Friday, 14 April 2017

A Short History of St Paul's Church

Digging in the archives, I uncovered this rather lively history. It is from the 1949 Pilot Magazine, and is a look at the history of the Church by G.R. Balleine.

A Short History of St Paul's Church
by G.R. Balleine

St. Paul's had a troubled and tempestuous birth. By the beginning of the nineteenth century- the population of St.Helier had grown to over 10,000, while the Town Church could only scat about 800l. A second church was clearly needed.

But in those days the creation of a new parish was beset by legal difficulties. In England this deadlock had been eased by building Proprietary Chapels, akin to those attached to Colleges and Hospitals; these had no parish, and remained the property of their founders. One such already existed in Jersey at St. Aubin's. So in 1811 a group of townsfolk petitioned the King in Council for leave “to build a Private Chapel for the performance of Divine Worship," and the Council granted their request, and gave to them and their successors “the perpetual right of appointing the Minister to officiate therein."

This sounded very laudable: but more lay behind the request than appeared on the surface. Political feeling at this time was extraordinarily bitter. In the Town the Rose (or Radical) Party was dominant, and the four organizers of the petition, .Jurats Bailhache and Nicolle, Philip Winter the Constable, and Aaron de Ste. Croix, one of the Churchwardens, were Rose leaders.

Dean Dupré, the Rector, in his younger days had been more Radical than any of them ; but the French Revolution had frightened him, and he had swung to the other extreme, and  become a vehement champion of the Laurel (or  Conservative) Faction. And he could not keep his politics out of the pulpit. The Rose men resented the Dean’s denunciation of their Party in his sermons, and this made them eager to build a church in which they could worship unannoyed.

But no clergyman welcomes the secession of half his congregation, and Dupré opposed the registration of the Order in the Royal Court. demanding to be heard before the Privy Council before it was enrolled.

This held matters up for four years : but the Founders went on with their plans. They bought a garden in New Street. The foundation stone of the Chapel was laid in 1815 and by 1817 it was ready for use, a solid building of Mont Mado granite, seating 1,400, with high pews over which the heads of the congregation were just visible, three galleries and a three-decker pulpit concealing the Lord's Table.

The entire cost, £6,000, was borne by the twenty-four Founders. The Court finally registered the Order in October, 1817, and on 14th December, the Opening Services were conducted in French by the Rector of St. Ouen's.

The old account-hook still shows the entry:

“Paid to Jas Deal for his carriage to bring the Rev. Mons. Ricard from St. Ouen's, 37 -."

But the Dean inhibited all local clergy from officiating in the building, and it had to be closed.

Two of the founders then went to England. An entry in the Ledger runs :-" Expenses of Messrs. De La Taste and De Ste. Croix on their journey to  London from 27th January to 14th February, to find a Minister, £37." But their efforts were in vain. All English clergymen, whom they approached, sheered off, when they heard of the Dean's attitude.

Meanwhile their colleagues were trying to come to terms with Dupré, offering him £35 a year to cover any possible loss of fees. But he remained adamant. Their thoughts then turned toward France. The Ledger records a payment of £34 to “Clement Nicolle and others for their voyage to Paris for a Minister."

This time they were successful. They found a young Frenchman, Pardus Emilius Frossard, who had just been ordained as Minister of the French Eglise Reforme -. His father was a D.C.L. of Oxford, and the son was -willing to accept Anglican orders. He was accepted by the Bishop of Winchester; but again the Dean intervened, and his ordination was postponed.

The Founders then fell back on a clause in the Act of Uniformity, which, while requiring all Clergy to be episcopally ordained, specifically exempted Ministers of the Foreign Reformed Churches. Local lawyers advised that Frossard's Huguenot ordination was sufficient. There were precedents for this.

Louis Michel, who had ministered at St Aubin's for eleven years, had been only in Huguenot Orders, and it was urged : ' Many persons now living will recollect a late Rector of St. Clement's taking possession of that living, without ordination, who also sat in the States till the day of his death.’

Frossard began his Ministry in Nov ember 1818 and drew crowded congregations (The Services were, of course, in French).

Confronted by this situation, Dupré hesitated for eleven months, and then summoned Frossard before the Ecclesiastical Court to show his licence from the Bishop. Frossard refused to appear; declaring that in that Court the Dean would be both Prosecutor and Judge and appealed to the Royal Court for protection. The Founders also pleaded that St. Paul's as a Private Chapel was outside the Dean's jurisdiction.

The Dean retaliated by excommunicating Frossard.

After a great deal of legal sparring, the Court eventually referred the matter to the Privy Council, and meanwhile prohibited the Dean from interfering with St. Paul's till the Council's decision was known. This enabled Frossard to continue his ministry for another eighteen months. But then the Council adjudged that –“the Citation issued by the Dean of Jersey is no infringement of the Order in Council."

This ended the struggle. Frossard preached his farewell sermon in May, 1821, and returned to France, where he became Pastor of the Eglise Reformee at Caen.

The Bishop then informed the Founders that he would license any suitable clergyman of the Church of England, whom they would nominate; and they were fortunate in their choice. Thomas Hornsby, Rector of Waddesdon, Bucks, and Chaplain to the Duke of Dorset, happened to be in Jersey, and he accepted the post. He took the Services in English, and, as these were the only English Services in the island, he attracted most of the English residents.

Successive Governors were regular worshippers at St. Paul's, and on occasions when the whole island contributed to some common cause, the St. Paul's collections always headed the list. For the Irish Famine, for example, St. Paul's gave £64. Hornsby worked here for more than ten years, and was succeeded by Archdeacon Mant who had just resigned his work in North Ireland.

For fifty years Minister succeeded Minister, and the church continued to prosper. Other churches were built in the Town, most of which felt the influence more or less of the Oxford Movement, but St. Paul's remained staunch to the older Evangelical views. It was the last church in the island to drop the use of the black gown in the pulpit.

Its congregation proved generous supporters of the Church Missionary Society, the Bible Society, the Zenana Missionary Society, the South American Missionary Society, and other similar institutions.

Nor slid they neglect the needs of their own neighbourhood, for the St. Paul's Day Schools at the time they were built were regarded as models of educational efficiency.

In 1839 St. Paul's people had a severe shock. The foundations of the church began to give way. The ground on which it was built had once been a marsh, and architects reported that repair was impossible; the building was unsafe. and would have to be rebuilt. This was a big task for one congregation, and the faint-hearted began to talk of a tabernacle of corrugated iron. But subscriptions flowed in, and hopes revived.

The congregation was held together by Services in the Oddfellows' Hall; and on Michaelmas Day, 1891. the present well-proportioned and attractive church was opened.

Two obstacles, however, blocked the way to its consecration; first the fact that it owed a debt to the builders. and secondly the fact that the Bishop disliked the system by which the whole body of seatholders chose by vote the incumbent. By 1912 these difficulties has been removed. The debt was paid off; and the seat-holders resigned their right to appoint to a body of Trustees. And the church was consecrated by Bishop Talbot on May 13th.

The new church has been singularly fortunate in its incumbents. It would be invidious to mention names: but people still speak of the crowds that filled it to overflowing during the seven years' ministry of that eloquent Welshman, Bulstrode Price. St. Paul's has contributed many souls to the company of the Church Triumphant. May it long continue to do so.

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