Ordination and First Curacy
IF we need to make any apology for writing this memoir of our old vicar, we may plead the instigation of our former colleagues and of many of his friends and parishioners. Father Jones was certainly "among the prophets," not by his powers as a preacher, but through his influence directly on many of his brethren, his younger brethren especially, in the ministry; and, indirectly, on the Church in North Wales during his first incumbency, and on the Church in Cardiff and South Wales in his second and last cure of souls. He was certainly a pioneer of the Catholic Revival in South Wales. Of some prophets of old it was said, "But who was their father?" In writing a life of a priest it matters little what his parentage was; his ministry is not dependent, like the Aaronic priesthood, on carnal descent, but on Apostolic grace. Yet it is usual in biographies to begin with an account of a man's birth and circumstances, if only to give some idea of his surroundings, education, friends, and general environment. However much he may benefit by them or rise above them, he can but be influenced by them for good or for ill.
The subject of this memoir, Griffith Arthur Jones, was born in the parish of Ruabon, or, as he would probably have written it, Rhwabon, Denbighshire, on July 16, 1827. He frequently records this in his diaries, and it was his custom for some years, when he was Vicar of S. Mary's, Cardiff, to arrange for an outing there with his curates to celebrate his birthday. He was the only son and fifth child of the Rev. John Jones, Curate of Ruabon 1819-1830, and Rector of Llangwn 1830-1872, and of Charlotte Harriett Jones; she lived to over ninety, and a very handsome old lady she was. Besides Griffith Arthur, they had seven daughters, all of whom he survived. His father and his old friend, Canon Evans, were both on the same bench of magistrates about the year 1844. That was about the time when Griffith Arthur went up to Oxford, where he matriculated at Jesus College. He used to be fond of telling about his first Sunday in Oxford: how he went to S. Mary's in the afternoon to hear the University sermon; he had heard alarming things about the Puseyites or Tractarians; and when he saw the preacher ascend the pulpit in his doctor's scarlet gown and proceed to describe in a very graphic way some historical event which had occurred at Rome, the young Welsh undergraduate remarked to a friend on coming away from the church that he supposed this was one of the followers of Dr. Pusey, and was astonished when told that on the contrary it was Dr. Stanley, who was very much opposed to the teaching of Dr. Pusey; and then he said he felt, "if this is one of the opponents, what must the Puseyites themselves be like?" This must have been one of the later sermons preached by Stanley as Select Preacher to the University of Oxford on the Apostolical Age. This year, 1846, was in one respect an eventful one at Oxford, for it was in February of this year that Dr. Pusey preached, for the first time after his suspension from the University pulpit, on "Confession and the Power of the Keys."
Dr. Pusey's sermon was probably preached before Griffith Arthur Jones came to Oxford, but Dr. Pusey's teaching very soon seems to have influenced him, and it was to Dr. Pusey that he made his first confession. Among those who were contemporary with him at Jesus College were Robert Owen, John David Jenkins, C. W. Heaton, and Edmund S. Ffoulkes.
The first three are frequently mentioned in his diaries. Robert Owen was Dean of Jesus College in the year 1851, when Griffith Arthur Jones accompanied him on a visit to Paris and Caen; he was afterwards known as the author of "Dogmatic Theology," and he published an exceedingly interesting volume of lives of the saints termed "Sanctorale Catholicum." John David Jenkins became Canon of Natal, and it was as Canon of Natal that in 1858 he was associated with the Dean of Natal in presenting Bishop Colenso for heretical teaching as to the Eucharist; he afterwards became Vicar of Aberdarc, and one of the trustees of the Bute livings at the time when his friend, Griffith Arthur Jones, was made Vicar of S. Mary's, Cardiff. Charles William Heaton is most frequently referred to in the diaries in connection with the Welsh Psalter and other publications in which he and Griffith Arthur Jones were associated.
Church music had a very large place in Griffith Arthur Jones's mind. As an undergraduate at Oxford he seems to have started a singing-class, or choir of boys, some of whom owed much of their musical success in after years to his training. A very old friend of his was a former organist of Margam, who had known him as a choir-boy in those early days at Oxford, and whom he always called by his Christian name when he was quite on in years and father of a grown-up family. It was, we think, first of all, from his lips that we heard our Vicar spoken of as Father Jones, an address which became very usual later on during his ministry at Cardiff, though his South Wales friends generally spoke of him as Father Arthur, a designation which was not common in Cardiff, except as borrowed from his more or less intimate friends.
Griffith Arthur Jones took his degree in 1851, and in the Long Vacation of that year he accompanied Robert Owen, Dean of Jesus College, whom he always writes of as the Dean, on a visit to Paris and several towns in Normandy. He gives a somewhat characteristic account of the state of his feelings in regard to Orthodox Christianity on the very first day of his tour. They found on arriving at Folkestone that the packet was to start at 6.30 the following morning, so they put up at the George Hotel. "We had," he writes, "a very delightful walk upon the cliffs; the Dean read Sheppard's prize poem aloud. Wrote home and to D. Jenkins. At the hotel we met a Unitarian who had just returned from France. He turned out to be the son of a clergyman (the italics are his). The Dean had a long talk with him, and in consequence we did not get to bed till about midnight. The Unitarian seemed a liberal, as he expressed his admiration of something he had seen in church on the Continent. On retiring he offered me his hand, which I felt no pleasure in receiving from one who I knew denied my Saviour; but I was rather taken by surprise when he offered it."
Here are some extracts from his diary of the tour, which in other respects seem characteristic of him. At Boulogne: "Went to see the Cathedral, which I did not much admire; I thought it looked cold to a lover of 'the Gothic.'" On the other hand, he writes of the Cathedral at Amiens: "Hastened to have a peep at the Cathedral before dark. A building of indescribable magnificence. Were told by the military dressed Suisse of Pugin's frequent visits, a thing not to be wondered at. ... Tried to see the Cathedral by moonlight, but were disappointed." The following reference to children is interesting, when we remember how attractive children found him in after life. After attending the High Mass at the Cathedral the morning after their arrival at Amiens: "Rather struck at observing devotion of some of the children genuflecting before the High Altar."
At Paris he has a little dig at his friend the Dean: "Went through the garden of the Tuileries, where the Dean burst forth into high praises of the liberty and liberality of the French nation, for allowing the public free access to these magnificent and lovely places, upon which high taste and immense expense must have been expended; and (much to my amusement) we were accosted by a female who came to claim two sous each from us for our use of scats or chairs which we had been sitting upon for a few minutes to rest ourselves (the Liberal Nation!!)."
Of service in Notre Dame: "Singing grand and powerful, the Gregorians seemed to me perfection, the air seemingly in the tenor, which was well brought out by the deep voices of the priests, and the organ or organist giving effect."
A somewhat curious remark is made on the windows of the Church of S. Vincent de Paul at Paris: "Colours of the church and windows very rich. We could trace from the correctness of the vestments of the figures in stained glass that the High Church party of the Roman Catholics had possession of this church." At the Madeleine he notes of the "Salut," at which they were present in the evening: "The 'Pange Lingua' was sung very beautifully and congregationally." At Vespers at Notre Dame: "Noticed an old woman by my side singing Latin heartily, . . . endeavoured to join in from the book of the old woman, but found it no easy task, as they chanted the Psalms miraculously fast." He could not have been at this period of his life, considering the condition of services in England, in any way versed in ceremonial, yet it is remarkable how he notes in his diaries details of ceremonial which he had noticed--as, e.g, "Went to S. Vincent de Paul to High Mass, assisted; the priest chanted louder than (I believe) I have yet heard. The deacons did not wear their dalmatics, simply an alb." "Went to Notre Dame at 2 p.m., when we had Nones, Vespers, Salut (Benediction), a kind of service to the B.V. and Compline; all said as one service; the music was indescribably magnificent, the air of the Gregorians seemed to be sung in the tenor, and harmonised by trebles. Music (bass violin or some such instrument, and I think an organ) accompanied some of the Psalms only. The Psalm 'In exitu Israel,' to the Tonus Peregrinus, was most heart-stirring and grand. With the help of a Breviary we managed to follow in the chanting of the Psalms and some of the responses. But it was galling to see the worship of the B.V.M. introduced into the offices of the Church." In connection with a service at the Madeleine he writes: "After this was over the Priest said a few words which I learnt from the Dean signified that they were going to sing a hymn to the Sacred Heart of the B.V.M. The music of this was very sweet and seducing. But the idea of a hymn to the Sacred Heart of the B.V. was painful: would that Christendom was all in communion, so that one part might be a check to the other, and in this case to prevent high reverence (which we all owe) from becoming actual worship." He makes much the same sort of comment after visiting the Church of Notre Dame de Bon Secours above Rouen: "Went into the church: beautiful stained glass in the windows. The names of the various donors of the glass, in conspicuous characters in the stained glass, were unpleasing. The worship of the B.V.M. seemed more conspicuous here than anywhere I have yet noticed. It was very galling and distressing to sec the image of the B.V.M. decked out in satin, with trimmings, etc., after modern fashion. The face, of much the same colour as, perhaps darker than, a French face, and the Holy Infant dressed much the same, and altogether anything but what we might picture Him to ourselves, was still worse." Here, too, is a somewhat curious comment: "Returned to Rouen and heard part of Vespers at the Cathedral; very large choir. Did not like seeing laymen in Copes." The diary of his last day abroad, just before leaving for England, is marked by a notice which is as significant as the one already given on his arrival at Amiens at the beginning of his tour, of his interest in children; it occurs in his account of their visit to the Church of S. Jacques at Dieppe. "Little boy about 9 or 10 comes into church and says his prayers, kneeling upon the step at the entrance of the Choir, in the middle of the dust and dirt caused by the restoration and repairs of the church which were going on."
We have made considerable use of this diary as giving some idea of his mind and thoughts on the eve of his ordination. This tour was made in the year 1851, from July 7 to July 29, and it was at the Christmas Ordination, in the same year that he was ordained deacon. He notes in his diary: "Dec. 21, S. Thomas's Day: Ordained Deacon by Bishop Bethel at Bangor Cathedral; 7 others ordained the same day. Mr. Trevor preached the ordination sermon. Dean Cotton, Mr. Trevor, and Mr. E. Pugh assisted the Bishop." Gwalchmai, where he was to officiate, was a parish held with Heneglwys, of which the Rev. John Wynne Jones was Rector, together with Trewalchmai or Gwalchmai. He seems to have been left very much to his own resources, and records Sunday after Sunday in his diary the services at which he officiated, whether at Gwalchmai or Heneglwys.
In these entries reference is frequently made to the quality of the singing or the hymns or anthems sung. It seems to have been usual to begin Christmas Day with a service at 5 a.m. Almost the first entry in his diary (i.e. Christmas Day 1851, four days after his ordination) he thus describes this service: "Service at 5 a.m. Read the Lessons and preached. A good Anthem, 'Ae yn oed yn y wlad homno, etc.' (There were shepherds abiding in the fields). Several Carols." This was at his father's church at Llangwm. He read the service again at 11, when the Holy Communion was celebrated, at which he assisted as deacon. There was service again at 6 p.m., at which he read the lessons and preached, and again carols were sung. He notes, "Large congregation all clay, particularly at the early and late services." On Christmas Eve the church had been decorated. He minutely describes the features of the decoration, which included "a large cross over the Altar about 3 feet by 2." When we hear so much said about the deadness of the Church in Wales, it may not be inopportune to note these circumstances of a country parish church in Anglesey more than fifty-five years ago. The Christmas Day service at 5 a.m. was customary also at Gwalchmai, and he there describes it: "Plygain at 5. Intoned the Psalms and sang the Amens. Chanted the Canticles. The Proper Psalms and the Athanasian Creed. Hughes read the Epistle and preached. W. Forsyth sang a Carol." It was not the Eucharist, as he further notes. "Service and Holy Communion at 10.30." Service obviously means Morning Prayer, for there follows: "Chanted Canticles and Proper Psalms, and preached": here again there was Evening Service at Heneglwys at 6, at which he preached. In respect of this early service on Christmas Day, called Plygain, Mr. Leighton Pullan, in his "Lectures on Religion," treating of the growth of Christian worship, says:
We have a survival of the ancient Vigil nearer home than in Russia. It is found in the traditional services of Christmas Day. The medieval custom was not to attend a Mass before retiring to bed, but to rise before dawn on Christmas Day. This custom still survives in Wales. In some Welsh parishes it is an immemorial tradition to hold very early on Christmas morning a service to which, within our century, the peasants in some places walked in procession with torches. The Welsh name for the service is plygain; and if, like other Celtic ecclesiastical terms, this name be derived from the Latin, we see it is not far removed from pulli cantus. There is indeed every reason why it should be called the service of the cock-crow, for it is a very early Mattins followed by the Eucharist. It is the practice that was usual every Sunday with the men who remembered the Apostles of our Lord.
Within the year of his diaconate, in fact little more than three months after his ordination, on Good Friday 1852, Arthur Jones received a letter offering him the incumbency of Llangorwen. He writes about it: "Much puzzled as to what I ought to do; on the one hand I have put my hand to the plough in this place. Papa and mamma, my sisters, my kind Rector, my people and all here oppose my leaving; on the other hand Daily Service is offered and a prospect of introducing Weekly Communion, a good Churchman as squire of the parish, and being the means of preventing the work which has been begun from falling off. Dirigat me Dominus! Et oculos meos aperiat! Mea voluntas et omnia cedant ad voluntatem et majorem gloriam Domini Dei!" In this same entry, made on April 21, occurs also this notice: "Walkin Jones' wife departed, Per misericordiam Dei requiescat in pace." It seems strange that the offer of a cure of souls should have been made to a young man who had only been in Deacon's Orders for a few months. Arthur Jones was, however, nearly twenty-five at that date and therefore old enough to receive Priest's Orders if the Bishop were willing to confer them: in the Life of Bishop Westcott we read that he (Westcott) was ordained priest within a few months of his diaconate. This offer, however, was finally declined: he seems to have consulted several friends on the subject, as we read in his diary, April 27, "Received a letter from Greaves about accepting or declining Llangorwen; wrote to Osbern Williams and D. Thomas about Llangorwen," then on April 29, "Wrote to Mr. Matthew Williams declining the Incumbency of Llangorwen." The diary a little further on contains a vigorous criticism of a function on the occasion of the re-opening of a church in the neighbourhood, "Mr. T. preached a very good sermon; on the whole the affair passed off fairly, but all details in the arrangements of proceedings of the day decidedly had and unmeaning. The existence of the Sedilia being ignored as well as the proper use of the Chancel. The Rector of L. acted as Precentor attired with a white tie (in flunkey style) and a loose coat of anything but priestly appearance. The preacher (posted below the Font behind the door during service) came out in a (seemingly) span new 'pudding sleeves' and cassock. The collection was made by the officiating priest and a layman and lady and some one else and another lady, the ladies hanging gracefully (but not becomingly) on the gentlemen's arms. Cui bono? Why attempt anything of show when all the proper externals were studiously avoided? No Offertory Sentences . . . but all carried on (as far as the collection was concerned) in worldly style. Why should not our alms be offered by the priest to Him to Whom they were given?"
He is equally emphatic about a meeting in aid of the Church Missionary Society held in Gwalchmai. Thus: "Attended Ch. Miss. Meeting at Gwalchmai School-room. Many displeasing things in Mr. Williams's speech (the C.M.S. deputation), praising a Baptist Missionary as a Dyn Dimviol (a good man), etc.; in fact, I am only the more convinced that this is not the Society which I ought to support, though I should be sorry to oppose it; still I think the S.P.G. is far more in accordance with the Catholic system advocated in the Common Prayer Book." It is curious to note what things ceremonial and musical were regarded as Ritualistic in the middle of the nineteenth century: e.g. "The metrical 100th sung (at Morning Prayer) upon which I read the Benedictus, which was carped at by Mrs. W. J. as well as my kneeling at the Altar before going up to the pulpit during the singing of an unauthorized hymn at an unauthorized time: for which I avoided making my apology." Again, "Spoke to Mr. W. J., as returning from Gwalchmai, about Choral Service, which he says he is very fond of, and says there would be no harm in my trying the experiment to get it up this winter, but not for adoption on Sundays." The diary of Nov. 14 records "a slight discussion about Auricular Confession at the Rectory with Mr. and Mrs. W. J." He was ordained Priest on the 4th Sunday in Advent, which he thus records: "Preached at the Cathedral (Welsh Church), joining the congregation at the Altar Service. Ordained Priest by Bishop Bethell. The Bishop preached the Ordination Sermon. . . . Went with Thomas to Maesygroes and afterwards preached in the evening." It seems somewhat remarkable that he should have been called on to preach two sermons on the day of his ordination. The diary for 1853 has frequent reference to the Welsh Psalter which he brought out in conjunction with Mr. Heaton, as e.g. "Working at the Welsh Psalter;" he seems to have had a very considerable correspondence with various people about it.
Before concluding this part of his life as an assistant curate (and it was his only curacy), we would note the very affectionate way in which, at the time he had to consider the offer of a benefice, he wrote about his Vicar. What he felt as an assistant curate he certainly called out in those who afterwards were assistant curates to himself: one who was with him at Cardiff for eight years, the Rev. T. Rees, Vicar of Pontlottyn, has written--and all his fellow-curates would, we are sure, thoroughly agree with him--
One of his noblest features was his kindness and sympathy with the younger clergy. He would cross the street to speak to a clergyman, whether he were a curate or a vicar. He had many friends among the Welsh clergy in his younger days. He had since he came to Cardiff more friends among the English clergy than amongst the Welsh, and he was an unobserved, although real, connecting link between the two.