24 APRIL 1920, Page 8


ACOMMITTEE of ten persons was lately appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury " to consider and report upon the ways in which the Clergy, Churchworkers, and Church- people generally can best co-operate with the State in all matters

concerning the social life of the community." Their Report has now been published, and is a document which should create considerable interest. It is solely concerned with practical matters, and may be read with equal interest by Christians of every denomination. The Committee lay down this premiss :-

" All Churchworkers and Churchpeople, if they are to carry out the teaching of the Gospel, must support whatever tends to improve the welfare of the community. The community which is the Church must serve and help that other community which is the Nation. In such service Churchmen and Roman Catholics and Free Churchmen can and should unite."

In the near past the Church of England was sadly indifferent to social progress, and " there still lingers among some clergy and Churchpeople the feeling that complete sympathy with those whose conditions ought to be improved is ' dangerous,' and not quite ' respectable.' " There was a time when the Church was more many-sided in its activities. " It had not only to do with the ' worship ' of the people, but with their civil affairs, their health, their wealth, their poverty, and their amusements." In these things we should take example by our forefathers. Churchmen of the present and a good many past generations may have neglected their opportunities, but the opportunities are still there. The Church " is established in every parish in the land, and our land is all parishes." The machinery is perfect, but too often it lies idle.

We are in face of great social changes. During the last fifty years, and especially during the last five, the pace of the change has been augmented. There has been much legislation, and its tendency has been " to vest more and more power in the Com- munity or the State, to leave less discretion, or choice, to the individual, and to show that no individual has a right to any liberty which has been purchased at the cost of the liberty of the whole society." All these changes have—in the minds of the Committee whose Report we are epitomizing—been changes for the better. The Church, they think, has been too exclu- sively concerned with relieving distress, too little anxious about removing its cause. She has been content to be the " stretcher- bearer " of the social system, and has counted consequently for little among those who desire to regenerate it. Official agents, both men and women, are being and will be appointed by the Government to carry into effect the new social legislation. Thousands of officials will be necessary. " By what spirit will they be informed " All these official positions offer great opportunities. The Church should call upon her members to fill them, and to use their influence in them. The Committee does not in so many words suggest the example of the early Jesuits, but surely a study of the good side of that many-sided movement might be suggested to all those in authority. Imagine the effect upon the mind of the nation if, for instance, a large proportion of these new officials were ardent Christians. There is of course always an enormous scope for the work of volunteers, but the number of volunteer workers for the good of their fellows is necessarily limited by the obligation of the great part of the nation to earn its living. At present the Church is " suspect " among the working classes. They think it hostile to the organizations that seek to improve the social conditions of which they passionately complain. " The Church should make it evident to its working-class members that the work which they do in their organizations, Trade Unions, Co- operative Societies, and local Labour Parties, is work which it regards as not necessarily out of harmony with its own ideals." Where any secular organization for physical or moral improve- ment exists in any parish the clergy should work with it, and avoid above all things any appearance of effort to set up a rival organization which should not strengthen but simply compete with it.

All these recommendations are excellent and inspiring, but if they are to be carried out even partially the efforts of Church- people must be very ably directed. Are the clergy to direct them ? If so, to be quite frank, the clergy must improve their minds, they must undergo " special training " in social work.

Space fails us to do more than enumerate a few of the methods here suggested for what we may call the higher social education of the clergy. They should receive before they are ordained " a grounding in the elements of economic and industrial prob- lems." Such a grounding would appear to be rarely attempted at the Theological Colleges. They should have seen under proper guidance the inside of a typical factory, should know something about the working of a primary school, and something at first hand of the housing question. A " Director of Social Studies " should be appointed in each diocese, and Deacons should be recognized as " the Bishops' curates " who are lent for a time to such incumbents as are likely to give them the best training. They should in towns be expected to work upon Charitable Committees so as to have the benefit of the experience of elder workers. The establishment of hostels in the various University towns is suggested, to which such of the clergy as cannot have a full University course might go for a limited number of months for the study of economics and sociology. In the case of clergy appointed to country parishes the rather startling suggestion is made that the present system of small " units " is a mistake. Under the new Union of Benefices Act the Archbishops' Com- mittee hope to see a grouping of parishes undertaken on a wide scale. In these groups " there should be a central Vicar, or Rector, who might have one or two curates living in the same village with him, and other curates in nominal charge of the surrounding parishes." It would be well that the country

clergy should cultivate a keen interest in agriculture, and should even take up some agricultural occupation of their own, in

however small a way, when possible."

These changes seem very drastic, but no one can deny the Committee's contention that the moment for drastic reform has arrived if the Church is not to become an eclectic body with no influence outside of a prescribed circle. There are ways in which country work is the most difficult work :— " Village housing is deplorable ; the clergy have acquiesced in it too long. They must press on the new housing schemes required under the recent legislation. They can also do much to encourage the men and the women to consider political and industrial questions, and to learn to think solidly and reasonably about them."

" To think solidly and reasonably " ! How very difficult it is to do that, let alone to lead some one else to do it ! The ordinary elergyman is poor, and he has a family. He has no more immunity than other men from the cares of this world in so far as they concern the proper feeding and clothing and educating and setting out in the world of his sons and daughters. In a thousand instances if he made an honest, enthusiastic, but not

perhaps altogether tactful attempt to do the things here sug- gested he would have three-quarters of the rich, and therefore the powerful, people in the neighbourhood against him. Many of them would be people to whom ease, education, and money have given far more social courage and social power than he has got himself. A proportion of the poor people would also oppose him. We do not doubt for a moment that if his enthu- siasm for the good of his parishioners is intense enough he will succeed in his task ; but against what fearful odds ! Against ignorance, suspicion, self-interest, all the forces of snobbism ; in fact, the devil in every shape and form. That the pamphlet before us—so practical in theory—should become practical in fact seems to us to presuppose such a religious revival as should send men of abilities equal to those not only of the rank- and-file but of the heads of other professions into the Church-- there to live like poor men. Are there signs of any such re- vival ? These ten men and women appointed by the Archbishop must think that there are, otherwise they are preaching to the winds. They have probably a far better opportunity of judging than can be claimed by the casual critic.