Wednesday, July 28, 2004

On July 28, 1824
a recently ordained Anglican deacon by the name of John Henry Newman wrote to his mother. In his letter, he mentions his attempts to get to know his parishoners :

About ten days ago I began my visitation of the whole parish, going from house to house, asking the names, numbers, trades, where they went to church, &c. I have got through, as yet, about a third (and the most respectable third) of the population. In general they have been very civil; often expressed gratification that a clergyman should visit them; hoped to see me again, &c. &c. If in the habit of attending the dissenting meeting, they generally excused themselves on the plea of the rector being old, and they could not hear him or the church too small, &c.; but expressed no unwillingness to come back. I rather dread the two-thirds of the parish which are to come; but trust (and do not doubt) I shall be carried through it well, and as I could wish. It will be a great thing done; I shall know my parishioners, and be known by them. I have taken care always to speak kindly of Mr. Hinton, the dissenting minister, expressed a wish to know him, &c.; said I thought he had done good—which he had—in the place.

Last Sunday I had it given out in church that there would be an afternoon sermon during the summer. From what I hear, on talking to various people about it, I doubt not, with God's blessing, it will answer very well. I am glad to say the church is so full in the morning that people go away; but that is not saying much. As you recollect, it only holds two hundred; however, there often used not (I am told) to be more than fifty at church. I wish very much to establish a Sunday School. The only Sunday I have been absent from St. Clement's was last Sunday, when I was at Warton. I had three services and sermons there in the day; but did not feel fatigue.

The sermons I send you were not intended for compositions: you will find them full of inaccuracies. I am aware they contain truths which are unpalatable to the generality of mankind; but the doctrine of Christ crucified is the only spring of real virtue and piety, and the only foundation of peace and comfort. I know I must do good. I may and shall meet with disappointments, much to distress me, much (I hope) to humble me; but as God is true, He will go with the doctrine: magna est veritas et prævalebit.

He does not mention it here, but in the course of his visitations, he eagerly knocked on the door of a man whom the neighbors described as never having set foot in the parish church- and it turned out that the man was a Jesuit priest who ministered to the few Catholics in the area of Oxford. Twenty-one years later, that priest returned the favor- only now Newman was a recent convert and the priest got to tell him "Welcome home!"


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