THE ROLE OF THE CHURCHES

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 178-187)

8o instituted a House of Mercy soon after his arrival in I 889

THE ROLE OF THE CHURCHES

The important part religious affiliation played in the organization of voluntary institutions is clear. Moral imperatives were a strong enough incentive to social action to make the denominations alternative agencies to government in the organizing of the community’s charitable organizations. Yet the churches’ major duties remained the care of the moral standards of the citizens and they had their own particular organizational problems to face. Within tne new society each denomination was re-defining its status and position after the disestablishment of tne Church of England. They were concerned

too with arranging their own internal governing procedures within the independent colony.1 The strengths of the

denominations varied by the number of active supporters each could claim, by the status acquired from traditional reputation, and by the efficacy of their operations.

^R. Border, Church and State in Australia, 1788- 1872, (London, 1962) pp.228-236.

The S t a t u s o f A f f i l i a t i o n The t o p o f t h e s t a t u s t r e e was o c c u p i e d by t h e C h u r c h o f E n g l a n d i n T a s m a n i a . To t h i s d e n o m i n a t i o n o e l o n g e d t h e G o v e r n o r s o f t h e c o l o n y , a n d most o f t h e l e a d i n g j u d i c i a l and 2 a d m i n i s t r a t i v e p e r s o n n e l . At t h e o f f i c i a l a n d u p p e r , c e r e m o n i a l e n d o f l i f e i n Hobar x Town, t h e A n g l i c a n s r e t a i n e d t h e i r o f f i c i a l l i n k s d e s p i t e d i s e s t a b l i s h m e n t . I t was a s t r a n g e s i t u a t i o n when a c h u r c h h a d l o s t i t s o f f i c i a l s u p p o r t w i t h o u t l o s i n g i t s p o w e r . Had t h e r e n o t a l r e a d y Deen e n o u g h v e s t e d i n t e r e s t , i n H o b a r t Town i t s e l f , t o k e e p t h e C h u r c h o f E n g l a n d ax t h e h e a d o f t h e s t a t u s h i e r a r c h y , t h e n xhe c o n t i n u i n g l i n k s w i t h E n g l a n d w o u l d h a v e d o ne much t o b r i n g a b o u t t h e same c o n c l u s i o n . The a r r i v a l o f e a c h new B i s h o p f r o m E n g l a n d b r o u g h t a r e - i n o c u l a t i o n o f i n f l u e n c e a n d a j o c k e y i n g f o r p o w e r , b o t h w i t h i n t h e r a n k s o f t h e c l e r g y and i n t h e l a y c o n n e c t i o n s . J ame s B a c k h o u s e W a l k e r , i n a l e t t e r t o h i s s i s t e r , d e s c r i b e d t h e d i s s e n s i o n s when B i s h o p Montgomery a r r i v e d . He t o l d h e r a b o u t t h e c l e r i c s : E a c h w i l l i n g t o t a k e t h e l o w e s t s e a t p e r s o n a l l y , a c c o r d i n g t o t h e S c r i p t u r e s , b u t e a c h e q u a l l y f e e l i n g h i m s e l f b ou n d - a l s o a c c o r d i n g t o t h e S c r i p x u r e s - t o m a g n i f y h i s o f f i c e . . . . 2 C o n t r i b u t i o n s xo xne S u s t e n t a t i o n Fund f o r t ne P a r i s h o f S t D a v i d , Hobart Town, T . C . C . , J u l y 1 8 5 6. Re p or t o f S o u t h e r n F i n a n c e Committee o f Synod 1873- 4* L o c a l R e p o r t s o f t h e P a r o c h i a l A s s o c i a t i o n s i n t h e Rep ort o f t n e Church S o c i e t y f o r xhe D i o c e s e o f Tasmania 1 882 , p p . 2 0 - 3 0 .

The nexus of Church and S uate remained a powerful combination which many people continued to use for local advan&age and preferment.

The Anglican clergy secured precedence in all public rites and in the serni-formalized social life at Government House the survival of erastian privilege remained manifest.^- The yielding of precedence to Anglicans was so much ingrained within the tradition of the colonists that it was a scarcely conscious procedure, and even those whose position was

prejudiced by the system tended to accept the situation as the logical arrangement of society.

The members of the lesser Protestant churches enjoyed little formal social privilege yet contributed more than their fair share of creative energy to local community affairs. The Church of Scotland, in an in-between position, accepted second rank as the quasi-official church of some colonists, its status in Scotland carrying due weight within the ciuy, which botn assisted its precedence and inhibited its freedoms. Individual Presbyterian ministers and laymen, with the advantages of the Scottish educational tradition, carried to praiseworthy levels the development of intellectual, cultural and spiritual values

^The Dinner Books of Government House

1855-74

and

1875-88

lay down the precedence for invitation and seating arrangements, and guest lists reveal the order which was followed.

i n l o c a l o r g a n i z a t i o n s . Such r o l e s s ee me d l e s s l i k e l y f o r m os t A n g l i c a n c l e r g y whose e n e r g i e s w e r e d i v e r t e d , b y s o c i a l c u s t o m , i n t o c e r e m o n i a l a n d communi t y r i t u a l w n i c h e n s u r e d t h a t t h e i r i n f l u e n c e s h o u l d b e c o n s e r v a t i v e . The P r e s b y t e r i a n , t h e R e v e r e n d Dr L i l l i e , was a s t i m u l a t i n g c u l t u r a l c a t a l y s t o f m i d - c e n t u r y , w h i l s t t h e R e v e r e n d Dr J o h n S e r v i c e a t t r a c t e d y o u n g i n t e l l e c t u a l l y c o n s c i o u s men o f many 5 d e n o m i n a t i o n s . T h e r e w e r e l a y me n o f n o t e s u c h a s A l e x a n d e r McNaughton a n d A . G . W e b s t e r , b o t h m e r c h a n t s a n d b o t h i n c l i n e d t o w a r d s a c o n c e r n f o r c i v i c o r g a n i z a t i o n a n d commerce r a t h e r t h a n f o r p h i l a n t h r o p y a n d c u l t u r e , b u t a D l e men f o r a l l t h a t . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , t h e C h u r c h o f S c o t l a n d was l e s s b l e s s e d i n i t s o f f i c e r s a f t e r 1 8 7 0 . The d e n o m i n a t i o n became o b s e s s e d w i t h i n t e r n a l d i s s e n s i o n a n d t h e R e v e r e n d J a m e s S c o t t , t h o u g h an a c t i v e l o c a l f i g u r e , was no man t o s e e b e y o n d t h e s t r i f e . * ^ The P r e s b y t e r i a n s b e c a m e , by a n d l a r g e , a n u n c h a l l e n g i n g g r o u p c o n t e n t t o f o l l o w w h er e c h a n g e l e d . T h i s was n o t t r u e o f t h e d i s s e n t i n g c o n g r e g a t i o n s . B a p t i s t s w e r e s c a r c e l y r e p r e s e n t e d i n H o b a r t Town u n t i l l a t e i n t h e c e n t u r y a n d t h e p r o m i n e n t g r o u p s b e l o n g e d t o W e s l e y a n M e t h o d i s t a n d C o n g r e g a t i o n a l c h u r c h e s a n d t h e m e e t i n g s o f t h e ^ L e t t e r J . B . W . t o D o u g l a s D y k e s , 26 J u l y I

884

» W a l k e r A ( i i ) 2 . ^ L e t t e r J . B . W . t o Mary,

6

S e p t e m b e r I

89

O, W a l k e r A ( i ) 2 .

Society of Friends. Within the membership of these few bodies were contained the majority of people with the type of

personality which was most adjusted to the colonial, urban

7

society. They always tended to be the first to realize social problems, tne first to be attracted by the literature of new social and cultural ideas from overseas. They were the first

to suggest change; the first to organize formal groups for tne attainment of specific social and spiritual goods, with the least waste of energy upon extraneous tradition-distorted

3

issues. Wo better testimony of their happy synthesis of secular and spiritual motivations can be found than in the Congregational eulogy tnats

The genius of the Christian religion is progress; the genius of our Congregational principles is Q progress .

Many of the 2,000 Wesleyan Methodists and Congregationalists were professional men; others were ousiness and office managers, or shopkeepers. These churches drew their support from the

^M. Roe, Quest for Authority in Eastern Australia, (Melb.

1965

) PP.129, 143, 204.

o

This analysis is illustrated by the active role played by the evangelicals throughout the descriptions of tne various social and cultural institutions. It must be borne in mind that size of the membership of these congregations was no more than half that of the Catholic Church and barely one fifth of tne nominal size of uhe Church of England. The basic conceptual groundwork is described in Roe, op.cit.

urban middle classes; comparatively few members depended upon direcx links with the farmers and rural districts for their money and few laboured on day rates. Few members joined uhe Government House set until I89O wnen, wixh sxatus acquired Dy

long involvement in city affairs, tneir temper suited xhat of Governor Sir Robert Hamilton, or, at least, of his wife, Teresa. Not so many Nonconformists were less than shopkeepers or owners of workshops, for their churches' internal organization was based on equal r e s p o n s i b i l i x y a n d not patriarchy, and all members were expected to be capable of baking a share in proceedings.

The Congregational churches axtracted, by and large, the group of higher economic status.11 Henry Hopkins, the merchant financier, at the one extreme, contrasted with Charles Davis,

12

ironmonger, at the other, whereas the Wesleyan Methodisx people exxended down furxher into uhe barely respectable. Wesleyan appeals and public meexings were frequenxly presided over oy Congregationalist figures of status - the Hopkins, xhe

^ Memorial Congregational Church Manual, 1886.

"^G.Stillwell, ’The Congregational Cemetery, New Town, Tasmania’, Australian Genealogist, V0I.7, 1952-5» pp,116-120.

Davey Street Congregational Sunday School Building Fund, Subscription List 1881.

12t k . „

R o u t s , G . S . C r o u c h , P e t e r F a c y , t h e W a l c h s , s l i p p e d e a s i l y f r o m C o n g r e g a t i o n a l m e e t i n g t o W e s l e y a n a n d b a c k a gai n. '* '" ’

E q u a l f a c i l i t y was d e m o n s t r a t e d by t n e a d m i r e r s ^ o f t h e

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 178-187)