100 years ago: Paying a penalty for incense

23 May 2007

The Church Times, May 25th, 1907.

IT IS DIFFICULT to reconcile the Bishop of Exeter’s [Dr Archibald Robertson’s] latest decision in regard to the enforcement of discipline in his diocese with his lament over the lack of clerical workers in the towns. Henceforth it is to be the rule that parishes in which incense is used in worship must go without a licensed assistant curate. In pursuance of this policy, his lordship has ordered the removal of the assistant curate of All Saints’ Church, Plymouth, at the beginning of July, and refuses to allow any priest to take his place. A memorial from the parishioners has been addressed to his lordship, pointing out the extreme hardship imposed upon the parish by this reduction of the clerical staff with a corresponding diminution in the amount of work done, and this at a time when the Bishop himself is strongly urging the need of Church extension. At St James the Less, Plymouth, a similar petition has been prepared, in which the Bishop is besought at least to allow an unlicensed priest to work in the parish, and it is pointed out that incense has been used in the church for three and twenty years. . . In itself it is an innocent thing, and, if not explicitly recognised, is implicitly sanctioned on a quite reasonable reading of the rubric. We cannot think that it is a becoming act to cripple the work of a poor parish for the sake of securing compliance with an interpretation of the rubric, against which as much can be said as can be said in its support. At all events, we should like to feel sure that the Bishop of Exeter is prepared to exercise discipline uniformly.

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