From the Parish Magazine




Fr Simon writes . . . about the Eucharist - part 1


1. A Service of Two Parts


New Testament

The earliest documentary evidence of the celebration of the Eucharist is the New Testament itself. First of all, we have the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in the Gospels: Matthew 26.26-29, Mark 14.22-25, and Luke 22.15-20. John has his own reasons for not including an explicit account of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but the whole of Chapter 6 is a meditation on the meaning of a service, which would be completely familiar to his readers. Then there is an account from Paul in 1 Corinthians 11.23-26. It is largely on this account that the story of the Last Supper in the Eucharistic Prayer is based.


Luke has further evidence, both in his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. For example, the resurrection appearance at Emmaus (Luke 24.30-35) is the story of a Eucharist, and in Acts 2.42, 46 it is particularly interesting to read:


"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers... And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts."


Separation of Christianity and Judaism

For the purpose of this first talk, the words in italics above are important because they show that, at the beginning of the Church, the disciples were not aware that their faith in Jesus Christ would separate them from Judaism. The first disciples were Jews after all, and it was perfectly natural for them to continue to worship as Jews, both in the temple and in the synagogue. What was already new and distinctive, however, was their faith that God had shown that Jesus was the Messiah by raising him from the dead, and also their celebration of the Eucharist. This, "The Breaking of Bread" as it was called, was already taking place separately from the formal worship of Judaism - "in their own homes".


The separation of Christianity from Judaism arose through two factors: first, the expulsion from the synagogue of those who preached that Jesus was the Christ, and secondly the admission of Gentiles into the Church without their first having to become 'Jews'. Much of Acts, and also a great deal of Paul's writing, bear witness to these two factors, and also to the working out by the early Church of the theology of what had happened as a result.


Joining of Word and Sacrament

Once the break with Judaism was complete, there was a need to fill the gap left by the synagogue service, which was a service of the Word consisting mainly of readings from the Law and the Prophets (The Old Testament), sermon, and prayers. The synagogue service and the Breaking of Bread became linked together, and the basic two-fold structure of the Eucharist came about - The Liturgy of the Word and The Liturgy of the Sacrament.


Justin Martyr (ca. 150)

The Eucharist is, therefore, a service of two parts. The underlying structure of the Sunday Eucharist as described by Justin Martyr (Rome, Second Century) will be recognised as being identical with the Eucharist as it now celebrated:


On the day called Sun-day an assembly is held in one place of all who live in town or country, and the records of the apostles or writings of the prophets are read for as long as time allows. Then, when the reader has finished, the president in a discourse admonishes and exhorts us to imitate these good things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers; and ... when we have finished praying, bread and wine and water are brought up, and the president likewise offers prayers and thanksgivings to the best of his ability, and the people assent, saying the Amen; and there is a distribution, and everyone participates in the elements over which thanks have been given; and they are sent through the deacons to those who are not present.


2. The Liturgy of the Word



In both of the main constituent parts of the Mass, there is an exchange. In the Liturgy of the Word, there is an exchange of words, a conversation, between God and his people. In the Liturgy of the Sacrament, there is an exchange of gifts. Our gifts to God are the bread and wine, which we present and offer at the altar. These gifts represent ourselves, whom we bring to God to be transformed by him. God's gift to us is the divine life of his Son - his body and blood, which are received by us under the appearances of bread and wine.



At the beginning of the Mass, before the actual Liturgy of the Word begins, there is a preparation by the priest and people. A Hymn, or an Entrance Antiphon, is used when the sacred ministers come in. Thus the whole service is set in the context of praising God together. After the Entrance Hymn or Antiphon, the priest greets the people, and they respond. This exchange of greetings by priest and people sets the scene for the exchange that follows.


Prayers of Penitence

After the Greeting, the priest and people prepare for the Mass by acknowledging their sins and their need for forgiveness. The whole of the Liturgy of the Word recalls Christ's public ministry of preaching and teaching, so it appropriate that we should begin, as he did, with a call to repentance. After 'Lord, have mercy', and sometimes 'Gloria in Excelsis' (based on the song of the angels at Jesus' birth), there follows the Collect, also called the Opening Prayer.



This prayer is called the Collect because it 'collects' together our thoughts and prayers for that day. It sums up the theme of the particular celebration, and therefore of the readings that follow. It is also called the Opening Prayer because it is the main prayer that 'opens' the service, but we could think of it also as the prayer that is said when the Scriptures are 'opened' for us to hear.



The readings from Scripture follow usually three on Sundays and two on weekdays. It is important to listen attentively to the readings. In many people's houses (my own included sometimes!) the radio or television can be on, but no one is actually listening or watching. Sometimes the readings at Mass can be treated like that: just a background noise, something to fill in the gaps between other things that happen. Some people find it helpful to follow the readings from the service sheet, while others find that they can listen better without following from a printed page. The way the reader prepares for the reading, approaches the lectern, and delivers the reading, is very important.


The readings are not simply 'read out' for us to hear, and then pass on. The Liturgy of the Word is meant to be an exchange, so it is important that we enter into the two-way conversation. God speaks through the words of scripture and, as we listen, we respond. Each reading has responses for the people to say. The first two readings have "This is the word of the Lord", to which we respond, "Thanks be to God", and the Gospel has more responses still. At the Gospel we respond still further by standing up, by singing, and by using lights and incense. A priest or deacon generally reads the Gospel, and the Gospel Book is carried in procession from the altar. The readings follow a theme for that day, which links them together. The Old Testament is read first, then the New Testament, including the Gospel. There is a progression of thought, which represents the way in which the New Covenant supersedes the Old, and the way in which God has progressively revealed himself, first through a nation, and then in the person of Jesus Christ.


Between the first two readings, a psalm is generally used. The psalm is itself, of course, a reading from Scripture. It is called the 'Responsorial Psalm' because it is the people's response to the first reading. It is also called 'Responsorial' because it is arranged so that the reader and the people can join in, as part of their response to God's word.  It not only represents a response to the first reading, but also carries us forward to the second. Sometimes a hymn is used instead of a psalm. Whatever is used at the 'Gradual' (from the Latin 'gradus' - a step: so called because his part of the service takes place at the chancel step) it needs to be chosen carefully because it has to form a response to the readings. It needs to reflect the theme of the day, and help the people to listen to the word of God.


The sermon or homily is to help us to understand the readings, and apply them to ourselves in our own lives. The sermon leads us on from making a liturgical response to the Scriptures; to responding to them by the way we live. Our final response to what we have heard in the readings and in the sermon is a profession of our baptismal faith (in the Creed, or another form of affirmation of faith) and prayer together for the Church and for the world. Justin Martyr wrote about this part of the Mass: 'we all stand up together and offer prayers'. Standing together emphasizes first of all that these are prayers offered by the assembled people of God (not just a collection of individuals saying their own prayers). Secondly, standing together to pray shows that here the people is exercising that part of the priestly ministry that belongs to them: of offering prayer on behalf of the world.   

To be continued next month

Fr Simon





This is an abbreviated version of part of an account of the early years of St Barnabas Oakhill written by Fr Peter Marr. May we remember the causes for which St Barnabas Beckenham stood for from the beginning.  


The idea of a church district in the south of Beckenham was associated with the appointment of a Chaplain to members of the Hoare family living at Kelsey Manor in the 1870s. The moving force was Peter Richard Hoare. A chapel had been built there by Sir George Gilbert Scott and the Revd Robert Linklater served as Chaplain from 1869 until 1872. He subsequently went as a curate at St Peter's London Docks and was succeeded by the Revd Edward Pote Williams.


Edward Pote Williams was born on 23rd November 1838. He was born at Eton College where his family had been booksellers and publishers. He was a descendent of Joseph Pote (1703-1787) bookseller at Eton, whose daughter had married into the Williams family, also publishers. E.P.Williams senior, published sixty or so books, classical literature, history, theology and the Eton School Lists. In 1869 he also published a History of Boating at Eton.


The young Edward Pote Williams was educated at Christ's Hospital (then in London) and Christ's  College, Cambridge. He was ordained Deacon in 1861 and Priest the following year. He served a number of' curacies, at Calbourn, Isle of Wight (1861-63) Fawley, Hants (1863-64), and Chislehurst (1864-69/. During this time, in 1865, he joined the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) subsequently becoming the longest serving member of the Society.


In 1869 he served as a missioner at St Peters London Docks together with the Revd R.A.J.Suckling. He was Rector of the rural parish of Barsham in Suffolk (to which Fr E.P.Williams subsequently was appointed), and then Vicar of St Peter's London Docks, and of St Albans Holborn.


It would have been here if not before that Fr Williams would have come into direct contact with Robert Linklater and thus with the Beckenham connection. However, he left Chislehurst and served an curacy at St Augustine's Kilburn (1869-72), before coming to Beckenham that year.


He married Julia (Ellis), by whom he had five sons and three daughters. Their eldest child Katherine Mary was born in Chislehurst about 1865. The next child, Leonard, was born about two years later at St Leonards-on-Sea, whilst Fr Williams was still at Chislehurst. A third child Bernard Francis, was born about a year later, again at Chislehurst. During his time at Kilburn (1869-72) Mary and Margaret Irene were born. Margaret died on 20th November 1882 and is buried at Barsham. Then whilst at Beckenham Cyril and Mildred were born in the late 1870s.


The Revd E.P.Williams set to work to establish on Oakhill a church that was sympathetic to the Catholic tradition within the Church of England. This was finally achieved in 1877 a few months before Peter Hoare died. News of his appointment as the first Incumbent was certainly made known by April 1877. Keble College Oxford, then recently founded in memory of John Keble became the Patron. The College was chosen to ensure a succession of Catholic-minded priests for the parish. A capital sum of London, Tilbury and Southend Railway stock provided the stipend, apparently given by a now unknown benefactress.


The religious atmosphere in Beckenham at the time was not a happy one. In particular it was the year that the feelings over the book 'The Priest in Absolution', a manual for priests concerning sacramental confession, were at their height. The Church Association had a number of meetings locally expressing concern about ritualism and about auricular confession. On the other hand in 1877 the Beckenham and Bromley Branch of the English Church Union the other end of the churchmanship spectrum expressed its hearty sympathy with the Rev. Arthur Tooth in prison for conscience sake (i.e. ritualism) and its deep sense of thankfulness to him for his loyal stand in defence of the rights of the Church. Fr Tooth, then Vicar of St James Hatcham, is buried at Elmers End Cemetery where on 5th March each year we hold a service at his grave.


The establishment of St Barnabas nevertheless went on apace. But in July we read in the local press concerning St Barnabas, Oak Hill:

Within the past month, with signatures attached to it representing 304 persons, has been presented to the Rev. EP. Williams, in which the memorialists state that the gentleman in question, who has just been nominated as first incumbent of this Church, is a member of the Society of the Holy Cross and of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and likewise one of those who signed a petition to Convocation in favour of the appointment of legalized confessors in the Church of England, they cannot in any way receive or recognise him as their minister or pastor, and therefore trust he will abstain from intruding into their homes in that capacity. Accompanying this memorial is a list of names of parties who decline to sign the same (representing 68 souls) with their reasons attached. A copy of the document was sent on the 12th. to His Grace the Archbishop, together with a strongly-worded memorial...


We have already noticed that he had joined SSC in 1865. The month following the petition, August 1877, there were further problems. The Revd Charles Stebbing Wallace SSC had been refused a licence by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Tait, "because he would not leave SSC." However, the members of the SSC were "unanimous in thanking Bro.Wallace for his courageous conduct". Clearly the matter was somehow resolved as he appeared listed as "curate" at St Barnabas the following year at the Stone-laying ceremony for the new St Barnabas Church. He is described as the "embodiment of priestly chivalry and fraternal charity" and later became Vicar of the Ascension, Lavender Hill.


When St Barnabas District was made into a parish in 1880 it seems that the Revd Edward Pote Williams was not acceptable as the first Vicar. It is not clear why. He left Beckenham in 1880 and became Rector of Barsham, Suffolk, succeeding the Revd R.A.J.Suckling. At Barsham Rectory he had two domestic staff of which one, Mary Seels, probably came with the family from Beckenham. Her own family lived at Clayhill Cottages in the Bromley Road. Suffering from indifferent health, Fr Williams left Barsham and became curate at St Mary Magdalene, Paddington, a Keble College living (1889-91), then Chaplain to the Sisters of St Mary and St John in Chiswick (1891-1902) and finally curate of St Matthias Earls Court (1900-16).


He had joined the SSC in 1865 and by 1909 had become the senior member by length of membership of the Society. He had been a founder-member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and its Secretary-General. He became the oldest member of The Church Union. Much is revealed in the words of Ninian Comper, the architect, who was staying with the Williams' at Barsham on Good Friday 1883: Mr. Williams, rector, is what I call a regular thorough priest and not a rector or clergyman...... " Fr Williams returned to St Barnabas to preach on a number of occasions up to 1919 and a local writer observed in 1895 that FY Edward Pote Williams had "never lost his first love for the church and parish he inaugurated".


He died aged 84, and after 62 years as a priest, at Earls Court on 14th November 1922 and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery on 17th November. His obituarist wrote in The Church Times that Fr. Williams was closely associated with Fr Lowder and also Fr Mackonochie "the defendant in various ritual suits...and [Fr Williams] was in full sympathy with their ecclesiastical positions".