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Family Notices






THE PUBLIC WORSHIP FACILITIES BILL. The Chairman, in introducing this subject, said it was one of very great importance. In fact he had heard it put forward by more than one person that some legislation in the direction indicated by the bill was absolutely required if anything is to pre- vent the disestablishment of the Church of Eng- land. The information obtained in a blue book on the subject, which has been well digested, was deserving of the consideration of everyone. The subject was receiving so much attention that it was difficult to obtain a copy of the bill, and having lent the only copy he possessed to a. friend at a distance, and failed to procure another copy in time from Hansard's, he had not brought one with him. He understood there was to be a large meeting at Shrewsbury, at which the subject was to be discussed. No doubt they knew the history of the bill. It was brought forward early in the session last year, and after being read a second time was referred to a select committee consisting of Mr Assheton, Mr Thomas Brassey, Mr Cowper-Temple, Mr Evans, Mr Wilbraham Egerton, Mr Wm. Edwarl Forster, Mr Beresford Hope, Mr Holt, Mr Monk, Mr Rod- well, Mr Salt, Mr J. G. Talbot, Mr Whitwell, Mr Walter, and Sir Henry Wolff. They examined a great number of persons, including three bishops, several of the clergy, and members of the laity interested in church matters. Four draft reports were drawn up, one a very important one by Mr Beresford Hope. Mr Salt's first report was con- „ siderably modified, but the main substance of it had been adopted by the committee; and the latter part of it was worthy of consideration. It concluded as follows :—" Your committee, in con- clusion, are of opinion (1) That it is desirable, subject to the control of the bishop, to make pro- vision-for additional facilities and opportunities of worship in parishes where (a) the accommodation in the existing churches and chapels is insufficient; (b) where such churches and chapels are inconve- niently situated owing to the shape of the parish or the growth of new classes of population, or (in case of large parishes) to long distances; (c) where weakness, or ill-health, or poverty, and consequent inability to procure the help of curates, renders the incumbent unable to procure sufficient ministra- tions (d) where persistent and wilful inattention or neglect on the part of the incumbent, not already provided for by existing legislation, calls for the intervention of the diocesan; (e) where a marked divergence of opinion exists between an incumbent and a considerable number of his parishioners with regard to public ministrations in the church. (2). That such facilities and opportunities should be provided either by way of additional ministrations in existing churches and chapels with the consent of the incumbent, or by the opening of additional temporary places of worship, accompanied by the licensing of additional clergymen to give the ne- cessary ministrations. (3). That the regulation of such provisions should be vested in the bishop of the diocese, under forms of procedure as little; onerous and expensive as possible, provided that either the bishop or the parishioners may initiate proceedings." He proposed to say a few words on these points. First, they Having read portions of the evidence given by the Bishop of Ely, the chairman observed that the great hindrance to the works extending the services of the Church had been the stringency of the parochial system, which made the clergyman to a certain extent a despot in his own parish; and he must say that until he read, the evidence given in this blue book he had no idea the stringency was so great, or that the bishop had so very little power to interfere with any person in his own parish :ii' as long as he performed the Act,, of Parliament duties of that parish. It had been saicf the difficulty might be met by forming what was. called con-' ventional districts. A conventiopal district was simply a district marked out in pencil, and a clergyman was put in chage of it under the incum- bent of the parish. That might go on very well as long as the incumbent and the curate in charge agreed; but it was perfectly in the power of the incumbent to put a stop to that arrangement at any time; and certainly at death or the voidance of a living the new incumbent was not at all bound to continue the work of the clergyman in the con ventional district. He went on to remark that evidence was given to show that X3,000 was the lowest sum that could be raised before the Eccle- siastical Commissioners would render any assist- ance in the formation of a district. The chairman then proceeded to read extracts from the minuses of evidence taken before the select committee in illustration of what he had stated respecting the despotic powers possessed by incumbents under the present ecclesiastical law, in preventing other clergymen from carrying on the work of the Church in the parishes over which they presided. Mr Trevor Parkins expressed their obligations to the rev. chairman for the trouble he had taken in bringing this matter forward for discussion. No doubt the question was one of great importance. As far as he understood Mr Salt's proposal, it seriously affected the position the clergyman in the country held towards his congregation. In moving the adjournment of the debate owing to the smallness of the meeting, lie observed that in the sixteen thousand parishes of England and Wales there were no doubt some unreasonable men who did not sufficiently consider the welfare of their flocks; but at the same time a great change seriously affecting the position of the clergy of the county ought not to be made without full eu- quiry and full consideration. Mr Lewis seconded. He thought every one would agree in the general tenour of the recom- mendations contained in the report of the select committee; but very considerable practical difficulty would be found in formulating any Act and carrying it into practice. It must strike every observant mind at the outset that the great difficulty would be to escape one of two dilemmas. If they wished to escape the dilemmas of allowing the incumbent of a parish to be a perfect little autocrat, and play the dog in the manger whenever it suited his caprice, they must make the bishop a greater autocrat than he is at present. Without they adopted one or other of these alternatives, he did not see how they could proceed at all, as the difficulty would be in putting restraints on these absolute vetos. He thought they would do well to suspend their judgment on the question generally until they saw what tsort of a bill was brought in by Mr Salt or someone acting in his.interest during next session. Mr Clayton was also in favour of an adjournment of the discussion. He regarded the question as one of the greatest importance to the Church; but he would express an opinion that was not at all new from him, that any change must be an improve- ment on the present state of things. It had often been said that the remedy was worse than the disease; but he did not think that in this instance any well-matured plan could have any other effect than an improvement upon the present state of things. They knew that a man z, in charge of a parish containing ten thousand souls was not only a freeholder of the income of the church in that parish but unfortunately a free- holder of the souls of the parish. If he did not chose to tninister to the wants of their souls, he had full power to prevent any other clergyman ly from doing so, and thus spiritually starved them. That being the case, something of the kind sug- gested by this bill was necessary. It was not only those who like himself made themselves heard at church meetings, but there was a strong body of the laity who would not come to church meetings, and simply said, We find we are doing no good. and we are waiting for Disestablishment." What was the evidence brought forward at the Confer- ence at Stoke-upon-Trent? It was almost unani- mous in establishing this fact, that the Church in almost all parishes allows the ground to be occu- pied by different Dissenting bodies, and when that had been done then an attempt was made to re- move the difficulties which had grown up under her eyes, by seeking to establish Church princi- ples and Church teachings. Every churchman must see the precarious position the Church was in, and considering the want of confidence felt by churchmen in the present state of affairs, he held it to be a matter of the most urgent importance that they should not allow the opportunity to pass by without using their endeavours to bring about a better state of things. The discussion was then adjourned to a subse- quent meeting to be fixed by the executive. There was another topic on the notice paper, Modern Revivalism', how the Church should regard it," but it was not discussed. The meeting then terminated.