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|A clergyman's actual duties (longish)
Written by Line
(4/23/2010 10:22 a.m.)
Nan Duval's post below made me think of this. I've been reading Irene Collins' very interesting "Jane Austen and the Clergy". She mentions that JA accepted that the clergymen of her time *did* have a very leisured existence - for JA, a clergyman's duty was more to set a good example by the way he lived, than to fulfill any particular tasks. IC also points out that it's still quite difficult to tell from JA's novels what the duties of a clergyman of her time actually were. However, the following would be among them:
- IC says that at the beginning of the 18th century, most churches had two services on Sundays, "matins" at 10 a.m., which could last up to three hours(!), and "Evening" Prayer at 3 p.m. The clergyman could easily spend all day in church, spending the time between services on "churching" women, doing children's catechism and instructing young people preparing for confirmation. However, as the century wore on and plural parishes became more common, about half of all country parishes only had one service per Sunday. Very occasionally there might be a mid-week service (apart from weddings and funerals).
- IC says that JA's contemporaries were fond of sermons, but did not expect their clergyman to come up with original ones every Sunday, and that there were a great many books of sermons on the market. She adds that the two "discourses" that Mr. Collins mentions having preached before Lady Catherine in the time between his ordination at Easter and his visit to Longbourn in November, were likely his only original ones, and that he was probably thinking of having them published!
- Holy Communion was not celebrated in country parishes more than once a month, and sometimes not more than three times a year. It was not part of the regular service, but tacked on afterward.
- In a time of high infant mortality, a conscientious clergyman would go as soon as possible to christen a newborn child privately (the public christening would take place later), and if a child was thought to be dying, a priest might be called out at any time of day or night to christen it. (Guessing at the reason for urgency, I know that many Catholics used to believe that the soul of a child who died unbaptized might not go to heaven, but end up in limbo. I don't know what Anglicans of JA's time believed, but I suspect it was much the same.)
- Meanwhile, the mother was "churched" - a short service of thanksgiving for mother and child's safe deliverance, but which was also believed to absolve the woman from the sin of conception. According to IC, many village people took churching more seriously than the baptism, and were prepared to pay a fee for it.
- Sick visiting, since again according to IC, there was a lot of ill-health in the villages, but formal Sick Communion was distributed only once a year
- the occasional "parish meeting"
Not very much, is it?
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