Reverend Norman Butcher FAITHFUL PASTOR, DILIGENT VISITOR. PART1 Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Faithful Pastor, Diligent Visitor


from The Barwicker No.83
Sept. 2006

Norman Butcher was Rector of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet with Scholes from 1959-1979. He worked with remarkable distinction over this twenty year period, making him the ninth longest serving priest in the parish, stretching back over eight centuries.

His greatest achievement was to build St Philip's Church, Scholes, consecrated in 1966: see 'The Barwicker' Number 80. (December 2005) This article will be concerned with other aspects of the Rector's ministry; where possible his words will speak directly to us.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster appoints the Rector and Canon James Gray, addressing the Annual Vestry meeting on 10th April 1958, reminded colleagues that the parish would not appoint his successor. 'The PCC has no authority at all in this matter, and may not even suggest the name of a suitable candidate, but it is the wish of the Chancellor that the PCC should indicate briefly the type of man that would be acceptable to them.' After some discussion, the PCC said that the future incumbent should satisfy three criteria. He should be -

'A central churchman and maintain the traditions at present in operation… a man of good physique and in first class health ...and experienced though not too advanced in years.'

Norman Butcher was subsequently appointed. At the time he was a vicar in North Yorkshire, his wife Mary always supported him fully and they worked as a formidable team.

'We have had a very happy ministry of nine years at Kirby Ravensworth and we have made many friends, but we count it a great blessing that we have been invited to come and be of service to you. ..It is amazing what can be accumulated in nine years! I only hope that when you have had me as a Rector for nine years you will still wish to retain me.' (Parish Magazine March 1959).

He had an excellent reputation and Ernest Southcott the Rural Dean described him as 'a man of enthusiasm .. we need a keenness and sense of expectancy in the church.' (Parish Magazine April 1959) Norman Butcher emphasised the importance of a working partnership between himself and church members. It was a two-way process. 'If I am to be a faithful pastor and diligent visitor, you must play your part…If I am to be wise in Counsel and friendly in spirit you must extend to me your confidence and friendship.' (PM December 1958) He outlined his priorities. The church was to be financed mainly by direct giving, an evangelical mission was needed, the Parish Magazine was to be re-styled, updated and become solvent, the Parish Rooms in the Rectory were to be improved, a branch of the Church of England's Men's Society was to be formed and a major garden fete, organised by Mary was to held in June. The church bells, which were 'practically unplayable,' were to be renovated.

These reforms were badly needed. All Saints was chronically under- funded and there were major problems in the clock tower and belfry. There was also a paramount need to plan, fund and build a new church for the growing congregation at Scholes. A curate was badly needed in the parish; this was a constant worry. For the next twenty years the Rector's energies were devoted to maintaining a delicate balance between repairing an ancient church and building a new one, ensuring all the while that congregations filled both. Church finances were in a dire state. In 1957 Barwick's total annual income was £505 with expenditure of £488; Scholes had an income of £256 with expenses of £175. The PCC settled an accumulated church deficit of £280 so that the new Rector wasn't faced with an inherited debt. Financial problems had to be dealt with immediately. The Church magazine had a deficit of £42 and £185 was urgently needed to pay for repairs to the East window. These financial worries produced forthright comment from the Rector. In an article entitled, 'These Thy Gods?' he wrote that the country was better off than any previous generation and that on average £50 per person was spent on gambling, drink, tobacco and the cinema alone, but people only gave eight shillings a year to the Church and charities. He thundered that - 'This state of affairs demands immediate and urgent and drastic action.' (PM August 1959)

A characteristic of his ministry was his confident, no nonsense, and breezy, uncompromising approach to problems. He was a great humanitarian emphasising the value of visiting parishioners in their homes and hospitals. Folk were cheered by his ministry to the sick and encouraged by his interest in them. The Rector created a great deal of goodwill, which is still remembered today. His pastoral work became an outstanding feature of his ministry. Similarly Mary Butcher was a devoted worker who involved herself in forming and running women's societies and social and dramatic groups for young people. She was a schoolteacher who enjoyed producing religious plays, making costumes and organising flower festivals and fetes.

The Rector was a man in a hurry. His priority was to teach Christianity and minister to his flock, but he was be-devilled by practical problems, which were largely caused by financial neglect. On 8th December 1959 a nasty accident was avoided-

'One of the steel cables of the striking mechanism of the clock has broken and the weight which it supported fell some twelve feet on to the floor of the clock room. Two stone corbels supporting one of the floor beams were broken and the floor was damaged.' (Barwick Church Council meeting. 8th December 1959)

William Potts and Sons needed £42 to repair the clock to pay for new weights, cables, pulleys and axles and an annual clock maintenance programme was entered into at £3.15.0 per annum.

There were constant worries about the three church bells. Should they be repaired or melted down and re-cast into a ring of six bells in a new iron frame at a cost of £1485 or should eight bells be installed as the Rector wanted, for £2100? Financial considerations were to predominate. There were ten bell ringers at the time who were keen to solve this problem. The major fund raising event was the Annual Garden Fete in the Rectory garden and it was decided to donate all the proceeds from the 1960 event to the Bell Fund rather than the new Scholes Church Fund. Eventually there was a new peal of six bells in a new steel frame, but the belfry needed a new floor, the coke fired heating system needed converting to oil firing at a cost of £263 and the churchyard,' is now looking very uncared for.'

The Freewill Offering Scheme started in October 1959. Dr D.S.Smith was elected Treasurer and he and his six gallant colleagues canvassed people in Barwick to join. It was a lifesaver and tripled the income at All Saints. The Rector gave a summary of the amounts of money given by the 112 members in this Scheme, at the Barwick Church Committee meeting on 6th June 1961. Examination of these figures emphasises the distance between our own times and this period. It was a different world, but one still within living memory.
32 People Gave 1 shilling or under 5 people Gave 7/6d
28 2 shillings 11 10 shillings
17 3 shillings 11 15 shillings
6 4 shillings 1 £1
6 5 shillings 1 Over £1

The FWO scheme led people to becoming more interested in church affairs and Dr Smith thought the second year could almost double what had been achieved in the first year. The Butchers were successful and highly regarded in the two villages and in his 1961 report the Rector referred to ' the growth of a deep sense of purpose and fellowship,' numbers had doubled at Communion and there was 'increased awareness of the centrality of the Eucharist.'

There was a new stirring in the church; there were 21 in the Confirmation Class, 35 in the Mother's Union, 45 in Women's Fellowship and 40 men in the CMS. The church was strengthening but clouds were to appear on the horizon. The Rector had his difficulties in Barwick but at Scholes the picture was clearer, for he had a green field site for his church, a new one to build, not an old to repair. An empty canvas on which to paint the future. The Rector had a way of making things happen. He complained that when he came to the parish,-'a new church for Scholes had not been included in the Diocesan plans for development, but this has now been rectified…the whole business is now much clearer in people's minds.' (Parochial Church Council Meeting. April 1959)

Norman Butcher's new church at Scholes opened by the Bishop of Ripon, Rt. Revd .John Moorman

The growth of Scholes had created a problem, which had to be solved. In 1962 it had 141 on the Electoral Roll, Barwick had 101. Scholes was also giving more money with a gross income of £1513 as opposed to £1289 at Barwick, which had greater expenses. The East wall of the church was not plumb, the Aberford Road wall was causing concern, maintenance of the cemetery was a problem and so was the old burial ground. Paying the rapidly growing Diocesan Quota, which the Rector insisted was a moral not a legal one, was a very difficult and growing issue that had to be faced. As the Rector became established, he saw he had two main topics to address-'the new church at Scholes and the acquisition of a resident curate which was a must'. (Annual Vestry Meeting and PCC. April 1960)

Like all clergy, he wanted to minister to his people, not be over involved in repairing ancient structures. His real job was to bring people to the church and he needed a curate urgently. The Bishop 'felt it was high time that we had one.' (PCC 23rd March 1964) But it was all a question of money. The stipend would be £832, of which the Diocese would pay £600, leaving £232, to be funded equally between the two churches. The Rector insisted that the curate should work the parish and not just be seen as a 'priest in charge at Scholes.' The Reverend Hayden Harrison was an excellent appointment and he and his wife Shirley were very popular. They both played a key role in community and youth involvement, particularly in Scholes where they worked hard at fund raising A bungalow at 3 Grange Court, Scholes, was purchased for them for £2750, with money ear-marked for the new church. This was a bold move for the Rector and for a period the church was badly over-extended financially.

The 1960's were a golden period for the Butchers. Norman saw himself as a man of the people, a busy priest, sitting chatting to villagers outside the old Rectory, striding round both villages with his beloved golden spaniels, his booming voice and genial manner greeting passer-by and shopkeeper alike. He and Mary thoroughly enjoyed leading village social life, whether it was hosting the Annual Garden Party, and Flower Show, being on the platform on Maypole Day, or glorying in the space and faded opulence of a huge Rectory, soon to be replaced by a new smaller and more efficient detached house designed to his own specifications. He was Chairman of the School Governing Body, President of the Horticultural Society and the British Legion padre; he enjoyed exercising his authority and position.

He fought against the evils of the age as his 'dog-collar' opened all the doors in the two rapidly growing villages; he regularly visited the homes of his parishioners. His strong, straightforward, honest message pushed through the weakness of compromise and vacillation. People were told that it was their duty to get themselves to church and accept the teachings of the Saviour. He presented the issues as he saw them, from the pulpit and the church magazine with a great deal of candour and good humour. He never shirked a challenge; you knew where you stood with Norman Butcher. He had decided views on how the young should be raised.

'Youth and the teenage phenomenon have been so much fussed over, so much glorified and so nagged at, it is not surprising that teenagers grow conceited and defiant…The problem of youth is basically the problem of the parent.' (PM September 1964) 'Our approach to youth is so absurd today that it augurs ill for the future. Youth is being led astray by the molly-coddling of its elders… This abdication of authority is the greatest disservice to youth. It is creating a generation of neurotics tossed to and fro by the slightest breeze of emotion. Young people today need those who can think for them, decide for them, and above all, who can convince them that what they decide for them is the best for them. Only when they are armed with a bunch of certainties can the young survive the growing up stage and enter firm footed into adulthood….
The note of authority should rise from the throats of parents, teachers, parents and prophets, since it will never drip through the print of the popular press or the radio and television. Such mediums will only echo the popular- and that is one of the curses of our age
' (PM November 1964).

He also disliked early marriage. 'Our legislators have gone mad, making it legal to marry at 18 without parental consent. We can only assume that it is government policy to multiply the number of divorces in this country!' (PM June 1968)

He attacked gambling on the result of General Election. 'To make a flutter of so serious and sober an issue as that of choosing a government is so odious that all right-minded citizens should declare that they will support a party - any party - pledged to ban this blot on the nation's conscience.' (PM 1970)

The Rector demanded high levels of church attendance from his congregation. In 1962 he estimated that only about 75 people on average made their communion weekly. 'I will not be content until every member of the church committee makes his or her communion every Sunday.' He was insistent people should attend twice on Sunday. 'No member of the Church Committee was there last Sunday evening.' (Barwick Church Committee. May 1962) To attend church only once on Sunday 'was a bad trend.' (BCC 26th February. 1963) He was a hard taskmaster, pleased that 'communicants had increased by over 50%' but deploring his 'inability to persuade people to attend mid-week service' (April 1966).


Part 2. of the article
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