Sunday, 20 February 2011

Buckfast Ordination

The clans gather: the Ordinary in their midst

It was a tribal gathering on Friday at Buckfast. The Bishop of Plymouth has an area which includes three Anglican dioceses, right across the SW peninsula from the Scilly Isles to Dorset. It is the old territory of the Dumnonii (Exeter in Latin was Isca Dumnoniorum) and many from across the region and beyond gathered to witness the Ordination the the Priesthood of David Silk.

The Candidate, with another deacon's wife

With breathtaking speed, David Silk was advanced from the Diaconate which he attained on Tuesday to the Priesthood on Friday. The Abbey Church at Buckfast was filled with friends of David and Joyce, and it was unusual to see four mitres being sported, and only two of them by bishops.

Bishop Hopes, The Abbot of Buckfast, and our Ordinary, Keith Newton (l-r)

The first was Bishop Christopher Budd of Plymouth, who ordained David, the other Alan Hopes, Coadjutor of Westminster, who has been the link between the Ordinariate and the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales. The Mitred Abbot of Buckfast was the third, and it was very good to see the Ordinary himself properly attired. Quite like old times.

If you have not visited Buckfast (“the fourth most popular Tourist Attraction in the West Country”) then you should at the earliest opportunity. When the religious life was re-established on that Holy Ground, the monks themselves erected the Church following the plan of the long-demolished Cistercian Church which had been swept away in the unpleasantnesses of Henry VIII of unhappy memory. It is an austere building within, but the sanctuary, filled with concelebrating priests on this occasion, glows with light from a huge lantern suspended over the sacrarium.

Despite struggling with a rebellious sound system,
Bishop Christopher was warm in his welcome. To mark the very specially nature of the occasion he carried the pastoral staff which David had been given when he was bishop of Ballarat; it was a gift to him from the linked diocese in Papua New Guinea, and looked like the sort of weapon which could have felled at one blow any number of rebellious inferior clergy

After the razzmatazz of Westminster (was it really only a month ago?) Buckfast was splendidly restrained – but then, it has often been claimed that Anglicanism continued some of the better features of the Benedictine tradition. It certainly felt as though some of the Anglican Patrimony was already becoming apparent. “Praise to the Holiest” rang out for the Entrance, and “We pray Thee, Heavenly Father" was sung at the Offertory. These and other hymns made a lovely contrast with the singing of the Abbey Choir under their Director, Michael Vian Clark. They sang the Gloria from Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, and led us in responsorial psalm and plainchant Alleluias, Sanctus, Veni Creator and Agnus Dei. The Motet at Communion was again by Byrd, his Laudibus in Sanctis.

Joyce assisted in vesting her husband in the Chasuble – this seems to be a habit (no pun intended) – perhaps it will be different in Portsmouth. With some of her family she was in the Easternmost block of stalls, facing some of the Monastic Community.

Once again there were more seeking a Blessing than receiving Communion; if they are preparing to declare themselves for the Ordinariate there will be a great shot in the arm for Westcountry Catholicism in the next few months.

The New Priest in mischievous mood

At the end of Mass David stood at the East end of the Choir, while a long queue formed seeking the new priest’s blessing. There was much hilarity over lunch, some of David’s closest friends joining the family in a small upper room over the Granary Restaurant. So the Ordinariate progresses, in joyful steps. If this was one man’s ordination, what will it be like at Pentecost when dozens are to be ordained?

The Church House Inn at Holne: highly recommended!

It was all a trip down memory lane for me; I hiked across Dartmoor as a Scout when I was at school in Plymouth, and had camped at Holne Chase in the hills above Buckfast more years ago than I care to remember. So Jane and I took the opportunity for a little break, staying at the Church House Inn at Holne. There we had dined once before many years back when Archbishop Michael Ramsey and his beloved Joan were at a neighbouring table. It was good to see a picture of the pair of them in the Bar of the Inn.

Dartmoor's Eastern Edge in Springtime

Dartmoor was heart-wrenchingly beautiful in the early Spring sunshine. It is less than 150 miles from home, but seems another world, unaltered in centuries. We returned to Lymington full of hope for the future, ready for my own forthcoming priesting in Portsmouth Cathedral. I am trying to find out about parking (they tell me Pompey has a home match, which will make the approached to the City more crowded than ever) - maybe if you are coming you should get into the City early and find some lunch before kick-off in St John's.


  1. Thank you for the lovely account. As a Catholic from birth eventhough my father was Anglican, I find this all so very exciting and uplifting!

    Roll on the 5th of March!

  2. On the Anglo-Catholic blog you wrote:

    "Devon, Exeter Diocese in Anglican terms, appeared to suffer less; and its present bishop no longer ordains women to the priesthood (though his suffragans do)."

    I heard this nearly a year ago, but when I mentioned it as "fact" on "The Saint Barnabas Blog" a month or two, that blog's liberal "lurker," Canon Andrew Godsall (Canon of Exeter) metaphorically "leapt all over me," telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about, and advising me to check my facts in the future. With that as a preface, and assuring you that I do not doubt or question your word, are you quite certain that it is the case that Bishop Langrish has decided to eschew the vice of "ordaining" women?

    And, btw, I have heard that he was one of that mysterious group of 4 or 5 C of E diocesan bishops (perhaps also including +Chichester and the Quondam of Rochester) who paid a clandestine visit to Rome early in 2008 (before the then Bishops Burnham and Newton visited in April 2008) for purposes that have never been disclosed and seemingly without any obvious consequences.

  3. I hope some Exeter readers can confirm or deny this about +Exon's non-ordaining... and 'perhaps also including' also perhaps included +Michael Winton.

  4. "that mysterious group of 4 or 5 C of E diocesan bishops"

    Since I wrote that, someone who ought to be in a position to know wrote "there were seven of them" who visited Rome, but did not supply any further particulars.

  5. Parking in Portsmouth near the Cathedral on a Saturday?
    Assuming that you can't get a place in the Cathedral car-park, then the best solution is to head for the Cascades shopping centre car-parks (£5).
    From the M275 keep left at two roundabouts until you see that the left lane is marked Cascades Car Park

  6. +Exeter does not ordain priest, male or female. +Plymouth does not ordain female priests. +Credition ordains male and femal priests.