The Church Times is celebrating its illustrious 150 year history.
The first edition came out on 7 February 1863 as a voice for the
Anglo-Catholic cause at a time when clergy could be imprisoned for
lighting candles on altars and wearing vestments.
The paper was founded by printer George Josiah Palmer and would remain in the family for the next three generations, until 1989.
While it has always defended the independence of the Church of
England, other causes championed by the paper would raise a few eyebrows
among today’s Anglicans.
It describes its early attitude towards other denominations as “caustic” and also opposed women’s suffrage.
When a woman was ordained as a priest under crisis conditions in Hong
Kong in 1944, the paper likened her bishop’s actions to those of a
“wild man of the woods”.
During World War II, it had some harsh words for conscientious objectors, labelling them “poltroons”.
Today, Church Times is owned by the charity Hymns Ancient & Modern and continues to be independent of the church hierarchy.
Dr Bernard Palmer, proprietor and editor from 1969 to 89, pays
tribute to the paper’s heritage in an article for the 150th edition.
The anniversary edition also includes the results of a YouGov poll on Lent carried out as part of the paper’s celebrations.
The poll finds that Lent remains most popular among the under-35s,
with 35% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they intend to give something up,
and 30% of 25 to 34-year-olds.
By contrast, only 21% of over-35s said they were planning to observe Lent.
The poll found that, overall, a quarter of adults in Britain (24%) were planning to give something up come Ash Wednesday.
Women were more likely than men to give something up – 27% compared
to 21% - and participation is strongest in the Midlands (29%) and London
(28%). The least committed region is Scotland, where just 16% plan to
Chocolate was the most popular item to give up (10%), followed by alcohol (4%), smoking (3%) and meat (2%).
When asked to write down what they understood of the term “Lent”,
half (49%) said it was about giving something up, while 43% described it
as the period before Easter. Forty per cent also mentioned that it was
a Christian festival, while 28% said it lasted 40 days or six weeks.
Overall, only 10% did not know what it meant.
There were some unexpected definitions, however:
“Christian religious festival. Clear out old things in a pancake.”
“Christians being on diet before important holidays.”
“The season is marked by the Western churched adopting the liturgical
colour of purple or deep red, though any suggestion that this is the
origin of the name of '70's progressive rock band ‘Deep Purple’ is
“I should know ... but to my shame ... I dont.”
“How the EU is keeping Greece afloat.”
“Sumink (something) Jewish.”
“It is a type of tropical fish.”
Some snippets from the Church Times over the years
On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Are we to understand
that it was while in his box at the theatre on the evening of Good
Friday that Mr Lincoln was struck down? We are afraid that that was the
case, and that it was merely a poignant illustration of the laxity which
prevails throughout the Union.
On the dangers of the Channel Tunnel: Mr Bright . . . somehow forgot to explain . . . why a population [i.e.
the French] which one or more times in every generation goes to
loggerheads with itself should not occasionally take the fancy to attack
On preventing smoking: What is wanted is a simple enactment that youths of immature age caught
smoking in public shall be birched. . . Of course there would be an
outcry in some quarters against this wholesome discipline, but the
general feeling would be in its favour.
On Winston Churchill: The activities of Colonel Churchill are a grave danger to the country:
it will be a real disaster if he is given opportunities for continuing a
political career in which he has already the worst of records. Few of
our politicians have so much cleverness and so little wisdom.
A reflection by an exasperated editor: I comforted myself with the fact that I had a pulpit from which I could
preach social righteousness, but this comfort was mitigated by the
knowledge that at least seventy-five per cent of my readers were far
more interested in the revision of the Prayer Book than in the
destruction of the slums.