Traditional Anglican Clergy

Searching for an email address, I somehow stumbled upon a clipping from an edition of the Shepton Mallet Journal from October 1924. The reason the clipping had been sent to me has disappeared from memory, but it is a piece that conjures a vision of a Church of England that has all but disappeared:

DEATH OF ARCHDEACON FISH.—The death took place in Bath, on Monday last, after an operation, of the Venerable John Fish, Archdeacon of Bath, late Vicar also of St. Stephens, Lansdown. The Archdeacon had suffered of late from an internal malady, which proved to be cancer, and had spent some months abroad. He returned home much better, but of late had been in indifferent health. With the exception of holding foreign Chaplaincies at Biarritz and Cannes, the whole of his preferments had been in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. He had been Proctor in Convocation also, and was appointed Archdeacon of Bath in 1909 by Bishop Kennion. Of a genial and quiet dis-position, he was liked by all, and was ever ready to give advice. An ardent cricketer, too, and a supporter of the Somerset County Club, he was a familiar figure on the County Ground, and at Lords. He was in his 63rd year. The funeral took place yesterday, at Bathampton, when the Bishop of Bath and Wells was present, and a large attendance of robed clergy.

Archdeacon Fish sounds like a people sort of person, a man who could hold his own in whatever company in which he found himself.

The chaplaincies at Cannes (1900-1903) and Biarritz (1907-1909) sound idyllic, but were at a time before beach holidays, and at a time when the pastoral work of the English population of both towns would have been considerable. People went to such places not for holidays, but in the hope of a restoration of their health. Lancelot Fish had probably gone there himself because his health was not robust. Cannes and Biarritz were indeed fashionable destinations, but the gathering of the fashionable meant the chaplain would always have been expected to be impeccably dressed and to have constantly conducted himself in a manner that was in keeping with those around. The idea of appearing in clerical dress in the ninety degree heat of southern France would not have been appealing.

Archdeacon Fish would seem to have been at much at home in the pavilion as in the salon.

Founded in 1900, Bathampton Cricket Club now describe themselves as “sloth in action” and “probably the best team in Bathampton” (they appear to be the only team in Bathampton). It would be pleasant to imagine that such a genial atmosphere pertained in the time of Archdeacon Fish.

Such clergy as the archdeacon are hardly to be found now in the Church of England. The cult of managerialism which has reduced the church to balance sheets and strategies has taken its toll, as has the dispensation of dignity and gravitas in favour of checked shirts, chinos and ersatz rock music.

Whoever sent me the piece, and for whatever reason they sent it, it was a vision of a lost world.

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