Anglican rector against the growth of Catholic influence in the town, was marked on Friday last, February 11, by the largest-ever united meeting in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.
The meeting had been called by the local Catholic parish priest, Fr. Roberts, and Canon W. J. Wright, a retired Anglican. Its slogan was : "Christians Unite against a Real enemy of Christianity -Communism," and called for a united Christian front.
Only the people of Frinton knew just how significant was the crowded hall, with 300 people packed into a space intended for 200 and with clergy and laity of all denominations present. For the background to the meeting was a bitter anti-Catholic campaign which had dragged on for years and which almost all concerned had come to deplore. It began when the local Anglican ''rector, the Rev. D. Ashford Smith, alarmed at what he regarded as the undesirable growth of Catholic influence in the town, started a series of public attacks upon the Church.
The quarrel was entirely unsought by the local Catholics who made a point of never attacking but who none the less defended themselves and their Faith with considerable vigour.
Week after week the controversy went on in the local press and on more than one occasion the rector's campaign gained national publicity.
FIRST SHOT First occasion, for example, was when, following the reception of one of his parishioners into the Church, he publicly charged Fr. Roberts with sheep stealing "--a phrase to which the Sunday papers gave considerable publicity.
But the Catholic activities and influence continued to grow.
A youth club, for example, started by Fr. Roberts, became the most successful in the area. To-day, in the heart of a non-Catholic district, it boasts a membership of 200, 190 of whom are non-Catholics.
A fortnight ago the Rev. Ashford Smith announced in his parish magazine that henceforth he would confine his teaching to the four walls of his church—which meant the end of the public campaign.
BISHOP HAS LAST WORD Then, last week, he received a letter from his bishop, Dr. Nam borough, Bishop of Colchester, bluntly welcoming his decision and ending; "I strongly advise you to adhere to your decision . • . m fact I take the responsibility of asking you to do so."
Coming at such a moment, last Friday night's meeting took the town by storm. Apart from a tiny handful of Communists present, there was complete agreement that, as the speaker, Douglas Hyde, declared, " all Christians to-day have a common fight against a common foe."
Mr. Hyde reminded them of the arrest of Free Church leaders in Bulgaria and that it was not only Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary who was being persecuted.
CHRISTIANS UNITED IN . .
"The Communists pretend to have discovered that all Christian leaders have this in common—all are spies, traitors and black marketeers. It is up to us to show that we recognise that our common Christian values and way of life are threatened to-day."
From the chair, Canon Wright referred with pleasure to the existence at the meeting of " a real family feeling."
And Fr. Roberts, speaking to most of .those present for the first time, made a simple plea, straight from the heart and warmly applauded, for a growth in Christian charity.
A resolution condemning the trial and imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty was passed with all but the Communists supporting.