Monday, October 15, 2007

Tradition: Tractarianism in Lincolnshire
When I was on vacation recently I took a trip back to the native turf, and ended up buying a copy of a recent book on the history of the parish churches. (For reasons long forgotten there are two parishes in a single benfice under one vicar in Barton-upon-Humber, Lincs.) Although the parish had a moderate but decidedly catholic ethos when I was a kid, I did not realize that the tradiution went back to the 1860s. That said almost all the diocese was moderately Anglo-Catholic before Simon Phipps got hold of it in the 1970s. The only Low Church bishop Lincoln had had in 200 years was Bishop Jackson (1853-69) who was appointed in the wake of the restoration of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in England.

So far as my home parish is concerned the initial skirmish over Tractarianism had been in 1850 when a certain Revd Mr Simpson got himself into a nest of hurt with the local Prods by preaching strongly in favour of Baptismal Regeneration. (He was defended by the “Old High Church” Vicar.) However, the parish went decisively into the Tractarian camp when the Revd George Hogarth became the Vicar in 1858. Hogarth got into trouble for taking the Eastward position, and received an “honourable mention” at an Evangelical rally in Nottingham in 1867 for having celebrated a Requiem Mass. Although he tended to back away from controversy, (for example, he abandoned the Eastward position after the Purchas Judgement) but he worked the parish along Tractarian lines. His successor, Fr Moore, introduced a surplice choir in 1890 (a bit late), and reintroduced the Eastward position which was now officially allowed following the Lincoln Judgement. Fr Moore was also a very keen visitor not just to his own parishoners but to every house in the parish. His note books have survived. The next Vicar, Fr North-Cox, introduced Mass vestments shortly thereafter, and reservation of the Most Blessed Sacrament was in place by 1910.

By the 1920s the main service was a Sung Eucharist, with Matins being relegated to the Mission Church on the Waterside, or was read immediately before the main Mass. The book left me wondering how many other small towns in England had had a similar experience of Tractarianism’s transforming influence on parish life. The sad thing is that since 1945 most High Anglicans have retreated somewhat from the old Tractarian ideas of good liturgy and disciplined parochial life. There seems to have been something of a loss of confidence.

All in all it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the tradition I picked up on as a kid went back that far.... I am still running St Paul’s, Prescott, Arizona much the same way as Fr North-Cox ran St Peter’s with St Mary’s, Barton-on-Humber, Lincs. a hundred years ago!
Fr Peter Robinson
If the Church of England were to fail, it would be found in my parish.
— John Keble

St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, near the railway station: IIRC the first Church of England parish to bring back the chasuble. To this day the Catholic faith is kept there.

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