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The Diocese of Jamaica
A Short Account of Its History, Growth and Organisation

By J.B. Ellis, M.A.

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1913.

Chapter VII.

THE Assembly continued its generous provision for churches and church work (including schools), and if there was any failure it was hardly due to want of funds. Indeed, the amount of money cheerfully and readily provided for Church purposes is bewildering and almost dazzling to those who live in days of disendowment. At times it seems as though there was little to point to as a fair return for all the expenditure, but the best criterion of the work that was being done in these early days is to be found in contemplating the present rather than in reviewing the past. Many of the old mission stations are now parish churches. There has been a continuity of Christian teaching and a gradual, and often unbroken, growth of Christian life from the days when the missionary kept his primitive school in some slave-barrack or estate boiling-house till the present day when large and orderly congregations meet Sunday by Sunday in consecrated churches. It is as though the missionaries laid their foundations, strong and deep and costly, in preparation for stately buildings which later generations were to erect.

The Incorporated Society, which was the first Home Society to send agents to Jamaica, and which now, under the abbreviated name of "The Christian Faith Society," continues largely to assist the educational work of the diocese, had after, and because of, emancipation to change its name. Again it took a name sufficiently long and comprehensive to render superfluous any explanation of its objects and intentions. It was called "The Society for advancing the Christian Faith in the British West India Islands and elsewhere in the Dioceses of Jamaica and of Barbados and the Leeward Islands, and in the Mauritius." Gradually as other Societies sent agents to Jamaica and as the Established Church increased the number of its clergy, the Christian Faith Society gave its assistance, as it now does, in the form of an annual grant placed in the hands of the Bishop of the diocese to be applied by him, at his discretion, to such purposes, principally educational, as may be in most urgent need of help.

Prior to emancipation S.P.G. had had a fitful connection with Jamaica, its first gift being in the year 1703, two years after its formation, when the sum of £5 was voted towards replacing the library of the Rev. Philip Bennet, whose parsonage at Port Royal had been burnt. Other donations of books for clergy or for the use of their congregations were made in 1705 to the Revs. A. Auchenleck and G. Wright; in 1706 to the Rev.--Roe; in 1707 to the Revs. E. Shanks,--Cunningham and J. Thompson; in 1709 to the Rev. Fouk; and in 1710 to the Rev. W. Guthrie. Mr. Wright, like many other people leaving home, had not a very full purse and "pawned and sold" some of the books "in his necessity at Portsmouth before coming to the Island: "it is gratifying to be able to put on record that his successor, the Rev. W. Johnston, who gave the above explanation, repaid the value of the books to the Society in the year 1714. Donations in aid of passage money were occasionally made in the earlier years of the eighteenth century. In 1830 the S.P.G. voted £244, out of the fund created by Archbishop Tenison's bequest, to assist in the formation of a Diocesan Library. In 1834 and 1835 there was a remarkable eagerness in England to use the interval of apprenticeship for the benefit of the emancipated slaves. The S.P.G., availing itself of this feeling, decided that the opening in the West Indies was so plain and the need so pressing that a great and exceptional effort must be made. It therefore resolved to raise a general subscription to form a West India Fund and to secure a "King's Letter" to be sent to all parishes in England and Wales directing that collections be made for this fund, the full name of which was "The Fund for the'Building'of Schools and Chapels for the Emancipated Negroes of the British West Indies," and is referred to in reports as "The Negro Education Fund." The ready response which was made to this appeal shows that Church people at home sympathised with the words of the Bishop of Gloucester, who preached the annual S.P.G. sermon in the following year. "Unless," said Bishop Monk, "means shall be found to instruct in the principles of our holy religion all the negro population of the West India Islands, the freedom which was intended to be a blessing may prove a curse. A deliverance from the restraint of earthly masters may become the means of licentiousness unless it be attended with such instruction as shall substitute the holy restraints of religion." Towards this West India Fund S.P.G. appropriated similar Letters had been granted six times in the eighteenth century and also in 1824. The last appears to have been issued £5,000 as its own contribution; S.P.C.K. gave £10,000! the Christian Faith Society £5,000; an annual, varying, Parliamentary Grant was made, beginning at £7,500, but never going beyond that amount; merchants and others interested in the West Indies contributed liberally; clergy and congregations responded freely to the "King's Letter," collections being made in upwards of 9,000 churches in England and Wales. By these means together with considerable Grants from S.P.G.'s General Fund, the sum of £171,777 was at the Society's disposal for the erection of churches and schools and the maintenance of clergymen, schoolmasters and catechists. Of course the expenditure of this money was spread over a good many years, the last payment being made in 1850. It was decided to apply one-half of the above money to the building of schools and maintenance of schoolmasters, and the other half to the building and enlargement of churches and chapels and to the passage-money and maintenance of clergymen and catechists on condition that in every instance at least one-half of the salaries of clergymen, schoolmasters and catechists should be provided from some other source, and that contributions should cease altogether as soon as the colonies were able to defray the expenses from their own funds. In connection with this movement we are, for the first time in our history, in possession of complete statistics. Before making its grant for educational purposes, the Home Government sent a circular to ministers and teachers of every denomination asking for information as to condition and needs of their societies. The Bishop of Jamaica's reply summed up the position of the Church of England and showed that there were sixty-one churches and chapels and temporary rooms used for service in the diocese, providing accommodation for 28,196 persons, with an average attendance of 28,511. Making allowance for the number of persons who were prevented from habitual attendance by various occupations, sickness and other causes the Bishop calculated that the total number of Church people in the diocese was 38,014, or one-third more than the average attendance. In twenty-four of the churches, including those of Black River, Buff Bay, Lacovia, Port Antonio and Vere, the average attendance was larger than the accommodation, the surplus congregations having to stand round the doors and windows of the churches. The total number of communicants was only 3,360. There were 142 schools, where instruction was given to 8,500 scholars; and there were 56 clergy and 95 lay teachers. Such was the position of the Church in 1835.

In the year 1836 an important political step was taken. An Act was passed in the month of June, embodying a resolution of the British House of Commons, by which the Assembly, with a not particularly gracious protest, decided that the apprenticeship should not run its full time, but should cease and determine on the 1st day of the following August, instead of on the 1st of August, 1840. For various reasons the apprenticeship plan broke down in the working. [Information on this point may be found in the Journal (above referred to) of a visit to the West Indies by Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey in 1837 "for the purpose of ascertaining the actual condition of the negro population of those islands." Very much of this is not nice reading.] It is not necessary at this late day to go into reasons for this breakdown. In many cases it is plain that more severe and cruel punishment was meted out to apprentices by Law, as administered by special magistrates, than had been given to slaves by owners or overseers. That the self-denying activity of Christian missionaries had done much to teach the liberated slaves to use their freedom is generally admitted, and it is a significant fact that some form of thanksgiving in church or chapel accompanied the rejoicings which celebrated the advent of complete freedom, and that the festivities, extending over three days, ended without any riot or disturbance.

So slavery ceased. In the happy phrase of Bishop Coleridge, of Barbados, "eight hundred thousand human beings lay down at night as slaves, and rose in the morning as free as ourselves." Bishop Lipscomb, preaching at York two years later, describes the Emancipation Day in Jamaica as being--

"received not by unseemly transports--not by degrading indulgences--not by excess or riot, but by a calm and settled religious feeling, consecrating the glorious day of their emancipation (as I myself witnessed) to devotional exercises and evincing the proofs of that Christian faith which they had imbibed, however imperfectly, but which so powerfully sustained them under that most difficult of all human trials--sudden temporal prosperity."

At the time of the cessation of the apprenticeship, and referring to the effect produced on the negroes by religious instruction between the years 1834 and 1837, Bishop Lipscomb writes:--

"No one who has witnessed, as I have lately witnessed, the large proportion of the apprentices, 'panting, like the hart, for the water brooks, and being athirst for the living God,' conducting themselves on this day with strict propriety and decorum--repairing in crowds to God's house--reading, or acquiring the power to read, the inspired Scriptures--frequently joining in the impressive liturgy of our Church--renewing their baptismal vows in order to allow of their becoming duly qualified partakers of the Lord's Supper: no one who has seen these things can possibly doubt that 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning' not only of all 'wisdom, but of all civilisation, of all advances in the scale of all rational beings--the only true method of preparing their minds for unfettered rights and unrestricted freedom. . . . The intensity of their feelings on this subject is strong in proportion to their having been so long estranged from so rational an indulgence. It is a new sense, whose keenness and relish is enhanced from its being exercised for the first time. In default of proper places of worship they will resort, for the purposes of communion and devotion, to the dens and caves of the earth--they will hide themselves in the woods--they will meet by the riverside--they will revere the place 'where prayer is wont to be made.' "

Following the course of events through the second half of Bishop Lipscomb's episcopate, we will return in the first place to C.M.S. It is difficult, with several agencies at work at the same time, to make our story consecutive and so to avoid scrappiness; a certain amount of overlapping and dovetailing is almost inevitable. C.M.S. gradually increased its interest in Jamaica, until in 1840 its mission had reached its greatest extent. In that year it had 21 stations in 9 different parishes, and its staff consisted of 7 clergymen and n European laymen. Its attendants at Divine Service numbered 6,610, of whom 271 were communicants. It had 47 schools, with an average attendance of 5,000 scholars, and had established a training-school for schoolmasters, catechists, and missionaries. Summarising the work of its agents, the Society reported in 1839 that--

"large congregations were gathered. The decencies of human life became respected and the degrading habits of former days were abandoned. Christian ordinances came to be valued and frequented; many were confirmed; others became communicants; schools were well attended; and affecting proofs were afforded of the willingness of the negro to assist in the expenses of the mission."

This statement, though it only refers to a few districts scattered about the island, may be regarded as a satisfactory record of little more than twelve years' work, but the conclusions at which it arrives can hardly be said to be consistent with the above-quoted figures, nor can they be taken as an accurate description of the whole diocese. The Society may, of course, have been misled by the couleur de rose reports of some of its agents, and have formed its judgment from these reports rather than from actual facts. About this time the C.M.S.'s income fell considerably below its expenditure, the former for the year 1839 being £72,000, and the latter £91,453, leaving a debit balance of £19,453. The amount spent on West Indian missions during the same year was £19,193, so that a clean balance sheet would be nearly obtained by a withdrawal of the West Indian grants. Accordingly, the Society resolved to withdraw its operations from Jamaica. Writing on this action, Dr. Eugene Stock, in his History of the C.M.S., says:

"The Society naturally incurred much blame for having thus put its hand to the plough and then turned back; but when we come to the financial position, we shall see that drastic measures somewhere were inevitable, and it seemed to the Committee that the West Indian work, interesting and important as it was, was of a less definitely missionary character than the work in Africa, India, and other great Heathen fields. Meanwhile the S.P.G. and the Nonconformist Missions continued their operations, and were the instruments of great good among the negro population."

Apart from the reasons mentioned by Dr. Stock, we may add that the C.M.S. was further justified in its action by the continued liberality of the Legislature of Jamaica, for, from a Parliamentary Return bearing date 1839, we learn that there were on the Establishment of the Island fifty-three churches, sixty-five clergymen, and seven catechists, at an annual cost of £43,000.

C.M.S.'s withdrawal, though as gradual as possible without upsetting work, was by no means slow. We have already seen that in 1825 provision had been made for increasing the number of island churches to forty-two, on condition that appointments should not be made until suitable buildings were erected for church services. Under the terms of this Act, ten of the C.M.S. stations were at once transferred to the general ecclesiastical establishment of the Colony, or were placed, in preparation for such transfer, under the superintendence of a neighbouring clergyman. Smaller stations and out-stations were temporarily closed. Piteous accounts, tinged with a doubtless genuine, but rather sentimental, tone were given at the time of the grief of the people who thought they were being deprived of religious privileges. In 1842 the number of C.M.S. stations was reduced to four, and in 1848 its connection with Jamaica ceased for some years.

Turning to general Church work, we find that, by means of the help received from the West India Fund, churches and chapels were built or enlarged, missionaries and schoolmasters were sent out and stirred up so strong a feeling in their favour that in 1838 the Bishop was able to write that "the vestries of Jamaica are coming forward with such a sense of religious instruction that the difficulty will now rather be to meet their grants for the moieties of curates' and teachers' salaries with an equal sum from the funds of the societies that aid them." The above sentence and the transfer of the C.M.S. missionaries to the State Establishment seem to suggest that even so early as 1838 the Church's ministrations were becoming more parochial than missionary--a point, I think, not to be lost sight of. The remnant of the old established clergy still resisted the Bishop's authority in certain matters in which they thought he was disposed to encroach on, or interfere with, powers legally belonging to them before his appointment. I suppose it was not to be either hoped or expected that, with the changed conditions arising from direct, personal, Episcopal rule, some friction should not have arisen. "The old order changeth, yielding place to new," but, old orders are very jealous of their old privileges. Consequently in 1838 Bishop Lipscomb was involved in a vexatious lawsuit with one of his leading clergy, a lawsuit which was only possible in a state-subsidised Church and in a transition stage of authority. [A somewhat parallel, though by no means similar, case occurred in more recent years, consequent on the altered conditions created by the disestablishment of the Church. No further reference to this will be made in these pages beyond this expression of personal opinion that it caused both unnecessary pain and quite needless irritation, that it ought to have been avoided and that it did no sort of good to anyone.] Some of the relatives of the clergyman in question are still living, and therefore it is as well to abstain from entering into particulars, merely noticing that it is a strong illustration of the dangers of Erastianism in the Church of England that the wording of an entry of marriage in the register of a church should involve the suspension of a useful clergyman and an appeal, after eighteen months' undignified correspondence and irritating litigation, to the Privy Council in England, which august body dismissed the appeal, without entering into the merits of the case, entirely on the ground of the omission of some technical formality in one of the early stages of the proceedings.

In 1839 the appointment of a general clerical inspector of elementary (Church) schools marks the growth of education which made such an officer necessary. During the next few years the Church progressed quietly and uneventfully until the 4th of April, 1843, when in the midst of his labours, after an episcopate of nearly nineteen years, Dr. Lipscomb died at his post and was buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew's Church and thus the first Bishop of Jamaica removed from his diocese any claim to be included in the often uncalled-for sneer that Colonial Churches cannot point to the graves of their bishops. Dr. Lipscomb was a man of strength, energy and determination, perhaps not very conciliatory in his methods, bent on having his own way when he thought his own way was right, and certainly unfortunate in meeting with opposition where he had a right to hope for sympathy and co-operation. His foes--figuratively, of course--were those of his own household. His work at a critical time was good and sufficiently solid for others to build on the foundations he laid. The Bishop's chaplain writes that Dr. Lipscomb "was followed to the grave by thousands, literally, whose simple expressions of sorrow testified how sincerely they felt the loss of him who, while living, had entitled himself to their respect and regard by his unvarying kindness, gentleness and benevolence." During the last days of his life, the Bishop's mind reverted to the scenes and incidents of his laborious episcopate, and more than once he referred to his last report to S.P.G., in which he compared the diocese in 1843 with the state of things he found in 1824 and expressed an anxious wish that all would be considered satisfactory. This report has the interest which is always attached to the words of the dying, for the Bishop was in his grave before any reply could be received. It is dated the 1st of February, 1843 and was written on his return from his last visitation of the diocese. In this report the Bishop expresses his sense of the liberality of the Jamaica Legislature and thus describes the condition of Jamaica: "I am happy to state that I was much pleased with the general information of the negroes during my late visitation, and the evident advance made in their manners, conduct and civilisation. I saw nothing but happiness and comfort among the people who, in truth, exact what wages they please and have it all their own way, the planters being completely in the power of the labouring population, who carry their independence sometimes too far." And again: "Everywhere I notice in the conduct and character of the people the most satisfactory marks of improvement."

During his nineteen years' episcopate Dr. Lipscomb ordained sixty-six priests and seventy-three deacons; he consecrated thirty-eight churches, thirty-one of which were in the Island of Jamaica, and he licensed for the purpose of Divine Service forty-one other buildings, some of which were school-rooms, some disused boiling-houses, others coffee stores. No building, however, was so licensed without an assurance that furniture suitable for Church uses had been provided. In addition to the growth of diocesan order out of state-subsidised chaos and the large increase in the number of churches and schools, Dr. Lipscomb's episcopate is mainly memorable for the greater and more genuine interest which the clergy of the Established Church were taking in the welfare of the labouring classes.

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