Project Canterbury

Was Father Field a Christian Socialist?
by the Revd Robert Rea


1     This story was told me in the early 60's by Fr H W Becker, at that time Rector of St John's as a story passed down in the parish.

2     Lett, Leslie A, "Christian Socialism:"  Anglican Social Teaching Barbados, Jubilee Reserch Centre, n d, p 15.

3     quoted in Lett, op cit, p 13.

4     Jones, Peter d'Alroy, The Christian Socialist Revival, 1877-1914:  Religion, Class and Social Conscience in Late-Victorian England, Princeton, New Jersey, The Princeton University Press, 1968, p 13.

5     Jones, op cit, p 145-9, and Bettany, F G, Stewart Headlam:  A Biography, London, John Murray, 926, p 130.

6     Jones, op cit, p 114.

7     >Ibid, p 114f.

8     Ibid, p 115.

9     Jones, op cit, p 160f, quoting Bettany, op cit.

10     quoted in Dombrowski, James, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America, New York, Octagon, 1936, p 100.

11     The sources for the life and work of Fr Field are numerous.  They include:

12     Tournier, op cit, p 14.

13     Burton, art cit, p 137.

14     Tournier, op cit, pp 15-16.

15     Fr Field wrote an eyewitness account of his labors in Johnstown, After The Flood, published by the Guild of the Iron Cross at Philadelphia, n d.

16     Undated letter in the SSJE Archives.

17     Cowley Evangelist, July 1904, p 164.

18     quoted in a letter from Fr Field in Cowley Evangelist, May 1907, pp 115-6.

19     Cowley Evangelist, December, 1903, p 280.

20     The newspaper is unnamed, but the article, which is too long to quote, will corroborate and expand the narrative in this paper.

21     Undated letter in the SSJE Archives, Cambridge.

22     Cowley Evangelist, May 1893, pp 65-6.

23     Cowley Evangelist, October 1893, p 148.

24     Simkhovitch, Mary K, Here is God's Plenty, New York, Harpers, p 163.

25     Simkhovitch, Mary K, Neighborhood:  The Story of Greenwich House, New York, Norton, 1938, p 43.

26     Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury, "Father Field-- Friend of Colored Children," Journal of Negro Life, January 1930, pp 17-8.

27     "Mary Melinda Kingsbury Simkhovitch," in Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement Five, New York, Scribners, 1977, pp 630-1.

28     from a letter of condolence from Mrs Simkhovitch to the Superior at the Fr Field's death, undated.

29     Notes for his testimony, and correspondence in the SSJE Archives, Camb

30     Burton, art cit, p 141.

31     Smith, Robert C, Opera citata , Duffy, Mark J, ed, The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, 1784-1984, Boston, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, 1984, two articles, Blackman, George, "The Tradition of Massachusetts Churchmanship," in which Blackman describes Eastburn as "Inflexible, tendentious, devoid of tact, charm or vestige of humor"(p 17), and Rea, Robert, "The Society of St John the Evangelist."

32     Undated note in the SSJE Archives, Cambridge.

33     Retreat Day Address given to the SSJE in Cambridge on December 13, 1986, and a subsequent conversation with me.

34     Letter from the Archives, Cambridge, no date or place written, but likely to be from the period in Philadelphia becasue of the mention of Fr Maturin, who returned to England after working in Philadelphia.  He eventually became a Roman Catholic priest and died in the sinking of the Lusitania.

35     Woodgate, M V, Father Benson:  Founder of the Cowley Fathers, London, Bles, 1953.  This is the only biograpy of Fr Benson and it is essentially undocumented.  A M Allchin's article in Smith, Benson of Cowley is more useful in leading one toward the sources, which are few, mostly brief acounts of what is remembered of Benson.  Miss Woodgate does cover the ground well, however, and I have relied on her account.

36     "Clapham Sect," Cross, F E, and E A Livingstone, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, London, Oxford University Press, 1974, p 297, and "William Wilberforce, p 1479.

37     Benson, Letters, p 229, dated 8-8-1858.

38     cited from Stewart, Andrew B, R M Benson and the Society of St John the Evangelist, AB Honors Thesis, Harvard College, 1979.  Andrew is now Brother Columba Stewart OSB of St John's Abbey, Collegeville, MN.

39     Woodgate, op cit, p 57.

40     This contention is based on Woodgate's description of the makeup of the parish in Fr Benson of Cowley, which I will cite later in this paper, and on verbal communication with Fr Martin Smith SSJE, editor of the excellent and recent Benson of Cowley, and a man who knows the work of Benson quite thoroughly.  In any case, I feel that the matter needs further investigation to determine who the people were who swelled the Cowley St John section of Oxford in the eighteen-seventies, as this might make it possible to add nuance to our understanding of Benson's work and theology.

41     Franklin, op. cit.

42 This is the thesis of Franklin, R W, "Pusey and Worship in Industrial Society." Worship, 57, no 5, September 1983, pp 386-412.

43 St John's Home is now the place where aged Cowley dads in England go to die when the community can no longer care for them.  The current new work of the All Saints Sisters is Helen House, the first pediatric Hospice program.  The traditon continues; the American SSJE served to receive American donations to build Helen House.

44 Cowley St John Parish Magazine, January 1874, no page number.  I think that this unsigned article is from the pen of Benson on two grounds, first, that both as Vicar and as a leader of the London Mission he is describing he would have written the article himself, and second, that it sounds like Benson.

45 Ibid, 2-74, n p.

46 Benson, R M, Spiritual Readings:  Advent, London, J T Hayes, 1879, p 192.

47 Benson, R M, The Final Passover, vol 2, part 2, p 206.

48 quoted in The Dawn, VI, 2, February, 1894.

49 Benson, R M, Instructions on the Religious Life, Third Series, Oxford, Mowbray, 1951, p 88.

50 Benson, R M, "The Virgin Birth," The Church Eclectic, October, 1894, p 642.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid, pp 644-5.

53 Congreve, George, Christian Progress, London, Longmans, 1910, p vi.

54 Benson, R M, The Religious Vocation, London, Mowbray, 1939, p 39.

55 Ibid, August 1920, pp 148-9.

56 Ibid, September 1920, p 164.

57 Ibid, November 1920, p 204.

58 Cf Franklin, R W,"Pusey and Worship in Industrial Society,"  Worship , 57, no 5, September 1983, pp 386-412.  Dr Franklin, through his courses taught as a Visiting Professor at the Harvard Divinity School, has been a considerable influence not only on my thinking about Fr Field, but in my choice of Fr Field as a research subject.

59 Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury, Neighborhood:  My Story of Greenwich House, New York, Norton, 1938, p 42.

60 The Messenger, May 1908, p 5.

61 Ibid, June 1907, p 7.

62 Ibid, December 1907, pp 5-7.

63 Oral tradition at St Augustine's, reported by Fr Frederick Gross.