Project Canterbury

The Parson’s Handbook

By the Rev. Percy Dearmer, M.A.

London: Grant Richards, 1899




The parson is ordered by the first rubric to admonish the people ‘that it is most convenient that Baptism should not be administered but upon Sundays, and other Holy-days,’ for the excellent reasons that a congregation should be present to testify to the receiving of the newly baptized into the number of Christ’s Church, and that those present should be reminded of their profession. But ‘if necessity so require’ baptism is allowed upon any other day. The time of the Sacrament is fixed for Mattins or Evensong, immediately after the last lesson. By Canon 68 the clergy are bound, under pain of suspension, to christen any child after the last lesson on any Sunday or Holy Day, if the parents (being parishioners) desire it, and give ‘convenient warning.’

The desire of the Prayer Book to make much of this holy Sacrament is therefore clear, and is against the modern custom of making the service practically one for the private baptism of children. If the people are ever to be taught the importance of Holy Baptism, the clergy must obey the Prayer Book better.

Solemn Baptism. We will, therefore, first consider a really public service, Solemn Baptism, what has [170] been called a ‘choral celebration’ of the holy Sacrament of Baptism. For though ‘necessity’ often does ‘require’ a week-day evening or Sunday afternoon ministration, yet we are bound to do so in the presence of the congregation at least on some Sundays in the year.[1] Of course sponsors must be arranged with to be present; and the ministration had better be announced in the magazine.

On a Sunday evening, therefore, those who are to be baptized being in church, after the second lesson has been read, the solemn ministration begins.

The priest, wearing a white stole and cope,[2] leaves the chancel with servers and choir, in the following order:—cross; torches; thurifer; two servers, one carrying the book, the other a lighted candle and a napkin (and the shell, if it be used); the priest; the choir (or as many of the choristers as there be room for by the font).[3] A hymn (e.g. 325) or antiphon may be sung during the procession. The font ‘is then to be filled with pure water,’[4] not a tenth part filled, nor some small vessel only standing in the font,[5] but the font itself is to have an ample measure of water in it.

The priest stands at the font facing east, on his [171] right the server holding the font-candle, on his left the other server with the book (which he had best lay on the font until the benediction and baptizing). In front of the font stands the thurifer, behind him the cross-bearer, both facing the priest; the torch-bearers stand on either side of the cross-bearer facing the same way. Behind the priest the choir is ranged, if there be room, facing east. On the right and left of the font stand the sponsors, kneelers being provided for them and cards of the service.

Having privately inquired of the sponsors if the child be a boy or a girl, should there be only one child, the priest asks them in low but distinct voice (not, of course, on a note) ‘Hath this child.’ Then he says in a loud voice, so that all the congregation may hear, ‘Dearly beloved’; then on a note, ‘Let us pray,’ and the two next prayers, standing, while the people kneel and sing the Amens. The servers and choir do not kneel. Then all stand for the Gospel, before and after which the usual versicles should be sung.[6] The Exhortation is said in a loud voice, all standing. The priest alone says the Thanksgiving, the Amen being in italics. In a low but clear voice he addresses the sponsors, and asks the Questions, to which they reply.

Then follows the Blessing of the Font, the form being a condensation of the old Benedictio Fontis. Some of the old ritual acts have no longer the words that accompanied them; but the words which were said while the priest held the font-candle in the water[7] have their counterpart in our four short prayers, which are taken from an ancient Gallican rite. Therefore the priest might hold the base of the [172] candle in the water during these short prayers, signing the water with it as he puts it in; at least the candle might be held close to the font for the Benediction. The people stand and sing the Amens. Continuing on a note, the priest says the longer prayer, ‘Almighty, ever-living God.’ At the words, ‘Sanctify this water,’ the priest divides the water with his right hand in the form of a cross,[8] afterwards wiping his fingers with the napkin which the server holds out to him.

The priest then takes the children (their caps having been removed), and baptizes them one by one. If he be inexperienced, he should ask some woman to instruct him in the proper manner of holding babies; it is really important, both for the sake of the parents, and for that of quietness, that he should be handy with children. He takes the child so that its head lies on his left arm; but in the case of an adult he is told to ‘take each person to be baptized by the right hand, and placing him conveniently by the Font, according to his discretion, shall ask the Godfathers and Godmothers the Name.’ In the case of a big child he had better let the mother hold it ‘conveniently by’ the font, where it should kneel down; but he must then take its right hand.

Our rubric orders immersion[9] unless the sponsors ‘certify that the child is weak,’ which they would no doubt generally do in these degenerate days. But it is a pity that immersion has gone so entirely out of practice; and in warm weather, if the sponsors [173] wish it, the child should be dipped (three times according to the First Prayer Book), but ‘discreetly and warily.’ The water may in this case be slightly warmed. If the child is not dipped, the priest must ‘pour’ (not sprinkle) water upon it—the best way is to pour it three times over its forehead and head with his right hand.[10] He must be very careful to say the words during the pouring of the water. The priest alone says this and the following Amen. He then wipes the child’s head with the napkin.

The priest then says ‘We receive,’ still holding the child, and makes the sign of the cross with his thumb, not using water again.[11] It is a beautiful, significant ancient custom (and one much appreciated) to kiss the child on the forehead before giving it back.

The priest says these words very solemnly, and he should know them by heart. As a precaution the server should hold the book up a little to his right. In most places the book should be taken off the font from before the Benediction till after the Reception, lest it be spotted with water.

When the priest had given the child back to the sponsors he was ordered in the First Prayer Book, in accordance with a very ancient custom, to ‘put on him his white vesture, commonly called the Chrisom,’ and then to anoint him upon the head. The chrisom was brought back by the mother at her Churching.

If a hymn is sung (e.g. 328), this is an appropriate place.

In a loud voice the priest says ‘Seeing now,’ and [174] the following Paternoster and Thanksgiving on a note, ‘all,’ i.e. the people, kneeling. The people join in the Paternoster and sing the Amen to the Thanksgiving.

‘Then, all standing up, the priest shall say to the Godfathers and Godmothers this Exhortation,’ in a lower voice but quite audibly for the congregation; and he may well lay special stress on the things they have to do.

After the last Exhortation, let the choir form up and return to the chancel as they came, singing, if it is desired, a hymn, or Psalm xxxii., as they go: perhaps it might be permissible to sing the Nunc Dimittis in this way. Evensong is then proceeded with.

Care must be taken that the filling in of the register be not forgotten on these occasions.

At the less public ministrations, which are often a necessity with us, care should be taken that there is at least one server with a lighted torch. He may also carry the napkin and book; the verger may then fill the font, and hold the book during the Benediction and baptizing. The priest will wear a white stole, but not a cope. Cards of the service should be provided for those assisting; they can be got from the S.P.C.K. Kneelers round the font should also be provided. After the service one of the sponsors or parents should go to the vestry that the register may be carefully filled in.

For private baptism the priest should take a surplice and white stole. A special vessel should be used: this should not be a toy font, but the basin employed for washing the altar-linen (according to Lyndwode), or that used at the Offertory. Some collects from the Public service are ordered by the rubric, if there is time, at the beginning of the Ministration. A deacon may only baptize ‘in the absence of the priest.’[12] [175] Children privately baptized should, in the event of their recovery, be afterwards solemnly received in church, in the manner appointed in the office for Private Baptism. At the end of this office there is a form for conditional Baptism.

The rubric for the Baptism of ‘Such as are of Riper Years’ (not only adults, but all those who are ‘able to answer for themselves’) orders that they shall be carefully instructed and examined, and ‘be exhorted to prepare themselves with Prayers and Fasting for the receiving of this holy Sacrament.’ Those of riper years should be baptized by a priest; deacons at their ordination are only given authority to baptize infants, in the absence of the priest. This limitation was added at the last revision, when the office for those of Riper Years was also added, and every mention of the word ‘minister’ carefully excluded. The first rubric at the end of this service recommends that Confirmation follow speedily. The second allows the substitution of the words ‘Child’ or ‘Person’ for ‘Infant.’ Those of riper years answer the Questions themselves. It is seemly for them to kneel down to receive the sacrament of baptism; and there is no. need for the water to return into the font,—indeed in the old office immediately after its benediction some of the water was thrown out of the font into the four parts of the church.[13] The priest is directed by our rubric only to take him by the right hand and place him ‘conveniently by the font, according to his discretion,’ and then to ask the sponsors his name, and then to ‘dip him in the water, or pour water upon him.’ It is best that the person to be baptized should have a towel over his shoulders; indeed, it is necessary if the water is properly ‘poured.’

There is no authority with us for the use of a second stole of another colour. It would be difficult also to find one for the use of a shell or other vessel for [176] pouring the water; though this latter practice may be defended on utilitarian grounds. But the convenience in pouring is not secured by the shallow shells that are sometimes sold: a silver or pewter vessel of some capacity should be used, or else a deep shell, if anything of the kind is used at all. The font should be emptied directly after a baptism.


The rubric directs that the Curate shall ‘diligently upon Sundays and Holy-days, after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the church instruct and examine’ some children ‘in some part of this Catechism.’ Canon 59 not only insists upon this catechism on Sundays and Holy-days, and orders parents and masters to send those in their charge, but also orders the Bishop to inflict excommunication, for a third offence, on any Minister that neglects his duty herein. The duration of the Catechism is fixed by the Canon at ‘half an hour or more’; the time (though in this it is over-ridden by the rubric) at ‘before Evening Prayer.’

It is a pity that this rubric should have fallen into such abeyance. It is true that the use of gas, and other modern customs, have put Evensong so late that it is sometimes inconvenient to take the children during the service. But in the country it would be thought that the parson would often do more good by catechising before his people than by exhausting his powers in a second sermon. ‘He that preacheth twice a day prateth at least once,’ said Bishop Andrewes.

At least the spirit of the rubric can always be obeyed. 1. There should be a Catechism every Sunday. 2. The children must be brought to church on the Holy-days as well, and there instructed. There is no excuse for ignoring the Holy-days, and [177] bringing our children up to disregard them. 3. The catechetical method is to be observed; they are to be examined as well as instructed. 4. The Church Catechism is to be the text of all instruction, its sacramental doctrine as well as the rest. Lastly, cannot this be done sometimes, at least, openly in church, at Evening Prayer ? The clergy do not try. If they did they would find that a quite short catechism would interest the people enormously, teach them much that they do not know, and be a great pride and delight to the children.

There is one word more to be said. The curate is to catechise ‘diligently,’ in the best possible way. The ancient tradition of catechising has been unfortunately lost in this country, and its revival has been very largely on the ‘shortened Evensong’ lines, with the Collect about babes and sucklings (as if we were determined to drive away the older children). This is neither liturgically correct nor practically convenient.

Now, the tradition was never lost in France; and, if the parson reads the works of Dupanloup and the adaptations of the Method of St. Sulpice by Mr. Spencer Jones, he will, I am sure, feel that the ‘diligence’ of his methods needs improving. Let me therefore here reproduce Mr. Spencer Jones’s outline of an afternoon Catechism[14]:—Opening prayer (one collect, at chancel step, all standing). Hymn. The Questioning (in pulpit). Hymn (during which the Little Catechism, the infants, file out). Office (catechist standing half-way down middle alley: 1. Creed. 2. One short Prayer for the Catechism. 3. Collect for the day. 4. Lord’s Prayer). Report on Analyses (from chancel step). Hymn. The Instruction (in pulpit; and sometimes an Admonition). Hymn (two verses). Reading of the Gospel, and a short Homily thereon (in pulpit). Hymn. Last Prayers (catechist standing in alley: one collect [178] and the Grace). Departure (by classes; head catechist in pulpit, assistant catechist at the door). The whole to last one hour.

It will be noticed that the characteristics of this method are frequent changes, and shortness of prayers, which are absolutely necessary if the service and the prayers are to be real to the children; that the catechist stands in the most convenient, instead of the most inconvenient, places for his work, and gives point and interest to the various parts by the significant changes of his position; that the exercises are very varied and distinct; that the children take a very definite part, even to the writing of little analyses or compositions; that there is no ceremonial, the catechists wearing only their surplices, and there being no one in the chancel.

On the festivals of the Catechism, which are usually on the Sunday after each quarter day, small prizes are given; and ceremonial and processions (in which all the children take part) may be used.

The Prayer Book knows nothing of Sunday-schools, which became a necessity owing to the want of ‘diligence’ on the part of the clergy. A feature of the method I have sketched is that, instead of the Catechism being a wind-up to the Sunday-school, the school is merely an introduction to the Catechism. One lesson of our rubric is that the main part of the teaching should be given by the clergy, whose duty it is to become experts in catechising, and not by teachers who in the nature of things are not generally experts.

On Holy-days, according to the Rubric, the children should be instructed in church; and the only practicable time in many places is before their day-school begins. This way of keeping the red-letter days is invaluable; and as such services are a solemn commemoration of the day, in some places they might be more on liturgical lines. Apart from the question [179] whether those who are unconfirmed ought to be taken to the Holy Mysteries, there is hardly time for a children’s Eucharist, if the rubric is obeyed as to instruction. And in these days, surely, instruction in the first place is all-important. A service on the following lines has been found to work very well:— Our Father, to end of Venite, and Lesson (for the day, or Gospel). Benedictus. Creed to end of third collect. Hymn. A short Catechism on the subject for the day. Hymn. Prayer of St. Chrysostom, and Grace. If incense is used at the Benedictus, the priest remaining in his cope and standing before the altar on the pavement till the hymn before catechising begins, a sufficiently solemn character is given to the service. It is difficult for a large congregation of children to find out special psalms, and the Te Deum is perhaps rather long for them. If the Instruction lasts within a quarter of an hour, such a service will be over in half an hour.


Deacons should not solemnise a marriage; for although such a marriage is perfectly valid (the blessing not being an essential part of the rite), yet it is very undesirable, as well as irregular, that marriage should be solemnised without the nuptial blessing.

The ‘Curate’ must have, besides his own register, a ‘Certificate of the Banns being thrice asked from the other Parish.’ Certificate books should be kept for this purpose. Marriage by licence should be discouraged, except under special circumstances.

The Solemnisation should, if possible, be immediately followed by the Holy Communion, at which the couple should communicate. ‘It is convenient [i.e. proper][15] that the newly married persons [180] should receive the holy Communion at the time of their Marriage, or at the first opportunity after their Marriage.’ This would fix the service early in the day, whence the use of the term Wedding Breakfast. In any case afternoon marriages should be discouraged. Marriage should also be discouraged ‘in the Lent, or other time prohibited.’ These times set down in Almanacks as late as the last century are given in Dr. Legg’s Calendar: they are not the same as those now set forth at Rome.

Before the service, the candles are lit, and two cushions laid on the sanctuary step for the couple.

If the service is choral, the priest may wear a cope as well as his white stole (over his albe, etc., if there is to be a Nuptial Mass). On occasions of this kind it is important that the pomp should not be all on the secular side. The priest (holding the book, in which is a slip of paper with the Christian names), with the assistant clergy (who do not wear stoles) in front of him, preceded by verger, cross, torches, and perhaps a boy carrying the book close to him, and followed by the choir, should go to meet the bride and her attendants, and return with them following while a hymn is sung. The distinction between prayers, public addresses, and the personal addresses (‘speaking unto the persons that shall be married’) should be observed, as in Baptism.

The ‘friends and neighbours’ being seated, the bridegroom, who has taken up his position with the best-man before the bride came up, stands on the right and the bride on his left, in ‘the body of the church,’ near the chancel gates being the most convenient. They had better now take off their gloves. The priest stands facing them with his back to the chancel, and the torchbearers hold their torches on either side. The verger stands near him, and the cross is rested on the ground behind the priest. The best-man stands at the side of the bridegroom, and the ‘father or friend’ of the woman at that of the [181] bride, both a little behind: the mother often wishes also to be near the bride; and the bridesmaids may stand behind the group.

After the Betrothal comes the Giving Away. The priest is directed to receive the woman ‘at her father’s or friend’s hands,’ and then ‘cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand,’ which he will best do by taking her hand from that of the father and placing it in that of the bridegroom. Still holding her hand, the bridegroom says the words after the priest, who should divide them into very short sentences. The priest generally has to whisper ‘loose hands,’ and to see that the woman takes the man’s right hand with her right hand. After she has said the words after the priest, he may have to tell them again to loose hands.

The best-man has meanwhile got the ring ready; this he hands to the bridegroom together with the fees, who lays both upon the book, which the priest holds out to him open. There is no reason why the ‘accustomed duty’[16] (substituted for the ‘spousal money’ of the First Prayer Book) should not be placed on the book with the ring, as our rubric directs. The priest hands the fees to the verger, who receives them in a plate or bag.

The priest then gives the ring to the bridegroom, who at once puts it on ‘the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand,’ and holds it there while he says, in short sentences after the priest (‘taught by the priest’), ‘With this ring.’ They then loose hands and ‘both kneel down’ (the rest all remaining standing), while the priest says ‘Let us pray’ and the prayer. He then stoops down, and joining ‘their right hands together’[17] says ‘Those whom.’

[182] At the Blessing ‘God the Father’ (as well as at the final Blessing ‘Almighty God, who’) the priest makes the sign of the cross according to the First Prayer Book.

One of the two Psalms is then sung in procession to the altar, the priest and servers first; the married couple (and no one else of the party) follow them, being directed what to do by the verger. The priest does not turn round till the conclusion of the Gloria.

At the conclusion of the Gloria, the bride and bridegroom kneel ‘before the Lord’s Table,’ on the step of the sanctuary. The priest, ‘standing at the Table,’ on the foot-pace, ‘and turning his face towards them,’ begins the Kyries. All sing the responses, and join in the Lord’s Prayer. The priest remains facing west to the end, and the couple continue to kneel.

The priest is at liberty (indeed he is expected by the rubric) to substitute a sermon—which may be a very short nuptial address—for the Exhortation. If there is to be a nuptial Mass, the Sermon or Exhortation will be delivered after the Creed.

If two priests take the service, they should not chop it about; but one should take the first part of the service, and the other should go to the altar for the last part, the first priest standing at one side in the sanctuary, and facing across it. A third priest may give the final exhortation.


This beautiful service is not used or known enough by the clergy. Nearly all its prayers and rubrics are to be found in the ancient manuals of the Church of England, and some of the prayers can be traced to almost primitive times. It is a solemn rite; and does not seem to be intended for use more than once [183] in an illness. Even when it is not advisable to use it in full, the short prayers will still be found invaluable; and those who visit the sick should know the service well.

In this service, too, is given the English Church’s form of Absolution after private Confession.

In the office for the Communion of the Sick is a special Collect, and very short Epistle and Gospel. The priest is told by the rubric to begin the service here, and then to proceed at once to ‘Ye that do truly.’ He should be very careful not to confuse the sick man by any unfamiliar ritual actions.

The eucharistic vestments should be worn, if possible, for the Communion, but as it is often not practicable or advisable to wear them, the surplice and stole are frequently used instead. The surplice should be worn for the Visitation, and a stole may (not must) be worn for the Absolution. When the chasuble, etc., are used, a special set of linen vestments should be kept apart for sick communion. In many cases it will be found convenient to keep a plain stole in the vestry for taking out to people’s houses. For the Communion a table should be got ready in the room and covered with a clean white cloth; on it should stand a crucifix or cross and two lighted candles, or at the least one candle without a cross. Care should be taken to consecrate only as much as is absolutely necessary. Ancient authority allows of any that remains being consumed in the fire if it is impossible for the sick man or the priest to consume it. This applies equally to the ablutions, which may be consumed by the sick person.

It is sometimes absolutely necessary to take the Sacrament out of church to a sick person’s house, either because of infection, or because of extremity, or because the patient cannot bear the time needed for a celebration; often five minutes is as long as a sick man can endure. The priest will then wear a [184] stole (and if the distance be not far a surplice also),[18] and will carry the pyx, veiled, with the cord of the purse round his neck. He should wear a cloak to cover all; and if a server can walk before him with a lantern it is better. The practice of dipping the Species of bread into the Chalice has authority against it.

A table should be prepared with a clean cloth, at least one candle, and the cruets for the ablutions. On arriving at the house the priest should say ‘Peace be’ as in the Visitation. He lays the pyx upon the linen cloth; and then should be said at least (if it be possible) the Confession, Absolution, Words of Administration, Prayer of Thanksgiving, Blessing.

In all cases of sick communion it is best for some one who knows the people to go to the house a quarter of an hour before with the vessels, bread, water, wine, linen, and candlesticks, and have everything ready for the priest as if it were in church. It is often very distressing to the sick person if there is a scramble to get things straight when the priest has arrived. When all is in order, there will be a few minutes’ quiet time of prayer and preparation before the priest comes.

The following precautions should be observed with infectious cases:—

Avoid visiting dangerous cases of illness with the stomach in an empty condition, or with the lungs exhausted by a quick ascent of stairs. Calmness is a great safeguard. So is a biscuit and a glass of wine.

In infectious cases, therefore, it is obvious that communion except with the reserved Sacrament is dangerous.

In all infectious cases the sick person should consume all that remains of the species of wine, and [185] should also, in accordance with the wise ancient practice, consume the ablutions. When he cannot, then any that remains of the Sacrament and also the ablutions should be burnt on the fire. Indeed, in all sickness, whether infection is declared or not, the sick person should be communicated last, as the rubric directs, and no one should touch the chalice after him.

In case of typhoid and all throat diseases communion with the chalice is unsafe. Care is especially necessary, as diphtheria is sometimes called by a milder name, and there are also certain virulently infectious diseases about which professional etiquette among doctors enjoins silence. If a chalice is used (and a glass one is best for this purpose) it should be washed at once inside and out with water; and then taken home and washed in a solution of 1 in 20 of carbolic acid. It is best, however, to use a cheap spoon, and to put it at once in the fire.

The cassock is an ideal protective garment from the medical point of view, but it must be of silk or other close material. Immediately on leaving the patient it should be taken off, given a good shake, and hung in the air for six hours; and the parson should air his clothes by a short walk. Indeed, he should never enter his own, or any other house, until he has aired his person by a walk.

In cases of virulent infection (such as small-pox, typhus, or scarlet-fever in the peeling stage), the cassock as well as the surplice should be washed; and, if a stole is used, it should be of linen, so that it too can be washed.

Silk vestments should never be used for sick communions. The vestments should be of linen, and always washed after use. As violet is the colour for the Visitation and Communion of the Sick, blue linen would be a good material.

The priest should never place himself between [186] an infectious patient and the fire; for the air will then be drawn over his person.

He should not inhale the breath of the patient.

He should not keep his hand in contact with that of the patient.

He should wash his hands at once in a solution of corrosive sublimate, having first removed any gold or silver rings. Soloids of the sublimate, manufactured by Burroughs and Welcome, can be got at any chemist’s; one soloid is to be dissolved in a pint of water. If the patient has coughed any matter on to the priest’s face, he should also wash his face in the solution.

He should never eat any food in an infectious house.

When he is much among infectious cases, as during an epidemic, he should take a hot bath every night,. and a Turkish bath once a week.

These precautions are necessary, not only for his own sake, but for that also of his other parishioners.


In nothing is reform more needed than in the manner of conducting funerals. The unutterably horrible customs of fifty years ago are not yet by any means extinct; and the more decent modifications of them still leave very much to be desired.

One principle which will, I think, commend itself to all who live among the poor, as well as to those who live among the rich, is the reduction of secular pomp.

To secure this another principle is needed, the increase of sacred pomp. Something there must be at these sad occasions; and, if the Church does not supply what the mourners crave for, the world will step in with the miserable trappings of its pride. It must be within the experience of every parson that [187] even those who dislike ‘ritual’ on other occasions are most grateful for its comfort at this time, when comfort is so much needed.

But the Church’s pomp should not be copied from that of the world, as now happens abroad, where the undertakers are allowed practically to take over the church for the day.

Black is the liturgical colour for these occasions. But this does not mean that the church should be given up to the trappings of undertakers. The vestments should be black (except for a child under seven years of age, when white should be used); though there were many exceptions to this,[19] blue copes were common, and violet (i.e. dark blue) was regarded as a form of black. But the church itself should be left as usual, only the frontal being changed to black or violet; and the pall, as we have seen (p. 102), may be of many colours. Apparels, too, need not be changed, so long as they go with the vestments.

The passing bell should always be rung before and not after death; the reason of this ancient custom being that the faithful may pray for the dying person. Canon 6 orders:—‘When any is passing out of this life a bell shall be tolled, and the minister shall not then slack to do his last duty. And after the party’s death (if so it fall out), there shall be rung no more but one short peal and one other before the burial and one other after the burial.’

Therefore the custom of tolling the bell for any length of time before the funeral is not authorised. [188] It would seem best only to toll it from the time the funeral procession nears the churchyard gate until it enters the porch. A handbell may well be rung before the funeral procession, in accordance with ancient custom, from the moment it leaves the house. A pall should always be used, and the coffin never be carried through the streets, or into church, uncovered. The pall should be the property of the church and not of the undertaker. The excessive use of flowers is to be deprecated.

In church all will be ready; the altar candles lit (whether there is to be a Mass or not), and the funeral candlesticks standing in their place before the chancel steps. Incense should, if possible, always be used at funerals. The clerk will have the funeral cross ready if there be one; if not, then the Lenten cross, or the ordinary processional cross if there be but one. The torchbearers will use their ordinary torches, unless they have lanterns, which are more convenient for out-door processions.

At the first stroke of the bell, the procession will leave the church, so as to arrive at the gate of the churchyard as the funeral procession enters. It will go in the usual order (cross, torches, thurifer, sacred ministers, priest, choir). If there is to be a Celebration of the Holy Communion, the priest will wear a black cope over his albe, etc., and the rest their proper vestments (including dalmatics and tunicles); if not, the priest need not wear a stole over his surplice, but he may well wear a cope or a choral-cope. All should wear square caps; but during any prayers all heads should be uncovered, or covered only with a coif. The academical hood does not make a good head-dress. The mourners and choir may all carry torches if it be desired.

‘The Priest and Clerks meeting the Corpse at the entrance of the Church-yard, and going before it, either into the Church, or towards the Grave, shall [189] say, or sing,’ the opening Sentences. The rubric does not sanction the priest meeting the Corpse only at the church-door;[20] but it does allow of the corpse not being taken into the church at all, apparently if sanitary reasons make this necessary. The order of the procession should be servers, priest, choir, the coffin, the mourners following behind.

‘After they are come into the Church, shall be read one or both of these Psalms following.’ It would seem, therefore, that the Psalm or Psalms should be commenced as soon as the procession has entered the church: this is certainly more convenient and less gloomy than for the procession to go up the alley in silence.

The choir will go straight into the chancel, and the clerk will put down his cross against the sanctuary wall. The coffin will be laid on the bier outside the chancel-gates between the candles, its feet to the east, the bearers going to the side. The priest or minister will read the lesson from the choir.

If there is to be a Eucharist, which is most desirable, the celebrant may prepare himself while the Lesson is being read. The Lesson should be read just as it stands, sine titulo and sine conclusione.

Collects, Epistles, and Gospels can be found in Canon Carter’s book. For infants, the collect, epistle, and gospel for Michaelmas should be used. The Introit in the First Prayer Book was Ps. 42, Quemadmodum (not omitting the Gloria). The Dies Irae (A. and M. 393) was sometimes sung as a Sequence before the Gospel. Incense should be used; and the coffin censed during the Introit, during the Gradual, and after the censing at the Offertory.

At the end of the Eucharist, or of the Lesson if [190] there be no Eucharist, the procession goes to the grave, in the same order and vestments as before. A hymn may be sung as the procession goes (e.g. 399).

It seems generally most convenient[21] for the cross-bearer to stand at the foot of the grave, looking west, and the priest to stand at the head looking east. The torchbearers holding their torches on either side of the priest’s book, the thurifer standing near the grave, the choir and the mourners grouping themselves as may be most convenient.

‘While the corpse is made ready to be laid into the earth, the Priest shall say, or the Priest and Clerks shall sing,’ the Anthem, ‘Man that is born.’ It is clear from the next rubric that the body must also be lowered into the grave during this Anthem: the men must therefore be taught not to wait till the Anthem is finished as they sometimes do.

As soon as the Anthem is finished, ‘then, while the earth shall be cast upon the Body by some standing by [not by the priest], the Priest shall say the Commendation.’ Anciently the earth was strewn in the form of a cross. It is still the custom to cast it in thrice.

Then follows the singing or saying of the second Anthem. All join in the Paternoster, and might sign themselves at the Grace. Another hymn, or one of the Penitential Psalms, might be sung in returning. At the burial of an infant, Ps. 113 (Laudate pueri), or Ps. 148 (Laudate Dominum) may be sung.

In towns, where there is no churchyard, and the interment has to be in a distant cemetery, the first part of the service should still, if possible, be said in the parish church. The bearers will then remove the coffin at the conclusion of the Eucharist, or of the Lesson if there be no Eucharist.

[191] Monuments. There are few churchyards that have not been spoiled by ill-chosen monuments. In the Middle Ages (when, by the way, the dead were infinitely better remembered than at the present day), there were few monuments in the churchyard, and those generally of a simple kind such as a wooden cross with a plain weathering. In more recent times appeared plain head-stones, and also monuments of great ugliness and pretension. It may be questioned, however, whether even in the worst period of Georgian paganism, the appearance of our churchyards was half as bad as the ostentation of the last thirty years has made it.

This is. mainly due to the fact that people will not be contented with the use of ordinary stone, but desire memorials of marble and granite. Now, polished granite is bad enough as a rule; but marble is far worse. It is utterly out of character with its surroundings, and stands out in glaring consequence, refusing to blend with the quiet grey stone of the church behind it. As it is nearly always ill-proportioned, clumsy, and badly lettered, this wretched prominence is the more unfortunate; and in our climate, marble becomes more harsh and dismal in colour every year. A modern churchyard gives the most wretched impression of competitive self-advertisement; and is, I venture to think, in spite of the obtrusive use of the cross in our monuments, quite as out of harmony with the Christian spirit as were the quiet headstones and occasional square enormities of our grandfathers.

Nearly every old church, and every cathedral, is being ruined by the garish setting of white monuments that is creeping round it. In addition to this, our cathedrals are being spoilt within by the practice of putting up a ‘recumbent effigy’ to every prelate that dies—so important do we moderns fancy ourselves. It is high time that the clergy taught a more [192] humble spirit, and that monuments were used far more seldom both within and without our churches. There is now and then good cause for them; but respectability and death are not in themselves sufficient reason for a prominent siste viator.

Much the best memorial is something of real use or beauty for the church. Yet even in such cases one often cannot but notice with pain how loudly some voice of brass advertises the family of the deceased.

Brasses need not be hideous; but almost all modern ones are. A very great deal can be done with incised brass, and far more if it is treated with coloured enamels, by a real artist.[22] Tombstones, tablets, and memorials of all kinds should not be articles of commerce.

It is worth while remembering that the Court of Arches decided (in the case of Woolfrey v. Breeks) that the Incumbent had no power to exclude an incription because it contained the petition, ‘Pray for the soul of J. Woolfrey. It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.’ The Court declared that the inscription ‘was not illegal, as by no canon or authority of the Church in these realms had the practice of praying for the dead been expressly prohibited.’


The woman to be churched shall come into the church ‘decently apparelled.’ This at least as late as Charles II.’s reign meant that she was to wear the white veil, which was certified by the bishops a little [193] earlier to be ‘according to the ancient usage of the Church of England.’[23]

She is to ‘kneel down in some convenient place, as hath been accustomed, or as the Ordinary shall direct.’ The most accustomed place is outside the chancel-gates, at a desk or on the steps: in the Prayer Book of 1552 it is ‘nigh unto the place where the Table standeth’; in that of 1549 it is ‘nigh unto the quire door’; in both it is ‘a convenient place.’

‘Standing by her’ is the position of the priest in the First Prayer Book. He should stand in front of her, facing west, throughout the service. He should wear the vestments of whatever service is to follow,[24] and be accompanied by the clerk, or verger, to lead the responses. White is the colour for Churching.

The best time for Churching is just before a Celebration, ‘and, if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the holy Communion.’ On these occasions the first Psalm is the more appropriate.

By the bishops of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries penance was first required in the case of an unmarried woman; and the anglican divines at the Savoy Conference declared that ‘she is to do penance before she is churched.’

At the end of the service the woman ‘must offer accustomed offerings.’ The priest had better have a plate by him for this purpose. The offerings are for the priest himself, like the ‘accustomed duty’ at weddings.

The second Psalm should not be used if the woman has lost her child.


The procession is a distinct, significant act of worship: it is not an aimless walk round the church; but it has a definite object, such as the Rood, the Lord’s Table, or the Font.

A procession is not the triumphant entry and exit of the choir, nor is any such thing known to the Church as a ‘recessional.’ Properly, the choir should go quietly to their places when they arrive, and occupy the time before the service with prayer and recollectedness in their stalls, instead of with chatting in the vestry. If, however, they go in all together in processional order, no hymn should be sung, nor should there be any special hymn to accompany their return; and, above all, no cross should be carried. They should be well settled in their places before the ministers enter.

The common forgetfulness of the real meaning of the procession is much to be regretted. A study of the Bible and of Christian usages would correct it. There are three great processions mentioned in the Bible as well as other lesser ones,—the Encircling of Jericho (Josh. vi.), the bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem by David (2 Sam. vi.) to the accompaniment of the 105th Psalm and instrumental music, and the Procession of Palms (Matt. xxi.).[25]

In the Christian Church the earliest form of Procession was the singing of Litanies, with stations or stopping-places for special prayers. This feature is preserved in our Litany, the meaning of which can only be fully brought out if it is sung in procession and stations made for the prayers (see pp. 131-132).

There were always three distinct processions in connection with the Eucharist in the English Church. [195] (1) The solemn procession before the service, not from the vestry, but from the choir back to the altar. (2) The little procession—a very ancient ceremony—when the clerk carried in the sacred vessels. (3) The procession to the rood-loft or to the chancel-gates, for the Gospel. These are treated of in the chapter on the Holy Eucharist.

There were also many special processions, as that to the font, on Easter Eve.

Although there may be a procession every Sunday before the Eucharist, it is more convenient and more in accordance with ancient custom to reserve the procession after Evensong to the red-letter days.

In the Prayer Book there are two processions described, that to the altar in the Marriage Service (p. 182), and that at a funeral, which is often mutilated in defiance of the rubric (p. 188). Both these are true processions, full of significance and solemnity: one is the solemn conducting of the couple to the altar, there to be blessed and houselled; the other is the solemn carrying up of the dead body to receive the last blessing and prayers of the Church.

By official custom the 24th Psalm is also sung in procession at the Consecration of Churches. And the old out-door processions at Rogation-tide have also been maintained (p. 217).

There is only one order in the English Church for processions; and that is for the ministers to walk at the head. When the proper station is made before the Rood, the practical convenience of this, as well as its beauty, is. obvious. The ancient order, which, however it may be modified, we have no right whatever to distort, was as follows:[26]—The vergers, with their wands, making way for the procession, the boy with holy water (in surplice), the ‘accolitus’ or clerk carrying the cross, the two torchbearers, the thurifer, [196] the sub-deacon, the deacon, the celebrant, the boys of the choir, the men of the choir, other clergy. The boat-bearer’s place will be next the thurifer; a boy may also walk in front of the sub-deacon carrying a book for the station-prayers. If there are rulers they should walk between the boys and men of the choir. The bishop will walk last of all, unless he is to officiate, when he will walk in the celebrant’s place.

In small churches the procession will always start from the chancel-gates, and go by the south alley, returning up the middle alley, except on penitential occasions, when it will go by the north alley. But in churches that have choir aisles the procession before Mass on great days should go out by the west gates of the choir, and then round by the north choir aisle, behind the high altar (or in front if necessary), and by the south choir aisle to the south aisle, returning as usual. On other occasions in such churches the procession should leave the choir by the north door of the presbytery, and then round by the south aisle as usual.

The use of wind instruments is always a help, and in out-door processions is almost a necessity.[27]

Banners are not a necessity for processions, though they may be an improvement if they are beautiful and not too numerous. A procession in a small church is apt to be top-heavy if there are too many banners. There may be a banner of the patron saint in every church.

If the church has only a middle alley, indoor processions seem out of place.

The thurifer should swing his censer in a simple manner backwards and forwards with short swings, and not attempt any gymnastics. The censer should not be replenished during the procession; nor will it [197] need replenishing if natural incense (p. 106) be used. There are no authoritative directions for the officiant to hold his hands in any particular manner; he should hold them naturally and not affect stained-glass attitudes; but he will not walk well unless he joins them. He should not stare about him. Choir-men often roll about in an ungainly fashion which would not be tolerated for an instant at a military parade. The way to avoid this is to train everybody to take steps no longer than the length of their feet. The choir will also need some drilling before they learn to keep their distances: each person should walk as far from his neighbour as the width of the alley will allow; and each pair should rigidly keep a distance of three to four feet between themselves and the pair in front. The procession must be carefully timed by the verger (who will need a small hymn-book for this) so that the last verse of the hymn has still to be sung when he reaches the chancel-steps.

The processions at the Lord’s Supper and Evensong are further described in their place, as are also those for the Litany, etc.


The time ordered for the Sermon[28] in the Prayer Book is after the Creed at the Eucharist. Those, therefore, who place the morning Sermon at Mattins instead of at the Communion, disobey the Prayer Book, and dislodge the Eucharist from its position as the most public service.

The Prayer Book orders Catechising (p. 176), and not a Sermon, for Evensong: it may well be asked whether this would not be the wisest course in an age when there is too much loose talking in the pulpit, and too little definite teaching.

Just as the celebrant at the Holy Eucharist keeps [198] on his vestments (with the exception of the chasuble and maniple) for convenience, so at Evensong, for the same reason, the preacher or catechist may retain his surplice, hood, and tippet.[29] The First Prayer Book says that it is ‘seemly that graduates, when they do preach, shall use such hoods as pertaineth to their several degrees.’ Canon 58, referring to surplices, and Canon 74, referring to gowns, both order graduates to wear their hoods, which at that time is known to have included the use of the tippet or scarf; therefore Canon 58, while forbidding non-graduates to wear a hood, allows them to retain the other part of the clerical dress, the tippet (‘so it be not silk’), and to wear it upon their surplices, instead of hoods; while Canon 74 orders both hood and silk tippet for Masters of Arts.

But if lectures are given from the pulpit, or mission addresses, or other unliturgical discourses, the speaker should certainly not wear any special vestments, but only the cassock and gown (with hood and silk tippet, if he have a Master’s degree), which is the ordinary canonical dress of the clergy. This is not only the correct course to adopt, but is also often a help in winning those who are unused to other garments; and nothing is more graceful or more convenient for this kind of speaking than a black gown. The Evangelical clergy are now showing the same dislike to preaching in the gown which the Ritualistic clergy showed a generation ago. It is difficult to understand why. The gown is quite as legitimate, and quite as Catholic, as the surplice, even for the canonical sermon, and rather more ritualistic. [199] The preacher, or lecturer, may wear the gown of his degree, or the ‘preacher’s’ gown, which latter, by the way, has nothing to do with Geneva, and being a special priestly gown is more sacerdotal than either the university gown or the surplice. The Genevan party abhorred it ‘little, if at all, less than the surplice itself.’[30]

To put it shortly. The preacher at the Lord’s Supper, if he is one of the ministers, will lay aside his outer vestment and maniple. But if he is not one of the ministers, and also at Evening Prayer, and at a Marriage when there is no Mass, he may wear either surplice or gown. At other occasions he should wear a gown.

The preacher should on no account wear a stole over his surplice. This practice, which takes away all meaning from the use of the stole, has no authority, ancient or modern. It has been ignorantly copied from Rome, where its use is far from general, being only permitted and not enjoined.

It is convenient and seemly that the verger, in accordance with ancient custom, should conduct the preacher to the pulpit, whenever there is a sermon. The verger goes, verge in hand, up the chancel-steps, to the preacher’s stall, and stands before him till the latter follows him; the verger then leads the way to the pulpit, stands aside for the preacher to mount the stairs, and closes the door behind him.

There is no authority for introducing the sermon with a collect or the invocation. The 55th Canon, following a very ancient pre-Reformation custom,[31] orders a Bidding Prayer to be said ‘before all Sermons, Lectures, and Homilies.’

The magnificent Bidding Prayer given by the [200] Canon is as follows, but it may be altered or shortened (‘in this form, or to this effect, as briefly as conveniently they may’):—

’Ye shall pray for Christ’s holy Catholic Church, that is, for the whole congregation of Christian people dispersed throughout the whole world, and especially for the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland: and herein I require you most especially to pray for the [King’s] most excellent Majesty, our Sovereign Lord [James, King] of England, Scotland, [France] and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor in these his realms, and all other his dominions and countries, over all persons in all causes, as well Ecclesiastical as Temporal: ye shall also pray for our gracious Queen [Anne], the noble Prince [Henry], and the rest of the King and Queen’s royal issue: ye shall also pray for the Ministers of God’s Holy Work and Sacraments, as well Archbishops and Bishops, as other Pastors and Curates; ye shall also pray for the King’s most honourable Council, and for all the Nobility and Magistrates of the realm; that all and every of these, in their several callings, may serve truly and painfully to the glory of God, and the edifying and well governing of his people, remembering the account that they must make: also ye shall pray for the whole Commons of this realm, that they may live in the true faith and fear of God, in humble obedience to the King, and brotherly charity one to another. Finally, let us praise God for all those who are departed out of this life in the faith of Christ, and pray unto God that we may have grace to direct our lives after their good example; that, this life ended, we may be made partakers with them of the glorious resurrection in the life everlasting;
always concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.’

It is an immense pity that this beautiful form of intercession is now so little used. Were it forbidden us, instead of enjoined, it would doubtless be said from half the pulpits in London, instead of being almost confined to the Universities. The only objection to its use that can possibly be raised is that [201] to repeat the Lord’s Prayer with a special intention is a Catholic practice.[32] It will be noticed that the essential part is the Lord’s Prayer, and that the rest may be modified. Some of the earlier phrases are a little too courtly to be real to modern ears;[33] but the bulk of it should be used at the morning sermon. And at sermons at other times, at least the Lord’s Prayer should be said, with a short form of Bidding (such as, e.g., ‘Ye shall pray for Christ’s Holy Catholic Church and for this Realm’). For afternoon lectures, the Bidding Prayer with a hymn forms a most fitting short service. The people should stand for the Bidding and kneel for the Lord’s Prayer.

It has become customary, I know not on what authority, to conclude the sermon with an ascription. The use of a prayer at the end of the sermon rests on a custom as old as Cranmer’s time.[34] In either case it is better to say the form in the natural voice, and without turning to the east. A painful impression of unreality is sometimes produced by the preacher suddenly wheeling round, and taking a note, at the end of an earnest discourse. It is far more impressive if the Amen also be said by the people quietly and in their natural voice. The introduction of semi-musical habits into the pulpit is altogether to be deprecated. Some preachers let a trace of intonation run through their sermons, and the effect I have seen described as that of a ‘dismal howl.’ When words are sung they should be sung in tune, but when they are said they should be said with a proper and natural elocution.


1 The Prayer Book of 1549 has, ‘It appeareth by ancient writers that the Sacrament of Baptism in the old time was not commonly ministered but at two times in the year, at Easter and Whitsuntide…Which custom…although it cannot for many considerations be well restored again, yet it is thought good to follow the same as near as conveniently may be.’

2 We read in the ‘Cheque-Book’ of the Chapel Royal (1605), ‘whome the said Arch Bishop baptized with great reverence (being still in his rich cope) who was assisted in the administracion of the Sacrament by the Deane of the Chappell (he allso beinge in his cope).’

3 Processionale, 84. At the blessing of the font on Easter Eve, two deacons walked before the priest and ministers, carrying the oil and chrism.

4 The filling of the font, it seems, is part of the ritual of the service, and should be done now, and not before. See Perry, Purchas J., on meaning of the word ‘then.’

5 Many bishops, from Parker downwards, enjoin ‘that no pots, pails, or basons be used in it or instead of it,’—such having been a favourite practice of the Puritans.—Robertson, 217.

6 It must have been the English custom; for Cosin inserted the ‘Glory be’ and the ‘Thanks be’ in his own revised Prayer Book; and in some of the ancient offices the Gloria was inserted, while it was left, as in our own, to tradition.

7 This ceremony is at least as old as the sixth century.—Blunt, 209.

8Hic dividat aquam manu suo,’ etc. The First Prayer Book prints the sign of the cross after ‘sanctify.’ St. Augustine, a godly and ancient Father, twice alludes to the practice of signing the water. It was sanctified as early as the time of Tertullian, who died c. 245. (Blunt, 209, 225.)

9 For immersion there should be provided a very loose woollen garment. Immediately after the immersion the child should be dried and wrapped in flannel, or else dressed in its clothes, while a hymn is being sung.

10 Bp. Montagu used to require the ancient threefold washing, and other divines favoured it. Even if we overlook its symbolical reference to the three Persons of the Trinity, it is a most needful safeguard to ensure the water actually touching the skin of the person, especially in the case of those with much hair. See also Church Law, 49.

11 It has been questioned whether the unction ought not now to be used at we receive; as our Church never intended to abolish customs which were used by the ancient Fathers, and unction at Baptism was used in the time of Tertullian.

12 Service for the Ordering of Deacons.

13 Processionale, 89.

14 The Clergy and the Catechism, 108.

15 ‘Convenient’ had a stronger meaning than now in 1662, when it was substituted—doubtless to avoid scandals—for the ‘must’ of the earlier rubric.

16 The rubric seems clear that the priest’s fee is for him who actually solemnises the marriage, and not for the vicar of the parish.

17 The practice of folding the ends of the stole over the hands is of doubtful authority even in the Roman Church. ‘There seems no evidence that it was ever done in England.’ (Dr. Wickham Legg in S.P.E.S. Trans. iii. 169.)

18 Wilkins’s Concilia, i. 579.

19 In pictures mentioned by Mr Sancroft Randall in his Ceremonial Connected with the Burial of the Dead (Church Printing Co.), the following colours occur:—blue copes, blue copes and one purple, bright red and blue copes, black chasuble but one cantor in black copes doubled blue, and the others in blue powdered with gold, cloth of gold chasuble, red curtains to altar and bare altar, blue frontal with gold frontlet. In Mr. St. John Hope’s Inventories (S.P.E.S. Trans. ii.) the following funeral colours, mostly of chasubles, sets of vestments, and copes, occur:—25 of black, 6 of blue, 3 of purple, 1 of ‘violet,’ 2 of green, 2 of white.

20 One of Cosin’s MS. articles (1627) enquires,—‘Whether doth your Minister burie the dead according to the fulle forme, manner, and rites, prescribed in the Book, meeting the corps at the Church-stile, and in his Surplice?’

21 It appears from old pictures that anciently the clergy and servers stood at the side of the grave in no set order.

22 It is worth while mentioning again that the Clergy and Artists Association will put one in touch with artists, craftsmen, and architects for every kind of Church work. The Association makes no charge for advice, and has no financial interest whatever in the work that is done through it.

23 Robertson On the Liturgy, 257-8. Book of Church Law, 162.

24 In 1605 the ‘Cheque-Book’ of the Chapel Royal tells us that at the Churching of the Queen, the service was taken by ‘the Bishop of Canterbury, being assisted by Mr. Deane of the Chappell (and both in rich copes).’

25 See for this and other interesting matter, Mr. Baden Powell’s Procession in Christian Worship.

26 Missale Sarum, 35. See also the Consuetudinary (Frere, 58, 302-4, etc.), and the Processionale.

27 See Baden Powell, 12. Also for some useful hints as to out-door processions in country places, 11-12, and as to music, 17-18.

28 Canon 45 orders one sermon every Sunday.

29 The use of the surplice in the pulpit was common in Queen Anne’s reign, when it was regarded as a mark of high-churchmanship (Abbey and Overton, ii. 468). But a century or so earlier the gown was also looked upon as a mark of the beast; e.g. see some of the Requests to Convocation of 1562, ‘that the ministers be not compelled to wear such gowns and caps as the enemies of Christ’s gospel have chosen to be the special array of their priesthood.’ (Robertson, 92.)

30 Robertson, 103.

31 There are forms of the Bidding Prayer, not only in fifteenth century missals and manuals, but as far back as Leofric’s sacramentary of the tenth century; some of these are given by Dr. Henderson in his edition of the York Manual (Surtees Society).

32 Cartwright, the founder of systematic Puritanism, was the first to give up the Bidding Prayer, according to Bishop Wren in his Parentalia (p. 90), on the authority of Andrewes and others.

33 But the form in the Sarum Missal, ‘Let us pray for the English Church,’ is more terse. It begins (in lingua materna), ‘Oremus pro Ecclcsia Anglicana et pro rege nostro et archiepiscopis episcopis et specialiter pro episcopo nostro N.’

34 Robertson, 159.


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