Reverend Norman Butcher FAITHFUL PASTOR, DILIGENT VISITOR. PART 2 Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Faithful Pastor, Diligent Visitor


from The Barwicker No.84

Note: PM is the Parish Magazine

From the late sixties the rector found it increasingly difficult to come to terms with changing values. A new generation of car owners were tripping off to the Dales and coast at weekends. There was talk of adopting the 'Continental Sunday', going to football matches, the cinema and shops. Leisure time was becoming more important as increasing numbers of women went out to work to fund consumer spending. For many people, weekend gardening and decorating was essential in all the new houses being occupied.

Above all there was television with the corrosive satire of 'That Was The Week That Was', on Saturday nights in 1962 poking fun at and weakening the Establishment. The transmission of the 26 episodes of 'The Forsyte Saga on BBC2 on Sunday nights from January to July 1967, led to a serious decline in church going throughout the land. The rapacious intentions of Soames towards Irene, gripped the nation; the series became compulsive viewing for six million viewers. This whole series was repeated the following year on BBC1, attracting eighteen million people.

The sun was setting on Evensong, many people preferring to stay at home to watch television, for Sunday was no longer the sole preserve of the church. It was a bitter pill for churchmen to swallow.

This was the 'let's get rid era.' 'Let's get rid of everything, that owes its origins to the past.' (PM June 1972) The Rector despaired at influences at work on society.

'Pop music is not a cultural manifestation; it is a commercial exploitation… this is the brain-washing of a commercial society where mammon reigns.' (PM December 1972)

The Rector fought back by writing and publishing his history of the parish in 1970. He wanted to remind people that the church was a religious, historical and artistic treasure, which we ignored at out peril. Our Society was falling by the wayside, we needed reminding of our true heritage, needed telling and showing true worth and value.

'I have grown to love this Church and I feel honoured to be its Rector.' (Preface) He did not lay claim to being a historian by producing 'this descriptive booklet', but he was over- modest. He wrote a first-class history, based on and updating the work of his illustrious predecessor, Frederick Selincourt Colman (Rector 1899-1910)

Building St Philip's church was a triumph for Norman Butcher, he had driven the project through from inception and having built it, he had to make it work.

His enlightened ideas anticipated that in the future the church could be enlarged, altered or adapted as a hall, as circumstances changed. (SCC 4th September 1963) He would have approved of the three church re-orderings since 1966.

But at the time, the extra demands on him were not helped by the departure of the curate who had been appointed to a parish of his own near Hull in 1966. He was not replaced and the bungalow was sold. 'Scholes now has a new church and an empty house.' (Church Emergency Meeting. April 1967)

The question of union between the Church of England and the Methodist Church appeared on the national agenda with the publication of a three year Unity Commission Report in April 1968. Both churches had agonised over this question for the past twelve years.

The Rector had a Methodist background and saw the long- term benefits of union. Both sides took strong positions; Norman Butcher tried to be even handed on the question but his caution was evident.

'You cannot manufacture unity; it must grow… Fusion takes place at white heat, not when the metal is just warm…It would be wrong to sit still; but it would be even more wrong to rush headlong forward.' (PM August 1968)

Nationally this was a confusing issue. 'The Voice of Methodism' prepared plans for a 'continuing' Methodist church and the Anglicans replied with a continuing Anglican church in the 'The Society of the Holy Cross.'

The battle lines were drawn and there was suspicion and doubt on both sides. There was talk that there mustn't be any sort of surrender; agreement was seen as improbable on some issues and that Methodist ministers had to be fully ordained in 'the sense understood by present Anglican ministers'.

Joint alternative services were to be held in both Scholes churches on Sunday evenings, for a trial period of one year. The Rector wished to have nothing to do with arrangements for a Methodist type of service at the new church, so he gave the Church Committee authorisation to organise services, but poor communication and misunderstandings led to mistakes being made.

The infamous 'candlesticks issue' erupted at St Philip's. At one evening service attended by 41 Anglicans and 15 Methodists, the altar candlesticks were removed by request. The Rector was disturbed when he heard of this and angry words flew between Barwick and Scholes.

'The Committee express its concern at the attitude of Scholes Church Committee and the worsening of relations between that Committee and the Rector.' (BCC 12th October 1970)

Furious questions in Barwick asked 'if the Methodists were taking over at Scholes.' (PCC 23rd October 1970) The Scholes Committee replied angrily that it was their decision and they resented critical comment from the PCC. The argument rumbled on leading to serious disagreement.

'There was indignation that Scholes Church Committee… 'which was only a sub-committee of the Parochial Church Council should pass a resolution resenting the intrusion of the PCC.' (PCC 9th November 1970) This battle of wills between the two committees led to the resignation of two Scholes members and in December 1970, the Rector 'decided to discontinue the experiment.' (Scholes CC 2nd December 1970)

The scheme to unite the two churches failed at national level; then as now, the question of unity has still not been resolved. The Rector summarised his views.

'It was a fiasco.. for Church and State alike, the sixties were nothing less than a decade of disaster…one has sometimes got the impression that the Church is less concerned to proclaim the Gospel than merely stay in business.' (PM June 1972)

He continued to express his opinions freely, saying that the Church was on the wrong track. He flayed his own institution.

"The Church needs nothing so much as to get back to its basic purpose… the worship of God and the proclamation of the Gospel…the more the Church influence declines the more pressure there is to compromise with truth…. Had the abortive Anglican-Methodist scheme come to pass, it would have been like the wall 'daubed with untempered mortar' -a sadly botched up affair'." (Ibid)

He was at the bottom of a very black pit, concerned with the permissive society, drug addiction, 'revolting students', increasing levels of crime and violence and the pain of our times. His greatest sadness was that -
'The voice of the church has been muted, muddled and utterly ineffective.' (Ibid)

The Rector found it difficult to come to terms with things he neither liked nor understood. He thought that unity would happen some time, but not in his time. He was safe in the bosom of his all- embracing Anglicanism, which he accepted completely. The future would look after itself.

Norman Butcher never stopped fighting the good fight. He said he had a pessimistic outlook but remained an incredible optimist. He was often confused by modern trends but remained resolute, determined, courageous and single-minded. But he was exhausted by his massive effort to build St Philip's and the ceaseless struggle for money.

'One did not get anything without personal confrontation.' (SCC September 1975)

Towards the end of his ministry he said his greatest concern was the decreasing lack of social fellowship in the church, which had lapsed in the years immediately before and after the new building.

In his final meeting of the Scholes Church Committee, the Rector said he had very happy memories of the parish and would often think about Scholes. He said that the new church ‘is my baby’ and he ‘would always love Scholes church.’

Norman and Mary retired to Malton in 1979 but he helped at St Mary’s church and also took over a church near Pickering during an interregnum. Mary died in February and Norman in November 1994, a faithful pastor and diligent friend to the end. A mighty voice was stilled.


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