Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.

Chapter XVIII.


Spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.
--Is. liv. 2.

THE chief part of the Church's work is to keep open the way to heaven. The English Church understands this duty in New Zealand no otherwise than it does elsewhere. That the Lord Jesus Christ, when He had overcome the sharpness of death, did open the kingdom of heaven to all believers--this its people sing and believe. There has been no heresy among the colonists, if by heresy be understood anything more than individual dissent from the common creed of Christendom.

How the way thus opened is to be kept unclosed and clear, is doubtless a question upon which some difference exists. But even here our island Church has been less vexed by controversy than have most other portions of the Christian realm. No Cummins or Colenso has arisen among its bishops. Only once has the ponderous machinery of its canon on "discipline" been put in motion against a presbyter. That instance occurred in 1877, when the Rev. H. E. Carlyon of Kaiapoi, a very earnest and devoted man, was found guilty by the Bench of Bishops of erroneous teaching and unlawful practice in regard to auricular confession and the administration of the Holy Eucharist. The cases of Mr. Kirkham of Roslyn, and some others, though productive of angry controversy, never came within the purview of the courts. The opposition to Bishop Jenner, though really based on the fear of Romanising ritual, took the safer course of challenging the validity of his appointment.

The conduct of public worship in New Zealand presents no special features in contrast with that of the mother Church. At one time it seemed as though the hymns at least might have borne a distinctive character. The second general synod decided to compile a special hymnal, and under its authority such a book was issued in 1864. It contained 222 hymns, many of which were beautiful. But neither in this collection nor in the enlarged edition put forth in 1870 were there any original compositions, nor anything (except perhaps the hymns for "time of war") to make it specially suitable to the needs of this country. The second edition, set to music by Dr. Purchas of Auckland, never attained to such widespread use as the first had enjoyed, and was soon driven from the field by Hymns Ancient and Modern.

The changed seasons of the Southern Hemisphere still wait for an inspired poet. The summer Christmas and the autumn Easter have yet to be naturalised among us. Some attempts have been made, not altogether without success. The birth of the Heavenly Babe "in the fulness of time" is felt to be in keeping with the season when

The feathered choir, in copse and glade,
Their own enchanting carols sing;
Flowers add their incense to the gifts
Which nature offers to its King--

while at Easter time, instead of the old association of the Resurrection with the renewed vitality of Spring, we have a fitness drawn from the very contrast:

Christ is risen! All around
Autumn leaves are falling;
Signs of death bestrew the ground,
Winter time recalling.
Fading leaf and withered flower
Tell us we are mortal:
Easter morn reveals a Power
Lighting death's dark portall

These verses are surely on the way to some poetic interpretation of the changed seasons which shall fix the devotions of the future in classic form. [From "The Christian Year Beneath the Southern Cross," by the Rev. F. R. Inwood.]

Turning from the liturgical to the personal element in our services, we find that the solitary Marsden of 1814 is now represented by 414 clergy, of whom 50 belong to the Maori race. The numbers vary greatly in the different dioceses. Auckland heads the list with no clergy (19 being Maoris), Wellington follows with 77, and Christchurch with 76; Waiapu has 68 (24 being Maoris); Dunedin 46, and Nelson 29. About ninety of these white clergy were born in the land, and many others, having arrived in childhood, have received their training at one or other of the colleges which have been established for the purpose.

Chief among these theological colleges stands, of course, Selwyn's old foundation of St. John's. Its career has been a chequered one, but it was considerably enlarged during the episcopate of Bishop Neli-gan, and is now in a flourishing condition. Christ-church, in the Upper Department of Christ's College; Dunedin, in Selwyn College; and Wellington, in the Hadfield Hostel, possess institutions which supply to candidates for the ministry a home and a theological training while they attend the lectures at the University colleges. Bishopdale College, which was an institution of great importance under Dr. Suter, has now been revived by the present Bishop of Nelson. The studies in all these local centres are systematised and tested by a Board of Theological Studies, whose operations cover the whole province, and whose standard is equal to that of the mother Church.

As to the work done by the clergy of New Zealand, it would be unbecoming of the author to say much. Each diocese is happy in the possession of some parish priests whose faithful service is beyond price and beyond praise. Many, too, of those whose working day is past, are recalled with grateful affection in the scenes of their former activity. Some have left their mark in our large cities through their long and faithful pastorates: Archdeacon Benjamin Dudley in Auckland, Archdeacon Stock and Richard Coffey in Wellington, Archdeacons Lingard and Cholmondeley in Christ-church, Henry Bromley Cocks in Sydenham. For length of service as well as for culture and ability stand out conspicuous the names of Archdeacon Govett of New Plymouth, and of Archdeacon Henry Harper of Westland and Timaru. In the gift of popular preaching and of winning business men, Dean Hovell of Napier and Archdeacon Maclean of Grey-mouth and Wanganui have had few rivals. Of a more scholarly type were H. B. Harvey of Wellington, C. S. Bowden of Mornington, Canon Joseph Bates of Davenport, and W. Marsden Du Rieu of Auckland--the last also being distinguished for his extraordinary charity and generosity. Ability and spirituality were likewise conspicuous in the short career of Charles Alabaster of Christchurch; self-sacrificing vigour in that of Archdeacon E. A. Scott.

Provincial towns have often kept the same pastor for a long term of years, the man and the place seeming to become identified in the eyes of the world. Such cases are those of Archdeacon Butt at Blenheim, James Leighton at Nelson, Archdeacon Stocker at In-vercargill, Algernon Gifford at Oamaru, Archdeacon Dudley at Rangiora. The large and difficult country districts also have often had earnest and devoted priests, among whom may be mentioned Canon Frank Gould of Auckland, Amos Knell in the Wairarapa, James Preston at Geraldine, Samuel Poole at Mo-tueka. Other holy and humble men of heart there have been whose names never came conspicuously before the world or even before the Church.

Greatly as the number of the clergy has grown within recent years, the services of the Church could not be carried on without the help of a large body of lay-readers. Some of these are licensed to preach and interpret, others read sermons by approved divines, but both classes render invaluable help. The number of these readers in the diocese of Auckland alone is almost equal to the number of clergy in the whole of New Zealand. Nor are the services of women altogether wanting. In Christchurch there exists a community of deaconesses, who, besides educational and charitable work, carry on a constant ministry of intercession and prayer.

How much the devotional side of the religious life is assisted by music can hardly be over-emphasised. There is one paid choir in the country--that of Christ-church Cathedral--and there are many salaried organists of high culture; but throughout the length and breadth of the land there are voluntary musicians and singers whose devoted efforts do much to keep alive the inspiring practice of sacred song.

The buildings in which worship is offered are gradually becoming more worthy of their high purpose. The last decade has seen many fine churches begun or finished. Christchurch Cathedral; St. Mary's, Tima-ru; St. Luke's, Oamaru; St. John's, Invercargill, have been brought to completion; the fine churches of St. Matthew, Auckland; St. Luke, Christchurch; All Saints', Palmerston North; St. Matthew's, Masterton; Holy Trinity, Gisborne, have been built. Smaller churches of great beauty mark the country side at Hororata, Glenmark, Little Akaloa, and elsewhere. Some of these buildings are due to the generosity of individual donors; others represent combined parochial effort.

For administrative purposes the Church in New Zealand is divided into six dioceses--three in each island. Since the days of Bishop Selwyn, no addition has been made to the number. The diocese of Auckland is now large and populous enough for subdivision, but the project for a Taranaki bishopric has not hitherto elicited much enthusiasm. The authority in each diocese is shared by the bishop with his synod. This body contains all the licensed clergy and an approximately equal number of lay representatives. Its powers are considerable, but the days when the synod was the arena of violent strife seem to be over. Good feeling and harmonious co-operation between bishop, clergy, and laity are now everywhere the rule.

The relations between bishop and clergy were rendered clearer by the case of Dodwell v. the Bishop of Wellington in 1887. The old legal status of an English "parson" was shown not to exist in New Zealand: no clergyman has any position save such as is given him by the constitution of the Church. In the same way, no parishioner has any claim at law against his parish priest. This point was decided by the Avonside case in 1889, where the action of a parishioner against the Rev. Canon Pascoe, on the ground of a refusal of the Holy Communion, was disallowed by the judge. The Church is free to do its own work in its own way, and is bound only by such laws as it may think good to make for itself.

The supreme authority for the making of such laws is the General Synod, of which the primate is president. This dignified body has hardly yet developed that power and continuity of action which are required for effective leadership. It suffers from smallness of numbers, from infrequency of meetings, and from changes of locality. Attempts have been made (notably in 1910) to strengthen the central authority by conferring upon the primate the title of archbishop, in the hope that the office might eventually be attached to one particular see, which would thus become the ecclesiastical centre of the Province. Such attempts have hitherto met with slight success. The country itself seems to render centralisation difficult. If called upon to choose one of the existing sees as the seat of the archbishopric, how would the synod decide between Auckland with its traditions, Wellington with its central position, and Christchurch with its cathedral and its endowments? To ask the question is to show the difficulty of its answer.

By the fundamental provisions of its constitution the synod has no power to alter the Prayer-Book. At every session this point is debated afresh, with the only result of throwing up into clearer relief the powerlessness of the synod with regard to it. Another matter which comes up for regular treatment is the admission of women to a vote at parish meetings. The measure has hitherto always been defeated by the vote of the clerical order, but the tide seems now to have turned, as at least two diocesan synods (those of Christchurch and Nelson) have passed favouring resolutions by considerable majorities.

Of all the problems which come before the ecclesiastical statesman, perhaps the most difficult of solution is that of "the appointment of pastors to parishes." The history of its treatment in New Zealand is somewhat singular. At their inception the synods showed extreme jealousy of episcopal control. A parochial system was devised which should give to the parishioners as large a voice as possible in the selection of their pastor, and to the priest so chosen as large a measure as possible of independence of his bishop. The only check upon the parochial nominators (who were elected by the vestry) was the presence upon the Board of an equal number of diocesan nominators elected by the synod. The one person who had no voice in the matter was the bishop. Proposals were occasionally made to give him a seat upon the Board of Nominators, but it was sufficient for a northern archdeacon (in 1880) to declaim against the "cauld blanket" which the bishop's presence would cast upon the erstwhile happy gathering of laymen, to secure the abandonment of the proposal for a whole generation. But the arrangement was unnatural; and, as the feelings of distrust abated, it was found that important churches would not infrequently refrain from claiming independent status in order that they might remain as mere "parochial districts" in the bishop's hands. At length, in 1913, the Bishop of Christchurch carried through the General Synod a bill which revolutionised the whole procedure. The appointment to parishes and parochial districts alike was placed in the hands of a small diocesan Board of Nomination. This consists of the bishop himself, with one priest elected by the clergy and one layman elected by the laity. The only advantage enjoyed by a fully-formed parish is that its vestry has the privilege of selecting between three names submitted to it by the Board of Nomination, after a consultation between this board and the parish vestry.

Administration is intimately connected with finance, and on this head, too, something must be said. The Dominion of New Zealand contains slightly over 1,000,000 people, of whom 411,671 declared themselves in 1911 to be members of the Church of England. When it is noted that the membership of many of these is more nominal than real, and that many are not of age to possess any money of their own, it must surely be taken as a sign of vitality that in the year 1912 no less a sum than £72,590 was contributed through offertories and subscriptions alone for the stipends of the clergy and for other parochial needs. Doubtless the sum would be considerably higher if the rich gave always in proportion to their means, but even so the result is cheering.

Noble gifts have indeed been sometimes made by those who have been entrusted with worldly wealth. These gifts have taken various forms. Sometimes the object has been the building of a church, as in the case of the Harrop bequest of £30,000 for the erection of a cathedral at Dunedin, or the gift by the Rhodes family of a tower and spire for the cathedral of Christchurch. Sometimes it has been the endowment of a parish. In this respect the diocese of Christ-church stands out conspicuous. Glenmark, endowed by Mrs. Townend; West Lyttelton by Archdeacon Dudley; Otaio and Waimate by Mr. Myers; Hororata (partially) by Sir John Hall: these can hardly be paralleled elsewhere, except perhaps in the diocese of Nelson, where the parishes of Brightwater and of Wakefield share an endowment of £11,000 bequeathed by Dr. Brewster. Nor must it be forgotten that among the greatest benefactors to the Church were Bishops Selwyn, Hobhouse, and Suter. The monetary gifts of themselves and their English friends have been estimated at no less than £30,000.

Diocesan Funds, on the other hand, seem to have attracted the attention of wealthy donors chiefly in Dunedin and in Waiapu. The former diocese has received large gifts from Mr. George Gray Russell; the latter has been permanently supplied with the stipend of an archdeacon from an anonymous source. The bishopric endowment of Nelson received not long since the sum of £8,000 from Miss Marsden; the poorer clergy of the archdeaconry of Christchurch, £5,000 under the will of Mrs. Townend. The pension fund of the northern dioceses is enriched by the capital sum of £3,000 from Mr. James Cottrell; that of Christchurch by a similar sum received under the will of Mr. F. G. Stedman.

In the department of charitable institutions Auckland stands distinguished. The Arrowsmith bequest for St. Mary's Homes at Otahuhu exceeded £ 11,000; the same homes and a children's home in the city of Auckland have received considerable sums from Sir J. Campbell and Mrs. Knox. In Christchurch the bishop administers the interest of £5,000 bequeathed by Mr. R. H. Rhodes for the spiritual benefit of the fallen and unfortunate. The daughters of the clergy throughout the Dominion found a wise friend in Miss Lohse, an honoured member of the teaching profession, who left the whole of her fortune for the furtherance of their higher education.

Second only in importance to the administration of the Word and Sacraments, comes the education of the young in the principles of the Christian faith. The New Zealand Church is happy in possessing two secondary boys' schools of first-rate importance--Christ's College Grammar School in the South Island, and the Wanganui Collegiate School in the North. Both were founded in the early 'fifties, and endowed with lands which now yield a substantial revenue. Both embody the best traditions of English public-school life. Wanganui has the larger number of boarders; Christ's College of day-boys. The old alumni of these institutions have become a power in the land, and, of late years, they have done much to provide their old schools with solid and handsome buildings.

Diocesan high schools for girls are found at Auckland and at Marton in the North Island, while in the South the Kilburn Sisters carry on collegiate schools at Dunedin and at Christchurch. There are also many private schools, both for girls and boys, wherein religious instruction is given.

It is in the primary department that the Church is weak. Except for three parochial schools in Christ-church, there is nothing in the country to correspond to the National School system in England. Almost every child in the Dominion attends some government day school, and in these, since 1877, religious teaching has formed no part of the curriculum. The clergy in many places have tried to supply the want by giving lessons out of school hours, but the difficulties are great, and the returns of attendance show strange fluctuations. The figures for the year 1912 give a total of 9,546 children who are thus taught, nearly two-thirds of the number being credited to the South Island. Agitation for an amendment of the Education Act has never altogether died down, and during the last two or three years it has acquired a strength and an organisation which it never had before. The success of the Bible-in-Schools movement in several of the Australian States has inspired the various religious bodies in New Zealand with hopeful determination to bring about a like reform. Quod festinet Deus noster.

In the meanwhile the one resource is the Sunday school. According to the latest returns, the Church of this country claims over 39,000 Sunday scholars, and rather more than 3,000 teachers. Here the North Island far outstrips the South. There are those who decry the Sunday school with its limited hours and its often untrained teachers, but the devotion of these voluntary workers is one of the brightest features of the church life of to-day; while the results of their labours--could they be really measured--would probably astonish the gainsayer. That the ethical ideals of the community are what they are, and that the moral standard achieved is what it is, must surely be largely due to the simple elements of Christian faith and duty which are inculcated in the Sunday school.

In comparison with the churches of older lands, the Church of New Zealand may seem to do little in the way of charitable relief. In a young and prosperous community there is not the same call for eleemosynary effort; and in New Zealand the whole community has taken up whatever burden of this kind there may be, and bears it as a part of its ordinary governmental task. That hospitals and asylums, homes for the aged, and even reformatories for the vicious, should be thus undertaken by the State is doubtless right and good, especially as every facility is given for ministers of religion to visit the inmates. The case stands differently with the care of the young and the rescue of the tempted and the fallen. Here the spiritual atmosphere is all-important. Our Church possesses orphanages in most of the large towns--Auckland (with three large institutions), Palmerston North, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin; while in Napier and Wanganui it co-operates with other religious organisations to the same end.

Of rescue work not so much can be said. Through the influence of Sister Frances Torlesse, many devoted ladies in Christchurch entered upon this Christ-like work in the 'eighties, though the home they established has now been made over to the orphans. In Wellington, Mrs. Wallis took up the task, and the city still keeps up the institutions which she founded.

More pleasant is the thought of the agencies which aim at preventing vice, rather than at undoing its ravages. Mothers' Unions and Girls' Friendly Societies are spread widely throughout the land; while, owing to the visits of Mr. Woollcombe and Mr. Watts-Ditchfield, the Church of England Men's Society has taken firm root among us. Slowly but surely the supreme lesson of service is being learnt: the old type of layman who supported the Church as an honourable part of the State fabric, and as a barrier against revolution, is passing away before the newer type of enthusiastic worker, who feels the call of Christ to share in labour and sacrifice for the brotherhood and for the world.

The beginning of our history found New Zealand waiting for the coming of a Christian missionary. Many parts of Maoriland are still needing such a messenger to recall them from apostacy and indifference. But, on the whole, New Zealand is now a country which sends out missionaries rather than one that expects them. For many years past it has received no financial help from any outside society. The heathen parts of Maoridom are being evangelised by agents sent by the Church of the land--the South Island for this purpose helping the more heavily-burdened North. But all parts combine in following up Selwyn's mission to Melanesia. Though unable, as yet, to bear the whole of the cost, the Church of this Dominion has always followed this romantic undertaking with its sympathies and with its prayers. The hopeful beginnings under Selwyn and Patteson; the check caused by the latter's death; the slow recovery under the younger Selwyn; the great expansion under Bishop Wilson; the hopeful prospect under Bishop Wood--all this has formed part of our outlook upon the great world. Some of our sons and daughters have given themselves to the service, and no one can be considered to be a true member of our Church who does not contribute annually to the mission funds.

Still farther afield range the thoughts and the gaze of the young amongst us. Twenty-one years ago the old Church Missionary Society, which had done so much for New Zealand in the past, saw a daughter-society spring up in this distant country. The Church Missionary Association of New Zealand has been instrumental in greatly fostering the missionary spirit among young people, has sent out a goodly number to foreign countries, and raises a considerable sum for their support. Young New Zealanders are often more attracted by China and Japan than by the Maoris and Melanesians at their own doors.

What does this show but that the English Church in New Zealand must widen its outlook and expand its sympathies, till it feels itself lifted up and inspired to attempt greater things than anything yet achieved? For long centuries Christianity could never reach these islands: instead of advancing, it was driven back by the Mohammedan invasion. At last, with new knowledge and new hope, there came new enterprise and new daring. The very difficulties of the task became means to its accomplishment; through the most unlikely channels the beginnings of the message came. Portuguese and Hollander and Briton; Da Gama and Tasman and Cook; rough whalers, and condemned criminals: in all these we must recognise the instruments which were used by the All-wise in the laying of our foundations. But it is to those who set themselves with conscious courage and far-seeing wisdom to build upon the stone thus laid--to Marsden and Williams and Selwyn--that we owe the deepest debt. Undeterred by the difficulties of their task, undismayed by the dangers of their way, these heroic men gave themselves to the work of building up under southern skies another England and another home for England's Church. It is the same spirit that is needed now, but with such fresh applications as are demanded by the new age.

In this book we have had to tell the hundred years' story of "the English Church in New Zealand." Perhaps the historian of a century hence may be able to trace its absorption into a Church which shall include all the broken fragments of the Body of Christ within its unity; all true schools of thought within its theology; all classes of men within its membership; every legitimate interest and pursuit within its gracious welcome!

For the present juncture the old words approve themselves as the most fitting: "Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

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