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3. THE CHURCH HOUSE SCHEME

During the remainder of the summer of 1886, opposition to the Church House scheme began to be heard. Nevertheless, Archbishop Benson and the others persevered and in October an executive committee was appointed, followed a month later by two sub-committees concerned with finding a suitable site for the building and raising the money to pay for it.

Members of the general public had their first opportunity to hear and question the promotors of the scheme at a meeting at the Mansion House, London, at the end of the year. Fund-raising meetings were then organised up and down the country and these continued to be held during the next few years, despite the fact that some were quite poorly attended.

The ecclesiastical newspaper, The Guardian, 11 August 1886, voiced a widely held view objecting to the idea (one shared by certain of the clergy and laity alike):

If the reign that has seen Convocation revived could see it also reformed and perfected so as fitly to represent the Church and to carry on the vast organisation for which it is responsible, we should not complain of a further proposal to give it a suitable lodging...

But there are more immediate if not more serious reasons for demurring to the Bishop of Carlisle's proposal. The present is not a season of prosperity for any class or institution in the country, and the Church is no exception to the general depression (prevalent during the 1880s and 1890s).

The reign of the last Queen who occupied the throne before Queen Victoria was signalised by the foundation of a Bounty which has been of great and lasting benefit to the Church of England. Might not the present reign. . . be marked by a voluntary Queen 'Victoria's Bounty', designed to raise depressed livings, or, at least, those that are in public patronage, to a level consistent with the work a clergyman has to perform, and the life which he is expected to live?

One clergyman, forwarding the same argument in another church newspaper, succinctly described the scheme as the 'South See's Bubble'. Critics also said of the proposed House that it was intended to be a sort of clergy club or a lazy lounge for the Bishops, with penny slot-machines selling ready-written sermons. To the charge that the idea was only 'a pet chicken' of the Bishops, and especially of his own Bishop, the Archdeacon of Carlisle replied that he hoped that under their fostering care it would become 'a fine healthy bird'.

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year
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