A Victorian slum priest, campaigning for better sanitation, was told to stop interfering in secular matters. He replied, ‘I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation’. Between 1885 and 1895, another slum priest, Father Dolling, transformed the poorest area of Portsmouth. He created a gym to promote physical fitness and dancing, but his ‘Communicants Dancing Guild’ disgusted a local evangelical vicar. ‘Who can separate the secular from the religious?’, asked Dolling. ‘Certainly the Master did not try to do so.’ He forced brothels to close, attacked army authorities for mismanagement and encouraged trade unions. The worship combined high ritual with hymns sung to homely tunes. Dolling, singing songs with servicemen, was very different from the bookish Tractarians. Why did priests like Dolling begin to connect Jesus with drains and dancing? They learned their incarnationalism and sacramentalism from a tradition which included the theologians F D Maurice, Stewart Headlam, Charles Gore and Henry Scott Holland.
Alan Wilkinson in the January 2001 online issue of Franciscan, a publican of the Anglican religious order the Society of Saint Francis, looks at the examples of Maurice, Headlam, Gore, and Holland. Read the article here.