Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Britain's First Worker-Priests: Radical Ministry in a Post-War Setting

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Britain's First Worker-Priests: Radical Ministry in a Post-War Setting

Article excerpt

JOHN MANTLE. Britain's First Worker-Priests: Radical Ministry in a Post-War Setting. London: SCM Press, 2000. Pp. xxiii + 340, index. $14.95 (paper).

Having spent much of his youth witnessing life in a working-class housing estate in Dundee, Scotland, where his father served a struggling Anglican parish, John Mantle brings special empathy to his study of a small band of men and women who devoted their lives to being a presence in British industries in the decades after World War II. Leaving a nearly idyllic village for the bleak urban world was a bitter experience for a lad of nine, but he came to see in it larger questions than his personal happiness. In fact, it seems fair to say that he considers the Church of England's relationship to industrial workers its most important twentiethcentury challenge. It is not, in his judgement, a challenge the church met well. He is not an external critic, but rather an institutional insider, serving as Archbishops' Advisor for Bishops' Ministry at the time of this book's publication.

Like the better known French worker-priests, whose example some of them consciously followed, the English worker-priests began with a compelling concern over the "deep rift" that existed between the church and the common people. A postwar indifference to religion that was most marked in working-class areas was one dimension of this rift, but not the only one. The men and women whom Mantle chronicles, including Michael Gedge, Martyn Grubb, Ken Ramsay, John Rowe, Tony Williamson, and their several spouses, were also appalled by how little the church knew about workers' lives. Hoping to overcome the enormous class and cultural differences that were inherent in the situation, they took jobs in which they themselves would receive no different treatment than other workers. …

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