Anglican and Orthodox in the Early Seventies.
By S. C. Boys.
The Christian East, Winter, 1927, pp. 210-215.
THIS article is an attempt to carry out the wishes of my husband, H. A. Boys, Chaplain at Patras from 1870 to 1875, and to put on record some account of the very friendly relations that existed between himself and the Bishops and Clergy of the Orthodox Church during those five years.
The materials for this are (I) a very carefully-kept Diary, which I read aloud to him during the last year of his life; (2) what I can remember of his comments as the various entries were read; (3) my own recollections of a two days' visit with him to Patras in 1906, and the welcome he received from the few who were left after 30 years.
Chief among these was his special friend Papa Costa, Priest at Patras from before 1870 till some years after 1906. He heard that my husband had come, and hastened to the hotel the first morning early. We got back from an early stroll round the town to be met by the landlord and told that Papa Costa was in our room. I shall never forget the hasty rush on the stairs, nor the sight of the two grey-bearded Priests hugging each other half-way up, the Englishman in his wide-awake, the Greek in his tall hat with the brim at the top, and the little plait of hair fastened up with a hairpin or two beneath it; nor the unintelligible (to me) conversation that followed, nor my husband's disgust at finding his Modern Greek so rusty that he could only understand, not express himself, at first. Papa Costa came to the station at 6 a.m. two days later to see us off, and still the two talked up to the very last minute, for my husband was becoming able to talk the language, and was eager to tell him about the beautiful Somerset church, of which he was then Rector.
There had not, I think, been an English Chaplain in Patras before, certainly not for a very long while. But there was in 1870 a growing colony of English Currant Merchants, several of them with young families growing up, who felt the need of their own Church, and who had asked Bishop Harris of Gibraltar to send them a Chaplain, they guaranteeing his salary, which was to be eked out by some paid teaching. He appointed my husband, a young man of 26 with delicate lungs, who went out in August, 1870, going by long sea, and stopping at Cephalonia and Zante, which were to be part of his parish. His first recorded meeting with the clergy of the Orthodox Church was the first morning at Patras, where he found Bishop Harris staying with Mr. Wood, the leading Churchman of the English colony. Early on the morning after his arrival, the Archbishop of Patras, Papa Costa, and others of the Patras Clergy, came up to Aroi to pay their respects to the English Bishop, whom they already knew and loved, and to satisfy their curiosity about the new English Priest. They were delighted when he came into the room:--"He has a beard" passed from one to another; and friendly relations began from that moment.
There was then no English church or cemetery in Patras, and the English services were at first held at the "Syllogus," which was a sort of Club, Currant Exchange, and Hostel combined, run by the German Merchants. These were mostly Lutherans, and they intended to attend the English church; allowing their big room to be used, on Sundays only, for the services.
Only a month after his arrival Mr. Wood's son was killed by a fall out shooting, and his funeral service was held by the courtesy of the Archbishop in the Greek Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, the grave being also dug in that Churchyard. To quote the Diary:--"I was invited by the Greek Priest to robe behind the screen, and treated most kindly. Immense throng of Greeks. A lane made through them to admit the procession. As soon as I turned towards the church saying the sentences there was a rush and indescribable confusion; I was hustled, and had to push my way through the crowd all the way up the Nave. Stood at the reading desk. Coffin deposited in the midst of the Chancel. Church crammed full of people, who were very quiet, for Greeks. Had to scramble out of church again through the throng, and was hustled all the way to the grave. Service completed in comparative silence. Followed by three orations from friends, two in Greek, one in English."
A little later came another funeral; the child of an Englishman who had married a Greek. In this case by the mother's wish the Archbishop of Patras was asked to take a part in the service, and he most kindly consented. In the Diary we find:--"There was some difficulty about the coffin, and it finally went to St. Andrew's open. I was at the church very early, and saw the grave not yet ready. Received the corpse at the gate as before. Much less crowd than before, and at first more orderly. Service in church decent. Archbishop spoke very well from his throne. Disorder at grave afterwards most unseemly. They had been unable to find an entrance into the vault, and were hastily preparing a temporary grave, which was not completed when we got there. This was in a narrow space between a tomb and some wooden palings. Disgraceful struggling even to make room for coffin and myself; eight men rolled together into a hole at the end of the tomb. The tomb itself was completely covered with staring boys. The coffin was covered at the grave and the service completed."
There was naturally no Font at the Syllogus, and both at Patras and Zante the great portable brass Fonts used by the Greek Church in their semi-private Baptism of infants, were most willingly lent to the English Chaplain. Later, when the English church had been built, with a font big enough for baptisms by immersion, the Archbishop of Patras and several of his clergy were present at a double baptism, one by immersion and one by aspersion, of the children of two Lutheran members of the English congregation, one of whom had married a Greek. To quote the Diary again:--"Easter Day, 1875. Morning Service. Church crammed; singing went well, but four of our people away through illness. 14 Communicants. Sundry Greek Priests present, whom I sat in the Chancel till Celebration, then in vestry. Service over, arranged church for Baptism, and went over Greek Service; got water put in at 3.15. Archbishop came and sundry Priests at 3; whom I put first in my house, and then took to church. Agostino (his servant) had made a frame for the Sedile, which he covered with red, cloth which I had got, and so had a good seat for the Archbishop. Baptism party remained down by the Font all the time by mistake. Second Lesson over, and church being crammed with Greeks. I got water just right, 92°, and reading in Greek, took first Franz Hamburger's child, and dipped it right in; a fat plump child, which had cried all the time but remained quite quiet in the water till I had done. Then took Schweitzer's child, which I sprinkled; this, quiet all the rest of the time, cried lustily in my arms. Whole service finished only at 4.40. Walked Archbishop round church gardens, and so let him go. Remembered when too late that I ought to have asked him to bless us."
Again, in July, 1874, soon after the consecration of the English church, the Diary records great help from Papa Costa in preparing the English Marriage Service for use between a Lutheran and a Greek. "Sunday, July 19. At 5 marriage took place; I read the English Service in Greek; part in Modern Greek from Papa Costa's book; and all Scriptural extracts from the Scriptures. Got through very fairly; Germans sang one hymn in German."
But the English Colony very soon felt the need of an English Church, and plans were set on foot for acquiring a site, and collecting funds. The Chaplain was very much impressed by the frequent shocks of earthquakes on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, and the damage done by them to buildings of the prevailing pseudo-Classical style, while the old Byzantine churches with their small round-arched openings and vaulted roofs mostly escaped unharmed, and he was very insistent accordingly that a proper architect should be employed. It took time to work the congregation up to the pitch of such an extravagance, but early in 1872 the plans sent in by Mr George Vialls, a young English architect, who had recently restored the church at Wing in Rutland, of which my husband's father was Rector, were accepted. These were for a little church, consisting of nave, chancel, and vestry, with a bell gable over the west end; early-English in style, with small lancet windows in the sides, a traceried window at the east end, and a rose window over three lancets at the west end. All the cut stone work was sent out from England, but the walls were built of local stone irregularly jointed, with neither horizontal nor vertical lines in the stonework, with the idea of stopping cracks due to earthquake shocks. I shall never forget his delight when in 1906 he found the little church intact, and that it had stood without a crack for 32 years, through several very bad earthquakes that had done serious damage to many other buildings.
Another difficulty was the Font. My husband was determined that all the points on which the Orthodox and Anglican Churches were at one should be emphasised, such as the eastward position, and the permissive use of Baptism by Immersion; but it was not quite easy to persuade the Church Committee to go to the expense of a Font large enough for this. However, with time and patience he carried his point, as is shown by the account of the two baptisms given above. The whole work of building the church aroused great interest among the Greek Clergy of Patras, and their congratulations were most cordial. The Diary gives the following account of its Consecration on May 10, 1874, by Bishop Sandford of Gibraltar, although it had been in use for Services from the previous Easter Day, April 5. Papa Costa and the Ierokomio were at that first service, as well as at the official Consecration. Indeed, it is noticeable throughout the whole Diary how the different Calendars in use by the two Churches made for mutual good feeling and understanding between their respective clergy; each was free on the great Festivals and Fasts to go to the other's Services.
"May 8, Friday. Service as usual, and then went up to Aroi (Mr. Wood's) to see Bishop. Took up Papa Costa with me. Stayed some time with Bishop, and then walked him down to the church, which he praised highly. We had a talk there about the eastward position. He did not order me to change, though he showed he wished it. We arranged to have the Confirmation on Saturday at 10.30, and Consecration on Sunday. He then went back to Aroi, and I home. In afternoon had Choir Practice and after service went up to Aroi for dinner. Whist afterwards, but Bishop did not play.
"May 9, Saturday. Arranged for Confirmation, which was at 10.30. Bishop stood in the Sanctuary all the time; I, in the reading desk, read the opening address, and there remained, and brought up the candidates. We had three hymns, and the Bishop gave two short addresses, one before, and one after, the "Laying on of Hands." There were not very many strangers and only one Greek Priest. After that I had the Bishop, Consul, Crowe, and Marshall all to lunch at I, and was busy preparing "Petition of Consecration," etc., both on this and on previous day. Stayed at home after evening service, at which the Bishop was not present, as he had not been at any of the daily services.
"May 10, Sunday. Consecration Day. Up pretty early, got things all ready in church, and at 10 opened doors. Great numbers soon came in. Almost all of our own people were there, as also of Germans. Organist detained at the last moment, and a deputy played. Singing in consequence very poor. There was virtually neither bass nor tenor. Altos stronger than usual. Service opened with Bishop and self proceeding from Vestry door outside to porch, where we were met by Consul and Churchwardens and Mr. Wood. Consul read the Petition. Then Bishop and I walked up the church repeating alternately the verses of Psalm XXIV. Then I read the Bishop's answer, which he signed. Then Morning Prayer began. I had nailed red cloth round the Sedile, and put cushions, on which the Bishop sat. Of Greek Priests, the Ierokomio, the pro-Hegoumenoi of Takiarchi, and of another Monastery, and one other sat in chancel, some in nave at S.E. corner; others who came late in vestry, fourteen in all. I read the Service; we sang the Venite, Psalms, Te Deum, Jubilate, and three hymns. Bishop took Communion Service and preached. A good many Greeks stayed to witness the Communion, and all the Priests. Service over, the Ierokomio made a little speech to Bishop expressing his wish for Union and theirs. In afternoon prepared for Bishop certain papers and wrote to Hughes at Corfu. Bishop attended Evening Service. In evening dined at Wood's and came down at 9.30 to Crowe's, where we found steamer had come sooner than we expected, for there had been a heavy wind all day. I hurried up to my house and put a few things in a bag, and then down to Crowe's for tea, and at 10 Bishop, Crowe and I went off to steamer, which started at 11. Sat on deck till 12 talking with Bishop; it was, however, windy and ship was rolling. I had a second-class ticket; the steward, however, rigged me up a good bed on a sofa, and I slept well, though ship rolled very much off Cape Papas. Not so Bishop, who, in crowded first-class saloon, passed a wretched night."
There were the other parts of the Chaplaincy for the Bishop to visit and a Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion were the reason for this Sunday-night start for Zante. There the Orthodox Bishop was quite as friendly as the Archbishop of Patras. So was the Archbishop of Athens, whither my husband was thrice summoned to take occasional duty in the absence of the Chaplain there on leave. The attitude of the whole Greek Church was then, as now, entirely cordial to the Anglican Communion; and I think they were pleasantly surprised at the affectionate respect shown by the young English Priest. This had been inspired by Bishop Christopher Wordsworth of Lincoln. Whenever the Diary records anything specially interesting there follows before long: "Wrote to the Bp. of Lincoln." There are from time to time notes of dealings with Father Antonio, the R.C. Priest; always entirely friendly and cordial, but with no suggestion of combination or cooperation in worship between either Roman and Orthodox, or Anglican and Roman.