The first Vicar of St Faith's meets the people in 1899

The foundation stone of St Faith’s was laid on May 24th, 1898, and the church consecrated on April 21st, 1900. Towards the end of the building period, the Liverpool Mercury carried an entertaining account of a meeting, unearthed by John Woodley, at which the vicar-designate spoke of his plans and hopes for the church of which he would become priest-in-charge some four months later.

The Revd Thomas Howe Baxter

St Faith’s Church Waterloo  
Views and intentions of the vicar-designate

In connection with this place of worship, now in course of erection in Crosby Road, Waterloo, a meeting was held in the concert hall of the Waterloo Constitutional Hall, South-road, last evening for the purpose of introducing the vicar-designate, the Rev. T.H. Baxter, B.A., and to afford him an early opportunity of informing those who may be interested in the subject of his views and intentions as regard the conduct of Divine service, and the work generally in connection with St. Faith’s Church. The Rev. C. de B. Winslow, M.A., Rural Dean, presided over a large attendance, among those present being the Rev. Canon Armour, D.D. The Rev. Canon Jones, M.A., The Rev. T. H. Baxter, The Rev. S. J. Sykes, Mr H. Douglas Horsfall, Mr. J. Eshelby, Mr S. Freeman, and Mr T. B. Neale.

The Chairman, at the outset of the meeting, read a letter from the Bishop of Liverpool, to the following effect: - “Mr Horsfall’s new church is built in the very situation which I suggested three years ago. Every wealthy Liverpool layman who builds a fine church “Suo Sumptu” deserves praise and sets a good example. I wish endowment was more common. I have seen St. Faith’s, and hope to see it again.” The Chairman, continuing, said that they must all feel a deep sense of gratitude to Mr H. Douglas Horsfall for building such a magnificent church in Waterloo. (Hear, hear). He was sure that the Rev. T. H. Baxter would find warm hearts and willing hands ready to support him in the good work which he had come to inaugurate. (Applause).

Mr H. Douglas Horsfall, who was accorded a hearty reception, said that the site of the new church was chosen by the Lord Bishop himself, who had for many years who had longed for one to be erected as near the corner of College-road and Crosby-road as possible. He considered that in the course of a couple of months the church would be completed.  After a few further remarks, the speaker introduced the Rev. Mr Baxter to the meeting. In doing so he said that he felt assured that the benefactor’s wish would be realised and that the church would be a great spiritual centre of real work in the best sense of the word, and would long remain a sphere of usefulness to the honour and glory of almighty God. (Hear, hear.)

The Rev. T. H. Baxter, in the course of his address, referred to the large parish in London, where he was now engaged, and the work that was carried on. He next stated that there were three things he would like to see the key notes of the services at St. Faith’s. The first thing, of course, was reverence; then they must make their services bright and hearty; and thirdly he would like the services to be thoroughly English, and a dignified simplicity of worship. He was a High Churchman, and had very decided views of his own. He was of opinion that one could not make much headway in this world unless they had, and the people of Waterloo, he was sure had, decided views of their own. He thoroughly believed in their dear old English Church, and he strongly objected to English Churchman, such as he was, trying to introduce teachings and customs which were certainly not authorised their English Prayer Book, and which were repulsive to their English character. England did not want slovenly services, and they would not have them at St. Faith’s. He was also certain that there should be a dignity of simplicity about the ritual of the services. They did not like a great deal of fuss. There was a great deal of ritual that marked the services on the Continent which would not be tolerated in England. He had no intention whatever of being in any way disloyal to the position of their English Church. (Hear, hear.) Of course there would be celebrations of Holy Communion every Sunday, and in that service he would feel bound to take what was commonly known as the eastward position and use altar lights. He had always been used to these things, and believed in them, and he should feel conscientiously bound to introduce them at St. Faith’s. He hoped, however, that if he did anything they did not like they would tell him. (Hear, hear).

The Rev. Canon Armour moved an address of welcome to the vicar designate. This was seconded by the Rev. Canon Jones, and carried. The usual vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings. 

Liverpool Mercury, Wednesday, 6th December, 1899

A few notes in explanation and commentary

* Waterloo Constitutional Hall no longer exists, although the building survives in South Road, Waterloo, next to Jeeves Jewellers.
* Canon Sykes was for over forty years vicar of our sister church, St Mary’s, Waterloo Park.
* Canon Armour was headmaster of Merchant Taylors’ School, a High Churchman and regular preacher at St Faith’s.
* The bishop was John Ryle, but despite his wish he probably didn’t visit St Faith’s again as he died the following year.
* ‘Suo sumptu’ is Latin for ‘own expense’: the bishop, despite his distinctly ‘low church’ origins, was clearly ready to welcome generous benefactors, whatever their churchmanship.
* Mr Baxter’s convoluted prose, as reported, makes clear  his churchmanship (alien to the area until St Faith’s arrived)  his dislike of ‘Continental’ (presumably Roman Catholic!) trappings of worship and his determination to introduced regular eucharistic worship and the use of ‘altar lights’. The Houldin history relates how the candles in our pulpit set fire to a visiting bishop, and that this was regarded locally as a judgement on St Faith’s for embracing such popish practices.
* Mr Baxter promises to listen to anyone who did not like what he was doing. He seems to have been a diplomat, who managed to steer a peaceful course for 15 years despite some local resentment, but when his successor started introducing the ceremonial and accoutrements we take for granted a century later, it was very much a different story...

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