St Chrysostom’s People: Francis Noel Davey

St Chrysostom’s people are wonderfully varied. Throughout its history the church has welcomed, influenced or encouraged a remarkably wide range of people. To celebrate this we are publishing a book St Chrysostom’s People telling of some of the people who, through the church’s 140 or so years, have had a part in making St Chrysostom’s what it is today.

Here on our church blog we are adding a few more people to those of the book.

St Chrysostom’s has always been in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, though how this has been expressed has varied. The Mass or Eucharist has ever been the central act of worship, dignified worship with good music and an emphasis on pastoral care and prayer, have been hallmarks of church life and witness. Thoughtful preaching and a good feeling of community and belonging have been at the heart of church life too.

Since its foundation St Chrysostom’s attracted curates and in particular in the first 30 years of the 20th century curates came who particularly chose St Chrysostom’s for their first work before moving away and on to other work.

Francis Noel Davey was born on Christmas Day 1904 – hence his second name, by which he was always known. As a young man he was influenced by Fr Conrad Noel, the ‘red Vicar of Thaxted’ and he would attend Sunday Mass at Thaxted whenever he could. He was inspired by Anglo Catholic socialism, and his wife, Grizelle was the daughter of one of its great prophets, Fr Percy Widdrington.

Noel studied Theology at Cambridge and took a first in Theology in 1928. He stayed on and collaborated with Sir Edwyn Hoskyns as co-author of the seminal work The Riddle of the New Testament. In 1929 he was ordained and his first post was as a curate at St Chrysostom’s. Here he preached with ‘maturity and scholarship’ and C H Dodd, Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University, although a Congregationalist, would come and hear him preach. Noel was especially good with children and re-formed the Catechism class, which was 100 strong when he left. He organized outings, conveyed his enthusiasm for cricket and castles, and added much to the liturgy and music of St Chrysostom’s. In manner he was a little awesome and monkish, a tall man often wearing a priest’s cloak. He was revered as well as loved.

He left in 1932 to work at St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden and regularly returned to St Chrysostom’s to cover when clergy had holidays. In 1937 he returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, moving in 1943 to be the Editorial Secretary of SPCK a church publishing house in London. He stayed there until 1970. In this time he regularly assisted as honorary priest at St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, and St Cyprian, Clarence Gate. He died in 1973.

On Sunday 8th March 1942 Noel preached the University Sermon at Great St Mary’s Cambridge. His mother had died the previous night, but with determination he still preached. The sermon was highly acclaimed by many who saw it as prophetic, but Charles Raven, Professor of Divinity, felt it spoke against his approach. Noel’s University lectureship was not renewed. The following is an extract from the sermon:

Everywhere we are embraced by God’s vehement love in Christ. This is his persistent attitude towards us; in creating us, in providing for us, in lavishing his spirit upon us. From his love we can never escape. But we can, if we will, fail to perceive his love and so respond to it, if we do not fix our eyes upon its only perfect concrete expression, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

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About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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