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Are anglo-catholics as interested in drains as they are with tat?

June 8, 2013

FrDRobert Dolling: of St. Agatha’s Landport : ‘I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation.’

relating to S. Saviour’s Schools from Father Dolling’s ‘Quarterly Letter’ for June, 1899, especially as it shows the reason why he valued supremely the opportunity given him by the possession of Church day-schools:

‘It won’t bore you if I am a little garrulous about the schools. I have spent on the drainage, making new entrances for boys and girls, boys’ cloak-rooms and lavatories, and doing up the infants’ school, £1,392, and I have collected £1,333.’

FrD 2A Victorian slum priest, campaigning for better sanitation, was told to stop interfering in secular matters. He replied, ‘I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation’. Between 1885 and 1895, another slum priest, Father Dolling, transformed the poorest area of Portsmouth. He created a gym to promote physical fitness and dancing, but his ‘Communicants Dancing Guild’ disgusted a local evangelical vicar. ‘Who can separate the secular from the religious?’, asked Dolling. ‘Certainly the Master did not try to do so.’ He forced brothels to close, attacked army authorities for mismanagement and encouraged trade unions. The worship combined high ritual with hymns sung to homely tunes. Dolling, singing songs with servicemen, was very different from the bookish Tractarians. Why did priests like Dolling begin to connect Jesus with drains and dancing? They learned their incarnationalism and sacramentalism from a tradition which included the theologians F D Maurice, Stewart Headlam, Charles Gore and Henry Scott Holland.



On Anglo-Catholicism and effeminacy

If Protestantism tends often to become hard, dull, and prosaic, Catholicism of every kind, when untempered by the healthy development of individuality, often runs to seed in the direction of an exclusively feminine or even well-nigh hysterical type of piety, the type which raised the ire of Charles Kingsley. From such a danger the presence of such persons as Greene, next to Dolling s strong manliness of character, saved S. Agatha s. The objectionable types of  pious female and sentimental youth had either to go to other pastures in search of their appropriate spiritual nutriment, or else, if they stayed, to add a little common-sense to their store of devotion. Unless hopeless, they soon got the nonsense knocked out of them, as Dolling used to say. He generally accomplished this by setting such persons some practical work

to do not involving any highly- wrought feelings ; as when a High Church youth fell on his knees saying, Father, I crave a habit (i.e., a monastic one), Dolling replied, If you want to do something useful, get up and dust and arrange those books ; that will about suit you, pointing to his large and very disordered library. The devotee soon tired of this.  P. 75

Ritual for ritualism’s sake?

His robust, genial appearance was as unlike that which lady novelists usually associate with Ritualistic clergymen as can well be conceived. The latter are generally represented as akin in appearance to the lean and hungry Cassius, like men who have long accustomed themselves to rigorous fasts and unsparing castigations. But the lady novelist s advanced clergyman is about as like the reality, in many cases, as the stage Irishman with his knee-breeches and shillelagh is like the genuine article across the Channel. Father Dolling, especially when in holiday attire, was as unlike the typical presentation of his school as can well be imagined. Common-sense is about the last quality with which those called Ritualists would be credited by the man of the world. Yet if the latter conceived of Dolling as one of those mad Ritualists, he very soon found out that there was a method in his madness, and discovered that he was no impracticable idealist, occupied rather with the abstract fitness of a stately ritual than with its utilitarian worth in regard to the needs of the worshippers of to-day.

Dolling had a clear sense that ritual was made for man, and not man for ritual. He hated all finicking and nervous worrying about correctness, and he sometimes, we think, made his ignorance about ceremonial details an excuse for introducing into a function some little action or motion of his own, where it seemed advisable for the convenience or better under standing of the people. He is said to have once replied to the

liturgical request of one of the sacred ministers, Pray, sir, a blessing, with the sotto wee reply, That s all right. He had no mind for biretta-kissing, and ceremonial minutiae generally, though he loved anything which he thought expressed the incomparable dignity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Ritual, however, was always second with him, not first, and a long way second. He tells a story in his Ten Years of his boxing the ears of a Ritualistic youth, who was distressed by his incorrectness in his mode of holding his hands at the altar. This was characteristic of his attitude towards that Chinese type of religion which revels in ritual correctness of a minute type. Life, Dolling thought, was too short for those discussions about tiny pieces of ceremonial which fill the correspondence columns of the High Church newspapers.

Dolling s Ritualism was no mere dignified trifling: it surrounded and centred in the great Sacrifice of the Altar. Vestments, lights, incense, sanctus bell, were but for him the dramatic and historical setting of that which has ever, since the days of the Apostles, been the central service of Christendom. One of the chief objects of Father Dolling s life, considered as a priest of the Church of England, was the popularising the Catholic Faith, especially as regards the Holy Eucharist. He disliked indirect methods of teaching.

Hence he seemed to needlessly outrage the susceptibilities of Protestants and of old-fashioned Churchmen when he was only considering what he believed to be the need of definitely instructing his own people. P. 100

On Christian Socialism

S. Agatha s then presented a remarkable aspect, crowded to the doors by men of all classes and social types in Portsmouth, though mainly of course of the working classes. Many a young fellow owes to these

services the revelation that Christianity is not a mere feeble skulking from the battle of life, but that men who are Christ s followers ought to be real men, with pluck and energy, and with keen enthusiasm for the emancipation and betterment of mankind. Dolling was at these Men s Services like Charles Kingsley at his best. Sometimes he had the tone even of a Savonarola. All prophets are not necessarily ascetic solitaries, and with all Dolling s cheery geniality and unconventionally there was something prophet-like about him in the way in which he hailed the coming of a type of Christianity that should be the instrument of the redemption of man, of body as well as soul, of society as well as of the individual. The depth of his faith in Christ s Gospel as the sufficient solution of the social problem was only equalled by the ardour of his fraternal heart and by his boundless hopefulness for man.

Many a young fellow from every part of Portsmouth, clerk, shop-assistant, soldier, sailor, artisan, looked forward to the address to men as an inspiration sent by God straight from a brother s heart. Applause took place at times, but never in an unseemly way, and even an Agnostic section who frequently attended behaved with marked respect for the sacred character of the place.

Not infrequently a leading merchant of the town, or a military or naval officer, would be seen keenly intent on Father Dolling as he gave a good hour of what he called one of his straight talks. He always hit out from the shoulder, and was loved all the more for it, even by those who felt that he had hit them hard. Radical as he was on most subjects, several convinced Conservatives and Unionists were among his most constant auditors. Indeed, he gained the confidence of almost all good men of every description in the borough of Portsmouth. His hatred of lies, shams, and cruelty was an infection and a flame. It was impossible to be mean-spirited and attend Father Dolling s Talks to Men. There was a thorough fraternity, too, about these services. A colonel might be seen sharing his mission hymnal with a private soldier, a merchant with a shop-boy. The spirit of the Comrade Christ, the symbol of whose crucifixion hung beside the preacher s platform, seemed to pervade the assembly. Lacordaire, or Frederic Denison Maurice, would have rejoiced at the sight.

Dolling held, in regard to social politics, that while the Church must not be tied up with any one political party, yet that the subservience of the Church of England in the past to the interests of political Conservatism, and her timid hesitancy (semper pavidi, as her rulers have been described) or total apathy where social wrong ought to have been rebuked, have largely forfeited for her the confidence of those who are in any sense leaders of their fellows in intelligence among the working classes of this country.

In inviting the Guild of S. Matthew to send lecturers to give some addresses on social and other subjects in connection with religion, Dolling introduced to Portsmouth the warden of the guild, the Rev. Stewart D. Headlam, a well-known London clergyman, whose convictions, as well as those of the guild of which he is the head, are expressed, in regard to the matters we are now dealing with, by the words Christian Socialism. This phrase is capable of many different shades of meaning. Mr. Headlam uses it as before him did Charles Kingsley and Frederic Denison Maurice, and as many Continental writers and workers, both Catholic and Protestant, have done, and still do. Bishop Westcott would not probably have refused the title of a Christian Socialist. Father Dolling was not afraid of the term, though as a rule he disliked all labelling of himself in these matters. We suppose, whatever the differences that divide many of them from each other, that all of the school we are alluding to agree in this main principle: the belief that mere commercialist Individualism is inadequate and morally unsatisfactory as a solution of the problem presented by the vast inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and of the opportunities for legitimate human development. The common point of agreement in this increasing school in all Christian churches lies in its rejection of laissez faire as the expression of an unchanging law, like those of Nature, and in its regarding it rather as a generalisation from a condition of things in the past largely due to the unrestrained play of selfish and solely personal interests unchecked by higher moral considerations.

The little Guild of S. Matthew was the pioneer of the larger and more widely-extended Christian Social Union, which now numbers even bishops among its officers and members. Dolling asked the help of this guild, because of the great prevalence of Secularism at that time among the Radical working men s clubs of Portsmouth. The guild aimed at removing the prejudices of Secularists both by showing that Catholic Christianity is not identified with the crude Puritanism, with its Sabbatarianism, Verbal Inspiration, and material Hell, which so many intelligent working men confuse with the Christian religion, and also that Christ s mission was not intended by revealing Heaven so to dwarf earth into insignificance that Christianity should be indifferent to true social development and to the progressive betterment of mankind. One chief object of the lectures and addresses given by the guild was to call attention to the fact that the faith of the Incarnation deals with man as a whole, with his body and intelligence as well as with his soul, with his social condition here as well as with his immortal future hereafter.

Five addresses to men were arranged in connection with S. Agatha s, to be given by members of this guild. They were on the following subjects: (i) Christian Socialism; (2) Why men do not believe the Bible; (3) Why is the Church of England a failure? (4) The Incarnation: its value to Humanity; (5) Prayer. The first lecture, which was by Mr. Headlam, was announced for February 23, 1890 (First Sunday in Lent), in the Mission Church. The rest of the addresses were to follow on subsequent Sundays.

Meanwhile some persons in Portsmouth of the Mr. Podsnap or Mrs. Grundy type got hold of the fact that Mr. Headlam had got into difficulties with the then Bishop of London in regard to his advocacy of the ballet as a graceful form of theatrical performance. We know that Dolling, enthusiast as he was for getting boys and girls to dance together, was no great admirer of the ballet. It bored him, and he thought it stupid. However, not only did the Portsmouth papers fill their columns with letters from very indignant people, mostly ladies, describing Mr. Headlam as a clergyman who went about as a propagandist of the ballet, but Father Dolling was accused of sharing in the same vile proceedings. The Guild of S. Matthew and its lecturers received an extensive gratuitous advertisement, and Southsea held up its hands in startled propriety at Mr. Headlam, Father Dolling, and that awful S. Agatha’s. The hapless dancers of the London theatres also came in for much reprobation.

On the afternoon of Mr. Headlam s lecture the lecturer meanwhile had grown in the pages of the local press into a priest suspended by his own bishop (which was absolutely untrue) S. Agatha s was packed with men from end to end. No doubt, however, many had come from curiosity. If, how ever, they expected anything sensational, they were disappointed. Mr. Headlam s appearance was not that of an incendiary, but of a quiet and self-possessed clergyman of the Church of England.

His address was on The Social Question in general. It was directed rather to the head than to the heart. It had little of Dolling s moving passion, and rather seemed to avoid sentiment than otherwise. It was an address characteristic of one who as an eminent and most useful member of the London School Board is essentially practical and business-like. The earlier part of the address was mainly on the lines of Maurice and Kingsley, urging with blunt directness, what, indeed, the congregation of St. Agatha s had often heard before, that Christianity, if it is a living thing, must deal with man as a whole, with his body as well as with his soul, with society as well as with the individual. Towards the end, however, land reform was advocated, and the lines of the Single Tax appeared to be pointed out as the course to aim at. Free Education, which then (so quickly have we since moved) was regarded as a very extreme measure, and free breakfasts in Board Schools to poor children were also mentioned as desirable things. Socialism in the strictest sense was not directly dealt with, but the whole tone of the lecturer was certainly not calculated to reassure anyone who mainly valued the Church of England as a form of the police force in the interests of landed estates and of property generally.

The Bishop had concluded his letter by writing:  1 This so-called Christian Socialism as exhibited in Mr. Headlam s address, in the writings of Count Leo Tolstoi and others, appears to me to strike at the very root of all Christianity. I have, as you know, declined to interfere with your proceedings, lest I should mar your mission work . . . but I must consider whether the good of your mission is not more than counterbalanced by the evil of those whom you associate with yourself, and whether I can suffer it to go on under my authority.

Father Dolling, in his reply, consented that the remaining lectures should not be given in the church, but insisted that they should be continued in the gymnasium on the Lent Sunday afternoons. He also wrote to the Bishop, saying that he must protest against the way in which his lordship had spoken of the lecturers, some of whom, we believe, were contemplating measures of legal redress. Dolling wrote also: I fear that in all honesty I must tell you, though I hate paining your lordship, that I hold myself, and have preached, and must continue to preach, all that Mr. Headlam s lecture taught, except on some matters of detail.

The last sentence we believe referred to the Single Tax method as the best solution of the land difficulty.

Dolling resolved to resign, as he considered that the Warden would not have written as he had if he had not voiced the mind of the school authorities, and he had no wish also to force the Bishop to more definite measures. As a missioner he had, of course, no freehold, even had he wished to fight the matter. The lectures went on in the gymnasium. The title of one of them, Why is the Church of England a Failure ?

gave much offence in Southsea, especially as at this very time the Church Defence Society was placarding the town with Working men, what has the Church of England done for you ? She has gained Magna Charta. Dolling remarked, That was in 1215, wasn’t it? Rather a long time ago. Dr. Fearon, who was a strong friend to Dolling all through, was deeply distressed at the possible loss of the missioner, and tried to arrange matters, but for a time it looked as if an impasse had been reached between the latter and the ecclesiastical authorities. The direct difficulty, however, was the Warden’s letter. The Bishop had not as yet written anything which necessarily involved the missioner’s resignation.

On Sunday, March 9, 1890, Father Dolling announced his resignation in a sermon at S. Agatha s to a congregation mainly composed of men, the church being full to the doors. His text was, Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. He said that he dared not go on ministering there without letting men know that he believed every social question was a question of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you take, for instance, the Old Testament, you will find that in the Book of Psalms, which are, I suppose, the part of the Old Testament most read by modern Christians, the chief idea which underlies large parts of that wonderful collection is the right of the poor to be heard alike by God and man in all their needs and necessities, and to gain the redress of their wrongs. If you go farther into the Old Testament, and take the lives of God s prophets and their words, you will find that, as a rule, they were essentially political and social reformers, speaking with the authority of the voice of God, and under the influence of a power which carried them into the palaces of kings and made their voice heard throughout the land of Israel, and even penetrated into the countries which were brought in contact with their own nation. You find these inspired men of God having one single purpose, and that was to preach of the God of Justice, a purpose the execution of which involved a most vigorous onslaught on every kind of oppression and on every species of wrong.

In fact, I suppose there has never been gathered together in any volume such magnificent statements of the rights of the weak and the helpless as you will find in almost every one of the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament.

Then you must remember that these are but the forerunners of Jesus Christ, that He is Himself the gatherer up of all that the psalmists sung, of all that the prophets foretold, and therefore you may expect to find in Him also the Champion of the weak and oppressed, and something more than that the One who preached with a voice which is still sounding throughout all the world the royalty of every single man, who revealed to man His Divine origin, and showed not merely God s unceasing care for humanity, but God s desire that by his own actions, by using the powers which He had given him, that man should be lifted up even to the very highest of all ideals, that there should be no altitude of virtue or intelligence that it should not be possible for man to attain to, if he were but true to the power which God had placed in his soul. Looking round on the world, Christ discovered that there were those who had, as it were, absorbed or monopolised these human rights, and rendered well-nigh impossible the development of man, and who had by that very monopoly denied to him the possibility of his attainment to the ideal which God had willed for him. Therefore the voice of Christ, whether it speaks from Galilee or whether it speaks in the courts of the temple, sounds and resounds to-day, and it shall never cease to re-echo as long as the world has Christianity existing in its midst. It bids a man not merely to be free in the sense in which human laws could give freedom that is, to be free from the bondage or the oppression with which the cruelty of others had bound him but to be free in a much higher and truer sense, that he may reach the stature which our Lord Himself foresaw for him when He made him in the Divine Image. And if there be in any country in which men live any custom, any privilege of others which denies to men this opportunity, the Christian, be he priest or be he layman, must never cease raising his voice until such restriction is removed, until such privilege has been abolished, and the man is able in the fullness of his Manhood to realise God s eternal Will for him.

1 must begin by making the awful and solemn declaration that after eighteen centuries of Christianity the object of the “Prince of Peace ” has not been attained. War still exists, and therefore it is necessary to speak of soldiers and sailors. But the Divine Carpenter will have His revenge, and His revenge will be complete when by means of labour which He emancipated and glorified, war shall cease throughout the whole world. In a large measure, labour is already organised in England, and the working man is learning day by day his own value, but this is at best but a partial step towards peace, and it needs that the English example should be followed upon the Continent, and the movement become cosmopolitan. When once the foreign workman has realised his own powers powers which surely we can teach him can be asserted without anarchy and the disruption of society when shameful wages and shameful hours and the abominable sweating system, depriving men of the fruits of their labours, shall have ceased universally, as they have begun to cease in England, then the patient pleadings of the Carpenter of Nazareth will be realised, and man the temporal redeemer of the earth by the sweat of his brow shall refuse to be manipulated by his brethren, either in the sweating dens of financiers, or on the battle-field, or in the armies maintained at present at an impossible cost by politicians or by monarchs for their own selfish purposes.

The Carpenter will have His revenge, and therefore it is not Utopian to suppose that a day will come when war shall cease.

But while it is well to have these higher ideals before us, it is certainly foolish not to look things in the face and realise what they are at the present moment. And above all, it is our duty, as their employers, to recognise the crushing evils which to-day exist among our soldiers and sailors.

We think that among any of Dolling s sermons or addresses of which record has been kept, there is no more striking idea than that of the austere figure of the Divine Carpenter, the Man of Nazareth, waiting His time until men sicken of the bloody game of war, and His turn comes, and He has His revenge. It reminds us of the question of Julian the Apostate to a Christian, What is the Carpenter doing now? and of the answer which followed, He is making a coffin. It was Dolling s faith from first to last that the Carpenter was, in truth, through the centuries, slowly yet surely making a coffin for every custom of cruelty and wrong.

The rest of the sermon is occupied with criticism of army mismanagement, and with a statement as to the temptations soldiers and sailors are exposed to, and to which they expose others. In the end of the sermon, which we must remember was delivered to men only, he spoke of such sinks of iniquity as Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham, Aldershot, and other garrison towns. He went on to expose the proportion of public-houses to other buildings on the Portsmouth Hard, and mentioned other facts as to the unwholesome conditions, moral and physical, of Landport and Portsea, the districts thronged by soldiers and sailors. P. 134

On the Prayer Book

Dolling’s want of sympathy with what he conceived to be the stiff and unevangelical character of what is often called distinctively the Prayer-Book School of Churchmen caused him, we think, scarcely to appreciate adequately the perfect English of the greater part of the Book of Common Prayer, its sober majesty of diction. But he was accustomed to point out the wordiness of some of the exhortations. Most manuals of private prayer he disliked, or at the best regarded as props for inexperienced learners or crutches for the limbs of weak devotion. Learn to pray in your own words, was his constant advice. Even in church he loved free prayer, as much as any Dissenter, and fought with the Bishops for the right to use it. P. 300

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