Stephen A Bunyan

In this essay:

At first sight there would seem to be little change in the position of the Episcopal Church in East Lothian during this period, but this would be deceptive; there have been a number of important changes. The church here, like the Scottish Episcopal Church of which it is a part, entered the new millennium in a strong position, and surveys in the late 1990s suggested that the Episcopal Church was the only Scottish church experiencing growth. That was not to say that it did not have problems, not least how to deal with important historical buildings in a period of rising costs and how to find and pay for clergy.

In a sense the changing position, and to some extent the problem of the buildings, was related to the changing position of the gentry, for it was mainly to meet their religious needs that the Episcopal churches were originally built. As heritors, landowners were responsible for the upkeep of parish churches (ie Church of Scotland) and manses (they were relieved of this burden in 1925, when the tiends were commuted to a fixed payment). Non-Presbyterian lairds (Episcopalians included) had long resented having to pay, because in the 19th century, while their responsibilities to their community continued (and with them their payments for the upkeep of the Church of Scotland), more and more were educated in England. Hence they established Episcopal churches where services were held like those with which they were familiar at such as Eton and elsewhere; their attendance at these Episcopal churches seems to have depended on how local the church was to their home. Travel by horse perhaps limited attendance, and so Episcopalians attended the local parish church or held prayers at home for their households.

Biel Chapel, near Stenton, was built in the late 19th century for Constance Nisbet Hamilton by R Rowand Anderson with seating for over 100; she provided a site in Pencaitland for a church to be dedicated to St Michael & All Angels, although the church was not built and the site eventually became a private family burial ground. She also held services at Winton, Pencaitland, where Gilbert Ogilvy fitted up a room as a chapel; it fell into disuse after the war when it became possible to travel to Haddington again.

Some families, and not only the gentry, continued this dual commitment to the end of the period, as they wished to share in the life of the community in which they lived as well as in that of the church in which they were brought up.

East Lothian Episcopal Churches

By 2000, there were six churches in regular use in the county: St Anne’s, Dunbar; St Adrian’s, Gullane; Holy Trinity, Haddington; St Peter’s, Musselburgh; St Baldred’s, North Berwick and St Andrew’s, Prestonpans. Other Episcopalian associations included the Chapel of the Three Kings of Cologne in St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington and Loretto School Chapel, Musselburgh (interdenominational, with an Episcopalian Chaplain in 2000). Worship at the two other places extant at the beginning of the period had ceased: the mission at St Germains’, Tranent discontinued in 1975, and use of the Winton House Chapel, Pencaitland had ended in 1952.

The ‘Piskies’

A number of important changes had in fact occurred. In Scottish rural communities in the post-war world Episcopal churches were usually known as ‘the English kirk’. In some ways this was an understandable reaction. The populations of our small burghs then, were more definitely Scottish, probably spoke broader Scots and were more suspicious of English accents than they were by the late 1990s. Post-war, the indigenous population was almost all nominally Presbyterian. The exceptions were the Roman Catholics who tended to be Irish, Polish or Italian, together with a few of the gentry. The other significant minority were the ‘piskies’ – the Episcopalians. These were Anglified ‘gentry’, usually English educated; or their English servants; or English expatriates, mainly service families. Long-term Scottish Episcopalians were not plentiful in the South East of Scotland, though the 19th century missions led by Canon Wannop and others had had some success among the local population.

‘English’ Services

The pattern of services was also the same as the Church of England, tending to be Low Church with matins, evensong, and an early morning celebration of Holy Communion for the more pious. Those attending Communion were expected to fast, and the late communion service was seen as a soft option: it was usually a monthly communion after matins for those who wished to stay on for it, and was intended mainly for country members. This meant that matins was shortened on those occasions, and those who disapproved referred to the arrangement as ‘mangled matins’. The usual service for most people was matins sung as in the English prayer book. Evensong was usually poorly attended and was often said rather than sung. Major festivals were observed with an 11am communion. The celebrant celebrated facing east, with his back to the congregation, at an altar against the wall or with a reredos, and on it were normally a cross and two candlesticks. In this position, the priest was seen as offering up prayers and communion, sometimes called the sacrifice of the altar, as worship on behalf of the people to a God presumed to be, or symbolically seen as, somewhere in the east or above ‘the bright blue sky’. By 1975, the main service was more often Holy Communion, often partly sung and with the priest wearing a chasuble.

Clergy and Clerical Attire

The clergy were all male, frequently trained in England, though there was a Scottish Theological College in Edinburgh (Coates Hall). Normally ex-public school pupils, they were recruited straight from school to university or theological college, and while the ambitious looked for preferment in England, many English priests sought it in Scotland. They wore cassocks, surplices, preaching scarves and seasonal coloured stoles for sacraments. Vestments were unusual in rural churches, but not unknown in East Lothian. Normally there were no servers though possibly there might be a curate who would administer the chalice. There were choirs, often male only, dressed in cassocks, surplices and ruffs for the younger members or possibly Eton collars for all. Non-Episcopalian boys were sometimes recruited and paid a small remuneration; some stayed for life. Young people tended to be few because the children of the gentry were away at school and did not mix with the rest at other times.

There was little contact between denominations, but when there was the white surplice identified the Episcopalian rector as different. The Roman Priest was unlikely to mix at all. The bishops were seen as remote figures that appeared for Confirmations, and they were still, if incorrectly in Scotland, still often referred to as the Lord Bishop.

The Urban Dynamic – Leading to Rural Change

In those days, the country Episcopalian making his/her way into Edinburgh, perhaps as a student, would discover a different scene. An Anglican Chaplaincy had been established in 1944, funded largely by St John’s, Prince’s Street, but not attempting to tie students to that church. The Chaplain from 1951-55, the Rev P.C.Rodger, encouraged the students, many of whom were English, to go where they would in the morning and to come together at the Chaplaincy in the evening. Occasionally the students went as a group for an early communion service to various churches. In this way they became aware of the variety of Anglican practice and different nuances of faith that the church encompassed, and this increased a spirit of toleration.

Christ Church was Low Church: the rector wore surplice and stole and used the commemoration formula ‘Do this in remembrance of me’. St Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place and St John’s were middle of the road with sung choral services, matins and evensong but not normally sung communion; they had strong choirs. The real difference from East Lothian practice was to be found in the Anglo-Catholic churches. Those attended by The Anglican Students’ Union (A.S.U.) were Old St Paul’s and All Saints’. Old St Paul’s was conscious of its links with the pre-1690 church and the Jacobites. Here, the service was referred to as the mass, from a special rite and with belief in the real presence, if not transubstantiation. Certainly the idea that the late, or High, mass was essentially a celebration was accepted; there was also confession. In the evening, there was also Benediction with the Adoration of the Sacrament with the Host (a consecrated priest’s wafer) displayed in a monstrance. There were deacons, servers and acolytes as well as a choir (at that time these were almost certainly male). The priest, encouraged to be celibate and however young, was nevertheless known as Father. Incense and bells (known to the disapproving as ‘smells and bells’) were used in the mass. In some cases the bells or a gong merely alerted the congregation; in others it was a signal to ring the main church bell to tell those outside, who might wish to know, that the Elevation of the Host was occurring. Here too, our country visitor saw many different garments (known by unfamiliar terms): maniples, essential for a true mass; chasubles, dalmatics, copes; buttoned cassocks with capes and possibly red or purple edges; birettas, lace fringed cottas and surplices as well as monstrances, incense and censers. The suspicion was that this was all higher than Rome, except that English was used and not Latin: the country Episcopalian was unlikely to enter a Catholic church to find out.

One church on the circuit, St Columba’s by the Castle where Ninian Kemp had been permitted in 1951 to restore a weekly Sung Eucharist, celebrated in the Basilican mode, westward facing, and pointed the way almost all were to go. This was not seen as likely at the time.

Our student would have been aware of other influences. S/he might have attended the formal University services on special evenings in St Giles – Presbyterian and very formal. Around 1954 a University Chaplaincy was established, with the Rev David Reade as chaplain; the idea of ecumenism was encouraged. By 2000, the Episcopalian Church of the 1950s seemed a distant memory, but from it the modern church had evolved.

Changes to 2000

By 2000, the Liturgical movement begun in St Columba’s was widespread. Almost all the priests celebrated from behind the altars, many of which had been moved into more central positions, facing the congregations. Priests were often backed up with team ministries, some of whom were retired priests and some non-stipendiary. Servers were more usual. From 1992, Priests could be either male or female: by the end of the period, women filled some 10% of incumbencies. Priests wore albs, stoles and chasubles. Though high and low churches continued (sung masses from Old St Paul’s and St Michael & All Saint’s were high points of the Fringe programme), the middle way had become more usual.

The main service, often the only one, in most churches was a Parish Eucharist using a new liturgy rather than the 1929 Prayer Book. A new liturgy (known as the Grey Book) was introduced in 1970 using essentially prayer book language; it was widely used. A second (the Orange Book) was published in 1977 using modern language. It was not widely accepted, but led in 1982 to a further liturgy (the Blue Book), which was authorised and with later developments was almost universally used. In some churches, at least occasionally, the 1929 Prayer Book (latterly reprinted) was still used and was loved by older members who grew up with it. The service was often partly sung or said, and tended to be held around 10.30am, though in some churches there was still an early celebration. Talk of fasting had gone but it might still have been practised.

Services tended to be inclusive. Members of other denominations were allowed, even encouraged, to participate in communion (unheard of in 1950, even for spouses, when special permission had to obtained from a bishop). There was greater acceptance of divorcees and gays. Children were welcomed (in theory), and admitted to communion in many churches. In the light of this change, the position of confirmation needed to be re-defined. By 2000, there was a movement to involve the laity much more, as lay readers, servers, lay pastors, and to have non-stipendiary priests (though of course this meant they were no longer lay). Patterns of ministry were still changing and some NS priests were in charge of charges. There were also part-time priests in charge. The concept of total ministry, where congregations provided their own ministry, was being explored as a possible solution to falling numbers of priests and rising costs, particularly in remote areas. The Theological College had gone and new patterns of training were being developed. Ordinands tended to be older and of both sexes, coming with more experience of the world (which was valued) but possibly without higher education. Bishops were less remote and more approachable; they were likely to be called by Christian name rather than ‘my lord’. More of them were Scots from ordinary backgrounds. The possibility of female bishops was under debate.

By the end of the period, the Episcopalian church was increasingly outward looking and had important links with areas of concern. It had made links with Scandinavian churches in the Porvoo Agreement. It was involved in Scottish Churches Initiative For Union (SCIFU) – a discussion for union between the Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church. It was also a member of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS). Episcopal Churches still tended to be known as English Kirks; they were in full communion with the Church of England but were not part of it. The Scottish Episcopal Church was a province of the Anglican Worldwide Communion with its own Primate, known as the Primus, elected by his fellow Bishops. Certainly it offered a spiritual home for many English people but the church was firmly rooted in Scottish history and tradition.