Faith and Freedom 184

 

At the annual meeting of the Ministerial Old Students’ Association held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford from 19th to 21st June 2017 there was a large number of contributors to the latest issue of the journal present. Faith and Freedom attracts writers from all over the world and although you would expect to find a sprinkling of them at such a gathering at Harris Manchester College there was an unusually large number present this year of people who had articles or reviews in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue number, 184.

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The Rev Dr Phillip Hewett (left) came to the meetings from Vancouver, Canada. Pictured here with the editor and business manager. (Photo: Sue Steers)

The contents of this issue include:

In Search of Racovia by Phillip Hewett

Francis Hutcheson and the Social Vision of Eighteenth-Century Radical Presbyterians by

Johnston McMaster

Towards a Theology of Unitarian Ministry by Stephen Lingwood

The Art and Theology of Thomas Bewick by Howard Oliver

Bridging the Barriers by Dan C. West

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At Harris Manchester College. Back row: Nigel Clarke (business manager). Stephen Lingwood (Towards a Theology of Unitarian Ministry), Howard Oliver (The Art and Theology of Thomas Bewick), David Steers (editor). Front row: Phillip Hewett (In Search of Racovia), Lena Cockroft (review). (Photo: Sue Steers).

 

Reviews

In this issue:

Scott H. Hendrix, Martin Luther Visionary Reformer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015. £25 (hardback). ISBN 978-0-300-16669-9. Now only available in paperback (2016) at £14.95. pp. xxiv + 342. ISBN 978-0-300-22637-9. Also available in a kindle edition. Reviewed by Professor Ian Hazlett.

Portrait_of_Martin_Luther_as_an_Augustinian_Monk-700x1024Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk (Picture: Yale University Press)

Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Harvill Secker, London, 2016, pp 440, ISBN 9781910701874. £25.00. Reviewed by Professor David A. Williams.

Philippe Sands, East West Street: on the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity. Weidenfield and Nicolson, London 2016. ISBN 978 1 474 60190 0. £20:00. Reviewed by Professor David A. Williams.

Emmanuel Carrere, The Kingdom translated from the French by John Lambert, Allen Lane , London 2017, pp.384, ISBN 978-0374184308. £20. Reviewed by Rev Frank Walker.

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Rev Frank Walker

Antony Fernando, Main religions of the Modern World and the Two Forms of any Religion, Inter-cultural Book Promoters, 21 G4, Peramuna Mawatha, Eldeniya, Kadawatha, Sri Lanka $10.00. Reviewed by Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke.

Dan Hotchkiss,  Governance and Ministry:  Rethinking Board Leadership. An Alban Institute Book pub: Rowman and Littlefield Lanham. Boulder. New York. London.  Second Edition. 2016. ISBN 978-1-56699-738-6. £12.95. Reviewed by Rev Lena Cockroft.

Some of the books recently reviewed in Faith and Freedom

You can order Faith and Freedom online here: http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

 

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Ballymoney Remonstrant Meeting-House

 

It is not often that I find myself in Ballymoney but being there I always like to have a look at what once was the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. The building is still in use although it is now almost unrecognisable as a meeting-house. In 1949 it was sold off to be the offices of the local council and continues in this use to the present day, although the office buildings have regularly been added to and enlarged ever since. I managed to get to Ballymoney twice in one day, but this was both before the offices opened and after they had closed so I was not able to do what I once did years ago, namely get inside to take a picture of probably the only surviving evidence of the original purpose of the building. Nevertheless I was still able to get a picture of this – even if only taken through the window.

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Riada House, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

The history of the congregation is quite interesting. A fairly isolated Non-Subscribing church there must have been a New Light element within the original Presbyterian church in the town because they left and formed their own Remonstrant congregation in about 1829. They must have been a reasonably strong group as well because they built a large and handsome church. But this was not without difficulty. According to a story published in the Bible Christian at the time, the local landlord, a “Mr Cromie of Portstewart,” refused to allow his tenants to obtain stones from his quarry in order to build the church. The congregation, which initially met for worship in a grain store, sent a delegation to him to request the right to collect stone for the building. The result was an absolute refusal because “he could not conscientiously allow stone to Arians”. Mr Cromie was a member of the Church of Ireland but apparently did not place such a restriction on the local Roman Catholics or the Reformed Presbyterians who were both building new churches at this point. But he thoroughly disapproved of the Non-Subscribers. The Bible Christian observed that this was not just inconvenient for them but also a direct challenge to their existence by their landlord. By denying them stone Mr Cromie was giving:

a hint to those of his tenants who might be inclined to join the Remonstrants, that they cannot do without incurring his displeasure; and to those who have done so already, that they can only regain his forfeited displeasure by relinquishing their recently adopted connexion.

Nevertheless, the congregation was made of stern stuff. Denied access to the only source of stone in the locality they determined to build the meeting-house in brick instead, more expensive to use but not something that could be kept from them by the landlord.

There is a helpful sign outside the council office which includes a neat representation of the original façade:

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Detail from the Council information plaque

It must have been an impressive and pleasing building in its day but almost all the character has been drained away by the alterations and additions that have been made in the decades since its sale, not least by the porch/lean-to/conservatory that has been added across what once was the entrance. This little edifice now houses a small committee room but still visible in the wall is the original date stone which I managed to photograph through the smoked glass.

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Inside the porch

It contains two proof texts beloved of Non-Subscribers at the time:

“Search the Scriptures” (John 5: 39) and “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

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The 1832 date stone

The congregation has continued to meet outside its original home ever since the sale of this building, but it is nice to know that there is a reminder of the building’s original purpose still to be found by those who look.

 

Faith and Freedom Number 184

Hot off the presses today is the Spring and Summer 2017 (volume 70 Part 1, Number 184) issue of Faith and Freedom. It has a striking picture of an Eagle Owl taken from an engraving by Thomas Bewick’s 1797 book Land Birds on the cover.

In this new issue we are again delighted to have some really fascinating articles. These include Phillip Hewett outlining his research in pre- and post-Communist Poland for his book Racovia. He compares his experiences in Poland with those of Earl Morse Wilbur decades earlier. We are delighted to have too Johnston McMaster’s in-depth examination of  Francis Hutcheson and the Social Vision of Eighteenth-Century Radical Presbyterians and Stephen Lingwood’s timely consideration of a Theology of Unitarian Ministry. Dan C. West discusses the way faith can cross boundaries and make connections and Howard Oliver discusses The Art and Theology of Thomas Bewick.

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The original sixteenth-century parsonage in Raków (photo: Phillip Hewett)

Faith and Freedom is always particularly strong in its reviews section and we are delighted to once again welcome some important reviews by top writers.

With the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses in mind, Professor Ian Hazlett, leading Reformation scholar and former Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Glasgow, reviews Scott H. Hendrix’s Yale University Press book Martin Luther Visionary Reformer.  Professor David Williams reviews Yuval Noah Harari’s newest book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and Philippe Sands’ East West Street: on the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity. Lena Cockroft reviews Dan Hotchkiss’ Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, which is a major contribution to the theory of church administration. Marcus Braybrooke, Joint President of the World Congress of Faiths, looks at Main Religions of the Modern World and the Two Forms of any Religion by Antony Fernando, and Frank Walker reviews Emmanuel Carrere’s extraordinary and controversial novel The Kingdom.

You can subscribe to Faith and Freedom online via our website:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/

 

 

1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash

 

A few weeks ago I posted the above picture of a glass lantern slide featuring a driver and a clergyman on an unidentified early motor car bearing a very early Liverpool registration number. I have not been able to identify the driver or his passenger but thanks to Linda King and also Bozi Mohacek of the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society the car can definitely be identified.

Linda suggested Rootschat would be able to help and from there received a suggestion that the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society could help. They have over 2,750 enquiries on their website so I asked them and very quickly received word back that the car is a 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash 5HP Two-seater. The date is approximate but since Liverpool registrations only began in December 1903 some time in 1904 seems reasonable.

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Oldsmobile Runabout (Source: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History)

It was a very popular car and images of it can be found all over the internet. The first mass-produced motor car it was manufactured in Detroit, Michigan and between 1901 and 1907 some 19,000 were made and sold around the world. In the UK it sold for £185 in 1902.

 

1902 Oldsmobile advert

Advert from The Autocar, November 1st 1902 (Source: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History)

 

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Advertisement from The Automobile Review, December 15th 1903 (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1904 Maurice Fournier, an engineer and the 1903 ‘World Motorcycling Champion’, travelled 4,600 kilometres around Europe in an Oldsmobile. It must have been an uncomfortable journey.

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Maurice Fournier travelling through Europe in 1904 Source: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History)

It was a relatively cheap vehicle, although at £185 outside the pocket of most people, but still cheaper than a lot of other cars, if far more basic in its design. Despite the claims of the advert that “with only one lever to use….you hardly need to know how to operate an Oldsmobile” it must have been difficult to handle. Maurice Fournier certainly got all round Europe in one though, and it must have been good enough for our unnamed driver and his passenger to get round Liverpool in, during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Attorney General’s lecture at Clough

 

On Wednesday, 24th May 2017 Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church was very pleased to welcome the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Mr John Larkin, QC, to Clough to deliver his lecture concerning the legal case of 1836 which was such a crucial moment in the history of the congregation.

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Mr John Larkin, QC, delivers his lecture in the pulpit at Clough

The meeting was very well attended indeed with many visitors from local churches and from farther afield – even as far as Edinburgh – as well as including many members of various societies and organisations including the Presbyterian Historical Society, the Lecale and Downe Historical Society, the Irish Legal History Society and Queen’s University. It was preceded by a short act of worship conducted by the Rev Dr John Nelson, clerk to the Presbytery of Antrim. The congregation joined the Presbytery of Antrim, the original Non-Subscribing Presbyterian body in 1829. The organist was Mr Alfie McClelland. The Rev Dr David Steers, introduced Mr Larkin who has a long-standing interest in presbyterian history, especially in cases such as this where theology intersects with the law.

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Left to right: Rev Dr John Nelson; Mr John Larkin, QC; Rev Dr David Steers

The 1836 case rose out of a dispute between subscribers and non-subscribers (to the Westminster Confession of Faith) and resulted in the exclusion of the non-subscribers who went on to build the present church in 1837. Following the lecture a large number of those present were able to go to the church hall for refreshments. The lecture was both preceded and followed by good coverage in many papers including the Down Recorder, the Mourne Observer and the Belfast Telegraph.

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Refreshments in the hall following the lecture

The basic issue discussed in the lecture was whether congregations could change their religious views over time. So although a majority of the congregation wanted to call the Rev David Watson as minister in 1829 the fact that they were non-subscribers (ie. they refused to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith) led the subscribing members and their friends to argue that they had no right to own a meeting house that was (they said) built solely for the use of subscribers. With this there was an argument over how the Christian faith should be defined. The matter went to law and eventually, after prolonged discussion, the courts granted the original meeting house to the subscribers. The non-subscribers left and had to build their own church, still in use today by what is a growing and active congregation.

Something very similar happened at about the same time with the Presbyterian church in Killinchy – which was also taken away from the non-subscribers – and legal proceedings were begun over some churches in Dublin. A parallel process was underway in England over the ownership of the Unitarian churches there and it seemed that Non-Subscribing Presbyterians in Ireland and Unitarians in England would lose all their ancient meeting houses. However, all this was stopped by the passing of what is called the Dissenters Chapels Act in 1844 which guaranteed the legal ownership of churches to those whose families had worshipped there over a period of at least 25 years and allowed for changes in their theological views over time.

The division in the 1830s was very painful at the time and at one point required the militia to be called to restore order. However, it is part of the joint history of both churches in Clough that we need to acknowledge as part of our continuing story.