The Eucharist is the Source
A Eucharistic Life
from Saint Alban the Martyr, Holborn: a history of fifty years, by George W. E. Russell. Milwaukee, Young Churchman Co., 1913.
From the day when St. Alban's Church was consecrated even until now, the Blessed Sacrament has been the heart by which it lived, and the centre from which its activities proceeded. Its trials and troubles, not less than its blessings and glories, have sprung from its Eucharistic worship, and its Altar has been, in more senses than one, a shrine of sacrifice. The life of St. Alban's has been a Eucharistic life . . .
The application of the temper nurtured by Eucharistic Communion to 'the whole round of practical life' has been from first to last one of the most striking features of St. Alban's. It has produced that ardent love of souls which we have seen recognized even by opponents, and which has made the life of its clergy a living epistle, known and read of all men. In the days when "the Better Housing of the Poor" was little accounted of, Mr. [A. H.] Mackonochie [first Vicar of St. Alban's] laboured, amid multifarious discouragements, to abolish slums and rookeries, and to promote morality by a crusade against overcrowding. He approached the holy war in the spirit, and almost the words, of Charles Kingsley:
How dare you, in the face of that Baptismal sign of the sprinkled water, keep God's children exposed to filth, brutality, and temptation, which festers in your courts and alleys, making cleanliness impossible, drunkenness all but excusable, prostitution all but natural, self-respect and decency unknown? In that Font is a witness for education and for sanitary reform, which will conquer with the might of an archangel, when every other argument has failed to prove that the masses are after all not mere machines, or 'hands' to be used up in the production of a wealth of which they never taste, with their numbers as far as possible kept down by economical and prudent rulers, to the market-demand for members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.Again, the provision of cheap and wholesome food has been only a small part of the ministry to the body; yet a most real service, and too often contemned. Education, with all the possibilities which it opens up for the humblest and the poorest, has claimed a full share of attention . . . and, in brief, there has been a sustained and many-sided effort to make the lives of the poor brighter, sweeter, and more humane.
The church is, so to say, the centre of a Society or Sodality; differences of worldly station and political opinion have always been wonderfully merged in the sense of a common life. Here again the influence of the Blessed Sacrament is unmistakably at work. Those who share the One Bread and the One Cup are united in membership of the One Body; and this, which should be the ideal of Communion everywhere, but is too often ignored, has been realized at St. Alban's. The sense of Brotherhood and Equality, not less than the allied sense of Freedom, seems to pervade the devotional atmosphere. In days long anterior to the Catholic Revival, and when even Christian men had forgotten the supremacy of the Eucharist, a writer [A. L. Barbauld], little touched by ecclesiasticism, testified thus: "Every time Social Worship is celebrated, it includes a virtual declaration of the Rights of Man."
Fifty years later Charles Kingsley spoke thus, in a memorable and much-censured sermon:
I assert that the business for which God sends a Christian priest to a Christian nation is to preach and practice Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, in the fullest, deepest, widest, simplest meaning of these three great words: that, in so far as he so does, he is a true priest, doing his Lord's work, with his Lord's blessing on him: that , in so far as he does not, he is no priest at all, but a traitor to God and man . . . I assert this in solemn earnest. I believe that the awful words which I have just spoken mean far more than I can conceive. I believe that they apply to me as much as to any one else: that in saying them I have testified against myself, and called down on my own head the curse of God, if I do not preach the message of God. But I must do so. I must confess the truth, and give every man here a handle against me, on the strength of the words which I have chosen for my text ( Luke 4:16-21 ). I say these words express the very pith and marrow of a priest's business. I say they preach Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood to the poor and rich for ever and ever . . .Here again we see the Eucharist working, with its supernatural power, for Social Brotherhood.
What, my friends, is the message of the Lord's Supper? What more distinct sign and pledge that all men are equal? Wherever in the world there may be inequality, it ceases there. One table, one reverential posture, one Bread, one Wine, for high and low, for wise and foolish. That Sacrament proclaims that all alike are brothers of each other, because they are all alike brothers of One -- and He, the son of a village maiden; that Sacrament proclaims that all are equally His debtors -- all equally in need of the pardon which He has bought for them -- and that pardon is equally ready and free to all of them. That Sacrament proclaims that they all equally draw from Him their life, their health, their every strength and faculty of body, mind, and heart. All, therefore, equally bound to live for Him, and therefore for those whom He loved, for whom He laboured, and for whom He died -- for whom He lives and reigns forever -- whose every suffering, and oppression, and neglect He will avenge to the uttermost in the day of His wrath -- in a word, for the people. That Sacrament has told me, Men are thy brothers still. God has made them so; and thou canst not unmake it . . .
It would be well for those who today claim the heritage of early Anglo-Catholicism to learn what it is they are claiming. The struggle for sanitation reform and against the sweatshops where over-worked men, women, and children struggled to earn a meager pittance was part and parcel of the Anglo-Catholic mission, inseparable from the Eucharistic Faith they practised. They lived out in action their conviction that "the bodies of our neighbors are the temples of the Holy Spirit and are therefore to be fed, clothed, and housed adequately." At the root of much of the rioting against "ritualism" in places like St. George's in the East could be found the violent reaction of landlords and sweatshop owners threatened by their Catholic social teaching. Sadly, some who claimed to be Anglo-Catholics joined in the condemnation. J. A. Adderley quotes a letter he received in 1894 from a "High Churchman" who irately dismissed "the discussion of sanitation, living wages, etc." as "the rot which is doing duty for the gospel now". Sounds familiar. - - Ted M.
from Saint Alban the Martyr, Holborn: a history of fifty years.
The most edifying page in the Clergy List is that which records the fact that [Arthur Henry Stanton] has spent the fifty years of his ministry in the curacy to which he was ordained . . . For half a century he has laboured by word and act, in season and out of season, through evil report and good report, to set forth Christ crucified before the gaze of perishing sinners. It has been said that 'The Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants.' Those who through all these years have worshiped and listened and confessed their sins at St. Alban's, Holborn, will be disposed to reply that Jesus and Jesus only is the Religion of Catholics. . . Though himself one of the most experienced and most helpful of Confessors, [Father Stanton] leaves the practice of Confession, as the Church of England leaves it, absolutely voluntary and free. Instead of labouring by a system of minute directions to shape the spiritual life of his penitents to his own ideals, he bestows all his energy on quickening the individual conscience, nerving the individual will, and building up the habit of self-reliance and self-discipline in the things of the soul . . .
'The Freedom of the Spirit' is his ideal. 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' is the divine promise to which he most closely clings. One Easter Day, addressing the school children in St. Alban's Church, he pointed to a representation of Our Lord with a banner in His hand and thus explained it: "There you see Him, rising victorious from the grave. And what does he carry? A banner. Yes, and what banner? The Banner of Liberty -- the liberty which by His death He bought for every human soul.
It is natural that a mind built on these lines should have scant respect for authority; and Mr. Stanton is never better pleased than when proving, from Scripture and history, that Infallibility resides neither at Rome nor at Lambeth, but in that innermost sanctuary of the conscience, where alone God's voice is heard. In matters social and political, he is always, by the very law of his being, 'for the underdog.' All his politics are governed by his religion. 'I know,' he once exclaimed, ' no Liberalism, except that which I have sucked in from the breasts of the Gospel.'
Father Stanton is also quoted as telling an audience on another occasion, "As the only thing I care much for is Socialism, I am a very dangerous lecturer." He was a frequent preacher for the Guild of St. Matthew, beginning with their first service at St. Thomas's, Charterhouse, in 1880, and was a member of the Council of Stewart Headlam's Church and Stage Guild, but held himself "quite aloof" from all the respectable and well-supported High-Church organizations. Mother Kate (Warburton) of the Sisters of St. Margaret writes in her Memories, "In those late [eighteen] sixties and early seventies there was a strong atmosphere of revolutionary socialism about, with which many of the very keen, ardent, earnest young people of that day were strongly impregnated, Father Stanton and Dr. Littledale specially, and I followed the lead . . . To me [Father Stanton] always appears a second Lacodaire, with his warm sympathies, his keen understanding, his warm heart for his friends, and his special gift for dealing with, and winning the hearts of young men." He strongly sympathized with the Paris Commune of 1871, on occasion referring to himself only half in jest as "Citizen Stanton". The "clubs" of the Commune were the inspiration for his formation of a Brotherhood of Jesus of Nazareth for workingmen and boys. He had nothing but scorn for the union of Church and State and was an active campaigner for disestablishment and disendowment. "Now, who ever heard of an established stranger, or an endowed pilgrim?" he asked. - - Ted M. ]
The Mother of us All.
from Saint Alban the Martyr, Holborn: a history of fifty years.
St. Alban's was what no other church was or could be. It was the 'Jerusalem' below, which was 'the mother of us all.' More especially, as time went on, the characteristic noted by the Times -- the number of young men in the congregation -- became more and more conspicuous. Pious women there were in abundance . . . but St. Alban's was from the first a Man's church, and a Young Man's church before all. . .
[The Times had said, in 1866, "Foremost, perhaps, among the devotees are young men of nineteen or twenty years of age, who seem to have the intricacies of Ritualism at their fingers ends."]
The Church of England . . . must show herself to be the Church of the People. She must remember that the note of the Christian Kingdom is that 'the poor have the Gospel preached to them.' She must recall the warning word that 'not many mighty, not many noble, are called.' She must not long to 'rear her mitred front in Courts and Parliaments.' She must repudiate the control of a Godless State, and, with it the patronage of comfortable Philistines, the wealthy, the worldly, and the well-to-do.
The Church which is to win England for Christ must go out into the highways and hedges, into the slums and the cellars and the reeking garrets of a population which lives twelve in a room; and there proclaim the Acceptable Year of the Lord . . . She offers the Supernatural to all who choose to come. She invites the outcast and the downtrodden to find within her holy walls a resting-place, a sanctuary, and a home. She tells them that . . . they have a right to claim a share for themselves, and for their children after them, in the soil, the wealth, the civilization, and the government of this professedly Christian land.
Saint Alban's still exists. The old church is gone, destroyed by incendiary bombs during the Second World War, but a new building of equal size and proportion was opened a few years later. The "young men of nineteen or twenty" still attend its services, I am told, and are still looked down upon by the comfortable Philistines in more "repectable" parishes. In his Glorious Battle; the cultural politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism John Shelton Reed has written a delightfully entertaining book, but it is one that seems to me, at least, to be always just missing the point. He spends a good part of a chapter talking (very discreetly) about these "young men," their "aesthetic" sensibilities" and their "sublimations". It never seems to occur to him that gay men (let's use the word!) flocked to Anglo-Catholic parishes like St. Alban the Martyr in London and St. Mary the Virgin in New York, among others, for the simple reason that there and, until very, very recently, only there could we find "a resting-place, a sanctuary, and a home." -- Ted M.
Previous Bishops of London had refused to visit St. Alban's for Confirmation, but Bishop Temple felt it was his duty to come, despite his disapproval of its ceremonial practices. After the service he is said to have remarked, "I like your work here, but I don't like your incense," to which Father Stanton replied, "Well, my Lord, at eight shillings a pound its the best we can get."