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Forward Plus « Spring 2013 11


A series of portraits of great Anglo-Catholics THERE WERE GIANTS IN THE LAND


O


N THURSDAY 21st Febru- ary this year the parish of


St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the church’s consecration. Te church, rebuilt aſter being almost totally destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, has from its beginning been at the forefront of the Catholic movement in the Church of England. One of the parts that survived the bombing is the beautiful small chapel to the leſt of the entrance to the church itself, dedicated to the memory of its first Vicar, Fr Mackonochie. A fearless pioneer of the revival of dignified and reverent ceremonial in the services of the Church, he was mercilessly persecuted by ex- treme Protestants. Aſter twenty- five years of devoted service to the poor of London, he died, con- fused and lost in a snow storm in the forest of Mamore whilst stay- ing with his friend the Bishop of Argyll.


Catholic Revival From the beginning of his work in Holborn, Mackonochie was supported by Arthur Henry Stan- ton, one of the greatest and most attractive figures of the Catho- lic Revival. Sixty years aſter his death there was a Solemn Mass of Tanksgiving for his life and work. It was a wonderful service, with a number of people there who had known or heard him. Te address, a fitting and worthy tribute, was given by a fine and powerful preacher, Fr Colin Gill, of St Magnus the Martyr, Lon- don bridge. At the end, he paused and said, “You will notice that at the beginning I gave you no text. I give it now. From the Book of Genesis, chapter 6, verse 4: Tere were giants in the land in those days.” It was a moment which I have never forgotten. To that we owe the title of this series of por- traits of those who, with Stanton, changed the face of the Church of England. Give thanks for him on the centenary of his death this year, on Maundy Tursday.


Vocation Born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, June 1839, he was the


on 21st


youngest of eleven children. It was a Christian family, and the young Arthur took his religion seriously.


Arthur Henry Stanton SSC 1839 – 1913


He was fond of churches and enjoyed attending ser- vices. His father, a former naval officer, was a success- ful manufacturer who sent his son to be educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Oxford. He arrived in Ox- ford in 1858, and in the fol- lowing year came under the influence of Dr H.P.Liddon, Vice-Principal of St Ed- mund Hall and Dr Pusey’s friend and biographer, and one of the noted preachers of the time.


Holborn mission Aſter taking his degree, Stanton moved


on to


Cuddesdon where he spent six months in training with Robert Suckling (with whom he would later work) and Edward King, later the saintly Bishop of Lincoln. His holidays were spent working in the missionary district of Holborn, a squalid and over- crowded slum soon to become St Alban’s parish. Tere he accepted a title with Fr Mackonochie and was made deacon in Advent 1862, priest at Trinity 1864. Te church building was not completed until February 1863, so his first servic- es were conducted in a cellar off the Gray’s Inn Road. Bishop Tait warned him that if he went to St Alban’s he should expect no pre- ferment. For the rest of his minis- try he neither sought nor received preferment, instead he worked for fiſty years as honorary assistant curate. His wealth, his health and strength, his giſts and talents were all dedicated to the service of God and his people. He lived simply, spending little on himself (and then not the capital that had been leſt to him, but only the interest), but giving lavishly to the church and to the poor.


Sacrificial love From the first the building of the


church and the establishment of catholic worship involved great struggles. Tere were struggles against poverty and unbelief. Fr


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Mackonochie founded guilds, a nursery, a parish school for five hundred children, obtained a pri- vate burial ground for the parish, and set up an insurance associa- tion to ensure proper funerals and graves for the poor. Te clergy of St Alban’s believed in the Incar- nation and so regarded as their responsibility the welfare of their parishioners in body as in soul. Stanton soon showed that he was a man of unconventional passions, with the courage of the rebel. In social and political matters he was always for the underdog. He sup- ported keenly the Guild of St Mat- thew, Stewart Headlam’s Christian socialist organization. As a Chris- tian, he was instinctively against everything that was unfair, sor- did, unjust or even merely mate- rial. “I know no Liberalism,” he once declared, “except that which I sucked in from the breasts of the Gospel.” He was always willing to help where help was needed. He established the St Alban’s Club for Working Men and was soon in trouble with critics for allowing beer and spirits and cards there. “As long as they don’t get drunk or gamble, where is the harm in a glass of grog or a rubber of whist?” he asked. One of his great efforts, which attracted the help of the young Robert Dolling (later the saint of the Portsmouth slums) was the St Martin’s League for Postmen. Tere were no strings attached to his work: Fr Stanton simply showed the Gospel in ac- tion and let his actions speak for themselves. His love for Christ’s flock, from highest to lowest, for men and women, boys and girls, of every walk in life, was trans- parent. He was there as shepherd. And even the roughest under- stood the message of self-sacrifice and unconditional love that was offered to them over half a cen- tury. He was at ease in the com- pany of any group or individual, and had unfailing humour, pa- tience and goodness. He might be


‘Mr’ Stanton to the outside world, and ‘Father’ to the people of St Alban’s, but to many thousands who knew him as comrade, friend and guide, he was known affec- tionately as ‘Dad’.


Persecution Because of its proximity to


the City of London, St Al- ban’s became an early target for ritual protests. From the beginning Fr Mackonochie and his curates brought beauty and music into the dark and discordant lives of their worshippers. Te Mass and the recitation of the Offices were the cen- tre of their daily worship, and confession at the heart


of their teaching. From 1867 on- wards Mackonochie was brought before one court aſter another by protestors who objected to the forms of worship introduced to the new church. Complaints over candles and vestments, posture and intonation were issued con- stantly. Aſter 15 years of this the vicar was broken in health and forced to resign. Tis relentless persecution had its inevitable ef- fect on the other clergy including Stanton. Early in his ministry, Fr Stanton had made his mark as a preacher. He took as his model the famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon and had lessons in elocution from the great actor- manager Sir Henry Irving. Bishop Wilberforce attended a High Mass to see for himself what this new ‘Ritualism’ was. He heard Stanton preach, and wrote in his diary, “he preached an earnest useful, practical sermon on fasting, its duties, uses, difficulties and temp- tations – thoroughly evangelical, but rather an imitation of Liddon.’ As the years passed, Stanton drew enormous crowds on Sundays for the sermons and on Mondays for the mission service and ad- dresses; but because of the ritual troubles, he was


forbidden to


preach in many places. Speaking at a meeting in 1907 he said that he had never preached a mission or taken a retreat outside the par- ish since 1875. He was by all ac- counts a very great preacher. He prepared his sermons thoroughly, and preached without notes. Vol- umes of notebooks of careful out- lines (some published by his col- league Fr Russell) were found in his study aſter his death. A book of sermons noted verbatim by a shorthand expert also exists and provides an insight into his style. But those who heard him say that what made it a memorable experi- ence was partly the reverence and love and faith of the man him- self, and partly the vividness with which he presented his theme. It


was a wonderful combination of Evangelical fervour and Catholic teaching.


Loving and beloved In 1907 there was a great meet-


ing at Holborn Town Hall to mark his forty-five years of ministry at St Alban’s. He was presented with a chalice and paten, pictures of St Paul’s Cathedral where he had been ordained, of St Alban’s itself, and among other tributes, an ad- dress of love and loyalty signed by 3,600 men. His own speech was entirely in keeping with the oc- casion and the man himself: hu- morous and serious by turns, ‘the revelation’, wrote one observer ‘of utter goodness, humanity and unselfish humility.’


Surrounded


by the love of so many people, he continued his ministry at St Al- ban’s for another five years. On the last Sunday in November 1912, despite feeling ill, he said the early Mass and preached at the High Mass, as it proved, for the last time. He was nursed in the clergy house until January, then taken to his old home in Stroud to be cared for by his sister. His old friend and colleague of forty-six years, Fr Russell took him his communion on the Tursday aſter Easter, and he died the next morning, Friday 28th


March 1913. “If he wills it, I


am willing”, were his last recorded words, just before the end.


A great man His body was brought back to


St Alban’s for the funeral. Af- ter the requiem it was taken for burial in the parish burial ground at Brookwood. Te streets from Holborn to Waterloo Station were lined with many thousands of ordinary people whose lives he had touched. His four colleagues, Frs Suckling, Russell, Hogg and Pearkes, walked on either side of the bier and a hundred other priests followed in procession. “A great man, a great Catholic Christian, a great preacher, a great friend: but above all, a great lover of our Lord Jesus Christ”, said one tribute.


Memorial He had been a friend and ad-


mirer of the architect Ninian Comper, and it was to him that Fr Russell turned to design a chantry chapel at the east end of the south aisle of St Alban’s in Stanton’s memory. Details of the design and photographs of the complet- ed work, which included a stone tomb-chest with a bronze effigy and a marble altar, can be seen in Sir Ninian Comper by Symondson and Bucknall (Spire Books 2006). Fr Russell described the com- pleted work as “one of the superb monuments of modern times, erected to perpetuate one of the worthiest of the men who have been God’s giſt to us.” Tragically, it was destroyed in the bombing; but the memory of Stanton lives on to encourage and inspire.


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