Project Canterbury

Twenty-one Years in S. George's Mission

By Charles Fuge Lowder

London: Rivingtons, 1877.

Chapter V. The Clergy House.

BEFORE entering into further details of the history of the Mission, some account shall now be given of the Life of those engaged in it. And first of the Mission House for Clergy and Teachers.

The Mission House is, of course, the centre of Mission work; the Priests and their helpers, whether Sisters or lay helpers, are the soul of the Mission. The idea of the Priests of the Mission living together in community was of the very essence of the Mission. It was a first object to bring the influence of religious association to bear upon the sin and wickedness of this great Parish.

The advantage of the Clergy being linked together in all the details of their daily life, and especially in prayer and constant intercourse, must be evident to all. The mutual sympathy and counsel, and the greater unanimity and consistency of purpose with which all are thus [83/84] enabled to work together, make it most desirable to carry out, wherever practicable, this important feature of missionary organization. The Mission House was a centre of operation, where some one of the Clergy might always be found; where friends interested in the work could at any time be received; those of the district who needed to consult the Clergy could call; those who from time to time came to help in the Night Schools or any other work could rest and refresh themselves; and where plans could be discussed either generally at meals, or more formally in regular conclave. Here also we were able to invite the boys of our Choir to tea on Sundays. The teachers, organist, and other lay helpers in the Mission lived with us, and together formed one religious community.

It was of course impossible to maintain a very strict rule among those who were engaged in so much active work, but we endeavoured, according to our opportunities, to keep a moderate religious rule for the household. The following is a slight sketch of the daily life in the Mission House in Wellclose Square: The first bell for rising was rung at 6.30; we said Prime in the Oratory at 7; Matins was said at S. Peter's and S. Saviour's at 7.30; the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist followed. After breakfast, followed by Terce, the Clergy and [84/85] teachers went to their respective work, some in school, some in the study or district. Sext was said at 12.45, immediately before dinner, when the household were again assembled, and on Fridays and fast days some book, such as the lives of the Saints, or Ecclesiastical History, was read at table. After dinner, rest, letters, visiting, or school work, as the case might be, and then tea at 5.30 p.m. After tea, choir practice, classes, reading or visiting again until Evensong at 8 p.m. After service the Clergy were often engaged in classes, hearing confessions, or attending to special cases. Supper at 9.15, followed by Compline, when those who had finished their work retired to their rooms. It was desired that all should be in bed at 11 p.m., when the gas was put out; but of course in the case of the Clergy, much of whose work was late in the evening with those who could not come to them at any other time, it was impossible to form absolutely this rule. Special seasons, such as Advent or Lent, just before Christmas or Easter, or the other great Festivals, when many confessions were to be heard, before Confirmations, or in times of great sickness, such as the season of cholera, necessarily caused irregularity in hours of meals, sleep, &c. In an active community the rules of the House must yield to the necessities of spiritual duties. We desired our [85/86] people to know that we were always at their service in time of need; and though we endeavoured to appoint special times for confessions, instructions, or other matters, yet they might come at all times, even in the middle of the night, in case of sickness or urgent call. The amount of active duty required of the Superior and other Clergy was a bar to the adoption of a stricter or more monastic rule. When the district around Wellclose Square was reluctantly abandoned and the work concentrated around S. Peter's, the Vicar and Clergy were for a time somewhat separated, indeed one was a married man. This only lasted a short time, and since 1872 all have been united in a Clergy House. The altered circumstances of work have modified more or less the daily rule, but in its main features it is the same. In the commencement of the Mission, before new Churches had been built in parishes formed in S. George's, it was hoped that the Mission might be spread more widely, and that the same organization might be extended into other parts of London. It was ruled otherwise, and the work confined to a single parish; yet the influence of the Mission has been felt in the commencement of other works, which have been carried on upon the same lines, though in other hands.

While the former idea prevailed it pointed to a stricter [86/87] religious rule, as for a religious society, which might carry out such an organization; now little more is contemplated than a Parochial Clergy House. Nor is there now the same call for the development of the first idea, since the Missionary work is done so effectually by others, and the religious life maintained at Cowley and Stoke. In the meantime it is hoped that the Clergy House is an effectual witness for God and His Church in the parish, and a means of promoting His honour and glory. The writer has great reason to be thankful for the blessings of such a community life for himself, and he believes that his brethren feel equally its advantages. Though no trial could be greater than the loss of those very near and dear to him, which twice befell the Mission, once in its early days, and again in 1868, yet nothing happily was strong enough to break the ties of friendship which subsisted between those who had lived and worked together. Separation was necessary, but not estrangement And with respect to others, Clergy and Laity, who have lived and worked in the Mission, it is a comfort to know that many engaged in good works for the Church acknowledge the blessing which their life here has been to them, and that both in England and the Colonies they do not forget S. George's Mission.

[88] And great as the early trials were, they seem to have been abundantly compensated of late years by the readiness of good and earnest men to offer themselves for this work, and the harmony and goodfellowship which have prevailed among the actual workers. Our staff is now full, and very desirable applications have been necessarily refused. In such a work it is always a happy thing when, as at present, various gifts and talents are brought together in harmonious combination. Thus our present senior priest is specially successful in Mission work, and, as his narrative will show, among the rough material of his district; another devotes himself to the arrangements of the Church and its services; another superintends most efficiently the music of the choir, while all labour actively in the schools, as well as in the other pastoral and ministerial work allotted to them. But the time has now come when a permanent Clergy House should be secured. For twenty-one years we have lived in hired houses, and though we have so long remained in our present one, yet it has only been as yearly tenants, subject to removal at a short notice. It was even necessary to erect the Iron Chapel with such a risk. Now a large plot of land has been secured, on which it is intended to build a Clergy House, as well as, if funds can be [88/89] obtained, a Convent for the Sisters. As the Church and Schools for the parish have been first cared for, it is hoped that there will be no further delay in completing this necessary addition, and in thus furnishing the Clergy with many conveniences for their work, such as parish or class-rooms, and oratory, which they greatly need.

Project Canterbury