Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Prayer Book in Jersey

For this Sunday, an interesting historical piece by G.R. Balleine. St Brelade, under the Rector, Michael Halliwell, used to have an occasional French service, and I went to one, purely out of curiosity. It was interesting to hear how the prayer book would have sounded to my Le Marquand and Le Cornu ancestors, who are buried in the church yard. Needless to say, the service was not well attended, as most of the French in Jersey were Catholics. The decline in numbers of French immigrants over the past 50 years has meant that it is very unlikely that many would be around today.

St Thomas Church, in St Helier, still has the Christmas Eve service with the gospel in French, a legacy of those bygone days, although the foreign languages services it holds are now in Portuguese and Polish. Post-Vatican II, it is interesting to note that the Catholics receive communion standing; it is only the Anglicans and Methodists who do kneeling at a rail, although not in all services, and that is fairly recent - the Calvinist practice was to have a table in the centre of the church..

St Brelade's no longer has French services, but they do have occasional services in sign language, although there is no official signed version of the prayer book as far as I am aware.

The Prayer Book in Jersey
By G.R. Bailleine

The Anglican Prayer Book has not been known for four hundred years in Jersey.

True, in 1549, the Order arrived from the Privy Council that the Latin Services were to cease and Cranmer's Prayer Book was to be used in every Church in the Kings dominions. The old services were apparently discontinued, for a few months later the Council thanked the island "for embracing His Majesty's laws in the Order of Divine Service". But what took their place?

An English book would have been in French-speaking Jersey even more unintelligible than a Latin one, and the French translation "for the use of the Churches of Calais, Guisnes, Jersey and Guernsey" was not issued till April, 1550.

Most of the Rectors introduced the only French Prayer Book available, the excellent book of Prieres Ecclesiastiques, compiled by Calvin for Geneva and the French Huguenots, and so the first Anglican book never came into use here.

In 1552 the Government issued a new edition of the Prayer Book, which was translated into French by Francois Philippe. Copies of this reached Jersey in the Spring of 1553; but, before it could be used, the boy King died and was succeeded by his sister Mary, an embittered Romanist. The Latin Services were restored; but Jersey remained Calvinist at heart. When Elizabeth came to the throne, the island sent a deputation to London to try to obtain leave to continue the use of the Prieres Ecclesiastiques, to which the people were accustomed. Elizabeth, as her habit was tried to compromise. The Huguenot Prayer Book might be used in the Town Church "provided that the residue of the parishes continue the Order of Service ordained within this realm without any alteration or innovation". But the country parishes were too firmly welded to the book they knew, and this was quietly ignored.

Calvin's book continued in use in every church in the island for the next sixty years, and copies of it can still be found in many Jersey homes. It survived all through Elizabeth's reign and for the first seventeen years of the reign of James I.

But James, who had been brought up in Knox's Scotland, hated Calvinism, and in 1620, taking advantage of discontent that had arisen among some of the Jersey Calvinists through the ultra-strict discipline of their Church Courts, he swept away the Calvinist system, appointed a Dean, and compelled every church to use a French translation of the English Prayer Book made by Dr. Pierre De Laurie, "but forbearance shall be shown in the use of the surplice, the cross in Baptism, and the reading of the Apocrypha", three points which the Calvinists specially disliked.

This however met with considerable opposition. The Rector of St. Mary's was ejected from his parish for "uttering unreverent speeches against the Book of Common Prayer". Of the Rector of St. John's we are told; "he accepted the Prayer Book much against his will. From the first he never used the responses, and set aside all ceremonies and vain repetitions." The Dean could not persuade even his own congregation to kneel when they received the Communion.

This state of things lasted for twenty-two years. Then with the outbreak of the Civil War Calvinism and the Calvinist Book came back again with a rush. Even during the years when Sir George Carteret held the island for the King he could not enforce the use of the Prayer Book in any church but St. Helier's.

When the Cornmonwealth triumphed, the Prayer Book entirely disappeared. It was not till the Restoration and the appointment of a new Dean in 1672 that the Prayer Book returned to stay. The edition used was a translation made for the French Huguenot Church in London by Jean Durel, a Jerseyrnan who later became Dean of Windsor. Many editions of this were published with sundry emendations, the most important being the revision by the Guernsey S.P.C.K. Committee in 1833 and a fresh revision by the Jersey Clergy in 1886. This last remained the book in use throughout the island, till in this present century the French Services were superseded by English.

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