By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part X - I am a Churchman because I believe the Parochial System to be an unspeakable blessing to the Nation.
It provides for the spiritual needs of all classes throughout the land. “It is the duty and the right of the parochial clergy to visit and to be ready to minister to all, ‘as need shall require and occasion shall be given.’ There is no limitation of the claimants on their services.” There are in England and Wales more than 14,000 parishes, with their Churches, Schools, and other parochial buildings, served by upwards of 20,000 clergy, over whom are 44 Diocesan Bishops. Notwithstanding the large increase of rate-provided Council Schools, the Elementary Church Day Schools in England and Wales in 1922 numbered 10,541, with accommodation for 2,176,185 children.
Important indeed is the work fostered by the Parochial system! Church and schools once built, and the district assigned, the Clergy and staff of workers remain, throughout many and varied changes. Amid any deterioration which may happen to the neighbourhood, the Church, its buildings, organizations, and Clergy remain permanent for the social, moral, and spiritual welfare of the inhabitants for the time being. The English Church is at times referred to as the Church of the wealthy; it is pre-eminently the Church of the poor, bridging over the gulf between the two classes.
Lay members of the Church have now an important and responsible place in Church government. By The Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, was instituted the National Assembly, consisting of three Houses—the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity, with extensive and far-reaching functions. In 1921 the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure, No. 1, became law, by which a Parochial Council as a body corporate, with extensive powers, was to be set up in every parish. The Measure states that “it shall be the primary duty of the Council in every parish to co-operate with the Incumbent in the initiation, conduct and development of Church work both within the parish and outside.”
Whilst recognizing his privileges and duties as a parishioner, the loyal Churchman will not forget what is due from him to his diocese as well as to the Church at large, both at home and overseas.
The attitude of Churchmen towards other Christian bodies should be one of peace and goodwill. Whilst deploring the divisions of Christendom we should strive to have constantly before us the vision and hope of a visible unity of the whole Church, ever manifesting the Apostolic spirit: “Peace be to the brethren, and grace with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” This spirit was happily manifested by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Communion, numbering 252, from all parts of the world, assembled in the Lambeth Conference of 1920, who, in an “Appeal to all Christian People,” said: “We acknowledge all those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and have been baptized into the name of the Holy Trinity, as sharing with us membership in the universal Church of Christ, which is His Body.”
Many other reasons might be given, but those enumerated may suffice to show that there are good and solid grounds for being a member of the Church of England.
I would plead for a strong, intelligent, definite, and loyal Churchmanship. To be a Churchman involves infinitely more than mere Church attendance. To be a Churchman means implicit and intelligent faith in a definite Creed—the Creed of Christendom; hearty adherence to definite Church principles as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles; regular attendance at Public Worship and the Holy Communion; and a whole-hearted share in the activities, charities, and work of the Church. As loyal Churchmen we shall willingly offer to God that which costs us something—“All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.”
Living our Creed, DUTY, both to God and man, will be the supreme keynote of life. We shall make every possible effort for the extension of the Kingdom of God. So shall we know from happy personal experience the unspeakable Joys of Religion—the joy of Faith, the joy of Sacrifice, the joy of Service, and the joy of Adoration and Worship.
As members of a National and Reformed Church, united by the bonds of Apostolic doctrine and fellowship, be it ours, amid eventful and changeful days, to defend and value more than ever the priceless heritage of Evangelical Truth, Apostolic Order, and
Spiritual Freedom, secured to us by the life-blood of our martyred forefathers. The deeper our study of the history and principles of our National Church, the greater will be our love and veneration for it. Walking around its walls, grey with antiquity, and marking its bulwarks, scarred but not weakened by constant conflict with the foes of faith, we shall realize more fully that “God—our Hope and Strength—is in the midst of her; therefore shall she not be removed.” As lovers of our Country, and loyal members of the Church of our fathers, we shall pray and labour for the peace and prosperity of both, that
“Mutually protected and sustained,
They may endure as long as sea surrounds
This favoured land, or sunshine warms her soil.”
THE APOSTLES’ CREED.
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholick Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
MOST gracious Father, we humbly beseech Thee for Thy Holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth and with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where it is superstitious, rectify it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, make up the breaches of it. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before Thee for all estates of men in Thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve Thee, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) NOTE ON THE CREEDS.—The Apostles’ Creed, the oldest and simplest of the three, has its name, not because it was drawn up by the Apostles, but because it embodies their teaching and contains the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. It is found in the Baptismal Services, taught in the Catechism, and used in the Morning and Evening Services. The Nicene Creed, in the Communion Office, was first drawn up at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, and enlarged and ratified by later Councils. Designed to meet some of the early heresies, it treats more fully of the Godhead of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. The Athanasian Creed, which belongs, probably, to the fifth century, bears the name of St. Athanasius, because it asserts those great truths for which he lived and died—a war-song of the Church.