Owing to the lack of monetary support the Birmingham Bishopric Scheme is dead, or in such a very sound trance that it is hardly likely to revive. At its birth it was not very strong, and its early existence was jeopardised by conflicting ideas among its sponsors, chiefly caused by the difficulties in the way of raising all the money required. Birmingham, therefore, had to settle itself down and be content with a Suffragan Bishop, at least for a time, and this, it is thought, may prove to be a good long time.
In connection with the Birmingham Unitarians I may here, perhaps, appropriately allude to a matter connected with the growth of our modern city. The New Meeting House of the Unitarians in which Dr. Priestley ministered was situated on the east side of the town, and as the congregation was migrating westward they desired to have their place—I won’t say of worship, but their place of meeting, nearer to their homes. Moreover, moved by the advancing spirit of the age, they wished for a more important and ornamental looking edifice than the extremely plain, I might say ugly, structure which their fathers had attended. Unitarians may appear to be rather rigid and frigid, but they have an intelligent appreciation of art and beauty.
Accordingly some forty years ago they selected a site on the west side of the town, and erected what was then considered a handsome place of meeting, which they called the Church of the Messiah, and which was opened in 1862. The architect of this Church did not seem to be unduly weighed down with Unitarian ideas. By accident or design he marked the edifice with emblems of the Trinity, for at the very entrance there is a large opening encircling three arches, which are suggestively emblematical of the Three in One.
The building of this somewhat florid structure, and the move of the Unitarian church from east to west, provoked a considerable amount of caustic comment and humorous criticism at the time. These advanced Unitarians were scoffed and sneered at for deserting the simple tabernacle of their ancestors, and one which was associated with the revered name of Dr. Priestley. They were also mocked for their greater iniquity in selling their tabernacle to the Papists. Yes, the New Meeting House of the Unitarians became a chapel of the Roman Catholics. They rendered to the priests the things that were Priestley’s, as they were reminded by a facetious paper published at the time. But, however much the Unitarians may have been chaffed and sneered at for abandoning their old conventicle, they have lived it all down, and, if I mistake not, Joseph and his brethren, the Kenricks, the Oslers, the Beales, and others, now congregate in peace in their un-Unitarian-looking Church of the Messiah.
Mr. Chamberlain’s associates.