Although originally a Guernseyman, Barry Giles was Rector of St Peter for 28 years before retiring in 2000. He died in 2009 in Eastbourne.
This article was penned in the 1992 Pilot, when the Anglican Church in Jersey was seen as very stable. In retrospect, his comment that "It may not be perfect, but then that is the fault of the personnel." seems almost prophetic about the disruption caused by the fall-out between the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean of Jersey, a dispute in which personalities loom large.
He mentions that the Dean has not always been attached to the town church. In fact, the Deans were often Rectors of St Martin and Grouville when the Governor resided at Gorey Castle. Anthony Swindell, recently retired Rector of St Saviour suggested that perhaps the church should look back to that past, but probably the infrastructure of supporting staff is now so firmly embedded in St Helier that a move would not be easily possible.
An Anglican Alphabet - JBy Barry Giles
J is for Jersey
Who is to know when the Church of God was brought to the Island of Jersey? There were British Bishops at the Council of Arles in the year 314. St Martin was at Tours during the second half of that same century and surely it was his monks who founded three ancient parishes in these islands, dedicated to him.
In spite of "legend" it may be that Christianity had reached Jersey before Helier, Sampson and Magloire (Mannelier) came in the sixth century.
Throughout the following centuries the Bishops of Coutances guided and directed the life of the Church in these Islands. Someone once told me, but I have no evidence, that a certain house in Jersey had the duty of ensuring that galleys were bridged, in order that the Bishop's horse arrived dry-shod!
The Reformation brought change. Between 1490 and 1569 these Deaneries were transferred like yo-yos from one Diocese to another by the Pope. But little notice was taken, even after the Kingdom of England repudiated the Bishopric of Rome: It is amusing to note that a Rector of St Brelade in 1500 took the precaution of being appointed by the Bishop of Winchester on 1st January and by the Bishop of Coutances on 20th January. Finally on 11th March, 1569 by Order in Council; Queen Elizabeth I declared the Deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey to be part of the Diocese of Winchester.
As has been described in previous learned articles in The PILOT, Presbyterians took hold of Jersey and Guernsey in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is an extraordinary fact that no Bishop visited these Islands between 1569 and 1818, 249 years without a Bishop in a Deanery professedly part of the Church of England. True, for nearly a hundred years of that period a Bishop might have had short shrift in many of our churches - as did some clergy who tried to reintroduce the worship and the practice of the Church of England.
Slowly but surely, from the time of the introduction of' he Canons and Constitutions Ecclesiastical for the Island of Jersey, promulgated by King James I in 1623, the influence of the Church in Jersey grew.
Rectors were, and must have been for centuries before, intimately connected with the civil government of the Island as well as their parishes. It was not until 1948 that they ceased to be members of the States of Jersey. They are still, as it were, co-chairmen of parish assemblies, taking the chair when those assemblies deal with ecclesiastical .matters, and are called Ecclesiastical Assemblies.
The Dean has a peculiar position within the Church of England. Historically Bishops; even before ' the Reformation, did not venture to Jersey frequently. By that very fact the senior Rector's duties, and above all authority, took on special responsibility. By 1180 the Island had a Dean. Over the centuries that appointment, gaining in importance, became a royal rather than an episcopal one. The Dean of Jersey ranks after the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff in the list of Crown appointees. He is sworn before the Royal Court prior to his institution and induction as a Rector.
The office of Dean has become that of the Rector of St Helier over the past century or so, but in theory he could be Rector of any of our twelve ancient parishes. He is the president and judge of the Ecclesiastical Court, which is an integral part of the Island's legal system. He issues .to marriage licences and faculties, which enable fixed items be placed in churches. He appoints two vice-deans, one of whom acts in his absence.
The word "peculiar" has two meanings: special, and odd. The Church in Jersey, of Jersey is peculiar in both senses. Because of its history and geography it has developed in some ways, in special and strange ways-It is and always has been the Church of the people of this place; part of that one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, teaching and preaching the Word of God and administering the Sacraments of God. But, it has a uniqueness which is "of itself."
Few clerics, or "good churchmen and women" can at first fathom its peculiarities. The extraordinary fact is that it works. It may not be perfect, but then that is the fault of the personnel. For some 1,600 years it has ministered to the people of Jersey and has been and remains the vehicle by which God's love and Good News is mediated. It may be odd, but we are very special.