THE MAKING OF A MISSIONARY
FRANK WESTON was born on September 13, 1871, at Bervie House, Roupell Park, in South London. He was the fifth child and fourth son of Robert Gibbs Weston, head of the firm of Richard Gibbs and Co., Tea Brokers, in Mincing Lane. Subsequently there were two other children, a boy and a girl, making the family complete.
Robert Weston came of a Leicestershire family of some antiquity, but three out of four of Frank's grandparents were Scots, and in after life he was keen to trace his descent through Valentines, Browns and Scotts to Ogilvys, Strachans, Wyses and Frasers, By then he held very democratic opinions and was fierce in denouncing class prejudice, but like every Scot he was conscious of race and did not undervalue the stock from which he came.
Most of his immediate ancestors had been Presbyterians, but he established his descent from two seventeenth century Bishops of Brechin, Ochterlony and Strachan, and maintained that he had only reverted to type. When a Presbyterian missionary assured him at Kikuyu that it was impossible for Scots to accept episcopacy, he replied: 'The Archbishop of Canterbury is a Scot, the Archbishop of York is a Scot, and I am a Scot myself.'
To begin with he developed very slowly, and did not speak until he was three years old. He was an affectionate child, delicate, diffident and timid. His nerves were very highly strung and troubled him throughout his life. When quite a big boy, he fainted after putting a penny in the slot of an electric machine. The high courage he was afterwards to show was due to a strong, disciplined will, not to any disregard of consequences or any insensibility to danger, trouble or abuse.
His father was a man of strong evangelical views, so Frank, like Dr. Pusey and Cardinal Newman, had the advantage of a pious upbringing. Home life was the glory of the Evangelicals; and Frank as he grew up had nothing to unlearn. He only advanced to the conception of the Catholic Church as a larger home, though unfortunately not so well ordered.
Long afterwards he wrote:
One memory I have of my early boyhood--I was about six--of a Gospel Meeting singing,
'Hallelujah! 'tis done: I am saved by the Son; I am washed in the Blood of the Crucified One.'
The words had no particular meaning for me then, but I remember a great marquee filled with people full of joy. No one there had brought anything to Jesus, none had come to bargain with Him, to kneel at His feet with something to give--they had just crowded in and it was all done: they were saved by a free gift.
The words of the hymn were poor and vulgar, but after forty years they were still ringing in his brain. His reflections on them do not concern us--they came long afterwards. What we have to remember is his impression--here were people very happy, and happy together, because somehow Jesus was with them.
This may have been his first revelation of spiritual reality, but he was able to receive it because it was in fine with what he had been taught. He always declared that he owed his religion, under God, to his mother. It was she who told him ' the old, old Story,' and read to him the children's sermons of Vaughan of Brighton, full of old-fashioned tales with morals attached. In after years as a Bishop he would sit and talk to African women about their duty to their children, and illustrate his instructions by wonderful tales of all that his mother had been to him. The details were very strange to his hearers--stranger than fairyland to an English child--and yet the lesson went home, for motherhood is the same everywhere and there is only one Christ.
His family remember the reckless generosity with which as a child he gave away his possessions, and this characteristic persisted until the end--he always maintained that he could find no praise of economy in the Gospel. They remember likewise his pathetic desire to be of help to others, and a certain shy humour which showed how closely he observed and how much he could understand. Of course he was interested in soldiers, like all properly constituted little boys; and he had a passion for tidiness and putting things away which is, I believe, very unusual. Quite early he showed a sense of decorum and a liking for the parade of life. Ceremonialists are born and not made.
His father died when he was eleven, and, soon after, his mother removed to Dulwich that her younger sons might attend the College as day-boys. Frank had been for a short time at a preparatory school in St. Leonards, but his health gave way and he had to be removed.
As a boy he showed an aptitude for mathematics, and could memorise anything; but his beautifully legible handwriting did not come to him by nature, and until almost of undergraduate age he was noted for his bad spelling.
His family had intended him for the Army. With that end in view he was educated on the modern side, and his first great disappointment was when he failed to pass the eye test at Woolwich. His sight at one time restricted his reading, and prevented his being successful in games. He was, however, an enthusiastic volunteer and, though certainly not musical, once played the big drum in the band. When Hirtzel (now Sir Arthur) left school, he succeeded him as second in command of the Cadet corps. Unfortunately he was then also sub-editor of the Alleynian and wrote the critical accounts of field days, but modesty no doubt prevented him ever mentioning himself.
He was too young to come under the notice of Dr. Carver or Dr. Welldon, who were his first two headmasters, but he always acknowledged the great influence of Mr. Gilkes. That remarkable man, tall, loose-limbed, and of unconventional manners, had a way of turning on a boy with an unexpected and sometimes embarrassing question. 'Weston,' he asked one day, ' if Jesus Christ asked you for the loan of a coat, would you fetch Him your shabbiest?' The answer was No, but the question was always remembered. He found in time that the Lord Jesus did not merely ask for his coat but for all he had and was, and his whole life was an endeavour to render the gift complete.
Gilkes' parting words to Frank were also memorable--'Mind you never allow yourself to be misled by symbols.' They show how accurately he had judged the trend of the boy's mind, and they may also show the limitations of his own. Frank and he would never have agreed on what were symbols, or what was the relation of symbols to reality.
Apart from Gilkes, school had little to do with Frank's development. He was a day-boy and his home influences were supreme. He would hurry back after morning school and run upstairs to find a few minutes for prayer alone. He told no one of this, and no one remarked on it, but in a large family such practices could not be hid. His vicar, Mr. Beeby, taught him the Catholic Faith, and a school friend remembers chaffing him for being ' Beeby's help,' which looks as if he were already attempting some Church work. He was much impressed also by reading the Life of Father Mackonochie, and was ready to dispute with schoolboy friends on the mysteries of the Faith, the reality of the Sacraments and the appropriate character of ritual development. One at least of those friends remembers how clear-headed he was in statement and how dexterous in parrying objections.
When the time came for him to go up to Trinity College, Oxford, he had thought and read much, and was both mentally and morally very mature. He was also very ignorant of life, very diffident about himself, and inclined to shrink from contact with other men.
It was in October 1890 that I first met Frank Weston, at Trinity College, Oxford. I was then in my fourth year and he was a Fresher. I remember a tall awkward boy--but he was not in the least boyish--and he seemed to look down on me through gold-rimmed spectacles with considerable disapproval. No doubt I had called on him with feelings of kindly patronage, but I went away feeling very young and foolish. Those who only remember the Bishop, the gallant grace of his bearing, the wonder of his smile, and his immediate sympathy, will find it hard to believe that he was ever awkward or inclined to repel friendly advances.
Sixteen years afterwards he wrote to me from Africa:
Would you believe me if I say that I do not consider myself worth knowing? I cannot try to make people like me: I do not know what there is in me to like. I was badly trained so far as ' social ' life proper goes. Oxford found me a shy and heavy day-school boy, frightened of my fellows: glad to find a refuge in a small circle. Stratford dragged me out, but those who came to be kind to me at Stratford did so because I entered into their lives, religious and social, at the point where they needed me. May I put it so? Then came Westminster, where the same holds true. I have a host of friends there, but the basis of our friendship is ministry, I think. So I've growed! Outside my fellow-workers, who have always been real 'pals,' and my flocks, I have few friends. I was frightened of you until in your goodness you took my dull old life and gave it a share of yours. And to this day I am too shy to make many friends. I get on with most folk, for I have the art of listening and. I think I am sympathetic. But honestly I have never conceived it possible that anyone would care to like me.
It is curious that this diffidence about himself was compatible with an almost aggressive certainty about the validity of his beliefs, so that those who did not know him personally misread his character from his actions. Here I would call attention to his extreme sensitiveness. All through his life it caused him to suffer, but it was also the secret of his powers. He was drawn out by his enforced contact with others in ministerial work, and his sympathies were always widening and deepening. After he became a Bishop all trace of self-consciousness disappeared. It was not because he believed more in himself, but because he believed so intensely in the dignity of his order. The rich humanity that was in Frank Weston was only fully liberated in the Bishop of Zanzibar.
It is not surprising that this boy with a fixed creed and a definite purpose in life should hardly feel at home with flippant and irresponsible undergraduates. His manners in chapel excited remark, although there were several ritualistic young men in college; but there was this difference--Frank Weston's religion was inseparable from himself. One contemporary remembers how a lecture room was rendered uncomfortable when, in answer to a question, Frank mentioned our Blessed Lord by name. There were some thirty young men cramming the necessary information to pass the divinity examination known as ' Gossers.' They were probably memorising, with the aid of irreverent rhymes, what miracles occurred in which Gospel, and they were startled to find someone for whom the narrative had an intimate sanctity. Another contemporary told me recently: ' I liked him, but I did not know him well, for I was always a little afraid that he would speak to me about my soul or ask me to attend a prayer-meeting.' Had he known him better, he need have been under no such apprehension. His own sensitive shrinking from self-revelation made it impossible for him to intrude uninvited on the secrets of another.
But if he took little part in the general life of the College, he had his intimate friends, men of his own year, with whom he could be free and natural, and they knew how human he was. Like so many, his cherished memories of Oxford were of long afternoons on the Cherwell, or unforgettable evenings with friends on the upper river above Godstow. He played no game but lawn tennis, and that only in a pat-ball fashion, but he could scull a tub all day long without being tired, and had already begun to develop his powers of walking. Liable to bronchitis and often ill, he was none the less endowed with great muscular strength, which was discovered with devastating consequences by those who tried to rag him. His particular friends, in Oxford fashion, resolved themselves into a society, called themselves Moles, and printed rules sufficiently elaborate to allow for the nice discussion of points of order. Every Sunday morning they breakfasted together, and every Sunday evening they met after Church-time to discuss papers and drink coffee. Weston, according to the minute book, read papers on Carlyle's 'Chartism,' 'Empedocles on Etna,' 'Sesame and Lilies,' and Tennyson's 'Princess'--the last, I am told, was less concerned with the poem than with 'the respectful operatic perversion' of it by Gilbert and Sullivan. One of the Moles writes to me:
Weston was a good debater and delighted in argument on any subject whatever. I see him leaning back in his chair, elbows on the arms, both hands holding his pipe to the middle of his lips, smoking hard with short nervous puffs, always smiling, ready to pounce on any opening given by his adversary, and often bringing the debate to a close by turning the whole thing into a farce.
One of these discussions did not end in a farce. Frank had been brought up a Conservative, but after a debate which lasted into the small hours of the morning there came a dramatic moment when he suddenly accepted the creed of the Christian Socialists. Prejudice was vanquished, and, rightly or wrongly, he followed his conscience until the end.
The Moles were all seriously minded, and that held them together; but they were not all of one mind, and that made their society fruitful. Of the eight, four were Churchmen, though not all of one colour, one was a Presbyterian, one a Wesleyan, one a Congregationalist and one an Agnostic. They were all honours men but were reading for different schools--Greats, Theology, History, and Natural Science. The Wesleyan writes:
Weston was never particularly vigorous in health, but he went about all his work with a settled purpose that no one could mistake. At first sight he would strike you as shy and retiring and a little diffident, but you soon found that he was exceedingly tenacious of his beliefs, and that his beliefs were very clearly formed and held. He did not seek to force them on others, but if you differed from him, or questioned them, he would give you no rest; and he did not care how strongly he stated them or attacked the position of their opponents; but all through with such a mixture of sincerity and good humour--often a sort of good-humoured tolerance, as if he implied that you could not quite mean all you said--that you could not be angry with him however deeply you might disagree.
The Congregationalist writes:
If I had prejudices on sectarian grounds against parsons when I went to Oxford, they ceased to be effective after I came to know Weston well. . . . He would never admit any shade of good or bad, of true or false. One had to accept the whole Catholic Faith or be a heretic, and one had to live out the whole religious life or be a backslider. But it was not the intolerance which is a lack of love: his intolerance proceeded from an uncompromising conscience.
It was not only on questions of faith, but on matters of conduct, that his companions found him inexorable. If they had not cared for him so much, and if there had been any taint of self-righteousness in him, he would have been a difficult person to live with. As it was, he was naturally humble, and his dogmatism was always qualified by his sense of humour. When most convinced that he was right, he was never bad-tempered with those he thought wrong. He had an inflexible standard for himself, but he did not pick holes in others.
The Presbyterian writes:
I remember him lying on the hearthrug in my father's billiard room with a glass of hot rum in his hand (he usually drank beer) and closing a long argument on ecclesiastical matters by calling his host (a True Blue Presbyterian and son of the Manse) an 'infantile Christian.' This was characteristic of his attitude to Nonconformity in those days. He regarded it with just a little wonder as a kind of half-baked religion. This might have been very irritating, but it never was. He often spent part of the vacations at my home, and was a great favourite with my parents.
The True Blue Presbyterian was evidently tolerant and could allow for the infallibility of youth; but his son has perhaps not quite fathomed why Frank's outrageous speech did not irritate. The older man knew that there was no contempt in the boy's mind--he did not regard his religion as half-baked. It was the religion of his own childhood, and he thought that he himself had outgrown it, that was all.
In his first year at Oxford he attended all Gore's Bampton Lectures, and discussed them afterwards in detail with a fellow Mole of like convictions. When there was nothing so exciting at the Varsity Church, he assisted at High Mass in St. Barnabas', or went to the little tin tabernacle across Magdalen Bridge, where the Cowley Fathers worshipped and the Plain-song was austere. Every Saturday night he went to the Pusey House, and in the little chapel upstairs attended the service of preparation for Holy Communion conducted by Stuckey Coles. At the Pusey House he knew Gore well and continued to love him even when they disagreed. At the Pusey House too he joined the Christian Social Union, but was rapidly dissatisfied with the cautious policy advocated by the Secretary. 'It is our business to create the right atmosphere,' said the wise Secretary. 'I want to be doing something,' said Frank, and he went off to join the Guild of St. Matthew and to take part in the more militant propaganda organised by Stewart Headlam.
One term, with some like-minded undergraduates, he endeavoured to form white lists of firms in Oxford which paid Trade Union wages, and one night he surprised the respectable Church Society of his college by denouncing the Secretary for having the notices printed by sweated labour.
It was during his time at Oxford that Bishop Smythies came to preach at St. Barnabas' and made a strong appeal for men to come to Africa. Weston went home and thought of that call all night, and next morning went to St. Stephen's House and offered to go out to the Mission as soon as he was ordained. He followed up his offer by facing the Mission doctor, who decided that he could not stand the climate. Afterwards Dr. Howard, once a fellow Mole and long with Frank in the diocese of Zanzibar, assures me that his health really improved in Africa. Certainly after years in the tropics he became a commanding figure.
He was up at Oxford for three years only, and he consistently overworked himself. His nerves were all wrong for weeks before he went into the Schools, and on the fourth night of his examination he went off in a dead faint in a friend's rooms. Next day he told the friend that he did not know what he had written or what the papers were about, but it made no difference. There were only three firsts in the Theology school that year, and Frank was one of them. His mother still treasures the letter of Dr. San day telling her how brilliantly he had done. Sanday had been his tutor, but up to that time had never suspected his intellectual power. He wanted him to remain in Oxford, but Frank was eager to begin work and refused the offer of a Liddon Studentship. At two-and-twenty a man is in a hurry, if he be burning with zeal to convince the world of righteousness and judgment. So he said good-bye to Oxford, and with four other Moles rowed down the river to Richmond.
Frank Weston left Oxford in June 1893, and in August of the same year he went to live at the Trinity College, Oxford, Mission in Stratford-atte-Bow.
The Mission was not then well equipped like the Oxford House. There was a red brick church--outside grimy with smoke and not at all glorious within--and a big hall with a lofty house alongside. The ground floor of the house contained an office for the Missioner, and cloak rooms; above them was a club room with a billiard table, above again were the rooms in which the Missioner and Frank lived, and at the top lived a housekeeper, and there was a kitchen from which food descended at intervals by a lift. The room occupied by Frank was also used for committees, and he often had to go to bed after the men had been smoking shag tobacco, and had left behind their empty tea-cups, orange peel, and fragments of cake. He was generally, however, too tired for his sense of tidiness to be affronted, and he could sleep though engines shrieked all night long and heavy trains shook the house every few minutes. Tenby Road was not beautiful. Beyond the church were tall houses with bay windows and stucco fronts. They were let as tenements to different families who occupied one or two rooms apiece; and the presiding divinity was a stout and voluble Irish lady, who was not a long-suffering person but knew how to eject unsatisfactory lodgers. The houses across the street were not quite so forbidding, but they were inhabited chiefly by people of the same class. If you continued your walk in one direction you came to a street of respectable little villas, but going in the other you came to the bridge over the Great Eastern main line, and turning the corner you were in Angel Lane. There you could find fried-fish shops, pawnbrokers, and several large public-houses. The street was full of coster barrows, and on Saturday night, when all was lighted by flaring gas jets, it was a garish sight. The Angels, we hope, were there, but the Devil was certainly busy.
What a locality, you may say, for a diffident Oxford scholar! but Frank went there as to a joyous adventure. He found there romance in plenty and the incarnation of romance in Johnny Roxburgh, the Missioner.
Roxburgh was the friendliest of mortals and the most adaptable of men. In five minutes he could be at home in any society, and it took him no longer to make an intimate friend. He lived every moment of his life as if it alone mattered, and he treated anyone whom he met as if he alone were important. His enthusiasm never flagged, but the objects on which he was enthusiastic varied. His brain teemed with ideas, but he rarely thought them out. He was perhaps the most eloquent man I have met, for he spoke with unpremeditated art. He could preach or lecture on any subject at the shortest notice; and his lectures were interesting, sometimes brilliant, but you could not rely on his facts, for his imagination was always capable of supplying any deficiency in his knowledge.
One morning I remember Johnny receiving a letter from a Bishop, and his dismay was comical. He had met his Lordship the previous week and sketched out a scheme for temperance reform. The Bishop had been impressed and wrote for details, and Johnny could have invented the details if only he had not forgotten the scheme.
For him his conventional district was a world of romance and he could tell you stories about it which were much too good to be true. Something was always happening to him. He would rush out into the road at night to stop a street fight by fighting, and he was brave enough to intervene in a matrimonial dispute when neither husband nor wife was sober. And yet he was the quietest of men in a sick room and would sit up all night with someone who was dying. Frank once told me that Johnny had filled his church not by his eloquence but with people he had converted on sick beds.
Comfort had no meaning for him, to meals he was indifferent. He lived largely on cocoa, bread, and marmalade. He liked cold baths, which was lucky, for there was generally no hot water to be had. He was recklessly generous in money and appreciation. He had not much money but he had many friends.
His political, social and ecclesiastical views were always changing, but he was constant in his devotion to the Person of our Lord, and nothing could shake his belief in the goodness of his fellow-men. He died some five years ago, worn out with work, in Johannesburg.
Such a man could not fail to draw Frank out, and Frank owed much to his irrepressible expansiveness. When he went to live at Stratford he knew what he was in for, for he had often been at the Trinity Mission during his vacations. As early as December 1891, a contemporary has noted in his diary an account of the Sunday School. 'Weston had to sit at the end of the church with a bell to keep order. He wasn't good at it, as he would not speak loud enough.' His critic was a Blue and a loud-voiced lord of the towing-path, and Frank probably had views which did not allow him to shout in church.
Two years later when he came into residence he rapidly learnt his job. He could not only keep order, but he introduced a new spirit into that school and revolutionised the method of instruction. He was soon on the best of terms with the children. He started a play hour in the hall for the little street urchins, and it was difficult to expel them when the hour was up. He liked to have them all to himself so as to be free to join in the games; and it was generally a very hot and dishevelled Frank who emerged when it was over. He persuaded the children to come to the Eucharist, and taught them how to assist in the service. In collaboration with Roxburgh's Sunday curate he prepared A Manual jor Children s Worship^ which was published by Masters. It was very simple and to-day would be favourably regarded in Moderate churches, but there were in those days people who thought it wickedly extreme.
It was at Stratford also that Frank learnt to sympathise with boys who were beginning life in factories, offices and shops, and over some of them he soon acquired a remarkable ascendancy. It was not by 'a slap on the back, dear fellow' manner that he won them, but by a penetrating sympathy and the strength of his own character. They called him ' the Cardinal' among themselves, and I think there was always somewhat of awe about their intimacy with him. He was a great listener, and long before he was a priest and could hear confessions, boys told him much more than they had ever intended to tell anyone, and were afterwards glad that they had done so.
He impressed on them the importance of little things and trivial actions. One of his old boys after thirty years remembers how sternly he was rebuked for behaving irreverently in the vestry while holding the processional cross. He also with some humour relates how 'the Cardinal' reproved a woman for treating a Bible carelessly, and how a few days afterwards he visited her in her home, and without thinking put his hat on the small table in the window, thereby covering the family Bible--then she reproved him.
After his ordination he was in charge of a Guild of Servers, who were chiefly men employed in the Great Eastern Railway works. One of them writes to me:
He instructed us assiduously: he compelled reverence by his own example, and if anyone who loved him could withstand those wonderful eyes of his--well, he had passed the auditor. He really did care for us, and we were of varied types. You had to qualify for altar service, and then it was hard to live up to his requirements.
He did not forget these firstfruits of his ministry when he was at Westminster, or afterwards in Africa. To one of them he wrote:
Do not let vain words of public speakers and newspaper writers disturb the peace of your soul. You know Him in Whom you have believed: do not dishonour Him by giving up any part of the Gospel you have received, and to which you owe your salvation. Persevere in the old paths: God will guide others into the same way when it is possible. Dear ------, I pray for you. I expect much of you. He prays patiently for you and expects still more of you. Do not disappoint Him.
It will be understood how his sympathies widened as he threw himself into his work, but he was still shy with men of his own class, and many of the undergraduates and old Trinity men who visited the Mission did not understand him. One of the shrewdest of them writes:
He roused opposition as willingly as he faced it fearlessly, and those of us who liked the man, liked him all the better for it. I liked him immensely, but there was something about him which prevented my liking turning into real affection. ... I know nothing of Frank's antecedents, but I should not be surprised if there was a Puritan strain, and for people like myself . . . the type which arises out of a Puritan turned priestly is apt to be antipathetic. I do not think I have ever met anyone more whole-heartedly devoted. . . . Being a great man, this did not make him irritatingly narrow-minded, but I think it tended to make many who were much under his influence narrow. . . . Being a great man, he was of course tolerant--for he tolerated me; and one who can tolerate a bigoted Protestant who quotes the Thirty-nine Articles and 'Johnson's Dictionary ' in order to settle a question of doctrine, is tolerant indeed.
This criticism, which refers to the period between 1890 and 1896, is, I think, just. Frank was essentially a man with a great heart, but he was not yet altogether a man with an understanding heart. There were still many with whom he could not sympathise, and they were repelled by an austerity which was due in part to the inherited inhibitions of puritanism, and in part to the awful responsibility which he felt as a priest of God. He never understood the dangers that lay in his domination of others, perhaps because his domination was undesigned. In Africa afterwards he was often surprised and disappointed, because those who were most responsive broke down hopelessly when he was absent from them. On the other hand, we should remember that when little men surrender themselves to a great man, they cannot fail to be narrow, but they may be enthusiastic, straight and effective; the same little men left to themselves may be broad, but they will be shallow, and very little can be expected of them in the way of accomplishment.
Again, at this time he made little appeal to women. He was young and he had the ideals of a celibate. It is true that while an undergraduate he had been in love, had proposed to a lady and been rejected. Before he proposed he had been in an agony of doubt about his vocation; after being refused his call to a celibate life became clear, but he was always a little afraid of women.
He worked with Roxburgh for more than a year as a layman and was then ordained a deacon by Dr. Festing, the Bishop of St. Albans. Before his ordination the congregation were solemnly asked whether they wished for him, and unanimously approved of him. This was in line with the efforts which Roxburgh was making to introduce a democratic element into Church life. Both he and Weston belonged to the Church Reform League and, long before Life and Liberty came to birth, Holy Trinity, Stratford, had a vigorous Church Council, where church workers were sometimes more plain-spoken than polite. They also worried the Rural Dean of West Ham until he consented to form the West Ham Lay Church Council.
Both Roxburgh and Weston aimed at making their Church a spiritual home for their people, and multiplied offices that all the attached members of the congregation might feel their responsibility. They were zealous to get back to a social Christianity, which they believed was characteristic of the primitive Church. With this end in view Weston gave lectures on the Early Fathers, and I remember finding him re-reading St. Cyprian amid the din of the Club House. They even tried one Easter to revive the Agape after evening service in the Club Hall; but the details had not been well thought out, the congregation pronounced the word as two syllables, and it then expressed their astonishment at a religious meal in a hall.
Throughout the time that Weston was at Stratford there was an increase in the ceremonial of the church, and the sacramental system was more and more insisted on. Those were the days of Kensit and Protestant crusades. Holy Trinity attracted attention, and Frank attended Protestant meetings to ask questions and explain his position. It was, of course, a silly thing to do, and more than once he met with a rough reception. He was young and he was militant, and I think he got a good deal of fun out of those meetings. Later in life he would have felt the pathos of the situation.
We are none of us quite consistent, and it was a different Frank who preached in the church. He never wrote his sermons, and when the Bishop of St. Albans demanded one for criticism, he had to write it for the episcopal eye. Few congregations have been better served. In the morning Roxburgh denounced iniquity with the fervour of a minor prophet, or exhorted to righteousness with so much gusto that virtue became immediately attractive. In the evening Weston leaned out of the pulpit and spoke of the love of Jesus, and there was a note of yearning in his utterance. He so wanted others to see the vision of beauty, and to respond to the Redeemer Whose heart was aching with a desire to save.
But this Gospel which they preached was practical, it had to be applied, and the Missioners were living m close contact with industrial conditions which left much to be desired. Roxburgh had gone to Stratford as a Tory, but he was soon converted; Weston had joined the Mission as a theoretic Socialist, and he was soon in touch with those who would now be called Labour leaders. He worked hard, often after midnight, at Blue Books and Poor Law Reports. He wrote two pamphlets, one on ' Co-operation ' and another on the 'Marriage Law.' He spoke on platforms on the incorporation of West Ham with the Metropolis and on the equalisation of rates. He stood for election as a guardian but did not get in; and I altogether failed to make him understand the glamour which a seventeenth century Toryism had for me. He was not, however, a disciple of Morris, and had no belief in the dream of John Ball. He had very little historic sense, and his mind was logical. He was quite clear that the doctrine of the Incarnation involved the redemption of all life, and that the doctrine of the Catholic Church could only be realised in a real brotherhood of man.
Those who fully agreed with him in principle were not all sure that his programme would really result as he desired, and some of his friends were anxious lest he should confuse means with ends and become too political in his outlook. He was sitting one night at Oxford with a Don and enlarging on his schemes for a millennium, when the Don asked with apparent irrelevance: 'Do you believe in the heavenly Jerusalem?' 'Yes,' replied Weston. 'Ah,' said the Don, 'I wish I did, and if I did I don't think I should talk much about anything else.' The words went home and were remembered. Frank remained a Socialist all his life, but he put spiritual things first. He became more and more convinced that it was only through directing men's attention to the heavenly Jerusalem that real human progress in this world could be made.
While Frank was at Stratford considerable additions were made to the buildings of the Mission. The hall was built over, large club rooms were added, and the accommodation for Missioner, assistant, and visitors increased. This was largely due to the splendid generosity of one man, and he was a convinced Evangelical in religion. He was naturally alarmed when he was told that he had built a nest for Popery. The College also was largely Tory, and, when Roxburgh was Missioner, undergraduates flocked to the Mission and were scandalised by the Socialist propaganda which was going on there. The College authorities grew alarmed, but no one thought of blaming Roxburgh for the definite trend towards Catholicism and Socialism; everyone was sure that Weston was the villain of the piece, and largely they were right. Roxburgh indeed was the conspicuous figure in public, and the two men were working in harmony, but Roxburgh's response to his environment was such that he could not fail to be influenced by a man with whom he lived. He owed much to Frank, as Frank owed much to him.
So it came to pass that the Missioner was summoned to Oxford to discuss the situation. He went and talked, and others talked also. Roxburgh was always reasonable and could see others' point of view. He was skilful at extemporising formulae to which no one could object. Well pleased with his diplomacy he returned to Stratford to tell his colleague what had been settled. Weston sat listening, puffing at a pipe. He made but one comment: ' Johnny, you have given the whole show away.' It was a bitter moment for both men.
Roxburgh could always see both sides of a question and was ready to come to terms. If he could not get all that he wanted, he cheerfully made the best of what he could get. For Weston everything was either right or wrong: and, that being so, he was unable to compromise and felt obliged to resign. It was a thousand pities. The two men had worked so happily together and each had supplied what the other lacked. And yet the Protestant donor, the Tory undergraduates, the College authorities, the Missioner and his assistant had all done what they were bound to do--all had acted honourably--and it was the work of the Mission which was to suffer for a while.
Father W. H. Jervois had been for a long time an assistant priest at St. Matthew's, Westminster; he was also an old member of Trinity College, Oxford, and had several times visited the Mission at Stratford. Just when Weston resigned, Father Jervois accepted the living of St. Mary's, Munster Square, and told Father Trevelyan of the young priest who was free to accept a new appointment.
So it came to pass that Frank moved himself and his belongings to St. Matthew's, Westminster, in June 1896, and his new sphere of work presented lively contrasts with his old.
After his life of excitement, excursions and alarms, he came to a parish where all was at peace and everything went on as if by clockwork. The services in the church and the meals in the clergy house could alike be depended on, but the first were elaborate and the others were not.
There had been no change in the staff for over twelve years, and during that time four men had lived together, animated by the same faith and in pursuit of the same It says much for them and much also for Frank that a man so much their junior should find himself immediately at home. His vicar writes:
There never can have been a more cheerful clergy house, and the new member of the staff did not lower its standard. Always hopeful, shrewd, competent and cheerful, not perhaps saying very much, but always appreciating a joke, looking old for his years, and supremely wise behind his spectacles, but with his well-known twinkle in his eye, he was worth everything to us.
It was true that if he was young, he was old for his years and looked it, so that when a parishioner was told that Father So-and-so would come to a distressing case, he replied: ' Had it not better be somebody older, like Father Weston?' Neither gentleman heard the last of that clergy house jest for a long time.
In the church there was an attached congregation, and parochial reunions were almost like family gatherings. The church was full, but not full of curious sight-seers. The church did not advertise, and it was not a place for fancy services or star preachers. The congregation had been collected one by one; many had come broken down and hopeless to find a new meaning for life from men who were shepherds of souls. Most of them had learned their religion at St. Matthew's and took it for granted. There were no fierce debates at vestry meetings about what should or should not be done. The life of the place was focused at the altar; the path to the altar was by the confessional, and the devout knew their way to the little chapel upstairs, where they could say their prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
The curates taught daily and systematically in the Church schools. The children's Eucharist was carefully explained, and the Catechism took place on Sunday afternoons. Frank helped his vicar in producing a book of Catechism Notes for the National Society. He was skilful in framing a syllabus and in finding simple definitions which could be learnt and remembered. He also produced a little book called The Holy Sacrifice which was published by Methuen and was intended to help those who assisted at Mass when they did not communicate.
The parish was small in area but very populous, and nearly everyone in it was poor. Visiting was insisted on, and Frank spent most of his afternoons up and down the stone staircase of Rochester Buildings, learning fresh lessons about the difficulties of life. Except on holidays, he rarely went outside the parish during the two years he was there, though so close to the flood of London's restless life and in earshot of newspaper boys shrieking about what concerned the passing hour.
Here also he had his boys, and in March 1898 he writes:
I have in tow about twenty young ruffians--mostly immoral little pagans--only four communicants! It is hard fighting, but I think most of them will be slain in due course. Some will have to be expelled from the conflict: to rejoice in their victory alone.
It seemed that he had all that he wanted--a church in which God was worshipped in the beauty of holiness, colleagues who were real friends, varied work day and night, and human interests which absorbed him. One of his colleagues writes:
While he stayed with us, I don't think anything of interest happened. Frank did ordinary things--parish work, sermons, quiet days--like the rest of us, but he did them better.
But St. Matthew's was always interested in foreign missions and especially in the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, (UMCA) for which they raised more than £100 a year. Bishop Smythies had stayed several times in the clergy house, Bishop Richardson had been there once, and at length came Archdeacon Woodward saying: I am out to fish for men.' Frank explained to him how he had once offered himself to Bishop Smythies and been rejected by the doctor. 'Perhaps your health has improved,' said Woodward; 'come and see the doctor again.'
This time the doctor passed him, Frank volunteered, was accepted, and started for his life work in Africa.
St. Matthew's had much to do in preparing him for his work. He had learnt there to meditate and pray, to live a disciplined life and to recognise the need of method in teaching others. He went out to Africa with St. Matthew's as an ideal of what a church should be. It was all he knew of effective work in the Church of England. He had come to it after the experiments of Stratford, and been convinced that here was an ordered system which really worked and produced such fruit as he desired.
He knew little else of the Church of England, which accounts for the fact that to the ordinary man he seemed altogether out of touch with the spirit of the national religion. This is accounted for if we remember how congregational are the London churches. At St. Matthew's he had his colleagues, and the only other clergy who visited them were of like views, as were the enthusiastic laymen who supported the church.
Do you say, 'How narrow such a training must be'? That depends! Catholicism is, after all, the most complete religion and catholic conceptions are the most widely spread. Had Frank been going to live in England it would have been well for him to learn how to appreciate the various standpoints of Christian Englishmen; but he went to Africa, and it was well that he went there with a definite conception of what the Christian life might be, and with an ideal for an African Church unaffected by the many cross currents of English history.
Why did he go? Because he believed in a call, and had schooled himself to respond. His vicar had guessed, though he never spoke of himself, and was still so young, that he had been through spiritual suffering in the conquest of himself, and I think that his vicar was right. Frank was not naturally of an ascetic temper. He liked comfort and the amenities of life, but he believed in self-mortification. No one appreciated more the joys of home and family life, but he was convinced of his vocation as a celibate. He was not without ambition, but conscience impelled him to renounce it. So he left Oxford, and sacrificed his intellectual interests for the sake of God's poor. So he left Westminster and the work which he loved in order that he might make the sacrifice more complete. Calvary was for him the dominating fact in the whole world's history, but the lesson of Calvary had to be learnt and accepted before the world could be redeemed. He felt that the human heart of the suffering Saviour was yearning for the black races. He felt that the eyes of the Crucified searched him out with a mute appeal, 'Who will go for Me?' And he could not face the Questioner unless he answered 'Lord, send me!'