Congregational Questions

One of the original “purposes” of the Monthly Paper, as laid out in the very first edition in January 1879, was “A medium for the asking and answering questions on interesting or important subjects.”  The first question was asked in the March edition, it was about the authorship of the Epistles to Timothy, and the questions continued to be asked until 1885.

Trying to choose a few questions, and their answers, has not been easy.  Here are a few examples “What is the origin of Rogation days?”; “Is the Communion Office of the Scottish Episcopal Church older than that of the Established Church of England?”; “What is meant by Muscular Christianity?”; “How can it be just to award an infinite punishment for the finite acts of a finite creature?”

These were some of the simpler questions, there were plenty which were much more complex and most of the answers were usually long and a guaranteed cure for insomniacs! Maybe the theological students at New College should be asked to answer a few of them!  However, here are four of the more interesting questions with their answers.

March 1880 – Why is it supposed that our Lord Jesus Christ did not Himself baptize while He was on earth?

As to the fact, see S. John iv. 2. As to the reason for the fact, may we not believe that our Lord baptized none Himself lest these should have fancied they had received higher blessing than those baptized by His disciples, and in order to give sanction to the work of His disciples as His representatives, taking it as done by Himself.  Compare the language of S. Paul in 1 Cor. i. 14-15 and S. Matt. x. 40.”

April 1880 – What is the meaning of Celebrating in the “Eastward position?”  Is that considered “High Church?”

Some celebrate in the Eastward position, because they consider the Rubric orders it, and apart from all doctrinal significance; others because it is aesthetically preferable, and others again because it seems a better position for the minister when representing the people before God, which the simple fact of his being their mouthpiece in prayer involves; others because they consider this position the truest exposition of what is called the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist – the pleading by representation the one all-sufficient sacrifice once offered – the “showing forth” the Lord’s death.

It is considered “High Church” by many; but it is now becoming gradually recognised as a matter of indifference, as the inquirer may notice in the Cathedral that either position is used.

January 1882 – What is the objection to Evening Communion?

  • Authority

It is a practice opposed to the whole practice of the Church – East and West alike – and it is quite contrary to the plain intention of our own branch of the Church, e.g., the Rubric before the Office, the arrangement of lessons and Gospels (Good Friday, Innocents’ Day, etc.)

And although Article 34 asserts that the Church in different countries has authority to decree rites and ceremonies, and it is conceivable that our Church might have authority to decree evening communion, individual clergy certainly have no such right.

For the maintenance of authority and due discipline, therefore, evening communion is wrong.

  • Reason
  • As the Holy Communion was instituted in the evening, and apparently was celebrated in the evening during the earlier Apostolic times, we may be quite sure that, as we find the time removed to the early morning, directly we come to early history, even in the age of those who must have lived for some years contemporaneously with the Apostles, the change was made with Apostolic sanction, even if not by Apostolic order.
  • It would induce careless reception.
  • It would come when the mind and body were wearied, and excited feelings and emotions would be liable to take the place of real thought.
  • The only reason urged for it is “convenience” for servants and mothers. These cases are met by servants refusing to take situations where frequent opportunities for communicating are denied, and by the practice of resolute self-denial in rising early for the early celebration.  And in the case of mothers, it is easy to point out instances where under circumstances of apparently the greatest difficulties mothers in the hardest working classes contrive to communicate regularly at the early communion.

May 1882 – Why is Mr Green in Prison?

It appears to the Editor that Mr Green is in prison because he conscientiously believes (1) that the Public Worship Regulation Act is a violation of the Constitution, whereby as in Magna Carta it is distinctly asserted that the Church shall have perfect liberty to make her own laws as affecting doctrine and discipline. (2) That the interpretation lately given of the Church Law is expressed in the Ornaments Rubric is opposed to reason and evidence. (3) That he cannot accept the authority or the Interpretation consistently with his ordination vow, which was “to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ as this Church and Realm (i.e. Convocation and Parliament) hath received the same,” seeing that neither the authority or interpretation have received the Sanction of Convocation.

These conscientious convictions lead him to refuse obedience to Lord Penzance’s ruling and order, which is contempt of court, hence the imprisonment.

Mr Green was in fact the Revd Sidney Green who was rector of St. John’s, Miles Platting, Manchester.  He was one of five clergymen who were brought to trial and imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to conform to the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 which was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Tait, to limit what he perceived as the growing ritualism of Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.[1] The Act provided a casus belli for the Anglo-Catholic English Church Union and the evangelical Church Association[2].

Among the “crimes” with which the Revd Green’s was charged were the mixing of wine and water, having light candles, kneeling during the prayer of consecration, elevating the paten and chalice, using the sign of the cross towards the congregation, ceremoniously raising the chalice and displaying a large brass cross.  He was in prison from 1880 to 1882.

The Act, which did not apply to Scotland, was eventually repealed on 1 March 1965 by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

Iain Morrison

Hon. Archivist

[1] D L Murray (2005)[1927] Disraeli Kessinger

[2] N Yates (1999) Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910