the Abbey, he cared nothing for its function as a Collegiate Church. Consequently when he was asked to state what would be required for the maintenance of the Abbey staff and the Abbey services, he fixed the sum spent on them at the time when the inquiry was made. No visions of what the Abbey might become presented themselves to his imagination; the continuance of the status quo was all that it occurred to him to provide for. At Saint PaulÕs the negotiation was entered upon in a different spirit. "Canon Gregory had planned out this work on a grand scale, with the conviction that whatever the metropolitan Cathedral attempted to do should be done with nobility and distinction. With this plan before him he demanded a staff, an equipment, a plant, a stock of corporate resources, adequate to the intention." The Commissioners were "impressed with the practical reality of the TreasurerÕs design." It combined two qualities which are not always found in company ø warmth of imagination and coolness of calculation. Gregory was able to create a picture of what Saint PaulÕs might become; he was also able to show in plain figures what it would cost to make the changes he proposed.

It was an immense gain for Dean Church "that all the preliminaries were through and that all was in train by the time that he arrived, and that he inherited a Treasurer keen to press on with a work already in hand and intimately congenial." The conduct and settlement of this scheme was the first work that awaited him. "I am in the thick of papers left by Mansel about the arrangement with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners," he writes to James Mozley on September 16th. "Saint PaulÕs cannot get on, especially with all the grand plans on foot, without large revenues; and the Commission, besides other things, probably doubt what guarantee they have that, if we get it, we shall spend it rightly, so we shall probably be cut close. But they ought to be liberal." And in the end they were liberal. Indeed they would have been hard to convince if they had wanted any more guarantees than were given by the completeness of the scheme and by the characters of the men on whom its execution specially rested. Liddon was there to fix the attention of the most careless worshipper. "No one could suppose that the changes in the services and ritual at Saint PaulÕs were superficial or formal or of small account, so long as that voice rang out, like a trumpet, telling of righteousness and temperance and judgement, preaching ever and always, with personal passion of belief, Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Lightfoot brought to the support of the Chapter his immense reputation as a scholar, "his robust sense of equity, his delightful geniality." Whatever the new order of things at Saint PaulÕs might be, it could not be set down as the work of uninstructed men who knew no better standard of worship than their own eclectic fancies. Gregory contributed equal enthusiasm coupled with a severely practical good sense which was never carried away or taken by surprise. And over all these various but converging faculties there came, in the new Dean, what Dr Holland rightly calls "a judicial conscience, up to the standard of which all must be broughtÉ. No one could venture on taking the Dean lightly." Nothing that was to come under his eye must be scamped or careless. The work of the Chapter gained immeasurably, alike in unity and in public confidence, though the "incomparable authority" of its new head.

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