Project Canterbury

English Church Ways Described to Russian Friends
in Four Lectures Delivered at St. Petersburg, in March, 1914

by W.H. Frere, D.D.
of the Community of the Resurrection.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1914.


Lecture III. Clerical Life

THE clergy are but a small part of the Church, but an immense deal depends upon their training. I propose, therefore, to take up a good part of the lecture to-day with some account of the provision and training of priests in the English Church. I say priests because with us the diaconate is very rarely a lasting grade: with very few exceptions our deacons pass to the priesthood, after serving a year or more in the diaconate. There is no special part for the deacon in the English Liturgy or at other services. At a solemn Liturgy some one will act as deacon, and some one as subdeacon; but generally whoever does so has been already advanced to the priesthood. The deacon with us is, as it were, an apprentice. He has only restricted powers, because as a deacon he, of course, cannot absolve or bless or consecrate. The preparation and the qualifications are therefore the same, normally, for both orders.

Our English tradition is that the clergy should have had, as far as possible, the same education as other well-educated young men, and should have it in conjunction with those who are preparing to follow other callings--to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, civil servants, and the like. There are, indeed, some elements in the priest's calling which necessarily separate him off from others; but our theory is that, apart from these elements, he should be as much like others in upbringing as possible, so that thus the disadvantage may be avoided of the clergy forming, through isolation, in their most impressionable years, a class apart from the rest of their fellows.

In past years the universities alone supplied theological education, and gave the normal training to the clergy. But in the course of the nineteenth century the old universities, which had been exclusively for members of the Church, were thrown open to all. Strong faculties of church theology were still retained both at Oxford and Cambridge: but the character of these universities and their personnel were largely changed: so that they could no longer claim, in the same way as before, to serve as the sole training ground of the clergy. Seventy-five years ago began the foundation of special theological colleges: they were established partly for those who were unable to have a university course; but still more for men who already had received their general training at the university, who had obtained their degrees, and who needed subsequently a quiet place for theological learning and spiritual preparation. Thirty of such colleges now exist in England. None of them are large: some are quite small; the largest have sixty to eighty students. It is thought that this final preparation is best done in small groups. When these colleges were first founded they were regarded with some suspicion, as tending to separate the clergy off from others; but that idea has vanished. Now the bishops demand, in most cases, that whatever else a man may have had as general education, he should also have some special preparation, preferably in a theological college.

It must be remembered also that during this same period university education has grown very fast. Instead of the four universities existing in 1840, there are now twelve: and the new universities are not expensive and aristocratic institutions, like Oxford and Cambridge. These new facilities make it possible that, before long, there will be required normally of all candidates for the priesthood a university education and a degree, together with a special theological training as well.

Hitherto we have suffered a good deal in the English Church from being too aristocratic. Part of the reason has been that the clergy have so largely (in fact, almost exclusively of late) been drawn from the wealthier classes, who alone could afford to spend the money needed for the education of a son for the priesthood. That fact, no doubt, has brought with it some advantages, for it has kept the well-to-do people in natural touch with the Church, at any rate, on the social side: and that is valuable. But it has also brought great disadvantages. While the clergy have had easy access to the rich and the poor, they have been less in touch with the middle classes. In fact, dissent has its stronghold in these middle classes; and its strength depends a good deal on its social environment. The beginnings of this cleavage lie some three centuries back in our history, when the Parliament and the middle classes united against the King, the Church and the aristocrats, in the Great Rebellion. And it is only slowly that the change is coming about which will enable the Church to fulfil its duty more fully to all classes.

It was also a great disadvantage that the priesthood was so largely closed, as it was, to the sons of those who had only moderate or small means. A good deal is now being done to remedy this defect: funds are being provided, and colleges have been set up where men who have their vocation from God can get a proper training for the priesthood at the Church's expense. We shall hope, therefore, increasingly to add to the ranks of the clergy men of all sorts of antecedents, and so have a more representative ministry. At the same time, since facilities for education are greatly increasing, it will be possible to secure that, though the door is thrown open wider to all classes, those who pass through it shall not be less well educated, less cultured, or less spiritually equipped than before. On the contrary, the requirements and the standard reached are daily growing higher; and the priest of to-day is technically far better equipped for his sacred office than hitherto--though there is still much room for improvement.

There is also another reason why those who are to be priests should have the general education that others have, and be in touch with all sides of intellectual life. It is of crucial importance that they should be able to set the teaching of the faith in a proper light before the well-educated classes as well as before those of less intellectual attainments. Theology must continually be absorbing into itself all the new acquisitions which God continually gives in the growth of human knowledge; so that all the treasures revealed as knowledge increases, may be utilised in expounding more perfectly the "faith once delivered to the saints." Its teachers must also be prepared to meet the objections, scruples and difficulties of the day. Such things are always presenting themselves as hindrances to the believer, but in varying forms in each succeeding generation.

Now, our traditions of general education are still very much bound up with mediaeval precedents. Philosophy, mathematics and rhetoric (or arts), with a sound knowledge of the classical languages of Latin and Greek---these still form the traditional studies preparatory to theology. But in these days, historical science and natural science are to a considerable extent taking their places in the scheme of university studies: and this change is having an effect upon the training preparatory to theology. It is from these sides that a special, and somewhat novel, form of attack upon the faith is being made. It is important therefore that there should be among the clergy men trained in the science of historical criticism and in the various branches of physical science, as well as those trained upon the old lines in philosophy and letters.

At present the historical side is well represented among us: but far too few of our candidates are educated in the physical sciences. It is difficult to combine such studies with the philosophy that is needed for theological competence and the knowledge of Greek and Latin, which our bishops still regard as a sine qua non in. theological candidates. Consequently we are not as well equipped as we ought to be, with men who understand the class of mind that has mainly been educated in physical science, and who are able to meet its difficulties. There are, however, some men who are dealing very ably and successfully with problems of this sort: and in the intellectual centres such as Oxford and Cambridge the Church now holds its own better than it did in the end of the last century. The establishment of new strong church institutions in the universities has had a good deal to do with this: but it is brought about much more by the general influence in university life, of teachers and professors, lay and clerical, who are both theologically competent and effective as apologists.

The old university life in England, as you know, differs very widely from what is customary in continental universities. The student lives a corporate life in a college under the discipline of the college authorities. The college is his home, and in many ways counts for more to him than the university. A college is still in many ways like a monastery: it has its chapel, its dining hall, its library, its place of social intercourse, as well as its lecture rooms. In the midst of this corporate life the theological student lives, not outwardly distinguished from others except by the fact that he is studying theology. The modern universities have not yet been able to do much to develop the collegiate system within themselves. That will come by degrees: meanwhile they are much more like the continental and Scottish universities, where there is little corporate life for the student except such as he makes for himself, little discipline, and little organised fellowship. In them the theological student is entirely merged in the general university life.

But there are theological colleges now to be considered, which, unlike the open colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, admit only theological students, and cater for them. Some are in the university towns and blend in the university life: but most of them are designedly placed elsewhere, to serve as places of training subsequent to and differing from the university. I must pass on now to describe the theological training itself in the theological colleges, whether at a university or elsewhere.

There are three principal departments to be taken into account--the theological, the spiritual and the technical training. Some colleges are intended entirely for those who have taken their degree in the university: and the course then lasts only a year, or a year and a quarter. This is enough for those who have already studied theology during their university course; but it is not very adequate for those who have not. Other colleges have longer courses, which more and more are coming to include the university work as well as the special preparation for the ministry. In nearly all colleges the students live together at the college; the student therefore finds around him a strong corporate life, which shows itself not only in the common intellectual training, but also in common services and devotions, in social life, and--as you would expect of Englishmen--in athletics as well.

Each student has his room or his two rooms: in most colleges all have their meals together: they join in daily services in the chapel of the college, or in the cathedral church if, as is often the case, the college is situated under its shadow. The day is distributed as follows: After the early services and a time for Bible-study or meditation, lectures occupy a great deal of the morning. Then, after midday prayer, comes dinner. The early part of the afternoon is probably given up to exercise or games, and in some degree to gaining an insight into parochial methods. The late afternoon is probably taken up with private study, and the preparation or correction of work; and after an interval for evening prayer, supper, and social intercourse, there is a further period of study. The day closes with the office of compline or some such devotions.

The subjects of instruction are principally five: Dogmatic theology, the Bible, the History of the Church, Patristic learning, and Liturgical science; but there are many supplementary studies. A resident staff of priests gives the main part of the instruction, and these clergy take also an intimate part in all the life of the college. Others come to give additional lectures, especially on the technical side of the instruction, such as the art of good reading and singing, the science of teaching and catechising the young in school or in church, pastoral methods, and the like. A good deal of stress is now laid on the acquisition of at least some elementary knowledge of economics. The clergy play such an important part in every side of the life of their parishioners, and exercise such a varied influence, that they are necessarily brought into touch with the industrial questions, and the social problems of all sorts, in which England is now so greatly interested. There is a great society of churchmen, many of them clergy, whose chief object is "to claim for the Christian law the ultimate authority to rule social practice," or, again, "to present Christ in practical life as the living Master and King." Some at least of the students have already been initiated at the university by this Christian Social Union into the practical application of Christian ethics to the questions of the day: and this work continues at the Theological College. The same is the case with regard to missions to the heathen, which are much studied.

The devotional and spiritual instruction is concerned with the inner life of the priest. The student must learn prayer, in theory and in practice. He must also acquire skill in the devotional study of the Bible, for in it he is to find food whereon his own soul can feed. He must grow in penitence, too, and in thanksgiving. He must have a spiritual conception, as well as an academic one, of the nature and power of grace, and a knowledge of the working of grace in the sacraments. Particularly during his time of close preparation, he must be testing the reality of his own vocation to the priesthood. He must be looking up to Jesus Christ like the converted St. Paul, asking, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"; and by learning the answer in his own soul, he must be giving the response and making that surrender of his whole self in sacrifice to God, which the priesthood requires. When he is ordained, solemn questions will be asked of him, to which he must make a public reply--Is he called by the Holy Ghost to the ministry? according to the will of Christ? and the order of the English Church? Will he, as a deacon, do the deacon's work gladly and willingly: or, as a priest, will he diligently minister the Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of Christ, banishing error and teaching the faith? Will he be diligent in prayer and in the study of the Scriptures, and set an example of holy living to the flock? Will he be obedient to ecclesiastical superiors? These solemn questions will form a searching element in his ordination; therefore part of his spiritual preparation will be to weigh these things beforehand.

He will have many helps in all this,--the companionship of like minded friends, the counsel of the officials of the college, the regular round of devotion, with special exhortation and instructions at frequent intervals. Several times also in the year a day or more will be set apart in the college wholly for such exercises--days of retreat, as we call them--when there is universal quiet, when study ceases, and the soul retires from all ordinary occupations in order to commune at length and more closely with God. So the rough metal is being tested and forged into a weapon apt for the Master's use.

There is much variation in the amount of technical training given at different colleges. All of them will train in the art of preaching, in the technical details of the administration of the sacraments, in pastoral skill, and the art of the physician of souls, besides other subjects already mentioned. This will not be merely in the lecture-room. In larger or smaller degree there will also be opportunity for practical experience. But there are many things in which instruction given to a student is too empirical to be of much value. Each man must learn by experience; and especially he will have the opportunity for this during his time of his apprenticeship as a deacon. In our college at Mir-field it is the custom for our old students to reassemble, a year after they left college, and others with them, for a week of pastoral and practical instruction. It is much easier then, than earlier, to give detailed instruction as to the special duties of the priesthood that are soon to come upon them, especially the hearing of confessions and the celebrating of the Holy Mysteries.

Many a time, it may be, the student will feel overwhelmed by the greatness of the task which lies before him, and by his own unworthiness. But if the call of God is real, and his own response is honest, he will learn more and more to offer up his life in sacrifice to God, and to the cause of the Church; and already the reassurance of the Holy Spirit will begin to steady his purpose, to clear his outlook, and to deepen his surrender.

As the end of his training draws near, he must take steps concerning his future sphere of work. It is very probable that he has not been, so far, in direct personal touch with any bishop. He has chosen his college for himself, and he is not there as the nominee or subject of any bishop. We have not in England the good custom, which prevails in America and elsewhere, that the bishop supervises his candidates from the time when they begin their theological course. Nor have we kept the mediaeval custom that he should belong to the diocese in which he was born or in which he lives. He will belong to the diocese where he goes to work.

Probably the college authorities will tell him of a sphere of work, of a good parish priest who wants an assistant. Or he may put himself in the hands of some bishop and go to the parish which the bishop chooses for him. The more frequent occurrence is that he first negociates with his future rector; and, when accepted by him, he then applies to the bishop of that diocese. If his papers and testimonials are satisfactory, the bishop will accept him provisionally: then he will prepare for the examination in theology. Also notice will be given publicly in church that he is a candidate for Holy Orders, so that those who know him may have an opportunity of objecting, if they have anything against him. The archdeacons and examining chaplains conduct the examination, and if he satisfies them, he will be told to present himself at the bishop's house a few days before the ordination.

His college course probably closes with a day or two spent in retreat, so that in the silence, and with the help of services, addresses and an experienced spiritual guide, he may make his final decision.

The days preceding the ordination, which he passes with the bishop, will also be chiefly spent in spiritual exercises by all the candidates of the diocese gathered together from their various colleges and places of training. In England we have had, at any rate since the time of Archbishop Theodore in 747, the custom whereby the ordinations are held on the Sunday following the four quarterly fasts called Ember Days. These four separate weeks are specially observed everywhere as days of intercession for the clergy, and for those who are about to be ordained. So the candidates who are to become deacons and priests have the support of the special prayer of the Church all through this crucial week, and the bishop has the same help in the difficult responsibility of choosing finally whom he will ordain.

Sunday comes. The service is in the cathedral church. There is a great gathering of clergy and of friends and relations. Our ordination services for priesthood and diaconate are longer than yours; and though they are not unlike them, it may be interesting to describe them. The ordinations take place during the Liturgy; the deacons are ordained after the Epistle, and a newly ordained deacon then reads the Gospel; after the Gospel, the priests are ordained, and the Creed follows. When a bishop is consecrated, the ceremony follows the Creed. So each order comes in its turn, in ascending scale of dignity. But there are preliminaries to the Liturgy. A sermon precedes it, and when that is over, first the candidates for the diaconate, and then those for the priesthood are presented by the archdeacon to the bishop as he is seated in the sanctuary before the altar. The archdeacon, in response to the bishop's enquiry, assures him that he is satisfied of their fitness. Then the bishop gives the people an opportunity of raising an objection to any of the men if need be. This is the one little bit which remains of the old right of election which in primitive Christian days the people exercised. Then the Litany is sung with special prayer for the candidates, and next the Liturgy is begun.

After the Epistle the bishop is seated in his chair, and the candidates for the diaconate are drawn up before him. He puts to them the seven questions, which I have already mentioned, and they reply to each. Then in turn each candidate kneels before him, and the bishop performs two actions. First of all, with laying on of his hands, he gives him authority to execute the office of a deacon in the name of the Holy Trinity. Secondly, he hands to him the New Testament, authorising him at the same time to read the holy Gospel and to preach the word. So the deacon is ordained.

The service for the priesthood is fuller, and richer. After the Gospel has been read these candidates, like the former, are brought before the bishop. A solemn charge as to the duties of the priesthood is given to them before the eight questions of the priesthood are put to them. This charge, being very biblical, is very similar in its outlines to the Russian treatise "On the Duty of Parish Priests." It emphasizes the greatness of the priesthood, the precious character of the souls committed to the priests' care, and the heinousness of the sin of negligence in the pastoral office. Consequently it speaks of the absolute importance of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of prayer, study of the Scripture, and freedom from worldly cares and occupations; and finally it exhorts them to personal sanctification of life, in order that they may be good examples of the flock. The eight questions then follow; and when the candidates have answered, and their promises are made, the bishop prays that they have power to perform their office faithfully. Then there is a time of silent prayer, in order that the congregation may, in its own way, join in this petition: and the solemn silence is finally broken by the great Latin hymn of invocation to the Holy Spirit, Veni creator spiritus, which all sing together in English.

Next comes the solemn prayer said by the bishop over all the candidates, praising God for the apostolic ministry, and praying that the Kingdom of God may be enlarged by the priesthood of those who are being newly ordained. Finally comes the laying on of hands, which is, as in the case of the deacons, a double ceremony. The priests of the cathedral and others, grouped round the bishop, but standing while he is seated, join with the bishop in the laying on of hands. The words which the bishop says meanwhile to each in turn are as follows:--

Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the word of God and of His holy sacraments; in the Name,etc. Each also receives the Bible, with authority to preach the Word of God and to minister the Holy Sacraments. The newly ordained priests remain grouped round the altar and join with the bishop in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.8 Special prayers are also said at the close for those who are newly ordained. So the eventful service ends, and the young deacon or priest goes forth to His Master's work in the grace of the Holy Spirit.

After he has served some time as an assistant, and has gained experience in his holy task, he will probably himself be appointed to a cure of souls, to take charge of a parish, and probably to have others working in their turn under him. There is often now an intermediate position, which he will fill, between being a mere assistant and having his own independent cure. For in many of our large parishes there is more than one church: usually the rector, while he controls the whole, is himself principally occupied at the mother church; so he hands over the working of a daughter church to one of his assistant clergy, who will be responsible for it under the rector's supervision. This position of a "curate-in-charge" varies according to local circumstances. It very often is almost like an independent cure, especially if the daughter church is large and important, and has become the centre of many activities of its own. If he is placed in such a position as this, the young priest, in a way, serves a second apprenticeship; for he learns in this position how to manage a parish without being wholly left to his own devices. So when the time comes for him to have a wholly independent sphere, he is prepared for it.

The call to an independent sphere may come to him simply from the bishop: but in England the patronage, i.e., the right to nominate a priest to the bishop for institution to a certain cure, is, to a considerable extent, in lay hands. This leads me therefore to say something about our methods of appointment.

Let us begin with the bishop. When a see falls vacant, the care of it is in the hands of the metropolitan, until a new bishop is provided. In early days in England bishops were appointed by the King; but even in Anglo-Saxon times there was some election, though the decisive voice was the voice of the King. The same system prevails now. From the twelfth to the sixteenth century the filling of vacancies was a point to be settled mainly between the King and the Pope. As a rule the diocesan clergy or the chapter of the cathedral church had little or no voice in the matter. When, however, papal jurisdiction over the English Church ceased, a return was made to the old system; that is to say, there was an election by the clergy of the cathedral as representing the diocese, but the King's nomination to them of the candidate whom he wished to see bishop, was practically decisive. Such is the method which prevails now. The change which has come about in our English Constitution, so as to transform the position of the King from a personal monarchy into a constitutional and parliamentary monarchy, has made this arrangement less satisfactory for Church patronage to-day than it was formerly: for the chief responsibility now rests with the Prime Minister of the day, acting with and on behalf of the King. In practice, however, this old traditional plan has for a century or more worked very fairly well. People are slow in England to raise objections to something which works tolerably well, though it may be illogical or even theoretically indefensible. This system therefore continues for the present.

The plan which places the election in the hands of the Chapter of the cathedral church is also not so justifiable as it was, because the Chapter is now much less representative of the diocese than formerly. Still, in spite of these circumstances, the election of the bishop is a reality, and it is likely to become more so. Outside England in the organised provinces of the Anglican Communion, the election of the bishop is carried out in one way or another quite according to old precedents, and the bishop is the chosen pastor of the diocese.

The metropolitan must confirm the election, and when that is done he makes the necessary arrangements for the consecration, supposing, of course, that the elect is not already in episcopal orders.

But there are dioceses in England where there is no Chapter, and consequently no election or confirmation of election. In that case the Crown simply nominates to the metropolitan. In missionary dioceses the practice varies: in any case there is (except in India) no nomination by the Crown.

A suffragan is appointed on the initiative of the diocesan bishop not by the nomination of the Crown. The bishop sends up two names and the King chooses from the two, taking in almost every case the first name. In this case it is following a lead which the Church has already given. It is not infrequently the case that a suffragan bishop is nominated by the Crown to a vacant diocese. With us in England he has no right of succession to the See, as is the case in America and elsewhere: he is thus available for a diocese elsewhere. The Church has therefore now, through the system of suffragans, a larger share in the appointment of bishops than it has ever had among us.

A few words will be sufficient to describe the consecration of the bishop. It takes place on a Sunday or festival, and as a rule in the metropolitan church, or in England, very frequently in one of the three great London churches, the Cathedral of St. Paul's, the Cathedral of Southwark, or Westminster Abbey. The whole consecration rite comes together in one piece, within the Liturgy, after the Creed and the sermon which follows the Creed.

Two bishops present the candidate to the archbishop as he sits in his chair before the altar; and after the legal formalities, the archbishop bids the congregation to pray, after the example of our Lord before His calling the Apostles, and of the Church at Antioch before the mission of SS. Paul and Barnabas. The Litany follows, closing with a special prayer for the candidate. Then the archbishop questions him as to his vocation, and his belief; as to his readiness to be zealous in devotion, strict in discipline over both himself and those entrusted to his charge, faithful in ordaining others, and loving to all who are in trouble. The great hymn, Veni creator spiritus, follows, and the consecrator's solemn prayer for the candidate. Then, as he kneels, the archbishop and other bishops lay their hands on him, with the solemn charge, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a bishop," and the rest, including a quotation from 2 Tim. i. 6, 7, descriptive of the consecration which St. Paul imparted to St. Timothy. After the imposition of hands, there follows also the delivery of the Bible, with an exhortation summarizing very briefly all the chief duties of the episcopate. It remains after the consecration for the bishop to be enthroned in his own cathedral, and so take up the burden of his diocese.

The procedure for the appointment of clergy to cures of souls is much less uniform than this. The patronage, or right of nomination to the bishop has been, from the earliest years, to some extent, in lay hands. It is the only surviving part of much larger powers which from the ninth to the twelfth century the noble or land-owner had over the churches that he or his forefathers had founded or taken under their protection. Between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries much of this patronage came into the hands of monasteries, colleges and other institutions; and a good deal passed thence to the Crown at the suppression of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. Some patronage was kept in the hands of the Crown, some passed to bishops, to new colleges and institutions, to lay persons and lay corporations--so that at present the patronage is in very many hands. The same is true about modern churches. An immense number were built in the last century, and every year sees a great many more added. In such cases the patronage is settled according to the circumstances of the place. It may be vested--for example--in the bishop, or in the rector of the mother church, or in a body of trustees, or in the hands of an individual: but the tendency is to favour the entrusting of this responsibility to a body of trustees rather than to individual lay persons; and much patronage accrues to the bishop of the diocese.

In parts of the Anglican Communion other than England, various systems of patronage prevail. In Ireland there is a general system of patronage-boards, consisting of representatives of the episcopate, the diocese and the particular parish. In Scotland and elsewhere a more democratic plan of selection by the church officials is customary: and so on. In any case, of course, the last word lies with the bishop, who alone can institute to the cure of souls.

I have mentioned once or twice the Chapter of the cathedral church: and this leads me to attempt a short account of the cathedral system as we have it in England: for it is a rather unusual and interesting feature. The cathedral Chapter is a body of dignified and elderly clergy. Very naturally it has not responded as quickly, as other parts of English Church organization have, to the revivifying movement which, these last one hundred years, has transformed the whole face of the English Church, and altered its whole relation to the national life of the country, and, in a sense even, to the world. The cathedrals remain as survivals of a mediaeval ideal; but already a good deal has been done to transform them into an efficient part of the diocesan organization, and more is being done continually. Their history must be briefly recalled.

The organization of the English Church as it was recast in the seventh century was constructed on lines which were more than usually monastic. In many dioceses a monastery was the bishop's centre, and a monastic church was his cathedral church. At the great revival of Benedictine life in the tenth century, this custom, which had vanished in the chaos of the Danish wars, was again restored in some degree. And a third time, when the Normans came, brimming over with a new monastic enthusiasm, the tendency to establish the diocesan centre in a monastery was still further developed. Consequently, from that time to the sixteenth century, there were cathedrals which were served by monks; and in those dioceses the monastic body formed the Chapter, though the bishop was not by any means necessarily a monk himself. In other cathedrals the Chapter was composed of secular clergy--a dean and other officers, together with a number of canons, perhaps as many as fifty or sixty. Some of these resided and personally carried on the services. Others were absentees who provided substitutes. Thus there arose a second set of cathedral clergy, who were deputies of the absent canons. In time these tended to become themselves a corporate body with rights and incomes of their own. There were also of course a number of minor officials--singers and the like--to serve the church in many capacities. In the sixteenth century, when the monasteries were suppressed, instead of the monastic Chapters, there were established new secular Chapters to take their place, similar to, but not entirely like, the older secular Chapters.

In the English cathedrals, therefore, there thus survived a mediasval ideal of corporate clerical life; it was not monastic, but it was bound together by the common property owned by the Chapter, by the services at the cathedral, in which all had their part, and by the close association of living in a group of houses lying round the cathedral and enclosed from the town by a wall.

Reforms in the early nineteenth century reduced the number of cathedral clergy, and diverted a good deal of the income, which in some degree was being wasted, to more needy and more important parts of the work of the Church. But the old organization still remains. To-day a cathedral has normally a dean and four or six canons who form the Chapter, a group of two to four other subordinate clergy, with organist, singers, vergers and others. These form the paid staff. Besides there are a number of honorary canons, corresponding to the large body of canons of earlier days: but they are not paid, and the position is purely honorific.

The cathedral was meant to be a model church for the diocese, and a centre of diocesan activity. Tradition, however, had made them often the reverse of this: and they have been slow to adjust themselves to modern conditions. In some, however, and notably in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, a great deal has been reformed, and the ideal is in process of being better realized. Where men are for the most part elderly and tradition is strong, reform comes slowly. But in many cases now the cathedral posts with their revenues are being utilized as a sort of Headquarters' Staff for the work of the diocese; and many activities centre round the great bishop's church.

In dealing in this lecture with clerical life in England, I have touched upon some of its main features, but I have been obliged to pass over much more. I have only time left in which to deal with one other institution, viz., the English Houses of Convocation, They occupy a peculiar and a very important position.

Synods, both diocesan and provincial, were held from very early days in England at the bidding of the metropolitans, or of bishops, or, at times, of papal legates. In the thirteenth century the Crown began to summon the clergy to meet, just as it summoned the nobility and burgesses to meet in parliament.9 For the clerical assembly the Crown followed the lines of the existing synods and called together the clergy according to their provinces. A division was also made gradually into two houses. The bishops and abbots tended to sit separately and to form an Upper House, like the upper House of Parliament, consisting of the great persons who were summoned individually. Thus was formed also the Lower House, consisting of the lesser dignitaries and the representatives of the clergy, and corresponding in some respects to the House of Commons. In Convocation, however, this division is not constitutional, as in the Houses of Parliament: it is only a convenience. Essentially the two Houses form one synod, in which the priests appear as assessors to the bishops.

Thus the Convocations grew up side by side with Parliament as clerical assemblies summoned at the bidding of the Crown. The king's object in summoning them was taxation; and the clergy preferred to tax themselves in Convocation rather than take their place and responsibilities together with the laity in Parliament. But the matter did not end there. Meeting thus at regular intervals concurrently with Parliament, though summoned by the metropolitans, Convocation became the natural place for doing any provincial business, and in fact became the equivalent of the already existing Provincial Synod.

At the Reformation, after the cessation of the Pope's jurisdiction in England, and the consequent submission of the clergy only to the royal supremacy, Convocation came to form part of a logical and balanced constitutional arrangement, which Queen Elizabeth took great pains to define and preserve.

It corresponds on the ecclesiastical side to Parliament: it passes Canons somewhat as Parliament passes Acts; the legislative action becomes effective on receiving in one case the licence, in the other, the assent of the Crown. The king thus stands superior to two collateral assemblies, one representing the Church and the other the State. Matters of great interest, or matters of mixed jurisdiction--partly civil and partly ecclesiastical--may require the concurrent action of both Parliament and Convocation. Others which are purely ecclesiastical require only to be settled by Canon. For example, the Prayer Book has the authorization of Convocation, and it is further enforced by an Act of Parliament. Similarly, when a new law was recently needed for the correction of criminous clergy, joint action was taken by an Act of Parliament and by a Canon of Convocation. On the other hand Canons are purely ecclesiastical acts, and the English Canons rest on the authority of Convocation and Crown, not on that of Parliament.

The constitutional frontier between the two parallel assemblies is thus theoretically clear. In practice, owing to mutual jealousies, the aggressions of the State and the supineness of the Church, the frontier has not infrequently been violated; and there exists a good deal of confusion not only in the minds of politicians, lawyers, and other persons, but also in the laws themselves, owing to the violation of the constitutional frontier.

The mediaeval constitution of Convocation is not adequate for present needs: reforms are urgent and are imminent. Ever since the great church revival Convocation has become a body of great importance; and its power and influence will be greater still when it is made more fully representative of the whole Church.

A step in this direction was taken in 1885 by the appointment of a Representative House of Laymen in each province to co-operate with the Convocations. These Houses of Laymen have no constitutional position, but they are practically of great importance. The four Houses of Convocation sitting with the two Houses of Laymen, and presided over jointly by the two English metropolitans, form what is known as the Representative Church Council. This has no place formally in the English constitution; it is purely a church assembly and of recent origin. But it tends every year to become of more and more importance; and it is justifying on purely voluntary lines its title of the Representative Church Council.

Meanwhile Convocation remains as the Constitutional Synod of each province, with powers legislative, judicial and administrative, not subject to Parliament but depending upon the Crown for its ecclesiastical, as distinct from its spiritual, authority.


Project Canterbury