Thursday, 6 August 2015

St Simon's Church - The Changes in 1973 - Part 2

In 1973, St Simon's ceased to exist as a separate Parish, although some services were still held there. Here is the Dean's Letter in "The Pilot" in which he explains what is happening, and why. It is interesting that it was St James Church which became part of the Jersey Arts Centre, when it too closed down.

This is the Jersey Synod report which details the debate which took place. It's extremely well written, with a touch of humour permeating it. I have however had to redact it in one place, where a word was used by Advocate Lemprière which is simply not acceptable today, and I personally would not like to have on my blog.

I have left enough of the word for it to be guessed. The phrase in question originated in the American deep south in the mid-19th century and was used to describe fugitive slaves who hid in piles of firewood as they fled north to Canada. It was used in 20th century Britain as a metaphor to describe a hidden fact or problem. It was recently (in 2008) used by Lord Dixon-Smith in a debate in the House of Lords, who apologised, and said it has just slipped out, noting that ""It was common parlance when I was younger, put it that way".

A Sizzling Synod

The Jersey Deanery Synod met in Church House on February 12, and was confronted with an agenda which must have contained one of the most controversial items which certainly the present Synod has experienced, not to say the former Jersey Decanal Conference.

After opening the Synod with prayers, the Dean proceeded to drop the first bombshell of the evening by announcing that it was not always necessary for him to chair the Synod, and that that evening Jurat L. V. Bailhache had kindly consented to take his place.

Before the Synod had recovered its breath, in the twinkling of an eye, as it were, Jurat Bailhache was in the Dean's chair on the platform, while the Dean was sitting on the floor of the House alongside the inferior clergy.

After the minutes had been dealt with, the chairman called upon Senator R. Vibert, chairman of the Working Party, to address the Synod on the interim report of the Working Party appointed by the Synod to review the work of the Church in St Helier.

In an excellent preamble, Senator Vibert explained the terms of reference of the party, and pointed out what a difficult, exacting and painstaking job it had been. First of all, they had asked all the town churches to supply facts and figures (from their 1970 records), concerning church attendances and numerous other items.

In view of the fact that the number of worshippers at St Simon's was now minimal, and in view of the fact, he said, that the Bishop of Winchester was "reluctant to appoint a new incumbent to that church", the Party had come up with the following recommendations.

First, that the two present ecclesiastical districts of St Simon's and All Saints be merged; second, that All Saints be retained for the corporate worship of the new parish; and third, that a new Vicarage be built on the site available near All Saints.

These recommendations were not unanimously agreed upon by the Working Party – Mr J.S. Hitchcock (Churchwarden, Si Simon's) and the Rev E. A. Dentith (St Luke's) recording minority opposition views.

The chairman then called upon Mr J. S. Hitchcock to address the Synod, as the leader of the opposing views. Mr Hitchcock (suitably attired for the opposition in a polo-necked sweater with the hint of a pink shirt beneath) produced a wealth of information, supported by many documents, and Photostat copies of the minutes' of committee meetings. He had already circulated to all Synod members a closely-printed four-page submission as to why St Simon's should remain a separate entity, with either its own incumbent or to be cared for by a group from one of the religious orders. His speech was both a resume and an amplification his printed submission.

He ended his speech by administering to himself a gratuitous oath that he had spoken the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God.

Immediately, a member rose to his feet and asked whether Mr Hitchcock would be prepared to take the same oath with reference to the postscript of a letter of his (Mr Hitchcock's) which had appeared in that day's Evening Post. Amid some altercation, the chairman intervened to observe that the motion to be debated was difficult enough without bringing in the EP correspondence column, and he therefore ruled this discussion out of order.

After a somewhat lengthy speech by the first speaker (Mrs M. Perchard, St Simons), the chairman decided to limit speeches to approximately five minutes. Advocate Lemprière (Jersey Representative on the General Synod) objected on the grounds that this was the most vital motion ever to have been put forward for many years, and therefore the speeches should carry no time limit. He was over-ruled.

Mrs Perchard was not in favour of the closure of St Simon's nor was she in favour of the sale of the Vicarage, which she described as a house in a terrace of character, and eulogized on the marble mantelpieces within.

The Rev G. Dockrell (St Andrew's) did not agree at all, however, and described the Vicarage as a "rotten house". Nor did he think it fair to saddle a parson with the heavy financial burden of raising money for two churches. He would become an ordained clerk of works.

The Rev E. A. Dentith, representing the minority group of the Working Party, praised Mr Hitchcock for his defence of St Simon's. It gladdened his heart to see a layman fighting for his own church. He said that they must not try to bring the two churches together if they did not wish to worship together. Then, as perhaps befitted a hospital chaplain, he spake a parable and likened St Simon's unto a sick patient in hospital who wanted the operation to be postponed. (His parable was difficult to interpret, as are so many parables).

The Rev G. Baker (St Mark's), also a member of .the Working Party, gave six short sensible reasons why the merger should take place. It had been suggested that the appointment of a younger man to St Simon's might help build up the church. He thought this was not necessarily so, and thought that the money would be better spent on obtaining the services of a curate for one of the busier churches.

The Rev P. Manton (St John's) made an impassioned plea, as only he can, for the retention of St Simon's. If it were closed, the rot would set in, he maintained. He cited the instance of the Methodist Church which had begun by closing one chapel and had ended by closing a chain of them. “The ruination of the Church was the plurality of livings ". If it was a question of finance (and we all know that finance is Mr Manton's strong point), he spoke of the £20,000,000 Island economy and the growth of the merchant banks (though he did not make it clear how this would assist St Simon's). He alleged that the Working Party wanted to "pinch St Simon's Vicarage for All Saints."

Advocate Lemprière thought that the Bishop of Winchester (whom he described as the "n****r in the woodpile ") was responsible for all this by his refusal to appoint, or allow to be appointed, two incumbents, one to each church. He seemed to think that the Bishop was anxious to close one of the town churches, and we were to do as he commanded. He suggested that it was no fault of the Bishop's that St Paul's remained open today.

He, too, thought that the rot was spreading through the Church of England. In his opinion, the Archbishop of Canterbury's main priority was ecumenicism and the streamlining of the Church of England. Like Dr Beeching, he said, His Grace was anxious to close all branch lines. He referred to the attendance at Springfield when the Archbishop celebrated the open-air Communion service there some years ago. The attendance, he thought, was a disgrace. (The advocate did not make it clear whether he was rebuking the church people of the Island for their apathy or citing this as an example of the Archbishop's unpopularity.)

"The Church of England ", said the advocate, "is on the decline in this Island" He went further. He invited members of the Synod to look round the room at each other and note the greying heads and the age of the members. (Perhaps at this point there should have been an intermission so that members of the Synod might have had the opportunity to count each other's grey hairs, and exchange confidences about their respective ages!)

The Dean then rose to put the record straight, as it were, for the advocate and the Synod, concerning the Bishop of Winchester. He categorically denied that there was anything sinister about it. The Bishop had issued no instructions whatever that any particular church was to be closed. The Working Party had worked in a straightforward and honourable way, without any bias, and without any pressure from himself or the diocese.

Although at the present time there were sufficient clergy available, the Dean pointed out that most clergy were now in the 55-65 age group and that within the next five or ten years there would be a shortage of clergy. They had to look ahead with regard to the economizing of manpower. He spoke enthusiastically of the future of St Simon's. Suppose it were to be a chapel-of-ease. What, he asked rhetorically, was wrong with a chapel-of-ease ? It would not be the end of St Simon's but a new beginning. He thought it could be put to religious artistic use. Perhaps it could become a centre for religious ballet.

Mr Tim Voisin (St Mark's) stressed the point that although there was reference to "we" and " us ", they were in fact talking about only seven people.

Mr Rodney Shanks (Almoner, St Simon's) declared that Mr Hitchcock did not speak for the entire congregation. He said that at least 50% of the St Simon's people were happy to worship at All Saints, and that they were already doing so.

Suddenly, like a breath of spring, and as though to belie Advocate Lemprière remarks about a grey-headed, ageing Synod, Miss Jill Harris, young and attractive, rose to her feet. She was slightly puzzled to learn during the meeting that the Rev H. C. Guille-Marrett was not Vicar but only Priest-in-charge of All Saints. Anyway, he was a jolly good Priest-in-charge, and the congregation of All Saints was much indebted to him and his wife for all the splendid work they had done there.

As for St Simon's Vicarage, she herself was something of an expert on buildings of character, and in her opinion the house was a most unsuitable place for a Vicar and his wife in which to live, even allowing for the marble mantelpieces ! All Saints were lucky to have the Rev H. C. Guille-Marrett. (We think that Mr Guille-Marrett is jolly lucky to have Miss Harris as a parishioner.)

An amendment by Mrs Perchard to refer the whole matter back to the Working Party was heavily defeated.
Summing up for the Working Party, Senator R. Vibert said that, with reference to the Rev P. Manton's speech, he had "let his ardour run beyond his sense ". There was no question of "pinching St Simon's Vicarage for All Saints ". There was also no point in referring the matter back to the Working Party, since they had exhausted all possibilities, and that the matter had been going on too long already.

The chairman then put the Working Party's recommendations to the vote. Thirty members were in favour of the merging of the two ecclesiastical districts and four were against. Thirty-three members were in favour of a new Vicarage being built at All Saints while four were against, an interesting evening was had by all, as they say,
Since we are living in an age of compulsive TV viewing, with Top Tens, Miss World, or Miss Whatever, and miscellaneous accolades being handed out right and left, thus forming part of our life, perhaps we had better conclude with our own credit titles.

In our opinion, the hero of the Synod was Senator R. Vibert and the heroine Miss Jill Harris. Honourable mention must be of Jurat L. V. Bailhache for his impartial chairmanship.


I've actually managed to find a picture of Miss Jill Harris from 1973 at:

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