What do those stones mean to you? The 400th anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

“But before he had spent so much time in Oxford as he could have wished that he might have done; the People in Toxteth, whose Children had been taught by him, sent to him, desiring that he would return unto them to instruct not so much their Children as themselves, and that not in meer Humane Literature, but in the things of God. This Call, after due Consideration, for weighty Reasons he accepted of. Being then returned to Toxteth, he Preached his first Sermon November 30. 1618. There was a very great Concourse of people to hear him, and his Labours were highly accepted of by the judicious.”

…part of the reading given by Beryl Black at the 400th anniversary service of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth on Sunday, 25th November. This section of the reading (from: The Life and Death of That Reverend Man of GOD, Mr. Richard Mather Teacher of the Church in Dorchester in New-England by Increase Mather, Cambridge Mass. 1670) was also reproduced on the back page of the printed order of service.

 

Ancient Chapel 25 November 04

At the opening of worship (Photo: Sue Steers)

It was a tremendous occasion; well attended and enthusiastically received by all who were present. Readings were also given by Graham Murphy, Annette Butler and Leslie Gabriel while Cliff Barton played the organ.

Ancient Chapel 25 November 03

Graham Murphy gives a reading (Photo: Sue Steers)

In addition to the above reading there were readings from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, from Robert Griffith’s The History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth, Liverpool (1907) and from Joshua ch.4 v.1-9 and John ch.4 v.31-38.

A message was also read from the First Parish Dorchester, Massachusetts, to which place Richard Mather, emigrated in 1635.

Ancient Chapel 25 November 16

Reading the message from Dorchester (Photo: Sue Steers)

The message from Dorchester:

Dear Members of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth:

First Parish Dorchester sends you our heartfelt greetings and best wishes upon the occasion of your 400th anniversary of your founding. It is rare for us to know a Unitarian congregation older than ours, as we will not mark our 400th anniversary until 2030!  Rev Richard Mather, your first minister and our third minister (1636-1669),  certainly sowed good seeds in our two long-standing faith communities.

It may interest you to know that First Parish Dorchester established the oldest elementary public school in the United States, which is situated right next to the church- and it is called the Mather School!

In our weekly service, we have a time when we light candles of celebration or concern. This Sunday, November 25th, I will light a candle for the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, in celebration of your four centuries as a gathered community. We rejoice with you in spirit.

Faithfully,

Rev Patricia Brennan

Interim Minister

First Parish Dorchester

Massachusetts

Yo can read more about the Ancient Chapel via these links:

Then and now pictures

Richard Mather and the Ancient Chapel

Jeremiah Horrocks and the Ancient Chapel

Jeremiah Horrocks and the transit of Venus

Two views of a junction in Toxteth

This post has been made on the day of the 400th anniversary of Richard Mather’s first sermon in Toxteth.

With special thanks to Jim Kenny who devised the logo used for the 400th anniversary.

ACoT landscape logo

 

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Remembrance Sunday 2018

On this Remembrance Day, the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, I conducted Remembrance services at Clough and Downpatrick and was pleased to take part in the district Remembrance Service at the War Memorial in Downpatrick.

Faith and Freedom/Hibbert Trust Podcasts

I was also sent just today this information and links by Rev Kate Dean:

Discover the story of Emma Duffin, a Unitarian from Belfast who served as a voluntary nurse during the First World War. Thanks to her detailed Diaries we have a fascinating insight into her experiences. ‘Their Sister in Both Senses’ is written by Trevor Parkhill and the recording has been made with the support of The Hibbert Trust. The article originally appeared in the Unitarian publication Faith and Freedom. You can listen to the podcast on the Hibbert Trust SoundCloud channel, which also includes a recording about Unitarians in WWI, written and read by Alan Ruston.

 

Emma Duffin ‘Their Sister in Both Senses’: https://soundcloud.com/user-415732446/emma-duffin-their-sister-in-both-senses

 

Or there is a video version of the recording on UKUnitarianTV’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/kB01CbbkRzE

 

A big thank you to Kate for doing this.
The text of the original article (and Alan Ruston’s articles about Unitarians and the First World War) can be read on the Faith and Freedom Great War Project website here:
http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/GWarticles.htm
‘Their Sister in Both Senses’ can be read here:
http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/pdfs/Their%20sister%20in%20both%20senses%20GWP.pdf
The Diaries of Emma Duffin are a moving and eloquent account of her experiences in the war.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
With the centenary of the end of the First World War in mind one of the things I read this morning in church was the poem ‘Aftermath’ by Siegfried Sassoon, written in 1919:
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.

But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz –
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench –
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack –
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads -those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth 400th Anniversary

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth celebrates 400 years of worship and witness

Two images of the Chapel separated by about 120 years:

ACT Victorian 02

ACT Ext 05

 

Service to Commemorate the

400th Anniversary

of the

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

Sunday, 25th November 2018

2.30 pm

Please note the service to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth will be held on Sunday, 25th November as advertised. However, the time of the start of the service has been changed it will now commence at 2.30 pm and not at the previously stated time.

ACT Ext 07

Preparing for worship

ACoT landscape logo

400th Anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

 

The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth was built in 1618 during the ministry of the Rev Richard Mather in the former royal deer park of Toxteth by Puritans who desired to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. Originally situated in a remote rural community the Chapel is now in the midst of a heavily built-up suburb of Liverpool. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Chapel which has been in continuous use since 1618. A special service to celebrate this 400th anniversary of this historic Chapel will be held on Sunday, 25th November at 2.30 pm.

ACoT portrait logo

Please note – if you are thinking of attending this service – that the time has been changed from 3.00 pm to 2.30 pm – as shown above.

NSP Lives of the First World War 04: The Harrison family of Newtownards

 

One of the features of the new Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Roll of Honour is how often we see groups of brothers join after the outbreak of war. In many churches there are sets of brothers, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four who respond to the appeal for volunteers. From contemporary newspaper reports we can imagine the effect this had on the families and friends who were left at home.

Newtownards 1909

The First Presbyterian Church, Newtownards in 1909

At the start of the First World War the secretary of the Newtownards congregation was Samuel Harrison, a man widely respected in the town and in the church. Three of the sons of Samuel and Grace Harrison (all members of Newtownards) joined up after war broke out, as well as two of their grandsons. In the July 1916 issue of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian it was announced that his younger son, Thomas James Harrison, had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery. In the Newtownards news of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian it was reported that “What the special act of bravery was that earned him this distinction has not been officially disclosed as yet, but we understand it was connected with acts of great bravery in rescuing wounded comrades. As a Church, we are proud of the fact that one of our number has earned this coveted distinction, and also that he is the first one in the town to receive this medal.”

In fact, as will be seen from the Roll of Honour, Thomas Harrison was himself killed before he could be presented with this medal. He died, along with so many others, on 1st July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme.

I am grateful to Jeffrey Martin and Nigel Henderson for providing me with this picture of him which appeared in the Newtownards Chronicle at the time:

Rifleman Thomas James Harrison

From the ‘Newtownards Chronicle’

Credit: Nigel Henderson (Great War Belfast Clippings)

The extent of the casualties on the first day of the Somme must have had a devastating effect back home. At the time of Thomas’ death Samuel was nearly 72 years old and himself died little over a year later. It was perhaps a measure of how highly he was thought of that quite an unusually full obituary of him appeared on the pages of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian. It detailed his education at the National School at Ballycullen, an education cut short by the need to go out to work as a farm boy, but supplemented by a return to night class “after a hard days’ work begun at daylight”.

He was a man of fine, high principle, and greatly valued by his employer the obituary said. When promoted to the post of land steward he was the youngest man in that capacity in the county, eventually becoming the foreman of the road labourers for the local council. The obituary speaks highly of his ability to get on with all classes of people. The Newtownards Chronicle itself said “there is no individual in this county who is more highly respected by all classes and creeds than everybody’s good friend, Sam Harrison.” The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian detailed the local respect shown to him at his funeral:

Had he been one of the leading citizens or a wealthy manufacturer, the tribute would not have been so very remarkable; but as he died as he had lived – a plain working man – this tribute was the more noteworthy.

He had been a member of the church committee since 1875 and the secretary since 1898, the obituary emphasised his faith commitment:

A staunch Non-Subscriber and liberal Christian, his attachment to his Church was shown in the unselfish devotion of his mind and energies to its welfare.

Samuel Harrison 03

Picture from the ‘Non-Subscribing Presbyterian’

All this is part of the background to the experience of those who served in the trenches. In the words of his obituary Samuel Harrison left behind a fine record of faithfulness and a memory that should be an inspiration to those that follow him. For those left at home life continued as normal, at least outwardly. But it must have been hard to express in words the shared sense of loss felt by so many after 1st July 1916.

 

Diet of Torda 450 forint stamp

 

On sale in Hungary since 2nd May is this stamp depicting this famous painting of the Diet of Torda. The painting has been very widely reproduced over the last one hundred years, there was, I remember, a print of it in the Unitarian College, Manchester when I was there and I have a Unitarian magic lantern slide of it dating from before the First World War. Needless to say it is not a contemporary image but painted by Hungarian art nouveau painter Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch and first exhibited as part of the Hungarian millennium celebrations in Budapest in 1896. It was part of that flowering of Hungarian culture that turned Budapest into a great modern city at the time of its 1,000th anniversary.

Torda stamp image

It depicts Francis David in the centre of the picture with King John II Sigismund on the left in red, Giorgio Biandrata stands behind him and other key figures in Transylvania. By tradition the meeting of the diet took place in the Catholic Church – which became Unitarian following the event. The picture now hangs in what is today the museum in Torda which was actually a royal residence in the town in the sixteenth century and may well have been the actual location for the diet to meet. S.A. Steinthal, when he visited Torda in 1859, was not led to believe the church was the venue:

“The house in which the diet met at which this remarkable enactment was made was pointed out to me, and that plain edifice will always remain impressed upon my memory as a spot consecrated by the true spirit of Christianity, manifested long before the world at large was ready to receive its genial spirit of enlightened love.”

There is a very good account in English of the making of the stamp on the Magyar Posta website (https://www.posta.hu/stamps/stamps/new-stamps/the-diet-of-torda-was-held-450-years-ago) which includes the following:

‘Magyar Posta is issuing a commemorative stamp in honour of the 450th anniversary of the proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom adopted by the Diet of Torda in 1568. Two hundred thousand copies of the commemorative stamp designed by the graphic artist Attila André Elekes were produced by the banknote printing company Pénzjegynyomda…

The Hungarian Unitarian Church dates its establishment as an institution from the proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom adopted by the Diet of Torda in 1568. The Transylvanian Diet held in Torda (today Turda, Romania) between 6 and 13 January was the first to commit itself to religious diversity, due to which the different branches of Reformation could evolve freely and peaceably into independent churches, making it possible for the four established denominations (Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical-Lutheran and Unitarian) to develop their sectarian system. The Hungarian Unitarian Church declared 2018 as the year of religious freedom and on its initiative the Hungarian Parliament passed Act I of 2018 on the importance of the 1568 Act on Religious Freedom of Torda and the Day of Religious Freedom and made 13 January, the day on which the 1568 religious law was proclaimed, the Day of Religious Freedom.

The celebratory 2018 law is a worthy tribute to the religious law adopted at Torda, which was the first in the world to proclaim one of the fundamental merits of modern democracy, the right to exercise religious freedom. According to the celebratory law’s justification “… The notion of the Torda Act, the religious self-determination of the community, can also be considered as paving the way for modern democracy, which gained universal acknowledgement in western civilisation over the course of history and can deservedly be regarded as one of the basic values of Christian Europe.”

The stamp features a reproduction of an oil painting by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, Ferenc Dávid’s Address to the 1568 Diet of Torda. On the occasion of the millennium of the foundation of the Hungarian state, several counties, towns and communities were preparing to erect a memorial of artistic value of local historic figures or outstanding events for posterity. The town of Torda made a community decision to commission a painting that recorded the historic moment of the 1568 Diet, the proclamation of religious tolerance and freedom. The commission to make the artwork was awarded to the painter Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch.’

It is not often that anything representative of Unitarian history is reproduced on a stamp so it is nice to see this image going around the world. I am very grateful to Phil Waldron who kindly gave me this stamp.

Unitarian College Cluj/Kolozsvár

College LS 05

Kolozsvar Unitarian HQ 01

Recently I have published a couple of ‘then and now’ shots featuring Edwardian postcards and contemporary photographs on this blog. One featured a view of a street in Toxteth and one some of the churches in Banbridge. This is another ‘then and now’ view but, in this case, it is taken from a glass lantern slide of the Unitarian College building in Cluj/Kolozsvár.

I have an interesting set of magic lantern slides depicting notable sites in Hungary and Transylvania, some of them showing groups of people at what must be some sort of gathering, possibly international. The purpose of the collection, which is in a poor state and which is probably not complete, is to illustrate something about the Unitarian history and life of that region. They are not easy to date exactly but this slide helps enormously.

The Unitarian College was built in 1901, then a very modern, state of the art building which is still impressive and giving excellent service as headquarters, College as well as senior and junior schools.

It is right next door to the First Unitarian Church which can just be seen on the left of the photograph. This helps us date the slides since the College was built in 1901 and the church had the top of its tower replaced in 1908. In that year Lajos Pákey, the city architect who was educated at the Unitarian College and was also responsible for many of the prominent buildings and monuments in the town, redesigned the tower in its present baroque form. I had always assumed that this feature dated to the 1790s when the church was built and had never seen a picture of the original tower before finding this slide.

By chance I took a picture in January 2018 from the same place as the photographer of 1901-1908, not surprising since there are not so many vantage points for such a large building. But here we have the same view, separated by about 110 years.

As time and circumstance permit I will try and digitise the glass lantern slides and post them on here.

 

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 2018

The 2018 issue of the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society is now available (volume 26, number 4, April 2018).

Cover 2018

 

This issue includes:

The Case of the Clough meeting-House (1836): law reporting and pamphleteering

John F. Larkin QC

 

Supporting Belgium: A Unitarian Heroine of the First World War

Alan Ruston

 

‘To ours, among the rest’: Unitarian support for combatants in both World Wars

Alan Ruston

 

Thomas Drummond (1764-1852), a Hoxton graduate in East Anglia

Melanie Winterbotham

 

Record Section – papers relating to Rev Dr John Lionel Tayler

Derek McAuley

 

Reviews

Books Reviewed

Challenge and Change: English Baptist Life in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Stephen Copson and Peter J. Morden, Baptist Historical Society, 2017. Paperback, 304 pages ISBN 978-0-903166-45-4. Price £25 plus p &p, from the BHS 129 Broadway, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 8RT.www.baptisthistory.org.uk

A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism, Volume 1 From the Beginning to 1899, Volume 2 From 1900 to the Present, Edited by Dan McKanan, Skinner House Books, Boston USA, 2017. Volume 1, 501 pages, ISBN 978-1-55896-789-2; Volume 2, 566 pages, ISBN  978-1-55896-791-5. Both paperback, Unitarian Universalist Association 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston MA, 02240-1409, USA. Books also obtainable on amazon. Price $20 each volume.

A VISION SPLENDID The Influential Life of William Jellie A British Unitarian in New Zealand, Wayne Facer, Blackstone Editions (Canada), 2017. ISBN 9780981640266, paperback, 278 pages. Price £17.50 (Amazon)

Tracing Your Nonconformist Ancestors, a guide for family and local historians, Stuart A Raymond, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2017, paperback, 240 pages. ISBN 9781473883451. Price £14.99.

Chapels of England, Buildings of Protestant Nonconformity, Christopher Wakeling, Historic England, 2017, hardback, 312 pages, ISBN 978-1-84802-032-0, £50

 

Note – Historic Unitarian Chapels

David Steers

 

Obituary – Rev Dr Phillip Hewett

Alan Ruston

 

Annual membership of the Unitarian Historical Society costs only £10, each member receiving a copy of the Transactions. Membership can be obtained from the treasurer: Rev Dr Rob Whiteman, 10 Greenside Court, St Andrews, KY16 9UGR, to whom cheques (made payable to the Unitarian Historical Society) should be sent.

 

Gyulafehérvár

Citadel

The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Cathedrals

Cathedral

Roman Catholic Cathedral

Diocesan notice

Diocesan noticeboard in four languages

Archbishop

The Archbishop greets us

Staircase

Staircase

Cathedral altar

High altar

John Sigusmund tomb

Tomb of King John II Sigismund

Queen Isabella tomb

Tomb of Queen Isabella Jagiellon

Roman inscription

Roman inscription

Habsburg Arch

Habsburg arch

The Edict of Torda

I was privileged to be present at the special celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda held in Torda, Romania, on Saturday, 13th January. It was a remarkable occasion with three churches filled in the town, the service relayed to a screen in the town square and the event broadcast live on Hungarian television.

 

The Edict of Torda was the first promulgation of religious toleration in Europe. From the point of view of Western Europe it came at the surprisingly early date of 1568 and took place in Transylvania under the rule of King John II Sigismund, the only Unitarian king in history.

 

Here I will post some images from the service held in the Catholic Church in Torda, traditionally regarded as the location for the meeting of the Diet of 1568.

Assembing in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Assembling in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Inside the Church before the service

Inside the Church before the service

Rev Marton Csesc and Rev Imola Molnar who introduced the 16 speakers in the Church

Rev Márton Csésc and Rev Imola Molnár who introduced the 16 speakers at the service

Laszlo Kover President of the Hungarian Parliament

Lászlo Kövér, President of the Hungarian Parliament

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Some of the congregation outslde

Some of the congregation outside

Bishop Ferenc Balint Benczedi of the HUC and Archbishop Gyorgy Jakubinyi

Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, Archbishop György Jakubinyi of the Roman Catholic Church and other dignitaries

Rev David Gyero deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Dávid Gyerő, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Istvan Kovacs Director of Public Affairs HUC

Rev István Kovács Public Affairs Director of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

Rev Jozsef Kaszoni

Rev József Kászoni-Kövendi, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

UNveiling the memorial

Unveiling the memorial

The new memorial to religious freedom at Torda

The new memorial to religious freedom, Ad Astra, by Liviu Mocan