Clerical concern for morality of the times

November 30, 2017

Retired journalist Mark Birch has been trawling through the St Mary’s archives and published booklets.  These are one view of history, often written for a particular time and context.   Through the Cathedral Project we hope to tell more of our church and regional stories.  These profiles are a start.

Red Cross queen carnivals encouraged gambling and placed girls in moral danger, according to the fourth Vicar of St Mary's, the Revd. A. H. Colvile (1912-17).

He said the gambling associated with carnivals was bad enough, but “the threatened demoralisation of young girls” was worse; it was dangerous to allow girls to accost strange men with lottery tickets in the streets.

Colvile also discontinued New Year's Eve “watchnight services” because they meant girls were out late “in an emotional state.”

This concern for womanhood was echoed by the Taranaki Church magazine, which advised girls “not to adopt fast ways of either dress or bearing which tend to lead young men to make remarks behind their backs.

You could do anything you like with the man who loves you. You, the guardian of all that makes for chivalrous English gentlemen. Let caresses from men be restricted to your father and your brothers until to the circle you add your husband, the one, exclusive of all others, to whom you entrust your life, your confidence, your person, and your honour.”

Colvile was said to preach with unusual power and originality, possess an amazing memory, and be “a most acceptable visitor of both rich and poor.” He was readily at home with children, and “also found a great welcome on the cricket and bowling green.”

Colvile sternly criticised people who roamed the streets and then “dropped in to church in a very unsuitable frame of mind.” And he deplored the poor church attendance – prompting one lady to suggest that a recent succession of six wet Sundays had been “sent by God as a punishment for the clergy.” She didn't say what sins the clergy had been committing.

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