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which are born and bred in the clergyman as in other men, are of such strength as to prevent him adopting modes of offence and defence which would be deemed not only permissible but actually necessary were he treating with members of his own sex.
One knows the woman in the slums who jeers and fleers her husband, heaping insult upon insult on him as he stands, speechless and stolid before her, the centre of an interested and excited crowd. The weight of sympathy is all on the husband's side until, goaded to fury, the much-tried man raises his clenched fist. Then comes one of those sudden revulsions of feeling common to primitive people, and, amid shrieks of 'Coward !'a phalanx of femininity bears down upon the domestic tyrant, threatening annihilation.
The case is somewhat similar with the parish priest who has a Ladies' Settlement within his borders; the case is somewhat similar with one who ventures, as I am venturing, to oppose a feminine institution. People, and especially women, will sympathise, and will express their sympathy in inspiring words, so long as the priest or the essay writer bears the whips and scorns of feminine craft with an equal mind'; but let him lift his little finger to defend himself withal, and his conduct will not be expressible in terms of polite language.
But to the business of this paper. And, first, What is a Ladies' Settlement ?
Well, a Ladies' Settlement may be described as an establishment for ladies who desire to do social work among the poor. These residents, or ‘settlers' as we may call them, live in community, sharing for the nonce a common life. With very rare exceptions they pay for their board and lodging just as if they were staying at an hotel, and they are under more or less stringent rules as if they were nuns in a convent. The ostensible reason for the existence of a Ladies' Settlement is work among the poor, and this the residents undertake, under the direction of the head,' so far as their numbers and abilities will warrant, in any parish in their neighbourhood whose incumbent is desirous of their services.
What is the origin of the Ladies' Settlement ? It is historically true to answer that the Ladies' Settlement is an imitation of the Men's Settlement (why does not one say the Gentlemen's Settlement ?), which first saw the light in 1885. What the men could do surely the women could do! If men were able to accomplish work on other than parochial lines, certainly women would be able to do the same ! That, I suppose, was the mode of argument which ultimately resulted in the first Ladies' Settlement.
The Ladies' Settlement, then, it must be frankly conceded, is the lawful offspring of that practical spirit which is the most marked characteristic of this age. It aims at supplying the deficiencies of the parochial organisation. The parish, quâ parish, is supposed to be lacking in practical enthusiasm and in practical knowledge. Its methods are considered too old-fashioned to be allowed to remain unrelieved by some system more up to date. The parish, presumably, is too much given over to prayer and theology, too intent on the saving of its own little parochial soul. Look at it how you will, the only excuse for the establishment of a Settlement in a parish is that the parochial system is not up to the mark.
Well, if that be so, all honour to the Settlement for coming to the rescue! But is it so ?
Our answer is emphatically in the negative. The modern parish contains within it all that is requisite for its own vigorous life. There is not a single branch of work undertaken by the Ladies' Settlement which devout and practical women could not far better undertake as integral parts of the parish organisation. It is little short of impertinence for such a society as a Settlement to establish itself in the midst of a parish, even with the consent of the incumbent, a society the very purpose of whose being is confessedly to supplement the deficiencies of the parish. It is downright impertinence for such a society to establish itself in the parish in defiance of the incumbent. In the latter case there can be no permanent peace for the parish. A semblance of peace may be maintained for a time, but even so with difficulty. Sooner or later trouble will supervene. A condition of unstable equilibrium will be created in the affairs of the parish, an equilibrium which is purely ephemeral, and must inevitably result in the crippling of the usefulness or even in the breaking down of the integrity of the parish.
History has something to tell us of the dangers we are courting.
What about the monastic establishments of the thirteenth century ? The regulars of that time were puritanically severe on the doctrine and discipline of the parish priests, and set up counter-claims of supremacy both in faith and morals. They had the ear of the Pope, who relieved them from obedience to the diocesan bishops. Worse still, they had the ear of the people, who supported with fanatical zeal their claims to independence. It is a fact that, as a consequence of their action, the parish churches were emptied and the prestige of the parish clergy was seriously impaired.
What about Nonconformity ?
Nonconformity, be it observed, not Dissent. For it cannot be too often insisted upon that the Nonconformists, however misguided they may have been, were Churchmen who meant well for the Church and therefore remained within the fold of the Church; while Dissenters cut themselves off from the Church, and were inimical to her, regarding her spirit as alien to the spirit of Christ.
What, then, about Nonconformity ?
It also owed its origin to a desire, real or affected, to improve the Church on non-Church lines. One could illustrate this fact almost
indefinitely, but I will content myself with making reference to two examples only-namely, to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion and to Wesleyan Methodism.
Selina, Lady Huntingdon, was, as is well known, a zealous Churchwoman, and, apparently under the impression that she was acting within her rights as a peeress, and certainly in the full conviction that she was benefiting the Church, she appointed as many clergymen as she chose to the position of private chaplains to herself. With the earnest intention of improving upon the parochial system, she erected at her own cost a large number of chapels in various parts of the country, into the pulpits of which she placed her chaplains, and in this manner innocently established a schismatical body, virtually subject to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, which menaced, and menaced successfully, many a parish in which a hard-working incumbent was doing his best to cure the souls committed to his charge.
The Countess of Huntingdon's weakness was that of so many strong-minded women : she wanted to rule the roost. And she did, in point of fact, rule the roost so successfully that in her time she occupied a position analogous to that of the Pope himself. She meant well, but the harm she did to the Church of which she professed herself to be a loyal member was enormous.
Or take the case of Methodism. The very object—not merely ostensible, but actual—of that great movement headed by the two Wesleys was to supply the deficiencies of parochialism.
What was the result? Well, we see the result to-day in every parish in England. John and Charles Wesley were Churchmen, as the Countess of Huntingdon was a Churchwoman; and the injury all three inflicted on their spiritual Mother was in direct proportion to the reality of their Churchmanship. Had they been Dissenters, in recognised separation from the Catholic Church of this country, the movements which they inaugurated would probably never have attained the dimensions which we see them to have attained to-day. Churchmen they were indeed, but they worked, albeit unconsciously, with amazing energy and with equally amazing success, for the weakening and disruption of the Church.
Curious it is to reflect how history repeats itself and yet how slow we are to learn its oft-repeated lessons. First, the open anti-parochialism of the monks. Then the unconscious anti-parochialism of Church reformers. Lastly, the veiled anti-parochialism of the Settlement workers. And the Settlement of to-day sniffs at the work of the parish priest, precisely as early Methodism did; intrudes itself into parishes where it is not wanted, precisely as the Countess of Huntingdon did; begs the episcopal blessing on its schismatical doings, precisely as ancient Monasticism did. For the hundredth time English Churchmen are repeating the errors of their forefathers, and laying up for their children's children a store of trouble for which future generations will certainly not call them blessed.
Moreover, the very evils--assumption of superiority, overlapping, competition, mutual antagonism-which have weakened Dissenting societies in the past, and from which they have, during the last few years, shaken themselves free, are practically those evils which we Church people are encouraging to-day for the purpose of strengthening our hands. Churchmen who know the inwardness of Dissent look with real alarm on the adoption by the Church of England of methods which are being discarded wholesale by Dissent itself. While Dissenters are nerving themselves to unheard-of efforts to unify their manifold and hitherto mutually exclusive societies (witness the recent establishment of that heterogeneous combination of Christian bodies under the name of The Free Church '), the Anglican Church, the greatest Christian Society of them all, is feebly allowing the seeds of disruption to fall wheresoever they list.
Nothing but disaster can result from the mistaken policy of establishing rival institutions in parishes already well equipped for social and religious work, of creating rival ‘ heads' to the head of the parish recognised by the Church. Individual systems, founded upon the vanity of stupid people with money, or of clever people without, must necessarily fail, and fail disastrously, because they sever rather than unite, create schism rather than promote union. Everyone who realises the evil of competition, who understands the value of the aphorism • Union is strength,' is eagerly seeking some solution of the mutual separation which exists between the Church on the one side and the various Christian bodies outside the Church on the other. Is it a time for the Church, to whom unity is not merely strength but actual existence, to be trifling with a mode of philanthropic activity which must prove divisive rather than cohesive? Somehow or other, for all religious and philanthropical societies, a single system in place of a multiplicity of systems is passionately desiderated. Somehow or other co-operation must take the place of individualism. How ill, then, it becomes the Church of England, whose sense of unity is somewhat in the nature of an instinct of self-preservation, to encourage anything approaching to schism within her borders ! A house divided against itself cannot stand ; and if the House of the Church, One in the bond of fellowship typified by the One Bread, is to be compelled to foster, at its own fireside as it were, the spirit of exclusiveness and superiority, there will be an end to all unity.
The objection, then, to the Ladies' Settlement lies in the simple fact that its tendency is to militate against that cohesion and that efficiency without which the Church must cease, as Lord Salisbury long ago said it had ceased, to 'count.'
Let us trace the manner in which this tendency works out in practice. It should be carefully observed for all the trouble arises
hence that the Settlement claims independence of the parish priest, owning exclusive allegiance to its self-constituted 'head.' From the point of view of Church order and discipline this is revolutionary in the extreme. No Anglican Settlement can lawfully substantiate the claim to independence, nor can residents in a Settlement pretend to the position of freelances. So long as the parocbial system exists—I am not saying that it should exist : still less am I denying that there is room in it for improvement-but so long as it exists, every Churchman and Churchwoman among us is bound loyally to support it. We cannot escape our responsibilities by denominating ourselves members of an institution which owes no allegiance to the parish priest, nor may we enjoy the privileges of the Church and at the same time adopt an attitude which is opposed to Church order. For, be it said once and for all, the Settlement ideal and the parish ideal are as opposite to each other as East is to West.
The only conceivable way in which the Settlement could break down this essential opposition is by identifying itself with the parish ; but by doing so it would cease to exist as a Settlement, and become a mere parochial organisation. And this, of course, in its pride it cannot condescend to become, for its claim to independence is inherent in its very nature.
It would be amusing, were it not so sad, to observe how compromising is the position in which well-meaning ladies are placed when they first come to reside in a Settlement. Hitherto, we may safely assume, they have been accustomed to regard the vicar as the head, and the vicarage as the centre, of the parish and all its works. Now they have to learn a new lesson-namely, that there is a Church authority in the parish independent of the vicar and the vicarage, who can say, and does say, to this one, Go,' and she goeth, and to another, 'Come,' and she cometh. It surely does not require exceptional insight to perceive that under such conditions trouble in the parish is inevitable.
Consider a few possible cases of friction, drawn, be it observed, not from a fevered imagination, but from cold and colourless fact.
A lady told off to serve a parish (much, by the way, as a private soldier might be told off by his officer for special service) is asked to visit a certain parishioner on whose case a report is immediately required. A couple of hours pass. Nothing transpires. Impatient of waiting, the clergyman applies to the head' for an explanation. The reply received is : 'I am sorry, but Miss So-and-So was obliged to go off on other business of the House, and could not attend to the matter you mentioned to her.'
Or, again, a Sunday-school superintendent seizes with wild enthusiasm on a Settlement lady as teacher. At the end of a month, just as the lady is beginning to understand and comply with the order of the school, she smilingly informs the astonished superintendent that