The History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland – part two

In our service this morning, from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, we continue to look at the early history of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian denomination and in this address ask questions about the meaning of ‘heresy and orthodoxy’ and look at the role of Thomas Emlyn in sparking the first subscription controversy when the Synod of Ulster introduced compulsory subscription to the Westminster Confession following his imprisonment in Dublin in 1703.

Click on the above video to see today’s service featuring the second part of the History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 28th February 2021)

The service comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reading is from Romans ch.14 v.1-9 and is read by Sue Steers. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Who is on the Lord’s side (Thanks and Praise 164) and Wisdom Divine, bright shining, never fading (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 55) on the church’s Carnegie organ.

Also this week we have uploaded to the Downpatrick, Ballee & Clough NSP Churches YouTube channel a service that was originally broadcast from All Souls’ Church, Belfast on BBC Radio Ulster in 1995:

Click on the above video to see the service

Converted from a cassette tape to mp3 format the service was recorded live from the radio in October 1995. The service is conducted by the minister at the time, Rev David Steers. The readers are Barbara Moneypenny (Psalm 46) and Jim Jackson (Luke ch.6 v.12-31). Muriel Singleton leads the prayers. The church organist is Albert McCartney who plays on the church’s Compton organ the hymns Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; Just as I am, thine own to be; Dear Lord and Father of mankind; Immortal, invisible, God only wise and leads the Church Choir in the singing of Lead me Lord (music S.S. Wesley, words Psalm 5) and Grant us Thy Peace (music Timothy Troman, words D. Bruce-Payne).

The History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

A small but historically important liberal Christian denomination, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church was born out of the interaction between faith and the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. This act of worship includes this first part of a video series telling the history of the Church. In this film detailing the origins of the denomination in the Presbytery of Antrim in 1725, the work of John Abernethy, the Belfast Society, the influence of Glasgow University, and the Church’s place in a Europe-wide movement are all discussed.

The University of Glasgow in the late seventeenth century

The service is filmed at Downpatrick, a distinctive building of 1711, and one of the best examples in Ulster of a traditional T-shaped meeting house. The organist is Laura Patterson, who plays ‘Christ be our light’ and ‘The power of the Cross’. The reading is Isaiah ch.51 v.1-6.

You can see the service and the address on the history of the denomination in the following video:

Service of Worship from Downpatrick, including part one of the History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 14th February)

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society December 2020

An additional special issue of the Transactions is now on its way to subscribers (new subscribers are also very welcome, if you would like to join go to the Unitarian Historical Society website here).

This issue features:

WILLIAM HAZLITT, JOSEPH PRIESTLEY AND THE ORIGINS OF UNITARIANISM
IN AMERICA
by STEPHEN BURLEY

The “dark, cracked, dusty and unframed” portrait of the Rev William Hazlitt (1737-1820) painted by his son in 1805. (Image and quote from ‘The Day-Star of Liberty William Hazlitt’s Radical Style’ by Tom Paulin)
Rev Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). Portrait by Ellen Sharples (Source: Wikipedia)

Dr Stephen Burley’s paper is a radical reassessment of the role of William Hazlitt in the development of Unitarianism in the United States. A difficult man, Hazlitt was a fervent propagandist for Unitarianism whose contribution has frequently been overlooked or downplayed. This article adds a great deal to our understanding of him.

Rev William Hazlitt, from a miniature portrait by his son John (Source: Wikipedia)

‘STEADFAST THROUGH TROUBLES’: MOUNTPOTTINGER AND THE LAWRENCES
by SANDRA GILPIN

Ellen Mary Lawrence, from a portrait in Mountpottinger Church. (Photo: Adrian Moir)
Plaque in the schoolroom in Mountpottinger Church in memory of Ellen Mary Lawrence (Photo: Adrian Moir)

Sandra Gilpin tells a story that weaves together Unitarian life in London, Wales and Belfast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through the lens of the Lawrence family. Its main focus is Ellen Mary Lawrence who was born in London and who married the Rev William Jenkin Davies. She died at a tragically young age and her memorial forms part of Mountpottinger NSP Church in east Belfast.

Mountpottinger Church before the extension was added in memory of Ellen Mary Lawrence and probably featuring Rev William Jenkin Davies standing in the centre. To read more about the building of Mountpottinger click on the above image.

HELEN K. WATTS – A UNITARIAN SUFFRAGETTE
by ALAN RUSTON

The daughter of an Anglican vicar, Helen K. Watts became a Unitarian in Nottingham (Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets, £2)
Plaque unveiled in Nottingham on 14 December 2018 in memory of Helen K. Watts (Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets)

Alan Ruston brings together two sides of the life of Helen K. Watts. A ‘stalwart’ Unitarian, well-known in London and Sussex up until her death in 1972. She was also an active suffragette between 1907 to 1911 who was arrested for her campaigning and threatened with force feeding. This remarkable aspect of her life seems to have been forgotten in Unitarian circles and Alan paints a full picture of her life and achievements.

(Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets)

In our Record Section Derek McAuley has used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover hitherto unknown aspects of the life of the Rev Gábor Kereki (1914-1995) who fled Hungary for Britain at the start of the Cold War in 1947. Throughout the rest of his life he made a great contribution to the Unitarian ministry in Britain and this will continue thanks to a substantial legacy left by his wife in 2016. She has established the ‘Gábor Kereki Trust’ to benefit ministers and students of the Hungarian Unitarian Church and enable them to study in the UK.

In our Reviews Derek McAuley begins what must be a long-overdue examination of the role Unitarians played in slavery prior to its abolition in 1833 with his review of Kate Donnington’s brand new book on the Hibbert family. Alan Ruston reviews the important Lindsey Press book Unitarian Women A Legacy of Dissent, edited by Ann Peart, and Andrew Hill reviews a new publication of the diaries of James Losh, a Newcastle Unitarian who observed and recorded detailed changes in nature, the environment and weather in his local area between 1803 and 1833.

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society

Volume 27 Number 3 December 2020
Edited by David Steers

is now available. An annual subscription costs £10. Contact the treasurer via our website to join: https://www.unitarianhistory.org.uk/hsmembership4.html

Sunday Worship, 14th June Downpatrick

Surely the LORD is in this place; and I did not know it

Our service today comes from Downpatrick and we are delighted to have Megan Neill giving the reading (Genesis ch.28 v.10-22), and Laura Patterson playing the organ.

Downpatrick ext June 2016

The theme is Jacob’s Ladder:

And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.”

Where do we find the house of God and the gate of heaven in a lockdown?

The service can be viewed here:

 

Last week, in Time for a Story, Sue Steers told the story of Sir Isaac Newton and the discovery of gravity. The video, with animation by InkLightning can be seen here:

Brilliant mathematician, astronomer, discoverer of gravity, Master of the Mint, Unitarian theologian, learn about this remarkable man who is still commemorated on modern coins.

 

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society April 2020

The next issue of the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society (Volume 27, Number 2, April 2020) will soon be on its way to all subscribers. This is the first of two issues that will appear in 2020.

Volume 27, Number 2 has a special focus on three prominent twentieth-century Unitarians who have each been overlooked in recent years:

James Chuter Ede

James Ramsay MacDonald

Nathaniel Bishop Harman

800px-James_Chuter_Ede_

James Chuter Ede (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite being the longest-serving Home Secretary of the twentieth century James Chuter Ede is the only senior member of Clement Attlee’s Cabinet of 1945 to have so far attracted no complete biography. Dr Stephen Hart has been researching the life of James Chuter Ede and will see his new biography published later this year. In the Transactions he provides a detailed and information account of Ede’s life including his dedicated service to the Unitarian movement which culminated in his election as President of the General Assembly.

JRM Picture

James Ramsay MacDonald in 1895 (Photo: Tom McCready. Also photo at the top of the page showing sermons in the J.R. MacDonald Archive: Tom McCready)

James Ramsay MacDonald’s commitment to Unitarianism for a considerable portion of his life has often been overlooked, yet he preached in Unitarian churches many times and served as ‘temporary minister’ in Ramsgate and Margate for a short period. Rev Tom McCready has unearthed a hitherto neglected Unitarian archive detailing the future Prime Minister’s religious commitment and shows how his anti-militarism and pacifism were rooted in his youthful Unitarianism.

BesselsGreenKent

Bessels Green Old Meeting House, Sevenoaks (Photo: Unitarian Historical Society)

Nathaniel Bishop Harman was another leading twentieth-century Unitarian layperson who became President of the General Assembly. Alan Ruston shows how he became a Unitarian following his marriage and despite achieving considerable eminence as an ophthalmologist also devoted a great deal of his life to Unitarian affairs as writer, organiser and lay preacher, being particularly active in the congregation of Bessels Green in Kent.

To make space for these three ground-breaking articles all pieces for our Reviews, Notes and Record Section have been held over until the autumn when we will publish an extra issue. Volume 27 Number 3 will have as its lead article Dr Stephen Burley’s paper ‘William Hazlitt (1737-1820), Joseph Priestley and the Origins of Unitarianism in America’. There is no extra cost for Volume 27, Number 3 and this will be sent out to all members who renew their subscription in April.

Details of membership and how to subscribe can be found on the website of the Unitarian Historical Society

 

The true story of ‘Silent Night’, in Faith and Freedom

In the latest issue of Faith and Freedom Andrew Page tells the true story of the famous carol Silent Night and gives a new and entirely faithful translation of the hymn.

Christmas Ballee Candlelight December 2009

Andrew Page writes:

“We are all familiar with Silent Night – or, at least, we think we are. We know the famous tune, we can recite the familiar English words, we might even know the tale of the church organ and the mice – whose supposed gnawing through the bellows necessitated the writing of a new carol played by guitar.

Familiarity, however, does not necessarily lend itself to understanding. To understand the meaning of Silent Night the first thing that must be done is to strip away the myths. Myths inevitably point us towards truth – real, deep and meaningful truths, that a mere retelling of the facts never could. However, when a mythologised version of events becomes widely accepted as historical truth, it must be challenged.

A myth is a story that never was, but always is. And so it is with the myth of Silent Night. The traditional story tells us of how hungry church mice had eaten a hole in the bellows of the church organ in Oberndorf. The damage was discovered in Christmas Eve, just a few hours before the young priest, Father Mohr, was due to lead Midnight Mass. Attempts were made to find a means of repairing the organ, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. As Mohr’s congregation would need something to sing, and with the organ out of commission, the priest was inspired by a pastoral visit he had carried out earlier in the day, to a mother and her sick baby. He penned the now world-famous words, and then ran to his friend Franz Gruber – a schoolmaster and organist – to ask him to quickly compose a tune. When a man arrived after Christmas to repair the organ, he was so impressed with the new composition that he passed it on to the Strasser family, a travelling group of musicians and singers very similar, I assume, to the Von Trapps of Sound of Music fame. The Strassers later published it and the rest is history.

Or is it?….”

From ‘The Story of Silent Night’ by Andrew Page published in Faith and Freedom, AUTUMN AND WINTER 2019 (Volume 72, Part 2) issue 189

An annual subscription costs £15 (postage included). Please contact the business manager to take out a subscription:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.  DN21 4GA.

It’s also possible to pay via PayPal via clicking here.

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

Faith and Freedom Cover 2019

Faith and Freedom, Autumn and Winter 2019

FAITH AND FREEDOM, AUTUMN AND WINTER 2019 (Volume 72, Part 2) issue 189 is now available

Articles include:

T.E. Lawrence and God by Howard Oliver

An engrossing study of the evolution of the religious thought of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), of one of the most enigmatic and complicated public figures of the twentieth century. (See above image of the memorial plaque to T. E. Lawrence, unveiled at the Oxford High School for Boys by Winston Churchill, 3rd October, 1936.)

 

The Story of Silent Night by Andrew Page

The true story of the transmission and translation of the famous carol Silent Night, uncovering its three ‘lost’ verses and giving an entirely new and faithful translation of the hymn first sung at the bicentenary service held last year in Cairo Street Unitarian Chapel Warrington..

 

Romantic Religion by Tim Clancy

What do we mean by God and how do we understand God. “In so far as we recognize God’s loving recognition of us, we come to participate ever more intimately and ever more fully in God’s own power, the power of being itself. In this way God can be said to actively relate to us without determining us.”

 

Barbara Ward and this Journal: ‘Faith and Freedom’ by Dan C. West

The writings of the late Barbara Ward which share similarities of ethos as well as of name with the journal.

 

In the Interim by Sue Norton

Exploring being in the interim.

 

Books reviewed:

Liberal faith beyond Utopian dreams

43602055._SY475_

Nancy McDonald Ladd, After the Good News: Progressive Faith Beyond Optimism, Skinner House Books, Boston 2019, pp 159, ISBN 978-1-55896-828-8.  $16.00 pbk.

Reviewed by Jim Corrigall

 

The 1960s – a new spirituality for a new world

9780198827009

Sam Brewitt-Taylor, Christian Radicalism in the Church of England and the Invention of the British Sixties, 1957-1970; The Hope of a World Transformed, Oxford University Press, 2018 pp 272, ISBN 978-0-19-882700-9, £65, hbk.

Reviewed by Marcus Braybrooke

 

Climate Crisis – essential reading

Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, Pelican (2018), pp 465, ISBN: 978-0-241-28088-1, £8.99

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, Allen Lane (2019), pp 310, ISBN: 978-0-241-35521-3, £20.00

James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, Allen Lane (2019), pp 139, ISBN:  978-0-241-39936-1, £14.99

Reviewed by David A. Williams

 

Unitarians and Biblical revision

9780567673473

Alan H. Cadwallader The politics of the Revised Version: a tale of two New Testament revision companies, T & T Clark, 2019, pp. 224, ISBN: 978-0567673466, £85 hbk.

Reviewed by Andrew M. Hill

 

Clerical corruption in the Vatican

9781472966186

Frederic Martel trans. Shaun Whiteside, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Bloomsbury, London, 2019, pp.570. ISBN 978-1472966148, £25, hbk.

Reviewed by Frank Walker

 

An annual subscription costs £15 (postage included). Contact the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.  DN21 4GA.

It’s also possible to pay via PayPal via clicking here.

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

James Martineau’s carte de visite

I have a small but growing and (to me at least) very interesting collection of cartes de visite of Victorian clergymen. I have only written about one of these so far –  Hugh Stowell Brown’s carte de visite – you can click on the link to read about it. That particular very rare, possibly unique, card, was reproduced (with my permission) in Wayne Clarke’s excellent new biography A Ready Man, Hugh Stowell Brown, preacher, activist, friend of the poor. It is a very characterful and impressive image.

James Martineau CDV 01

James Martineau

This image of James Martineau is also very characterful, although I suspect is not quite as direct a link with the great philosopher, theologian and Unitarian minister as H.S. Brown’s carte de visite was with him. A carte de visite was essentially a calling card although they became highly collectable in their day. This image of James Martineau was published by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company which specialised, as their name suggests, in stereoscopic views. Founded in London 1854 it sold stereo views and viewing equipment at the height of popular interest in 3D views of the world, as well as providing all manner of photographic and allied equipment. In the 1860s they diversified into the new craze for cartes de visite and were very successful in meeting the considerable market demand for them.

James Martineau CDV 02

Reverse of  the James Martineau carte de visite

This image of James Martineau dates from about 1873 or 1874. Born in Norwich in 1805, by this time Martineau was principal of Manchester New College, then located in Gordon Square, London. He was already a figure of some significance nationally although his fame was to increase as he got older. However, I don’t think this card would ever have been used by James Martineau, I suspect it would have been sold by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company as a collectable celebrity image. James Martineau’s own carte de visite was published by market leaders Elliot & Fry. He seems to have had at least two cards made by them: one in the 1860s and another about a decade later in the 1870s. Examples of both of these cards are held by the National Portrait Gallery in London, amongst the dozen portraits they hold of Martineau to this day:

James-Martineau

This picture: James Martineau by Elliott & Fry, albumen carte-de-visite, 1870s NPG x197538, © National Portrait Gallery, London (Creative Commons license)

The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company portrait resembles very closely the  picture in the National Portrait Gallery. However, the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company picture is taken from a different angle and gives a different profile.

At first glance it seems certain that both pictures were taken at the same sitting. Perhaps Elliot & Fry sold some of the images they took to the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company? In both pictures Martineau is wearing an identical suit and an identically positioned watch chain. In fact everything looks the same except the button on his jacket is in a different position. But there does appear to be another subtle difference – close inspection of Martineau’s tie suggests that they are not the same piece of clothing at all. The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company photograph dates from after 1873 (when the company won the Prize Medal for Portraiture at the Vienna Exhibition as the reverse of the card shows) and before 1875 (when they won a subsequent prize medal which they added to the reverse of their cards). Martineau’s appearance on both pictures is so similar that it is impossible to imagine that they were not taken very closely together. So on the same day or in a couple of days in 1874 did James Martineau turn up for two different photographic sittings at the two studios, changing his tie between sittings? Either way there are two sources for cartes de visite associated with the great man. One is the series produced by Elliot & Fry and the other is the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company picture of which I am glad to have a specimen.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

Images of Oxford

Oxon Brasenose Lane

Brasenose Lane

Whenever I am in Oxford I always tend to take pictures as I walk about. This is easily done with modern mobile phones and if the pictures are unlikely to win any prizes they at least can give pleasure to the photographer. I took a lot of pictures when I was an undergraduate at Oxford, in those far-off days using a Russian Zenith EM camera, which was then the cheapest SLR camera that was available. I was reminded of this as I walked around Oxford recently because of certain items in the news. One of the inevitable consequences of being at Oxford is that you rub shoulders with all sorts and conditions of persons, including many would-be politicians. There were not a few from those days who went on to be government ministers both Labour and Conservative, at least one was party leader and another one looks like becoming Prime Minister. But when I was a student at Christ Church I shared rooms with a person who was an activist in the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). This had the side effect of frequent visits to our rooms of his associates from the (to me) rather dull and pointless world of Oxford student politics. For now I will draw a veil over the various political figures who were around in those days. For the most part they didn’t really impact that closely on my life but one of them came to mind when I was back in Oxford recently. One frequent visitor to my roommate was another OUCA activist who would come to discuss issues with his colleague, on one occasion pacing around the living room in a very heated way complaining about a story that Cherwell, the student newspaper, was threatening to run about him. Most of the time his presence didn’t impinge on me nor I on him but he couldn’t always ignore me and so on one occasion, when his friend disappeared for a while, asked to have a look at a fresh roll of film I had just had printed. “These really are marvellous photographs” he said. “Really quite excellent photographs” he enthused. He went through the prints one by one and then through them again, all the time praising each of them to the skies. Such use of light! What a composition! How ingenious! On and on he droned. A friend of mine who was visiting found this very amusing. This was standard ‘hack’ behaviour, to butter people up and ingratiate yourself so completely in the hope that one day you might vote for them in some election or other. The years go by and I had thought that this particular individual had never made it into politics. But at some point he does appear to have been elected to Parliament and recently achieved significantly high office and so is involved in the manoeuvres that will see the appointment of a new Prime Minister. Of course, maybe he really did think my photographs were superlative. Who knows? But being a successful politician is rather like being a great actor. You have got to have sincerity. If you can’t fake sincerity you will never be a great actor.

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

Oxon Oriel gate

Oriel College gate

Oxon White Rabbit 02

White Rabbit in the covered market

Ch Ch Tom Quad

Tom Quad, Christ Church

Oxon Merton lane

Grove Walk

 

Unitarian Historical Society 2019

The cover of our latest issue of the Transactions which is on its way to all subscribers and which is available to order by new subscribers now:

Cover 2019

You can read more about the contents HERE

The Tercentenary of the Salters’ Hall Debates can be read HERE

The Annual General Meeting of the Society for 2019 will take place at 14.55 on Wednesday 17 April at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel during the meetings of the General Assembly. This will be followed by a lecture by Dr Rachel Eckersley on ‘Benefactions in the form of books: the development of the Northern Dissenting Academies and their libraries during the 18th and 19th centuries’.