W3C Priests and Parsons DO U KNOW?

Christmas is a time of sharing, fighting over a bargain at Tesco, holly, snow and hunting, but where would Christmas be without the priest leaning over his pulpit on Christmas Eve giving some “appropriate” sermon to a congregation, who, in the main are so full of drink they are desperate to pee, get home to wrap the presents or go to sleep?

Here is a piece about priests and a HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

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The parish clerk is fast on the wane, and the few country churches which know him today will soon for ever know him no more; and he too, will be counted among the things of the past. And maybe this is well; for “Never,” said a late minister of St George’s, Kendal, “was I so much ashamed in my life, as upon one occasion when doing duty in Crook Church, and after having given out the wrong day of the month before singing the morning Psalms, the clerk looked up and said, “Nay, parson, yer wrang however, it’s t’ day efter.” Not less “rough and ready” and the parish clerk at Crook, was the one many years ago at Grayrigg. After sounding on his pitch-pipe “tutle-tutle-tuttle-tu,” he would walk up the aisle repeating in broad dialect, “Let’s begin t’ worship o’ God wi’ singin’ t’ Morning Hymn,” and then choir, worshippers, parson, and clerk would bang away at “Awake my soul and with the sun,” etc.

In one parish the church had been erected almost at the sole expense of the squire–his family had made a free gift of the site, the materials for building were paid for by him, and he too had endowed it. Under the circumstances how could the parson (whose stipend, by the way, was also paid by the squire) commence service without his presence. And so it fell out that when this jovial, good natured, fox-hunting country justice happened to be a few minutes late, the parson and congregation waited until he came. It happened, however, upon one occasion that the squire’s absence was not noticed by the parson, as the squire’s lady and family were already in their pew, and so he began to read “When the wicked man turneth a-----.” Here he was interrupted by the terribly malapropos exclamation of the clerk, “Stop! Stop! He hasn’t come yet!”

In villages which bordered upon the sea, it was a custom, as already remarked, to despoil the wreckage when vessels were driven upon the coast. In one such village there stood a small church upon the beach, and into this church there rushed, one Sunday morning, an excited parishioner with the news that a well-laden vessel had been driven ashore. The members of the congregation were immediately upon their feet, and rushing towards the door, when their pastor appealed to them in solemn tones, “Brethren,” said he, “just one word; let’s start fair,” and then bolted out of the vestry door.

It happened by some strange combination of circumstances that most parish clerks were either tailors or shoemakers, so that Sunday offered a favourable opportunity for “measuring” their customers, which took place in the church porch. In Selside, during good Parson Airey’s time, “Tommy” Stubbs was clerk and also shoemaker; when the parishioners brought their shoes with them to church, so that Tommy might take them home with him to mend, it was no uncommon thing to see the old clergyman sitting on a tombstone critically examining the shoes, remarking that this would want a “speck” here, and that a patch there, and so on to the end of the lot. In the meantime the clerk himself was proclaiming the sales by auction and otherwise of farming stock, so many “steeks o’ peeats”, flitches of home-cured bacon, turnips, potatoes, etc. In Selside the story runs that Parson Airey it was who, upon one occasion when there were not many present at the administration of Holy Communion, whispered to those kneeling at the rails, “There’s not many of us this morning, ye mun drink gayley deep.”

From Selside we go to Longsleddale, and expect to find things more primitive still. For many years the church there was without a door, and so the cattle used to enter and pollute the place. To prevent this a large thorn bush was dragged into the doorway. After service (the Parson leaving by the vestry door) it was a case of “last oot put t’thorn it dewersteead”, and hence immediately service was over there was a rush so as not to be “last out”. Said someone to the Parson at Longsleddale, “Yours is a model parish; you’ve no public house and no disturbing influences. In winter, now, when only a few come to church, how do you do?” “Wait as long as we can, and if they don’t come then, why, we’ve no service.” A clerk in this dale was in possession of the strongest pair of lungs in the countryside; he could not only drown the parson’s voice but that of the assembled congregation, and he did it, too. It used to be the custom in Longsleddale (prior to a civilized gentleman from the South becoming an inhabitant of the dale) to hold wrestling matches in the Chapel Field, play marbles in the church porch, etc., before the service. When the bell had tolled for the last time, the “Sleddale lads” would put on their coats, jump over the wall into the churchyard, and come filing into church, spitting on their hands as they did so, to smooth down their hair. Nowhere, however, would you find more genuine piety than in this secluded mountain church, and that of which we have just spoken was no infringement of the precept conveyed by the words, “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath Day,” at least in their code of morality. Miss Harriet Martineau was fond of relating an anecdote of a Keswick parson who could get through the service in a shorter time than anyone else. He would give any clergyman living a start as far as the words “Suffered under Pontius Pilate,” in the Apostles’ Creed, and volunteer to beat him before the end.

Parson Sewell (or “Priest,” as he was called by the Troutbeck folk who formed his flock) was a good type of the pastors of a by-gone day. Before commencing service, he one Sunday leaned over the pulpit and said to a parishioner, “Have you seen owt of two lile sheep o’ mine; they’re smittin i’ t’ear like yours, but deeper i’ t’smit?” We believe, too, that upon one occasion he “laid” a ghost that was in the habit of troubling one of his flock. On another occasion, when he had mounted the pulpit he found he had forgotten his sermon, and offered to read in its stead a chapter from Job, remarking that it was better than anything he could possibly give them. When the snow lay deep upon the ground he would invite his small congregation to sit by the fire in the vestry, and after waiting long he would remark that they “mud do something,” and then led the way into the church, adjusting his gown as he went. After he and the few worshippers had “done something”, they could adjourn to the little inn, a frequent occurrence, drink each other’s healths, talk over the fox-hunting of the past, and that which was to come. Some of the folks in Troutbeck have been uncharitable enough to say they sang good old fox-hunting songs. It was Parson Sewell, who, when asked to offer up the “Prayer for fair weather,” replied, “It’s nae use, Tommy, es lang es t’wind i’ this quarter.” One Annes Jackson, for some sin of her frail nature, had to do penance in her girlhood by walking barefoot through Troutbeck in a white sheet. This was afterwards suspended behind the vestry door, and was once donned by a stranger parson who had come to officiate. Remarking its soiled appearance to the clerk, he was told to take it off, as it was “old Annes’ penance sheet.”

At Watermillock, in Cumberland, the inhabitants were in the habit of going out hunting on Sundays; their lawlessness and Sabbath breaking became so flagrant that the parson openly from the pulpit denounced them and said, “O, ye wicked of Watermillock, if you go a-hunting any more on the Sabbath-day I’ll go with you;” and the good man being as fond of hunting as any of the rest, kept his word to the letter and went. Parish feeling runs strongly even now-a-days, but not so strongly as at the time the following occurred. An impressive sermon was preached, and all were moved to tears except one old man. Upon being remonstrated with, he said he didn’t cry “because he didn’t belong to the parish.”

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