100 years ago: Stern words in Brighton (reposted from the Church Times)


October 21st, 1910.

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CROWDED congregations filled St Bartholomew’s Church [in Brigh ton on Sunday last, when the preacher, both at High Mass and Evensong, was the Rev. Fr Maxwell, S.S.J.E. In the course of a powerful sermon, Fr Maxwell said:—

“And now I must say this very solemn word in face of all that is being said and done in Brighton at the present moment, and in the face of the sermons that are being preached elsewhere. Knowing that efforts are being made to disturb the faith of some of you, I am obliged to say that it would be impossible for anyone in the Church of England who had had an experience of the reality of her sacraments to leave the Church of England and to enter the Church of Rome without absolutely and utterly contradicting all that blessed experience they have had, and without giving absolutely and utterly the lie to all God has done for them.”

The preacher paused and there was a peculiar silence in the church. Then he continued: “You may be told that there is no need to deny the priesthood and the sacraments in the Church of England when you enter the Church of Rome; you will not be asked to deny them in words, but very soon any person who has been received into the Church of Rome will receive what I dare not call Confirmation — it is not Con firmation — but they will receive something which will claim to be the sacrament of Confirmation. And I say without fear of contra diction that it is quite impossible for anyone to go through that ceremony without, in fact, giving the lie to the Confirmation that they have re ceived here in the Church of Eng land. . . Confirmation confers char acter; it leaves its indelible mark on the soul, and it cannot be repeated without sacrilege.”

Preached at the wonderfully high church (literally!) St Bartholomew’s in Brighton. I wonder if St Peter’s Folkestone have taken this on board. Contrary to all expectations, the Church of England remains faithful, Catholic and Reformed, celebrating the Holy Sacraments and proclaiming the welcoming, inclusive love of Jesus Christ which transforms people faster than the Church transforms as an institution. Most of us of a Catholic tradition are remaining within the Church of England, and continuing to do God’s work within in and through it. Leave if you must, but realise the significance of what you choose to do. I thank God for Fr. Maxwell’s words echoing down over the century, and the Church Times for bringing it to our attention.