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An emergency measure

by
12 February 2016

February 11th, 1916.

THE Dean of Manchester [J. E. C. Welldon], in a letter to Wednesday’s Times, drew attention to the approach of a serious crisis for the Church. For some time past ordination lists have shown that the supply of priests has not been keeping pace with the accelerated growth of population. To this fact is now added a further one. Many young and active men have volunteered for service with the troops or in the Navy, and not a few of these have been killed. The Universities, which have always been the nurseries of the priesthood, have shrunk to the mere shadows of themselves, and the theological colleges either are greatly deplenished or have had to close their doors. It will result that, so far from enforcing, as they had designed to do, a higher intellectual standard for ordination candidates, the bishops will be hard put to it to find priests enough, as Bishop Welldon remarks, “for the indispensable functions of baptizing and marrying, of visiting the sick and burying the dead”. In these circumstances, therefore, he would have recourse to the expedient of grouping several small parishes together, a thing much easier to do in these days of the bicycle and the motor-car than it was formerly. The plan would have several advantages for the priest. It would give him the employment that is now denied him, and the aggregate incomes of the livings would go some way towards solving the problem of clerical poverty. If such a plan were generally adopted, whether for an emergency period or as a permanent arrangement, it would need to be executed with discrimination; and local sentiment will have to be carefully considered. We may take an opportunity to refer to this matter again.

 

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