21 SEPTEMBER 1912, Page 13


[To THE EDITOR or TUC "SPECTATOR."] SIR,—May a former Nonconformist minister now in the Church say a word in reply to "Presbyter's " letter in your last issue ? Nothing is more to be deplored than any lack of kindness and courtesy, whether on the part of nurse or chaplain, to a hospital patient, and a system which allows a sufferer to prepare for Holy Communion and then to be denied it should be once for all amended.

On the prior question: Has a Nonconformist a right to claim the Holy Sacrament from an Anglican chaplain, I differ from your correspondent, as I should have done when myself a Nonconformist. I longed for years to communicate when a worshipper in Anglican churches, but I knew the Church's rule regarding Confirmation, and refrained from presenting myself at the altar until I had qualified by being confirmed. Not very long ago I was the guest of a Nonconformist tutor at Oxford. He remarked that as a graduate he was entitled to communicate at a certain celebration at Christ Church, but that the Dean knew him to be a Nonconformist, and he thought that his presence would be a mutual embarrassment. " One could not ignore the fact that a communicant tacitly declared that he was either confirmed or desirous of being confirmed."

I could not formerly, and cannot now, appreciate the position of those who conscientiously dissent from the Church and at the same time claim the most sacred privilege which the Church reserves for her members. It is true that certain Nonconformist communities interchange services and unite in their communions. The fact that the Church allows only priests to celebrate and confirmed persons to communicate is presumably the chief reason for " Presbyter's " Noncon- formity. He dissents from the Church's sacramental system. I can respect his conscientious Nonconformity, but not his implied claim to receive the Blessed Sacrament at the hands of a priest. Would he make a similar claim from a Roman Catholic chaplain ?

All this I urge in a spirit of sincere, cordial, Christian charity. No one rejoices more than I do in the essential and evangelical orthodoxy, and in the glorious work of the Methodist communions. I remain unscathed by " Presbyter's " charge of intolerance. It seems to me a misuse of a word. Are not the " Free Churches" intolerant of Unitarianism P But their inability to communicate with them does not justify the charge of bigotry sometimes urged against them. I recall an instance in which a Congregational church declined to " welcome to the Lord's table " one who desired to com- municate, not in token of faith in Christ, but of " brotherly feeling." A gardener, for good reasons, will not suffer roses and pansies in one flower bed, but it would be a false inference that he loathes pansies. The charge of bigotry is one too frequently made under the influence of passing personal irritation.

My contention is that it is sheer futility to dissent from the Church because it is not like one of the Protestant com- munions, and then to insist on treating it as if it were. May I add that my own experience of one of the smaller hospitals is that Nonconformists rarely think of receiving Communion, and that in the rare instances in which they do they naturally prefer the service of their own minister P Otherwise they welcome heartily the friendly ministrations of a visiting clergyman. Nothing, however, is more to be desired than that Bishops should give clear and full directions to hospital chaplains in what circumstances, if any, it is permissible ex gratia to communicate patients who are unconfirmed.—I