The Sept. 23 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers.
In this edition’s cover essay, Richard Mammana writes about the light verse of S.J. Forest:
For almost three decades in the middle of the 20th century, the Rev. Stanley John Forrest (1904-77) produced a stream of 15 slight volumes packed full of Anglican light verse. They began as paperback booklets issued by the quixotic Coelian Press of the Rev. Herbert Hamilton Maughan, an extreme Anglo-Catholic priest in the unsympathetic Church of Ireland. The early compilations are rare today, and Forrest’s work has never been anthologized. (A commentator noted in 1955 that “those pamphlets … must by now be collector’s rarities.) The collections of mirthful poetry became 60-page hardbacks, illustrated by the poet’s brother, the Rev. Edward W. (Ted) Forrest, and published by commercial presses with a wide transatlantic circulation. A handful of the poems remain in semi-popular awareness, but the majority have faded into an early obscurity.
Forrest was born in Manchester and imbibed an early Anglo-Catholic ethos by attending the now-defunct St. Gabriel’s Church, Hulme, where his father was sacristan. After studies at the University of Leeds, he trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield, and he was ordained to the priesthood in 1929. Forrest served parishes in the dioceses of Manchester, Peterborough, and St. Albans, with notable tenures at All Saints, Leighton Buzzard, and St. John’s Church, Watford. As a priest, he married and had two children. His final cure was his work as chaplain to the Sisters of Bethany in Bournemouth from 1961.
His first ventures in poetry as a mode of comment on church life appeared in the columns of The Church Times (London), and the forgotten extremist periodicals The Dome, Our Lady’s Mirror, and The Fiery Cross, all voices of the Anglo-Catholic Congress movement in the Church of England. The Second Vatican Council looms large in the background of Forrest’s later work, with an attitude of bemused insecurity about ecclesiology rooted in the culture of the Branch Theory.
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