Copy of a Letter from the Rev. C. L. Marson
to E. P. Charlewood, Esq.
Secretary to the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline.
Extracted from the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline, Volume II., page 299, et seq.
Reprinted in To the Edge of Triumph; a study of Charles Marson, by Reg Groves. London, The Jubilee Group, 1985.
Hambridge, Near Taunton.
Feast of St. Matthias, MCMV
I beg to acknowledge your letter of 22nd February, 1905, with the report of a spy, concerning the High Mass at Hambridge Church on Sunday within the Octave of Hallowmass, MCMIV.
I gathered from the copious conversation bestowed upon me by your agent (while I took a much needed breakfast after my third Mass) that he was a Donatist heretic and no doubt belonged to the Sect of Anabaptists. May I protest against your employment of an agent of this sort? It was a great indecency.
It was also unnecessary, for I shall always be delighted to give any serious persons, a full account of our public doings; but your agent has supplied you with an ignorant and inaccurate account of the services he witnessed,
Perhaps the church can be described best by a photograph, and I beg to enclose two, From these you can see not only all that the report alludes to in the way of candles, but even more, for the altar is dressed in its best, in the photographs.
The particular service mentioned was the High Mass for All Saints, at 11a.m., 6th November, 1904. I sang it myself and the Rev. A. Lethbridge preached the sermon.
The ministers were two acolytes, a thurifer and a boat-bearer. Before I began the Mass, I confessed my sins to the acolytes and obtained their forgiveness; else I should have been the only unforgiven person in the church.
Incense was used ceremonially as it is in Heaven. Also we used unleavened bread and wine mixed with water (publically mixed, of course), according to Christ's own custom. We rang a bell at the Sanctus and at the Sacring. I was clothed in a Vestment, and washed my hands after the Oblations.
At the Consecration I elevated each species of Blessed Sacrament for worship of Christ. I hope I put in the right number of manual and general acts, and also signed the people with the Holy Sign when I forgave and when I blessed them. The collects used were (1) The Collect for All Saints' (i.e. for the day), (2) for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, (e) the Commendation of the Departed from the Visitation of the Sick. I am not used to offer any public prayers that are not to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, except for the "Agnus Dei" which, of course, was sung.
The kiss of peace was passed round to all the ministers before I communicated. There was one other communicant.
I said the Great Incarnation Gospel with the acolytes at the end of the Mass, reading it from one of the three altar cards.
With regard to my private devotions, these are not prescribed for me, either by the Church, or by the State, and I do not feel called upon to discuss them.
If the Commissioners wish for any further information as to our clothes, chandelry, or as to which of our joints we crook in worship, I shall be delighted to give them every information. But I beg leave to point out that the lives of Christ's poor people are starved and stunted; that their wages are low, their houses often bad and unsanitary and their minds full of darkness and despair. These are the real disorders of the Church and not any faults in my stage management, which is, perhaps, amateur.
I am, sir,
E. P. Charlewood, Esq.
(signed) CHARLES L. MARSON.