When we're tempted to be glum and weary about the struggles and strife in the Communion in our own time, just remember that not long ago, in the mother church of the communion:
- people could be paid for coming to Holy Communion;
- spit could be used in baptism;
- clergy could 'forget' Ash Wednesday, or not offer Divine Service on rainy days;
- livings and advowsons could be bought and sold;
- the Bishop of Bristol, Dr George Pelham, could send his butler to ordination candidates and tell them to 'write an essay' (1807);
- churchyards were let for grazing animals;
- at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, one lady refused to buy mutton that had been grazed there, for it 'had a deathly taste'§ (1856);
- the Reverend Sydney Smith could be offered the parish of Foston-le-Clay in Yorkshire, where there had been no resident parson since the reign of Charles II (1809);
- and 'when he thumped the cushion of his pulpit he claimed that the accumulated dust of 150 years made such clouds that he could not see his congregation for several minutes'§;
- more than twenty parsons in Devon kept packs of hounds (1860s).
Take heart! Life is better now. Whatever our problems be today, they seem more refined than those of a century or two ago. Perhaps the source of the problems will never change — human nature — but the problems themselves do evolve.
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