Fr. Rosenthal's hugely redable biography is now available again in pdf format, downloadable from here (12.8MB download).
St Agatha’s has had many fine Priests, one of the best known of whom is Fr George David Rosenthal (known to his friends as “Rosie”), who was Vicar from 1918 until his death in 1938. His family was Jewish, and had produced a long line of Rabbis, but his father converted to Christianity and became a Priest in the Church of England.
“Rosie” was born in London in 1881. He read History at Keble College Oxford. He was a deacon and curate in Birmingham, having been attracted to the Diocese by the reputation of its first Bishop, the great High Churchman Charles Gore, founder of the Community of the Resurrection and later Bishop of Oxford, of whom a statue stands outside St Philip’s Cathedral.
Fr Rosenthal was a devoted and much admired Parish Priest, but also became a nationally known figure in the inter-War Anglo-Catholic movement and a noted public speaker. In 1924 a Service at St Agatha’s, including his sermon on “Evolution”, was broadcast on the BCC. He conducted a 3-month long lecture tour of the USA and Canada. Th
is was in the Prohibition era, and he liked to tell the story that when he crossed the border his car was thoroughly searched, since the last “clergyman” to cross there was accompanying a coffin which turned out to be filled with rum.
He was a prolific author of tracts, pamphlets and books, some of which are in the “Greatrex Collection” which was made by Margaret and Quintin Greatrex and kindly donated to St Agatha’s by Quintin. Fr Rosenthal’s writing gives a sense of his style as a public speaker: complex ideas are communicated clearly, in vigorous and colourful language, and with total conviction.
In 1924 Ernest Barnes was appointed Bishop of Birmingham. He was a mathematician and a leading liberal theologian, who denied both the Vir
gin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. He strongly disapproved of the Catholic tradition of worship, and in particular the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, and was in conflict with the Anglo-Catholic clergy, including Fr Rosenthal. An account of that conflict, and staunch defence of the Catholic position, was made in “So Called Rebels”, a book by Fr Rosenthal and Canon FG Belton, Vicar of St Patrick’s Bordesley. Happily, those days of conflict are in the past: though St Agatha’s has elected to have Episcopal Oversight by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, we have a cordial relationship with the Bishop of Birmingham, and take a full and active part in the life of the Diocese.
Fr Rosenthal died in 1938. His ashes are buried near to the altar in the Lady Chapel at St Agatha’s.