Uplifting the Son of Man as the God of Justice

from Uplifting the Son of Man as the God of Justice in our Midst
Issued by the Catholic Crusade in view of the recent events at Thaxted
Thaxted, Church Publishing Company [nd, circa 1919]

HE optimists who prophesied a paradise as the outcome of THE WAR, now find themselves in a fool's paradise. The evil conditions of our social system are still acute, and will grow more rampant until men understand that evil conditions are the outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual rascality on the part of a few, and of inward and spiritual apathy on the part of the many. Once these conditions have been created they react for evil upon the souls of rich and poor, and they must be revolutionised by an immense awakening in the soul of the Nation: for, good conditions are the outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual graces of good fellowship, liberty, justice and mercy in the hearts of the community. Our principal work is not "social reform," but the stirring within the people of the hunger and thirst for the Divine Justice, which alone will secure that all men shall be filled with the eternal things, and with such measure of the temporal things as is needful. This we believe to have been the programme of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, who, at the beginning of His mission, was tempted to become a social reformer, and to use His extraordinary genius for the production of a prolific food supp1y (Matt. iv, 3). For the moment He was tempted to believe that more food, better houses, warmer clothing, would solve the problem of the people's miseries. He at once thrust aside the suggestion as satanic, and countered it with the pronouncement that men do not live by food supplies alone, but by every burning and quickening idea of justice, of worship, and of comradeship that proceeds out of the mouth of God. When these ideas permeate a community, they must inevitably lead to creative upheaval and a new world. In this new world material things will be produced and distributed naturally and almost spontaneously, such production and distribution being the outward and visible sign of this inward and all-permeating Justice.

He refused, therefore, the "bread and circuses" policy of the Empire, but supplied with ample food a crowd who were beginning to hunger and thirst after that Justice which would ultimately destroy the Empire, demonstrating by this act that in the new world, of which this little crowd was the nucleus, with "God and neighbour" as root principle, all material things would be added to them (Matt. xiv, 15). Food, clothing, shelter, can be had in abundance and need no anxious thought in a world of men motived by the Kingdom of God and His Rightness (Matt. vi, 33).

Thus, .Justice and Comradeship was the programme of Jesus, and not onl y did He manifest this in His words and in His deeds, but in His very Life. His friends began to understand that Justice and Comradeship were no mere abstract principles, but the burning heart of God Himself tabernacling amongst them in the Carpenter of Galilee. It was not so much for what He said, or even did, but for what He was that He began to meet with ferocious opposition. He was outlawed from His country, arrested as a danger to the fabric of society, and destroyed by a coalition of the worldlings and the next worldlings. Out of this destruction He arose, in overmastering life, to pour into the Army which He had founded the Power that He had gained, which is indeed the Life of God quickening the Race. He died, rather than be disloyal to the Truth. He died, because Justice and Comradeship are worth dying for. He sealed with His death what He manifested in His life. On Calvary He gathered up, in One Supreme Sacrifice, the sacrifices of heroes, martyrs, prophets, crucified in all lands, from the beginning to the end of time. Thus it was, that the very Person of Justice and Comradeship -- "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. xiii, 8 ) -- was lifted up upon the Cross of Calvary.

Before His destruction He had called His followers together for a common meal which concluded with His taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it to them to share, saying: "This is My Body which is given for you." He took wine and blessed it, and gave it to them saying: "Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood which is shed for. you and for many." By choosing nourishing bread and merry wine and declaring them to be His broken Body and His outpoured Blood, Heshowed that the good God, Who lies concealed under the cover of all health-giving and genial things -- for in Him all things consist and have their being -- is made present and manifest in those same things when they are sacrificially produced and consumed for commonwealth in the new world. The God Who fills the whole universe with His Presence, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, had chosen as His special tabernacle upon earth the Human Babe of Bethlehem. Now He chooses the human meal, with its humble forms of bread and wine consecrated by the Fellowship, as His special trysting-place with men until the Kingdom come. Because He left His army to fight for a new world in which nourishment and pleasure communally shared are the expression of its God-centred life, He gives them bread and wine taken in fellowship: as a foretaste of that coming world; as a cover and guarantee of His perpetual Presence amongst them; as the means by which they are nourished by His Life; and as a stirrup-cup to battle.


To the army, bound together by the Fellowship of the Common Meal, He left, not a series of dead rules, but His living Spirit that they might grow into the knowledge of all Truth. From the earliest times Christians, convinced of the Presence of their Lord under the cover of bread, would take this Holy Bread about with them as a talisman against danger, and for frequent Communion in the home and on the battlefield. So excessive was their devotion that the whole Fellowship had to regulate these uses of the Sacrament outside the common worship. It was not primarily for the private adoration of our Lord, nor even for the private communion of individuals: but later, in face of denials of His Presence, -- and in localities where such heresies were rampant, the whole Fellowship was led by the Spirit to lift up their Lord under the cover of bread, and carry Him abroad to stir the loyalty and devotion of the Faithful. Thus we see that the principle of growth and development, so valued by the modern world, is fully recognised by the Christian Church. No member of the Church would have the hardihood to bring forward the argument that a devotion is put out of court by the lateness of its adoption, if he loves the Blessed Trinity and remembers that its particular worship in a great festival was not introduced into this country until the twelfth century.

We have tried to express in language the mysteries of the religion of Jesus, and by mysteries we do not mean things which mystify, but things which manifest, being the very keys to the understanding of life itself -- mysteries in the sense of things beyond all mental definition and altogether escaping the net of words. If, however, this poor attempt to express them in human terms has in any way suggested to our readers that here may lie the secret of life, we would ask them to join in such worship as we have described, and experience for themselves that awakening which has been the experience of thousands before them. If you believe that the revolution is the will of Jesus, if you believe that the revolution is not the attainment of bourgeois comfort for the many, but the creation of an alert and adventurous world-wide community, do not reject the worship of Christ's Fellowship, but eject the Pharisees and profiteers, who misuse that worship to their own damnation: "Not discerning the Lord's Body"

Like your forefathers the Catholic rebels of the middle ages -- who carried Him in their midst, and celebrated their Red Mass on the field of battle -- you will need Him amongst you, in the Mass, in Processions of the Host, in Benedictions. For in such worship He is present to bless all men and women of good intent who will do His will, and to curse the Pharisees who worship Him and call Him "'Lord, Lord," and do not the things which He says -- who contend for His Presence in the Mass and reject His Presence in the Masses. Such men deny Him in the hungry, the foreigner, the naked, the unwashed; refusing His comradeship in our jails and workhouses, but seeking it only in Churches. Are you content that such pietists should capture the Church of the Living God? Will you not help us to drive them out of our Father's Temple?


In Thaxted the little community which worships at the Parish Church has made some attempt to recover that personal devotion and revolutionary zeal which are equally necessary to the reality and wholeness of the Faith. In Processions of the Host, which have been held for many years in this town, one may find a living illustration of this union of ideas, and a demonstration of the fact that wherever our Lord is present to do battle with the powers of the world He meets with that same furious opposition which darkened His path in Galilee. Hearing that there was to be just such an opposition to our Procession on June 28th, 1919 -- arising, that is, not from simple evangelicals, but from the rowdies of a neighbouring town backed by four or five residents from whom our movement had already received more violent opposition in the matter of Social Justice -- we were the more determined to lift up our Lord in the public ways as the God of Justice and Comradeship. A great number of the people of Thaxted rallied in courage and devotion to the defence of their Lord. In face of the threat of our opponents that the Blessed Sacrament should never return to the Church again, we remembered that as our Lord met without fear or shame the scoffs and threats of His enemies in Palestine, so now He would have His followers bear Him aloft amidst the Hosannas of His friends and the curses of His foes, for "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."


The Events at Thaxted
from Reg Grove's Conrad Noel and the Thaxted Movement, 1968.

On the day of Corpus Christi [1919], the Host was carried in the monstrance from the Church to the Vicarage garden, despite repeated warnings against such a rite from the Bishop, and Noel made it plain that the Host was to be carried in procession, and worshipped at Benediction on the day of the midsummer procession, Saturday June 28th, when Thaxted Church kept high festival "in praise of God and the Catholic Faith, and in honour of Our Lady and the Saints, to whom our forefathers built shrines in Thaxted Church."

Noel argued that he was reviving a ceremony traditionally approved and practised by the English Church. Jesus had chosen the human meal with bread and wine consecrated by the Fellowship as his special trysting place with men until the Kingdom came -- the new world men were to fight for in which nourishment communally shared was to be the expression of its God-centred life. Bread and wine taken in fellowship were a foretaste of that coming world and guarantee of Christ's perpetual presence among men. . .

Though his arguments were presented in terms of the social gospel, and were therefore more pertinent to the time and less obscure to ordinary folk than the theological disputations of the conventional, Romanish Anglo-Catholics, it was to the manner of his activities rather than to the matter that the Bishop was addressing himself, Widdrington supported Noel in his activities, but doubted the legality of many of them, and there were signs that Noel himself had occasional doubts. He admitted, under pressure, the dubious legality of Benediction, where the Host was exposed, elevated and worshipped; and he evaded the whole question of his obligatory obedience to his Bishop in matters of doctrine and ceremonial usage by saying that such obedience was impossible if the Bishop held heretical views on the doctrine of the 'Real Presence of Christ's body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament'.

Watts Ditchfield, like his protege Charles Jenkinson, denied the doctrine of the Real Presence. "When Jesus said 'this is my body', he was speaking figuratively," the Bishop was reported to have told churchgoers in another Essex parish. The consecrated bread and wine, the Bishop went on, were to be treated with reverence not because they were the cover of the actually present body and blood of Christ, but because they represented that body and blood. "He who denies the doctrine forfeits the right to regulate the worship arising from it," said Noel, and despite the Bishop's frequent expressions of disapproval, went ahead with preparations for the procession.

The Festival was advertised in the Church Socialist and in the more decorous pages of the Church Times. "The Catholic Crusade," the advertisement said, "welcomes all who wish to join in the Procession of the Divine Outlaw and to receive His blessing to encourage them in battle, Mere onlookers are not welcomed," Supporters were especially invited. Help might be needed, for it was not only Watts Ditchfield who objected to the Procession of the Host, The Kensitites and others were threat- ening hostile demonstrations, and even physical attack on the Host itself.

The Saturday of Thaxted's ninth midsummer festival was cloudy and sullen. After the morning High Mass, the Vicar, Joad and one or two others, made their way to the Vicarage, where Joad had stayed overnight. Soon afterwards a van drove into Thaxted, the words 'Kensit's Wycliffe Preachers' inscribed on it. The Wycliffe preacher, Henry Baker, held a short meeting outside the Moot Hall, at which he announced his intention of breaking up the outdoor procession. "If the Host is carried out of the Church, it certainly won't get back again," he told a handful of listeners.

It seemed that the Preacher would have supporters from Cambridge, Walden, and perhaps Dunmow. Enough probably to rush the procession in some force. A council of war was held at the Vicarage, to make final plans to protect the Host, the most likely object of Kensitite attack. Noel was there, so was Bucknall; and so were Mason, George Chambers, Godfrey Bell and Ernest Beare. They were joined later by Percy Widdrington and Mark Swabey, Vicar of Stampford. Mason had been chosen originally to carry the monstrance, the vessel containing the Host, which was to be carried beneath a canopy held aloft at four corners by two priests and two laymen. Mason now mentioned that he had achieved some skill at what was then known as ju-ju wrestling. Would he not be better employed guarding rather than carrying the Host? Noel asked Joad if he would carry the monstrance. Joad agreed willingly. "I deemed it a high honour to be allowed to bear the most Holy Sacrament in solemn procession," he said afterwards.

The group at the Vicarage, now swollen by numerous local supporters and visitors, went along Newbiggen Street to the Church soon after two 0' clock. By two thirty the old church was gay with the colours of vestments, banners, streamers of bright ribbons, and the gold, scarlet, yellow and blue hanging head scarves worn by the women and girls. There were at least a dozen priests there, several Church Socialists from London, local people, labourers, craftsmen, workers from the sweet factory, a shopkeeper or two, and, from Easton Lodge, Lady Warwick's second son, the Hon. Maynard Greville and his wife.

Noel spoke from the pulpit, explaining the order of procession. He had been warned, he went on, that there was to be an attack on the Procession and on the Blessed Sacrament. He asked the canopy bearers not to resist -- there was a bodyguard of three army officers on each side of the canopy, and these men would defend the Host. In case of attack, the singers should go on singing -- though the heavens should fall, they should keep on singing, The Procession would return to the Church for a service of Benediction, and afterwards there would be a concert in the Vicarage garden.

Noel then spoke briefly about the beliefs underlying the procession, addressing those present as 'comrades and friends', He told them that they were not there as ritualists, though ritual, like music, had its place in the worship of God, They were there because they were implacable opponents of the selfish, individual soul-saving religion which was taught by Kensitites and Papists alike -in fact, the conflict between the Kensitites and the ritualists and Roman Catholics was a sham fight, like the old sham fight between Conservatives and Liberals, They were there as followers of the outcast who preached good news to the poor and deliverance to the captives, who taught and still teaches his followers to strive for a new heaven and a new earth, a heaven here.

At the end he told them, "I am sure you will all like to know that the Bishop of the Diocese has telegraphed his blessing," and went on to read the Bishop's telegram, which said: "Just heard that it is your intention to carry the Host through streets today. Can scarcely imagine this correct, but if it is, I, as your Father in God, absolutely prohibit the same either inside or outside your church, Shall be glad of a telegram that rumour is incorrect, God bless and Guide you."

"You will notice," said Noel drily, "that he forbids any procession either inside or outside the church. Well, of course, we aren't going to have a procession inside or outside! If anyone feels in conscience unable to take part, in view of what I have just read to you, let him now withdraw,"

No one withdrew, and a painting of St. Peter, which was to hang in the Church, was consecrated, with elaborate ceremony and much sprinkling of water and burning of incense. The painting was by Isobel Cloag, who had spent the last year or two of the war at Thaxted, and who startled many local people by smoking when sitting at her easel in the street or in the churchyard. Isobel Cloag had died at Thaxted and had been buried in the Church, and her family had presented the painting to the Church. It was unveiled by a friend of the Cloags, a Miss Hawley. When this ceremony was over, the congregation sang in un- accompanied plainsong the Magnificat, once described by Thomas Hancock as "the hymn of the universal social revolution", and as "the inspired summary of the tendency and direction of the future social history of the humankind".

"He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

"He hath put down the mighty from their seats; and hath exalted the humble and meek.

"He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away."

The procession then formed, led by the three Widdrington children, dressed to represent St. John the Baptist, St. Lawrence and Mary, Thaxted's three patronal saints. Behind the three children came men and boys in surplices, carrying candles, lanterns, censers, and the cross. After them, came the Host, carried by Joad, and the covering canopy of four poles, held by Chambers and Bell, and Ernest Beare and another layman. On each side of the canopy three officers in uniform took up their positions. Then came the singers, the women and girls in brightly coloured headdresses or veils, and the supporters, carrying the flags and banners. Amid all the vividly bright colours ("all the the colours of the bloody rainbow" protested one hostile spectator) Noel in plain white surplice and black shoulder cape stood out in striking contrast.

With Noel leading the way, the procession started to move: through the door of the church, the singers and supporters singing Thaxted Church. As Noel appeared and walked towards the street, followed by the three children and the rest, there was pandemonium with people shouting and pushing and struggling to get at the processionists, and police, soldiers and local civilians holding them back. Noel went calmly on between the crowds on both sides of the street; and the processionists kept their places, the singers voices rising above the tumult, and the long moving line forming an area of ordered calm in a sea of turbulence and disorder. As the front of the line reached the wide Town Street, the disorder grew.

Baker had many supporters there, and they, with sightseers, rowdies from nearby towns and villages, and local people, some supporters, some neutral, a few hostile, crowded the pavements on both sides of the wide street, and spilled out in large clumps onto the roadway. Hostile farmers had emptied cartloads of horse dung onto the roadway, for use presumably against the Socialist Vicar and his supporters, and against the 'Papists'; and, as the struggling, shouting groups surged on to the roadway, it was clear that Superintendent Flack of Dunmow and his men were greatly outnumbered.

Baker tried to reach the procession at the start, but was pushhed away down the hill. In Town Street, he now made a fresh attempt, shouting, "I protest against this idolatry, this Popery, this blasphemy: we have asked the Bishop of Chelmsford to stop this, and if he won't then laymen must!" As Baker moved out into the road, a lady cyclist ran into him, and as he staggered back, two soldiers grabbed him, and pushed him back into the crowd. Policemen then surrounded Baker, and in the scuffle that followed his hat spun off his head and went spinning away to the ground.

With Baker temporarily out of action, his supporters grew angrier and noisier, and tried hard to get to the procession, but were unable to break through the protecting lines of soldiers, mostly local men, and local people. The lines billowed out as the oppositionists hurled themselves forward, and sometimes pressed in on the procession, especially around the Host, which was always the main objective of the oppositionists' attacks. The processionists were singing St. George for Merry England as they reached the end of Town Street, and began circling slowly for the return journey. Here the crowds almost blocked the road. way, and friend and foe were mixed up, but even here, in the confusion and noise, the officers guarding the Host were not once called upon to defend it, local people and priests beating off all attacks. Noel was moving freely along the lines of the procession, ignoring the protests and shouts, greeting parishioners with a wave of the hand or a smile. As he moved among the throng at the end of Town Street, the face of Charles Jenkinson appeared briefly between the shoulders of two men in front of him, and Jenkinson shouted as Noel moved away, "Stop this blasphemy!" It was thought by those that heard him that he was protesting against the Procession of the Host, as a loyal supporter of Bishop Watts Ditchfield.

As the front ranks of the procession neared the Moot Hall, the processionists and the supporters waiting for them were singing the grand old hymn of the church militant, All People that on Earth Do Dwell, and the sound of it now swelled above the tumult. As the processionists reached the Moot Hall, they formed themselves in ordered ranks in a half-circle, which swayed with the pressures from the shouting surging oppositionists, but held firm for all that. The noise 'grew more frenzied as J oad ascended the steps of the Moot Hall, canying the Host, and turned. Noel and the inner ring of supporters knelt, the outer ring forming a chain of defence against fresh and furious onslaughts by Baker and his followers. Then, for the first time for nearly four hundred years, the Host was exposed and elevated to the people in Thaxted's main street. Though Baker made renewed attacks at this point, the line held, though this time he reached the ring of kneelers and all but broke through them. Noel spoke the prayers, the procession reformed, and led by Noel, made its way up the hill, and back to the Church, between lines of spectators, some shouting in anger but many waving and smiling, the processionists singing When Wilt Thou Save The People. As they went into the Church, Holst at the organ played For All the Saints, to the Vaughan Williams tune and the hymn was taken up with great fervour by everyone as the procession circled the wide church. At the altar, Joad elevated the Host, and returned it to its place, and with the people kneeling in the chapel and right across the transept, Mason took over from Joad for the service of Benediction, Lil Harvey, kneeling among the people, speaking the devotions in her clear, beautiful voice, Watching it all from the beginning, and impressed at the start by the singing of the Magnificat ("To hear the congregation,., sing the Magnificat is a revelation in Church worship") a reporter from the local newspaper who described himself as a "man in the street, unbiased by religious prejudices," noted that "Thaxted people did not distinguish themselves in opposition" to the procession, "this role being left to visitors" and that "The people show extraordinary devotion, and their loyalty to the Vicar is wonderful. If the clergy are to be judged by their works then the influence of the Rev. Conrad Noel is striking testimony,"

In the streets crowds lingered, and Baker held a meeting on the steps of Moot Hall, Some of the Vicarage party went along, and found Mrs. Griffith among the spectators shouting out that something Baker had said was "an insult to Ireland!" When Baker referred to Noel as 'Conrad' someone in the crowd shouted 'show some respect!' Baker replied that nearly everyone he had spoken to in Thaxted had called Noel 'Conrad'; and added, "You can call me Henry if you like,"

From then on he was 'Henry' to the crowd, and heckled in lively fashion. Baker took it all in good humour and did his best with the questions, Church of England clergymen, he argued, were sworn to obey and use the Book of Common Prayer, "protestant through and through", Someone in the crowd called out that the word Protestant was not to be found in the Book. "No," agreed Baker, "it is not. But then a lamp post doesn't have a label on it saying 'this is a lamp post', for it is not necessary. In the same way the Prayer Book doesn't need to be labelled Protestant for everyone to see that it is,"

Matters were not made any easier for Baker by the drunken man who stood on the edge of the crowd roaring in a stentorian voice, "Down with the cursed drink!" Every time he shouted this, the crowd gave a cheer. The drunken man's behaviour was recalled to Joad's mind a little later, when late in the evening, he was stopped in the street by a very drunken man who, seeing Joad's clerical collar, tried very earnestly to convince him of the existence of God. . .

During the afternoon, Joad suggested to the Noels that Baker and his wife should be invited to tea, and with the Noels' assent, walked to the Bakers' caravan, and saw the Wycliffe preacher and his wife. The surprised couple accepted the invitation, and came over to the Vicarage.

They proved to be a pleasant couple, and conversation was friendly, Baker mellowing sufficiently by the end of the meal to admit that in all his experience as a Wycliffe Preacher and protest organiser he had never come across anything remotely like Thaxted.