Articles of Faith 9: a Pulpit pulled down

‘The Lesson thou has taught’

The ninth article of faith is a plain wooden pulpit, although only a third of the original remains. So, let’s climb into it and look down over two very different people from the past: the successive nineteenth century vicars of St Mary’s Church for whom this pulpit proved so important and through which, perhaps, we can discover what lessons each, in their turn, has taught.

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The church as it looked at the changeover with its large three decker pulpit dominating the nave.

‘Old and weary’

By the time William Leigh Morgan left St Mary’s in 1871 ‘he was probably old and weary’ and had resorted to ‘semi-retirement’ in the much quieter parish of Llanmaes near Cowbridge. “It was thought the pastoral charge of a small rural parish would enable him to regain his health,” wrote The Cardiff Times in November 1876 just after his death. “This, however, did not prove to be the case, and since his removal from Cardiff he has frequently been an invalid,”

Morgan had studied at Lampeter, and ministered in parishes solely within the Diocese of Llandaff.  Meanwhile until 1872, Fr Griffith Arthur Jones had spent his whole ministry in the rural parishes of Mid and North Wales, after taking a degree at Jesus College, Oxford.

Perhaps, under these circumstances, they never met or even exchanged a word.

Despite this, how did they view each other? More particularly, how do we, from our own perspectives and experiences, view both? Is Fr Jones a hero of the catholic faith or a thoughtless destroyer of Morgan’s evangelical labours? Is he a dismantler of all that some held dear in order to follow his own principles and beliefs – at any cost – or a man of deep faith who simply wanted to restore the catholic heritage of the Church of England?

Surely, their lives cannot be viewed in such a dualistic way, particularly with distance and hindsight. So, let’s climb into the pulpit from which they both preached, and which caused bitter dissension and division, and look down at their lives and, maybe, discover something of what they had in common.

The Plans of the Patrons

Nothing of what Canon Morgan and Fr Jones achieved at St Mary’s could have been accomplished without the Patrons of the parish who, each in turn, followed their own plans and principles.

When it opened in 1843, St Mary’s Church was more like a preaching house than a traditional church building. The large, centrally placed, three-decker pulpit dominated the space and obscured a small communion table in the apse behind,

The Second Marquess of Bute was an avid evangelical and eulogised by Morgan at his funeral in 1848 as “the friend and patron of true religion.” It was he who made the building of St Mary’s possible but he was also concerned that an evangelical be given the reigns. He convinced the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester Cathedral to transfer the patronage to him on condition that he would foot the bill for the Incumbent’s stipend!

It was this passing of the patronage to the Butes that eventually enabled Fr Jones to succeed Morgan at St Mary’s.

When the second Marquess died, his son inherited the patronage of St Mary’s. In 1868, the third Marquess ‘scandalously’ converted to Roman Catholicism but the patronage of St Mary’s remained with him.  As the father found an evangelical so, following Morgan’s retreat to the country, the son would seek a Tractarian appointing Fr Griffith Arthur Jones which gave rise to the rumour that he was ‘in the pay of the Roman Church.’

The father of Griffith Arthur Jones was himself described as an Evangelical and “a devoted and hard-working parish-priest.”  Whilst, Morgan wasn’t the son of a priest, his family was of firm clerical stock. His uncle was the Vicar of Eglwysilian and another relation, Edmund Morgan, succeeded Morgan at Bedwellty when he was appointed to Roath. All were Welsh speaking Evangelicals.

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The Second Marquess of Bute who appointed the evangelical Canon Morgan to St Mary’s
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The third Marquess of Bute who appointed Fr Griffith Arthur Jones to ST Mary’s

Against the tide

When he retired, Morgan addressed his parishioners. “You have assisted me liberally in maintaining the church, parish, and other charities,” he said, “and enabled me to deliver them into the hands of my successor unburdened with debt.”

Who that successor would be was of great concern to Morgan but perhaps he failed to fathom that such a man as Fr Jones would ever be appointed to the evangelical stronghold of St Mary’s. The pain, for him, was two-fold for his other parish of Roath also received the appointment of a fellow ‘Ritualist,’ Fr Puller.

Likewise, later in his ministry at St Mary’s, Fr Jones had a similar anxiety. His altercations with the bishop over the use of incense fuelled the fear that the curates’ licenses would be removed leaving him alone and forced to retire and give way to a ‘Moderate High Churchman.’ Morgan’s double pain, however, was not felt by Fr Jones who found his successor to be a like-minded friend, a fellow student from his Oxford days, the Reverend Gilbert Heaton.

Meanwhile, back in 1872, the South Wales Daily News, reporting on Fr Jones farewell to the people of Llanegryn, raised the alarm bells, and warned that his leaving ceremony was “of that florid character peculiar to the section of the Anglican Church most of all bent upon what is conventionally styled a restoration of fabric and service.”

“Advocates of religious freedom will, perhaps, find no fault with the proceedings,” it continued, “but it may be open to doubt whether the…devotional feeling among the ordinary worshippers at St. Mary’s will justify the introduction of similar services at that Church.”

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Eventually permission was granted for the pulpit to be considerably reduced in size – by a third – and moved to the side of the church.

‘Preaching the truth’

“We feel that the gospel of Christ has been preached by you in all its purity and simplicity,” said Morgan’s parishioners on the occasion of his retirement, “with an earnestness which showed your extreme anxiety for the souls of your people.”

“As to the all-important matter of preaching the truth of the everlasting gospel,” he replied, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God, but have warned all night and day. As far as I have known the truth, I have conveyed it sincerely to each of you without respect of persons.”

It was the large three decker pulpit from which Morgan preached that gospel “in all its purity and simplicity” which stood as a symbol of disagreement and division for Fr Jones and caused him the greater work.

“The battle which he was called on to fight raged, so to say, specially round two things,” said the biographers of Fr Jones, “his teaching about Confession and his desire to turn what was arranged as a meeting-house into something more like the House of God as fitted for Catholic worship.”

When his first attempt to reduce the pulpit in size and move it to the side failed, he was jeered by a victor in the street, who received the reply that “it will serve well from which to preach the catholic faith.”

At the introduction of the Patronal Festival, two guest preachers (Father Stanton of S. Alban’s, Holborn, and Father Ives of Holy Nativity, Knowle) were banned by the bishop from the pulpit as the newspapers put out by the anti-Church press headlined “Mariolatry at S. Mary’s.”

In the Parish Magazine at the time, it was simply noted “It is unnecessary to dwell upon the sad disappointment we experienced at being prevented from hearing two of those who were to have preached. Silence speaks sometimes, and perhaps their silence may remind us of this, that God’s House is a House of Prayer rather than of preaching.”

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Fr Jones with his like minded successor, Fr Heaton.  Sadly for Morgan, he didn’t enjoy the same experience of being followed by a priest of similar tradition.

The Noisiest Meetings

There were noisy vestry meetings from the outset as parishioners opposed his plans, culminating in a three day Consistory Court to consider his application. The Press reported proceedings with precision with such headlines as ‘Another dispute at St Mary’s.’

And yet “the noisiest Easter Vestries took place at a time when there was nothing approaching high ceremonial at S. Mary’s,” reads his biography, “and when the faculty was granted by Chancellor Ollivant, and S. Mary’s Church adorned and beautified, the opposition practically ceased.”

Admittedly, by this time, many parishioners (up to 1400 claimed the opponents) had abandoned St Mary’s all together. Worshippers of St Mary’s who disagreed with their Vicar bought a site at Cardiff Docks, and opened a temporary iron church in 1878 and later, in 1894, the foundation stone of St Stephen’s Church was laid.

As to the removal of the pulpit, the press reported at the time that “The Chancellor thought that the opposition was more fanciful than real, and no good arguments had been adduced on the side of the opposition why the faculty should not be granted.”

“Those who opposed it seemed to him to be more than one who did not attend the church,” he declared. For him, the reordering simply reflected the common arrangement of the cathedral and most other churches “He did not see anything of a Ritualistic tendency in these changes.”

Likewise, since part of the plan also involved moving the pipe organ, the organist claimed that Canon Morgan would have done the same but was prevented by the expense involved. The application, eventually, was accepted.

Slum Priests

By the mid-1850s the Oxford Movement had moved from the pulpits of the Oxford Colleges to parishes across the Church of England, including many poor areas as priests in so called ‘slum areas’. Ministering in poor communities certainly gave Tractarians a moral strength and spiritual depth, living proof that the Movement was not solely about doctrine and theology or Sacraments and Ritual. This was faith in action.

And yet being a ‘Slum Priest’ was not the sole reserve of catholics. When Fr Jones arrived at St Mary’s, he inherited a parish life deeply embedded in the life of the people with an active concern for the poor and the vulnerable.

Morgan had established clothing banks, took interest in the Young Men’s Christian Association, spoke up about the need for decent sanitation particularly in the midst of the devastating Cholera outbreak of 1849, distributed bibles and charitable aid, established schools, and moved freely through the streets of this growing, bulging docklands ministering to his flock.

He also ministered to the seafaring community, and preached at the opening of a Church for Seamen in 1852. Later an old war ship, HMS Thisbe was used as a centre for seamen, complete with a chapel on board. Morgan further added to these services when he acquired a hospital ship for seamen, The Hamadryad, and in 1870 opened a seamen’s hostel.

Fr Jones built upon and extended this work. The Sisters of Mercy, who arrived in the parish in 1873, did much work among the poor, reached out to mothers and girls, taught in schools and Sunday Schools, and embedded themselves in the lives of those whom they served. Just as Morgan established a tin church in the docks area, so Fr Jones continued with this and likewise did the same in the growing areas of the parish establishing Missions in Temperance Town and Grangetown.

“The schools, which were the heaviest charge, have a large balance in their favour,” said Morgan on his retirement, and this, too, was one of his great achievements inherited by and built upon by Fr Jones, as the population of the parish continued to increase.

They took different approaches to the question of temperance – with Morgan a strict teetotaller. Fr Jones acknowledged that, for some, teetotalism was the answer, and he helped people take the pledge, but generally took the stance of moderation rather than total abstinence for all.

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A fold for every sheep, a shepherd for every fold

In addition to Morgan and his two clergy, there was a Scripture Reader and an association of lay people who visited homes and distributed tracts. In January 1868, he wrote to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners asking for help to provide a third curate or lay worker, drawing attention to such a largely populated parish with its world famous sea port.

Earlier, in 1862, addressing a meeting in Cardiff, he said “What should be done was to carry out the maxim that there should be a fold for every sheep and shepherd for every fold. If they were to multiply the ministers so that every pastor should have the charge of one thousand people then they would have to multiply them ten-fold in Cardiff.”

Whilst Fr Jones gathered a group of like-minded clergy as his Curates, and invited the sisters of East Grinstead it was said fin 1888 when there were six sisters that “we could easily find work for double that number.” There were also Lay readers, and one of Fr Jones’ closest friends and supporters was Mr Thatcher, Secretary of the Diocesan Lay Readers Association.

Meanwhile the Sunday evening Prayer Meetings established by Morgan and regarded by him as the powerhouse of the Parish caused Fr Jones much frustration as they prayed aloud for the conversion of the Vicar and his clergy ‘to the true gospel.’

He turned his attention to the growth of the parish through other small groups – the guilds, particularly The Guild of the Good Shepherd for men which “enabled him gradually to gather together a band of faithful adherents who loyally tried to strengthen his hands, and gave him assistance and encouragement in various ways.”

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Memorial to Henry James Thatcher who served as a Lay reader – and friend – of Fr Jones. He was buried in a grave next to that of his old vicar.  Both Canon Morgan and Fr Jones appointed curates and lay people in their work.

Incense and Inner Circles

Despite their differences, the integrity of both Morgan and Jones is without question. In a letter to Bishop Ollivant from E. Turberville Williams, the bishop is reminded of an incident in November 1871 when Morgan “evidently under the greatest possible emotion, uttered in the presence of your Lordship, two archdeacons and the rural deans, ‘My Lord, you are living in an inner circle.”

Morgan may have enjoyed the benefit of being friends with the Bishop but he was honest and forthright all the same, a characteristic shared by his successor who, at one of the earliest Diocesan Conferences, spoke out most clearly of the use of incense in worship. “Again and again, amid many cries of “No, no,” asserting “Yes, we must have incense; yes, yes.”

But this was the time of the 1874 Public Worship Regulation Act which restricted ritual, and the Archbishop’s Opinion of 1889 which outlawed incense and lights, and Fr Jones’ Tractarianism was not popular with the hierarchy of the Church.

Speaking of his time as Vicar of Llanegryn, his friend, the Revd. J.O Evans, wrote, “I happen to know that the then Bishop of Bangor would have been glad to give him very high preferment as a dignitary but for his ritual.” Morgan, on the other hand, sharing the evangelical faith of his bishop, gained ecclesiastical preferment as a Canon.

Shared Language

Morgan was almost never appointed to St Mary’s as he had been considered for the Parish of Llantrisant which required a Welsh speaker. However, under his Incumbency, an Anglican church for Welsh Speakers had opened in the parish in 1856 but it succumbed to demographics being amongst a population of mostly Irish Catholics.

By the time, Fr Jones arrived, the Welsh services had dispersed across the city. However, he was equally committed to restoring the Welsh services, and through his work, enabled All Saints Church to be built, and was responsible for a number of publications in the Welsh language, including a Welsh Psalter. Meanwhile, Morgan had begged SPCK to print a new edition of the Welsh Bible.

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All Saints’ Church, Tyndall Street – a church built for Welsh speakers during the time of Canon Morgan

Lover of Souls

Called to a house to minister to a dying woman, a member of her family was who a Mormonite preacher tried to engage Morgan in a theological debate about priesthood. “Sir, this is not a fitting place for such controversy,” he replied. “My duties are with the dying. The only priesthood I can now talk of… is our great High Priest. You will be more anxious to pray to that High Priest to hear our prayers, and save the soul of this dying woman.”

Both Morgan and Fr Jones, despite their differences had, at their heart, a lover of souls. When asked by his friend how he could leave such a lovely home as Llanegryn for the slums of Cardiff Docks, Fr Jones replied, “Souls are even more beautiful.”

Enriching differences

In the months before his ordination in 1851, on a three week tour of France, he wrote in his diary about an experience where, in his opinion, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary had become worship. “Would that Christendom was all in communion, so that one part might be a check to the other,” he said.

All to easily, we polarise our opinions, allow our individual beliefs to divide us. Sometimes, even in our own day, some part of the church may be despised or dismissed because of the flow of the tide at the time. But perhaps our differences should not so much divide but enrich us, not so much separate us but become, for us, differences which build communion, “a check to the other.”

Today, many things for which Fr Jones fought for during his time has become part of the mainstream for so many churches – even those with a particular evangelical tradition. And likewise, those who define themselves as catholic have gained much from those who have taught and lived an evangelical faith.

The son of Fr Jones’ Rector in Gwalchmai, the Rev. J. Wynne Jones, said of him, “He had learned the great secret in dealing with Welsh people – through their feelings – and could teach them Catholic truth in evangelical form.”

His friend, Revd George Body, who led a Mission in the parish said, “His character and life were Christ-centred. In the true sense of the word he was an Evangelical Catholic who loved, confessed, and taught the truth as it is in Jesus.”

A night’s repose

Morgan, on leaving St Mary’s after 28 years of ministry in typically humble fashion said, “I know of many deficiencies, faults and failings in my duty. I can honestly say, however, that I tried to do my best, but, oh, how far was that from was that from which I could have wished it been.”

Fr Jones, likewise, served a long time in the same parish. After 31 years he retired to Adamsdown but each Sunday, so his biography goes, “he would drive down to church in a cab and drive back, and feel, quite justly, like the Village Blacksmith: ‘Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night’s repose.’”

The quote is from a much longer poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Despite their differences, William Leigh Morgan and Griffith Arthur Jones were united in the service of the same gospel, lovingly laboured for souls, and helped to change the world in which we live. Perhaps we can take a few more words from that poem, and allow them to be applied to them, each in turn, each in their own way, in their own distinctively rich ministries.

Toiling,—rejoicing,—sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!

Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

Footnote: in addition to using various resources and archive material I am grateful to an essay by Roger Lee Brown in Ten Clerical Lives – Essays relating to the Victorian Church in Wales (2005, Tair Eglwys Press) for additional insights into and information about  William Leigh Morgan

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