Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Rural Clergy – then and now

In 1890 Dr A Jessopp, Vicar of Scarning in Norfolk wrote:

” When the rector on his induction takes the key of the church, locks himself in and tolls the bell, it is his own passing bell he is ringing. He is shutting himself out from all hope of a future career on earth. He is a man transported for life, to whom there will be no reprieve… for the day he accepts a country benefice he is a shelved man….. once a country parson, always a country parson.”

( From The Country Parson- Anthony Russell 1986.

Here’s a picture of Scarning Church in Norfolk incase you wonder what Rev Jessopp’s church looked like:

scarning church

Scarning Church, near Dereham, Norfolk, pre 1st world war.

So, Rev Jessopp wasnt too enamoured with rural ministry at the close of the 19th century, not least as new life was centred on urban and industrial areas and country clergy were becoming increasingly aware of being left in a backwater. Poverty in country benefices was one of the main problems. In 1906 the average income of an average clergyman was £150 per annum.

It is interesting to read, also from the above book, that after the First World War there was ” an erosion of many social conventions which had previously sustained church attendance – notably the English Sunday – and in the village, the clergy became aware of the competiton of other leisure activities. Bishop Randall Davidson devoted part of his charge to clergy in the diocese of Winchester in 1899 to observing that the bicycle was having a particularly deleterious effect on Sunday church attendance”

No – nothing new there – only now its cars, football and visiting grandparents that are the distraction – though many folk now of course never have been distracted from church as they have never been in the habit of going.

Well, I dont feel that being a Vicar means  that ” I am a shelved woman” – rather the contrary, I find parish ministry so varied its rather exciting-though am not very good at watching the tiredness levels.

What have I done today? Well, I am trying to ease off a bit these August days, and was very grateful that our retired priest  colleague Vernon took Holy Communion whilst I got on with some paper work relating  to our re-ordering projects. I popped over to church to say hello to folk after the service and we decided that the stone knots ( see post a couple of days ago) might be representations of eels  ????  then came back and did some more study sorting.  I had a phone call at noon saying ” did I know there was a hearse outside church and cars waiting” ?

I haven’t moved so quick for ages – surely it could not be – a funeral arranged without my knowing? Fortunately, no, the cars were waiting outisde church before journeying on to another destination. Phew!

Had a lovely visit this afernoon to a family to discus a funeral and then came back and had a nice fish pie. Lots of phone calls and sorting out baptisms coming up soon.

I guess if one is working amongst real poverty and is struggling to make ends meet oneself, then rural ministry can’t have been at all fun 100 years ago. Its easy to romanticise rural living watching TVProgrammes like Lark Rise to Candleford ( Loved it – third series on the way!) and although Flora Thompson’s trilogy paints a rosy picture of rural life, there is still much poverty in the Lark Rise hamlet in the 1890’s.

I feel very privileged being here and often stop and think how amazing it is that parishioners raise so much money not only to keep the churches going and to fund repairs etc but to pay the parish share as well which in turn helps to fund people like me.

Found out there is a photo of me ( again – sorry!) in the Hunts Post – page 13 – and I apologise online publicly to the Huntingdonshire Church bell Restoration Society for not having mentioned their stirling work some months ago in getting our bells ready for a test swing and making them safe. Our bell project, which we hope will get into full swing next year had a great kick start from their efforts.

I love full circle ringing and we hope to have a peal of 6 bells ringing out at Little Paxton church before too long.

Annette with the new bell amended Here is me holding up a new bell at Orton-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire in – can’t remember now – 2005 I think! A bell is very heavy indeed so I needed all my strength to hold it whilst the local paper took a photo….

Happy holidays to those going away  soon – come back safe and well!

August 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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