“He was about eight years, from first to last, labouring in the word and doctrine at Worthenbury, and his labour was not altogether in vain. He saw in many of the travail of his own soul to the rejoicing of his heart, but with this particular dispensation, which I have heard him sometimes speak of, that most or all of those in that parish, whom he was, through grace, instrumental of good to, died before he left the parish, or quickly after; so that within a few years after his removal thence, there were very few of the visible fruits of his ministry there; and a new generation sprung up there, who knew not Joseph. Yet the opportunity he found there was of doing the more good, by having those that were his charge near about him, made him all his days bear his testimony to parish order, where it may be had upon good terms, as much more eligible, and more likely to answer the end, than the congregational way of gathering churches from places far distant, which could not ordinarily meet to worship God together.’ From this experience here, though he would say, we must do what we can, when we cannot do what we would, he often wished and prayed for the opening of a door, by which to return to that order again.”
Archive for the ‘Church of England’ Category
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), ardent advocate of the parish in modern society, commended his Anglican contemporary, Charles Bridges (1794-1869), as a model of a man dedicated to the cure of souls. “My excellent friend, the Rev. Charles Bridges, of Old Newton, Suffolk, finds, I am sure, most ample occupation among those six hundred people whom he may be said to have domesticated into one parochial family; and, were it not for his still more important services to the Christian church at large, would show, by his incessant labours, how possible it were to make out a most beneficial expenditure of all his strength and all his time amongst them” (Collected Works 18:62). This quote certainly illustrates Chalmers’ high regard for evangelical Anglicanism, the better part of the established Kirk’s English counterpart. But there’s something else here as well.
Those of us today who read and appreciate Bridges’ great classic The Christian Ministry can easily fail to realize that he was not writing as a congregational, but as a parochial minister. Chalmers refers to Bridges precisely for this reason. This fact sheds light on Part V of Bridges’ work, “The Pastoral Work of the Christian Ministry.” In that section, he treats the wide range of individual cases that the pastor must treat in his charge. The first two classes are “The Infidel” and “The Ignorant and Careless.” Not your typical church member – or your typical church attender! But a percentage of the 600 souls under Bridges’ geographic charge.
Below is an exceprt from Hints on the Art of Catechising by Edward Bather, a 19th century clergyman in the Church of England. Quite helpful material from an obviously seasoned catechist. Enjoy!
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I shall understand catechising, then, as it is commonly defined—namely, as signifying—instruction in the first rudiments of any art or science, communicated by asking questions and hearing and correcting the answers. And if I may be allowed to put my meaning into very familiar phrase, and to state plainly what I would recommend, it is this —That the catechist, having taken for his basis, or the subject matter to be unfolded, either some portion of the Church Catechism itself, or some text which illustrates it, or both, should then first “instruct” his pupils by questioning the meaning into them, and then “examine” them by questioning it out of them. The first process, it is obvious, may most conveniently be attended to in the school, and the second in the church: or, in other words, in the school, where he has most time, and is in least fear of being tedious, he will naturally most apply himself to put those questions by which he means to conduct his pupils into knowledge of the subject; and in the church, those by which he would give them opportunity to produce their knowledge; but in neither situation will he confine himself to either mode exclusively. And then I say, when the meaning of any general head of faith or practice, as proved and illustrated by Scripture, shall have been got out of the children in its particulars, or piece by piece, in answer to the questions put to them—those children themselves and the by-standers together will be a congregation, just in a fit condition to profit, under God, by exhortation or preaching: and there are two ways in which the minister may address them with great advantage. He has the opportunity, whilst the catechetical instruction is proceeding, of interspersing, as he gets his replies, many brief remarks and practical observations in a natural and lively, and therefore attractive and affecting manner; or he may sum up the particulars afterwards in a short discourse, and ground upon them, with good effect, the admonitions which they obviously suggest.
But of this I shall have more to say presently. The practice recommended has, of course, its difficulties, and the method cannot be fully shown without more minute examples than can well be given in an address of this nature. I may possibly, however, explain myself in some degree. The thing to be done is to possess the minds of a number of ignorant and heedless children with the sense and meaning—we will say—of one of our Lord’s parables, and to bring them to perceive and consider the practical lesson which it is intended to convey. In order to this, their attention must in the first place be gained and fixed, and then there will probably be words and phrases to be explained, perhaps old customs also—the literal story or similitude to be compared with the religious truth or doctrine which it is employed to illustrate, and other portions of Scripture to be cited, and brought to bear on the point in hand, in a way of confirmation or further exposition. Then there are two ways of proceeding: you may preach or lecture upon the subject, and in so doing, you tell your hearers what you have acquired and ascertained yourselves: or else you may communicate instruction as I advise, by asking questions, and correcting the answers; or I should rather say, by bringing the children themselves to correct them, by means of further questioning on your part. And in that case they tell you every thing. The truth and meaning comes out of their mouths to you, not out of yours to them, though it is certain you guide them to it, and put it into them. Everybody knows what in the language of the bar is meant by asking leading questions, and that a witness must not be led—because there the object is not to instruct or tell him what he should say, but to examine him or inquire what he really knows and has to say; but the case of which we are now speaking being exactly the reverse, the catechist’s aim being, at least in the first instance, to instil, and not to extract, his proceedings must be just what the advocate’s ought not to be. And then the whole “skill,” to use the words of Herbert in the Country Parson, “consists but in these three points; first an aim and mark of the whole discourse whither to drive the answerer, which the questionist must have in his mind before any question be propounded, upon which and to which the questions are to be chained. Secondly, a most plain and easy framing of the question, even containing in virtue the answer also, especially to the more ignorant. Thirdly, when the answerer sticks, an illustrating of the thing by something else which he knows, making what he knows serve him in what he knows not” (pp. 18-21).
“The sounder part of the Scottish nation know what good their ancestors derived from their Church, and feel how deeply the living generation is indebted to it. . . . Visionary notions have in all ages been afloat upon the subject of best providing for the clergy; notions which have been sincerely entertained by good men, with a view to the improvement of that order, and eagerly caught at and dwelt upon by the designing, for its degradation and disparagement. Some are beguiled by what they call the Voluntary system, not seeing (what stares one in the face at the very threshold) that they who stand in most need of religious instruction are unconscious of the want, and therefore cannot reasonably be expected to make any sacrifices in order to supply it. Will the licentious, the sensual, and the depraved, take from the means of their gratifications and pursuits, to support a discipline that cannot advance without uprooting the trees that bear the fruit which they devour so greedily? Will they pay the price of that seed whose harvest is to be reaped in an invisible world? A Voluntary system for the religious exigencies of a people numerous and circumstanced as we are! Not more absurd would it be to expect that a knot of boys should draw upon the pittance of their pocket-money to build schools, or out of the abundance of their discretion be able to select fit masters to teach and keep them in order! Some, who clearly perceive the incompetence and folly of such a scheme for the agricultural part of the people, nevertheless think it feasible in large towns, where the rich might subscribe for the religious instruction of the poor. Alas! they know little of the thick darkness that spreads over the streets and alleys of our large towns. The parish of Lambeth, a few years since, contained not mora than one church, and three or four small proprietary chapels, while Dissenting chapels, of every denomination, were still more scantily found there; yet the inhabitants of the parish amounted at that time to upwards of 50,000. Were the parish church and the chapels of the Establishment existing there an impediment to the spread of the Gospel among that mass of people? Who shall dare to say so? But if any one, in the face of the fact which has just been stated, and in opposition to authentic reports to the same effect from various other quarters, should still contend that a Voluntary system is sufficient for the spread and maintenance of religion, we would ask, What kind of religion? Wherein would it differ, among the many, from deplorable fanaticism?
“For the preservation of the Church Establishment, all men, whether they belong to it or not, could they perceive their own interest, would be strenuous; but how inadequate are its provisions for the needs of the country! and how much is it to be regretted that, while its zealous friends yield to alarms on account of the hostility of Dissent, they should so much overrate the danger to be apprehended from that quarter, and almost overlook the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow-countrymen, though formally and nominally of the Church of England, never enter her places of worship, neither have they communication with her ministers! This deplorable state of things was partly produced by a decay of zeal among the rich and influential, and partly by a want of due expansive power in the constitution of the Establishment as regulated by law. Private benefactors in their efforts to build and endow churches have been frustrated, or too much impeded, by legal obstacles; these, where they are unreasonable or unfitted for the times, ought to be removed; and, keeping clear of intolerance and injustice, means should be taken to render the presence and powers of the Church commensurate with the wants of a shifting and still increasing population” (Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, 606, 607).