« PreviousContinue »
could bring ; and when carol after carol was sung by individual members of the congregation. This service still goes by its ancient name of 'Oie'l Vayree,' which means literally, 'Eve of Mary,' and the origin of it was evidently a service in honour of the Virgin Mary. It is curious that in a place where the ignorant cry of 'No Popery' meets with a ready response, and where most of the people are dissenters, that such a service should be still kept up without even changing its name. Christmas Day itself is not kept with nearly so much solemnity; and out of the crowds of rustics who appear at the Oie’l Vayree, very few indeed attend the morning service on Christmas Day. The Manx people do not seem to have any
game; most of the men go out shooting on Christmas Day, and the boys generally spend the day in playing at hockey,' which they call by some unpronounceable name.
In olden times a barn was always given up at this season, and prepared for dancing, in which exercise all the people, young and old, disported themselves for at least ten days. Dancing is still held in great favour by the Manx people, and they have a Manx reel, which is somewhat like a Scotch one ; it is danced by four persons, and the slow motion is now and then enlivened by a shout and stamp. An old Manx rhyme, in referring to the popular taste for dancing, says,
"I ne'er such festivity saw,
For dancing is somewhat like law,
The Manx are decidedly very fond of law-suits ; they will go to law with a neighbour about the smallest disagreement, and their law-suits are endless, so that the simile has more force in their case than may appear at first sight.
When the dancing in the barn was over, a curious ceremony was gone through, which was called “Cutting off the fiddler's head.' The fiddler knelt on the floor, and placed his head on the knee of some maiden, as though he were going to cry forfeits, he then proceeded to prophesy of certain events, and particularly of weddings, to take place before the next Christmas ; he often judged by little signs of affection which he had witnessed during the dancing. If he coupled together the names of a man and maiden who disliked each other, there was often much weeping; as, though not much thought of on other occasions, on this one the greatest faith was placed in the fiddler's auguries. I believe this custom has now quite died out.
The stoning of the wren on St. Stephen's Day, is, I believe, not peculiar to this Island ; it is an odd custom, and the origin and meaning of it I know not. The day before St. Stephen's Day, an unfortunate wren is caught and stoned to death ; he is then hung on a bush. The following day, three boys, one with a piece of crape on his cap, and another ornamented with flowers and some wrens' feathers, go about from house to house, carrying the bush, and singing the following lines.
HUNTING THE WREN.
* We'll away to the woods, says Robin the Bobbin,
Each verse has the line four times over.
2. What will we do there ? says Robin the Bobbin, &c.
At all other times the life of the wren is protected, as it is considered unlucky to kill one; there are some fishermen who consider it a charmed bird, and always carry a dead one or a few feathers with them when they go to sea.
Now I must conclude, wishing you a happy Christmas.
MISSION WORK AT HOME.
IN THE EAST OF LONDON.
the most pressing of our wants for the coming year seems to me to be the maintenance of parochial work in poor districts, where the Incumbents, out of their very scanty incomes, are quite unable to provide the necessary salaries for Curates and other helpers.'
Such are the words in which, in a letter addressed to the members of the Ladies' Diocesan Association early in the present year, the Bishop of London commends the poor parishes in the east of London to the kindly care of the inhabitants of the West End.
For these parishes the work that has to be done, is not only that which is especially the office of the Bishop's Fund, the breaking up of new ground, the planting of the Mission, the nourishing of all the works connected with it; there is the life-long labour of maintaining all the necessary parochial work.
There is the portioning off some of its thousands of inhabitants, it is true, to become a separate charge under the care of the Mission clergyman; but when that is done, the population of the mother parish has only been decreased a little; there has been no increase in its wealth or means of support ; the Mission district will still look to, and partly depend upon, the elder church for support; and that is not only powerless to help, but almost incapable of inaintaining its own necessary machinery.
How heavily these difficulties press upon the clergymen of those parishes may be seen from the following sentences, which we quote from the Bishop of London's address to the Ladies' Association, to whose efforts in collecting funds, as well as in visiting, teaching, or assisting in any way, he so earnestly commends this portion of his diocese.
‘No one who is not acquainted with the actual state of the parishes in the poorer parts of London can have any conception of the burden which is thrown upon the clergy. Great exertions have been made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to raise the incomes of the incumbents of these parishes to £300 a year; and though that is but a small income, it is far better than they were able to receive formerly. But this £300 a year, though it might with great difficulty suffice, perhaps, for a man and his family, cannot suffice for that object if you are to deduct from it a sum of £200 a year for the necessary expenses of the parish. Now I hold in my hand a letter from the incumbent of a poor parish in the east of London, to which I direct your attention.
"Out of an income of £300 a year, £148 is necessarily deducted, chiefly in meeting the grants made by various societies towards the supply of clerical and other spiritual agencies for the parish.” These societies very properly and naturally adopt the plan of giving grants in aid. They do not
generally pay the whole salary of a curate, but they say, We will give you, say £80 a year, on condition that you raise £40 a year to meet that £80. What is the result? If we were here in St. James's, Westminster, there would be no difficulty in raising the amount in church, or by collections from house to house ; but when you come to these poor parishes, it is totally impossible for a clergyman to obtain the money without wasting his whole time in asking for it; and hence one of the crying evils is the necessity for continual appeals, which occupy much of the time of the clergy which might be better spent in other ways, and which withdraw their minds from their directly spiritual work. In this particular parish to which I have alluded, £148 a year have to be deducted out of the incumbent's £300 a year. This clergyman proceeds to tell me that his people contribute according to their means, and if they did not, his whole income would be absorbed. ..... Now, what I wish to urge upon you is that you come to the rescue of these poor parishes by enabling the clergy to defray the expenses of curates and Mission women, to have deaconesses engaged wherever possible, to reside in the parishes, and to meet school expenses. In the parishes which are so burdened, I must beg you to press forward, and to take a portion of the burden from the clergy, for without that relief it is almost impossible for them to acquit themselves satisfactorily in the difficult positions in which they are placed. For a few years a man might go on as incumbent in such a parish, with a stipend lower than that of a curate, but at last he must seek another cure, or become depressed and dispirited. It has long been a project that the richer parts of London should bear a portion of the burdens of the poorer; and here is a plain way in which you may assist, by bearing the burdens of the clergy in those poor districts.'
Let us briefly glance at one of these East End parishes.
the moderate-sized houses, the poor inhabitants.
The Parish of St. Peter's, Stepney, is under the care of the Rev. A. H. Sitwell; it is a specimen of all that parishes of this kind require, for here is the work both new and old going on together—the older church and the Mission church. The elder requiring so much assistance to carry on its ordinary parochial work; and the Mission, which has sprung from it to take charge of a portion of its great population, owing its existence in a measure to it, looking to it for partial support, and yet able to derive so little help from the already overburdened church.
'I have,' writes Mr. Sitwell, 'nearly seventeen thousand people under my care. Since I came to St. Peter's, I have opened a Mission church, which relieves me of the direct charge of four thousand. The bulk of the people are very poor.'
Here the Bishop of London's Fund has been at work, assisting Mr. Sitwell to commence this Mission, called the Northern Mission, in his parish; it provides the Missionary clergyman, and makes a grant for securing the site for a permanent church. A parochial Mission woman is appointed to work amongst the poor. Here then is the Mission District, with its population of four thousand—quite a parish in itselfthe Mission church, with its welcome Services, its Sunday school of three hundred scholars, and all the work which is growing and has yet to grow out of it. But what remains for the large population still under the care of the clergyman of the parish church ?
First, there is the church itself, with all its heavy expenses, to be maintained, as it best can be, by church collections and donations. Then there are the large schools, with their six hundred children, for which, happily, the children's pence, the Government grant, and the church collections and subscriptions, are just sufficient. Attached to the parish is a Provident Society, which last year received deposits to the amount of upwards of £2,200, showing how much may be saved by a large population of working people, when once they have acquired the habit of saving, and the opportunity of doing so with safety is presented to them. There is also a satisfactory Clothing Club, and a Lying-in Charity; but when we have recounted these agencies, there still remains the question, Who is to help the clergyman himself in the care of his people? Who shall assist in watching over the twelve or thirteen thousand souls still remaining ? Whence shall the funds arise which are to provide him with a fellow-helper in the ministry, and enable them to send forth their Scripture-readers, Mission women, and other visitors, amongst the poor, whose help must be so sorely needed in such a parish? Where indeed, except in the manner stated by the Bishop, by grants in aid, which in almost every case have to be met by a fixed amount, for which the clergyman is solely responsible.
Probably all will remember how severely the East End of London suffered from the outbreak of cholera last year, and how unflinchingly it was met by all who were at work amongst the poor.
Both in their own parish and in the London hospital, Mr. and Mrs. Sitwell were especially welcome visitors, for they had known and suffered from cholera in India, and to see them alive and well, and fearlessly going about amongst the sick, was very cheering to the poor patients.
At the commencement of the outbreak a short letter was addressed to his parishioners, by Mr. Sitwell, briefly setting before them the necessary precautions, telling them where to apply for remedies, and concluding with these words :
'I pray you to remember that we are in God's hands, and that the efficacy of these precautions depends upon His blessing. Love and fear Him and put your trust in Him at all times, for “God is our Hope."
• The parsonage is close to St. Peter's. The friends of persons who are ill may summon me to attend at any hour of the day or night." Commending you to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
• I remain,
"ALBERT H. SITWELL." St. Peter's Parsonage, Stepney.