The story of the Additional Curates Society’s origins is fascinating. It speaks about the changes in society in the middle of the nineteenth century in England, as well as the significant movement in the life of the Established Church at that time.
We are in the throes of the Industrial Revolution on the one hand, and the Tractarian Movement on the other.The two are welded together in an interesting fashion by our lay founder – JOSHUA WATSON. We also reflect in our story the piety and generosity of prominent layfolk in the early eighteen hundreds. Joshua Watson was born on Ascension Day in 1771.
He worked in the family business at 16 Mincing Lane in the City of London and was a port importer. By 1812, he was able to retire and thereafter devote himself to good works. His achievements were considerable. He founded The National Incorporated Church Building Society which built new churches and The National Society which provided schools for the people moving to live and work in the new industrial areas.
The Additional Curates Society was established to provide for the spiritual needs of people who were moving into the new industrial estates. The clear intention was that people in these new towns should have priests to teach the Christian Faith and minister among them providing the sacraments of the Church. Joshua was joined in his endeavours by a large number of people who shared his vision and generosity. In 1837, the subscription of £500, from King William IV, opened the fund and ACS was born.
Joshua Watson numbered among his friends major Statues in the Oxford Movement; Newman, Keble, Pusey, and he married the daughter of Father Wagner. Joshua Watson and his companions set out to put into practical effect the ideals of the Tractarian Movement by ensuring that the Christian Gospel should touch the lives of the poorest in the land. The Priesthood was seen as a precious gift from God in the mission of the Church. The “apostolical succession” was important and from the beginning to this day ACS has insisted that grants be given only to priests licensed by the bishop and resident in the parish.
In the early days grants were used to pay the stipend of the assistant curate – often in full. As the Church assumed responsibility for paying the stipend of a curate, ACS assisted in paying for housing, and more recently grants have been applied to help defray the cost to the parish of employing an assistant priest. Today the Church faces a new situation and new uncertainties. The great financial losses experienced by the Church Commissioners means that parishes are being faced with new financial burdens. The ACS will seek to relieve these burdens, particularly in the least affluent parishes of the land where these hardships will be most felt. Without doubt, many parishes would never be able to contemplate employing an assistant priest without assistance from ACS. Diocesan Bishops have always been pleased to call on ACS to enable them to place curates in parishes needing financial help.
ACS has always sought to respond with generosity. Any parish may apply to ACS for a grant for an assistant priest. Grants are assessed by the Council and awarded on the grounds of the parishes’ financial needs and the number of people living in the parish. The size of a grant is determined by the income of the parish and the amount of money available at the time of the application. The Council meets quarterly to consider new grants. Grants are awarded for the duration of the curacy. Grants are paid retrospectively and cease when the curate moves on to another parish. A new application has to be made by the parish when a new assistant priest is employed.