Sunday, 27 December 2009
The Feast of Stephen
As the snow melted, the Vale of Glamorgan managed to look very beautiful, and the sun came though from time to time though ice persisted on sideroads and pavements - and Sigginstone, aka Dresigin, aka also Tresigin, where we were staying is very much up a sideroad!
Thanks to the kindness of Canon Graham Francis, Vicar of St Mary the Docks in Butetown, I was able to celebrate midnight Mass at one of his other churches, SS Samson and Dyfrig, in Grangetown. The photo on the right is of the high altar reredos in that church, a lovely piece depicting the visit of the Magi.
The next morning, it was back into Cardiff, this time to St Mary's, which has a secondary dedication to S Stephen the Deacon and Martyr. Here is Fr Graham called to the bar after Mass on St Stephen's day, Serving at the counter is his wife Eleri. It was a great treat, having a sung Mass on St Stephen's Day.
We were at the St Stephen's altar and here, in diaconal mode, is Fr Ben Andrews, assistant priest in the parish caught in mid furniture-moving mode after Mass.
After all the pretty pictures, perhaps you are ready for some words - and since you have preached or been preached at over Christmas, you might be ready for something about Stephen, who often gets neglected. Here is (more or less) what I said at his Feast in Butetown.
The one who stands firm to the end will be saved - Mtt x.22
The new curate arriving from S Michael’s Llandaff, freshly ordained, will spend the first few months in the parish telling people what he can’t do. Well, he’ll explain, I can’t bless, and I can’t celebrate Mass, and I can’t absolve anyone’s sins. 'So what CAN you do', people ask, and he says, 'Well, I do a lovely funeral'.
All this is because he is a Deacon; and so was Stephen. He and his colleagues were set apart, ordained, to look after widows; and not just any widows, in particular the Greek-speaking widows in the Jerusalem Church. It happened like this. There were more and more people becoming disciples, that is, being baptized and becoming Christians; some were Hebrews, some were Greeks - and there was a row. So disagreements in the church are nothing new. This one blew up because some of the Greek speaking converts thought that their widows were being neglected and the Jewish widows were getting too much attention. The apostles gathered the rest of the disciples together and said “Our job is to preach… we shouldn’t have to leave spreading the Word of God to serve meals to widows! So you find seven likely lads, and we will give them that task.”
That’s how Stephen, and Philip, and five others, were chosen for the work, and the apostles laid their hands on them. That was the first ever ordination of Deacons in the Church.
The Holy Spirit, though, has a way of not being bound by man-made rules. If the Apostles thought serving at tables was beneath them, they had better discover once more just whose apostles they were. Jesus had taught them, after all, that “I am among you as one who serves” … and to show he meant it, he washed their feet. Now, he said, you are to wash one another’s feet. In so short a time after the Resurrection, the Apostles seem to have forgotten all this, and decided they were above menial tasks.
So Philip is credited with being the first of the disciples to win an African convert – the Ethiopian eunuch who was in the service of a Queen. You probably remember the story, how after being called to get up into the Ethiopian’s chariot, Philip was asked what there was to prevent him being baptized; and so Philip, the Deacon, who was chosen to serve dishes and clear up afterwards, began the work of converting Africa. Any of the Apostles would have been delighted to have such a feather in their caps – but the Holy Spirit had other ideas, and used a Deacon for the task.
With Stephen, the Holy Spirit is even more amazing. Do you recall how James and John had gone to Jesus asking for the chief seats in the Kingdom? He had replied ‘You will indeed be baptized with the baptism I am baptised with; but to sit on my right and on my left is not mine to give. The seats are already assigned.’
The Church must have remembered this when it decided December 26th was to be St Stephen’s Day. Who could be more worthy of the place next to Christ’s Birthday than Stephen, who was first to shed his blood for Jesus? None of this had been foreseen when the disciples put forward Stephen and Philip and the other five to become deacons. It was only after his martyrdom that the Church realised just what an amazing person Stephen had been. Oh yes, he was a man “full of faith and the holy Spirit” but they could hardly think that he would be ahead of the apostles, even ahead of Peter and James, in laying down his life for the Lord.
Even more extraordinary is the influence he had on the church. If Stephen and Philip were unknown quantities, what about Saul of Tarsus? No one could have thought that such a hard man, one who spent his life persecuting Christians, could possibly become a disciple, an apostle even. But we know that he did; and part of the reason for his conversion was his witnessing the stoning to death of Stephen the Deacon. As a result, Stephen is a great encouragement to the newly ordained, and those preparing for ordination, and it is because of this that he was chosen as the Patron Saint for a seminary in Oxford. He is a great example to everyone teaching or training at St Stephen’s House, a reminded that the Holy Spirit of God is not limited by our human gifts or failings.
It is not only those who are ordained, though, who should honour Stephen. He reminds all of us that the most menial jobs in the church are the ones Our Lord honours most. Your appointed task might be cleaning the brass or removing the stains from the thurible, or delivering Christian Aid envelopes or helping with coffee after Mass. Those jobs don’t limit us. They prepare us for what God really wants us to do – which is to witness to other people of God’s love for us and for everyone.
You have to sympathise with the Apostles - of course they did not have time for everything, and of course they were right to think that their task was primarily preaching. When Moses returned from taking the seventy out to meet God in the wilderness, some people were scandalised that two of those who did not go with him were also prophesying. That’s not their job. Just as, on discovering that Philip and Stephen were preaching, some will have said ‘It is not their job’. But Moses knew better, and replied, “I wish all God’s people were prophets”.
Here in Butetown, I wish all God’s people were preachers; not just the clergy, because people will always say “Ah, but he is paid to say that”. But all of you; the witness to the gospel of lay men and women can reach far beyond the church building. Don’t let anyone put you off. Every Christian has the calling to reach out to other people with the good news of Jesus Christ – we don’t always do it in words, our actions speak louder than words. May the example of Stephen inspire you to brave witness, for as the Christmas Angels said, the good news is for all people.
This little tablet is why I always feel at home in St Mary's. It is one of very few memorials to those who took part in the Russian Convoys during the 39-45 war. My father served on destroyers and I can still remember the 'whoop,whoop,whoop' of their sirens as they entered or left the port of Greenock. His health never recovered from those terrible trips to the Arctic, to Archangel and Murmansk, in bitter winter weather (not helped by going directly from there to the North Africa landings at Oran). After long spells in hospital he was discharged from the Royal Navy with a disablity pension just a couple of years after the war ended - aged only 36.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Eric Waldram Kemp, Bishop R.I.P
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Crostwick is northeast of Norwich, on the road to Coltishall. This was its Vicarage (above) now a Hotel. Royal Air Force Coltishall (now also redundant) was an important part of my life as a young Fighter Controller. The Rector of the Horsham Benfice now lives in the next village, Spixworth. The other minister listed there is a Methodist lady.
How well our predecessors built. The Vicarages and Rectories of England were great treasures, part, you might say, of the Patrimony of the Church of England. They were often built by the Incumbent himself, or by the local Patron of the living. Now dioceses treat them as their private property. This is Mogerhanger, another parsonage 'surplus to requirements', and pictured as it was undergoing a make-over.
In this week's SPECTATOR there is a review by Lucinda Lambton of Anthony Jennings' 'History of the English Parsonage'. She writes of 'a teeth-grindingly scandalous state of affairs partly brought about by the grotesque mismanagement by the church and its diocesan boards, and partly by the egalitarian misapprehension that these beautiful and historical architectural treasures .. somehow cut the clergy off from their poor parishioners'. '"The great 20th-century sell-off" as it is described by Jennings, will be to the church's eternal detriment' says Lambton - and who could argue with that?
The Church of England is not alone in its vandalism, of course. Wales has been at it as well. A former student of St Stephen's House has brought lo life and most wonderfully restored the Old Vicarage at Norton, near Presteigne - not as a parsonage, but as a very superior B&B.
Perhaps you are not too late to book a post Christmas break? And you might spend some of your Christmas book-token on Anthony Jenning's book (published by Continuum at £25): then from the comfort of a chair by a log fire in the former Vicarage (built by Gilbert Scott) you may douse your natural good nature with what Lucinda Lambton calls "Jennings' collection of diocesan anti-parsonage quotes".
Sunday, 13 December 2009
When the winter sun is low over the Salterns, the ancient saltpans from which Lymington made its fortune, the prospect is altogether more threatening.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Sermon for Holy Trinity Winchester, Advent III 2009
If you have ever been in a church choir, you will find today’s epistle is enough to set bells ringing in your head. The sentence at the beginning of Mass started it ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ and once you have heard it sung, it is unforgettable; the bell anthem, they call it. By using the sound of bells, Purcell tapped into a particularly Anglican tradition, and associated the word which gave today its name with the joyful ringing of church bells; For today is Gaudete Sunday… Gaudete, Latin for Rejoice.
Now Advent is generally about fasting and preparation; but a different sort of mood prevails from the Fast of Lent. Though we do not sing Gloria in Excelsis – that is the song heard by the shepherds which the angels sang, and we wait for it until Christmas midnight - we can sing Alleluia; the A word which is forbidden through Lent. Sometimes we complain about the shops anticipating Christmas – and in Lymington our next door neighbours had their lights rigged up in November. But still, they have a point. Christmas can’t help spilling over, whether it is because we have so much preparation to do, or just because with term ending a week and more before Christmas they are bound to put on their nativity plays in Advent. This Sunday, recognising that note of thanksgiving, that pressure for starting early, gives us a pink candle instead of a purple one, even puts priests into this fetching shade.
It is not just that Purcell’s music makes us think of this epistle as a song. It is there already in the words. Not, perhaps, in the rather clunking version we read in church this morning: ‘I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord. I repeat, what I want is your happiness’ ….. Well, you have it there on the service sheet. But when you get home compare it with your Bible in the old Authorized Version: instead of ponderous prose it becomes poetry, and quotable: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanks-giving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
Whether in the modern version or the Authorised version, the message of today’s epistle is the same. Be happy! And why are we to be happy when things around us are said to be so grim, when the national debt is weighing us down, and we are heading for a very cold spell of winter? Just this: the Lord is at hand! He really is; as near as your neighbour in the next pew, as near as the little circle of bread on the palm of your hand. He is with us, and he is coming to us, and we are going to him. So be happy. And then the epistle goes on, Stop Fretting! Or in the words of scripture, ‘be careful for nothing’.
That, of course, is one of the reasons there are modern translations of scripture; “Be careful for nothing” does not mean today just what it used to mean. It does not mean “Don’t bother about looking before you cross the road”… no, it means don’t get wound up, don’t be full of cares, don’t let anything bug you. Not the weather or the economy or our health or not having bought all the presents, or anything at all. There is no need to worry, we heard in the reading; maybe we ought to reclaim the word careful; it means just that, full of care…. But however we express it the meaning is clear.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
A cousin of mine had been staying with us for a few days, and she kindly took us to a restaurant just round the corner from Holy Trinity - the aforesaid former Rectory (see above left). From the window you could see across the street to the Chesil Theatre - formerly the parish church of St Peter, Chesil. (below right) This was alienated in the 1960's when the Diocese of Winchester found it surplus to requirements, and allowed a theatre group to take it over. It was given the church, free, the only condition being that it must restore and maintain the fabric. In Salisbury the former parish church of St Edmund (parish church at that time of the largest parish in the City) was in the 1970's swallowed up by St Thomas', and the church handed over to become the Salisbury Arts Centre. You can find innumerable similar 'alienations' - Chichester, Bristol, Norwich just to name a few of those I know personally.
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar S Luke 3.1
This is the start of things, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and S. Luke wants to pin it down as a historic moment. Even today, official documents such as Acts of Parliament are still dated according to who is on the throne at the time - “in the 57th year of Elizabeth, by the Grace of God Queen” and so on. Luke though is being very particular indeed. Not enough just to mention the rule of Tiberius Caesar. He goes on to say it was “When Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judaea”. Now that, you would think, is precise enough; not so – he continues ‘Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Iturea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene’ … so that is all Roman rule described in and around Galilee; but Luke is not just writing for Romans; he then gives the Jewish dating, it was “during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas”.
Some of these characters, some of these places, do not feature in the rest of the gospel. Others, like Pontius Pilate and Annas and Caiaphas, are very prominent indeed.Why is it that St Luke is so concerned to put the events of Jesus’ ministry into historical context, and to make such a list of people and places? It recalls another list at the start of his second volume, the book of the Acts of the Apostles. There he is writing about the people who heard the Apostles preaching in their own languages.
They were, he tells us, in Jerusalem devout men, from every nation on earth. The Holy Spirit came down upon these devout people, and they heard them speak, every man in his own language: Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia….. and so he goes on, listing Egyptians and Romans, Jews and Cretans and Arabs. The Gospel is concerned to tell us that what is happening is not just some little event in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, but concerns the whole world.
Both these occasions, in the Gospel at the start of Jesus’ ministry and in Acts as the Church began its mission, are times when the Spirit comes among us. The Holy Spirit of God is not restricted; like the wind, he blows wherever he chooses.
Why is this a particular concern of St Luke? As a young man, you may remember, had been a companion of S Paul on his missionary journeys. He had witnessed how the Good News of Jesus Christ was welcomed far beyond its origins in Israel. He had seen for himself the struggles in the early church, as the apostles had to decide whether the gospel was solely for the Jews, as some thought, or whether it was for everyone. To us, living so long after the matter was decided at the very first Council of the Church, it seems obvious that the Gospel is universal. That was not how it seemed at the time.
At first, even S Peter thought that anyone becoming a Christian ought first to bind himself to the whole Jewish law. It seems laughable to us now, that we might have been denied the faith unless we first committed ourselves to renouncing pork and shellfish and to keeping all the other dietary laws, but those were very real questions for the Apostolic church. But for these decisions, we might not have been able to say that we believe in one Catholic church – for Catholic means universal, for every-one.
The matter arose like this: [Acts 15.1f] “Certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, ‘Unless you are circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved’. Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
It appears to have been St James who led them to reach a decision at this Council in Jerusalem, and the Apostles’ ruling was conveyed to the Gentile Christians like this: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication’. At that Council, too, Peter had said ‘Why put a yoke on these disciples’ necks which as Jews we proved incapable of bearing?’
Why is this important as we approach Christmas? It reinforces the truth that the Gospel is universal, for everyone. As Simeon said when the infant Jesus was brought to him, he was not just the glory of his people Israel; he is also a light to enlighten the Gentiles. When the Magi came with gifts, they too represented the non-Jewish world. It is also in today’s message proclaimed by John the Baptist. John is preparing the way for the Messiah, so that “all mankind shall see the salvation of God”.
Our Church of England has, at times in its history, been aware of a universal mission. The great Missionary societies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, CMS, SPG, SPOCK, witness to the concern of our church not to be defined simply by being English, Anglican. We went across the whole Empire, but also beyond it, taking the good news. Recently there has been a danger of forgetting this, and seeming to think that being English and being a Christian are one and the same. There has also been a sense that anything 'Roman ' was suspect. It could be, now, that the offer by the Roman Catholic church to make a home for us within it, is a challenge to this narrow view of Christianity. Are we genuinely Catholic, Universal, for everyone, or are we not? This is what we shall be praying and thinking and talking about during the coming weeks as we await advice from our Provincial bishops, and begin to formulate our response from this parish to the offer Rome is making to our church.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Seeing and not seeing
Monday, 30 November 2009
The world's biggest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, is in operation again after more than a year of repairs. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, Cern, said in a statement on Friday that particle beams are once again circulating in the LHC, and that a clockwise circulating beam was established at 10 PM local time. There now, I knew you’d get excited by that…. NOT! If you have a long memory, it was in 2008 that it was first switched on, this billion pound experiment; and it came to a halt because of a bad connection. Then this year it was going to run, only a bird dropped a bit of biscuit into the works. Now it is going again, and we have to hope there are some useful bits of knowledge to come from it.
First time round, the papers were saying “the world could blow itself up”… now there have been too many damp squibs and no one seems worried any more. But we always have to have something to worry about. If you have long memories, and are very old, you might remember the H bomb; that was going to explode the world. Around the year 1999 people were full of predicitions of the end of the world; some, you may remember, set off up a mountain to wait for it to happen; then, they came back down again. And do you remember all the computers in the world were going to crash because their clocks could not manage with 2000?
Our children were very fond of Henny Penny; she rushed around like – well, you could say like a headless chicken – saying “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” and a lot of other animals believed her. So when Jesus talks about the end of the world, and he does, he issues a stern warning too:“Take heed that you are not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and the time draws near: don’t you go after them. And when you shall hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet”. We are not to be deceived, wars and famines and floods and tidal waves happen, and go on happening. The end of the world is altogether different, and it will be seen with the coming of the Son of Man in a cloud, with power and great glory.But what about the meanwhile? It is for this meanwhile, the time between now and the end of the world, that the Church is given to us. And year by year, as the old year ends and we prepare for a new one, we are faced with ourselves, and how we are to make ourselves ready.
For you here at St John’s this is a very particular time of renewal. You are marking the 150 years of this church’s life by rededicating yourselves in the service of the Saviour. How much people gave up back in the 1850’s; and all to be able to build this church for their descendants, among them you. In its time, such a modern church; reassuringly gothic, but with marvellous up-to-date touches like (as I guess) cast iron columns. What nerve; what far-sightedness!
So today’s gospel might have been written with you in mind. It tells you how you must start getting ready; pray, that is the key to it all. Pray for strength to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.
Those dear people of a century and a half ago might seem a bit strange to us; it was the time Dickens writes about, children being sent to work in factories, soot and filth and disease everywhere. Your church was started to minister to the poor and the sick and the dying in this part of Southeast London. It was for the sake of those who had never been inside a church building that St John’s was saved for and paid for and eventually built.
So the message of Advent, and the message of your 150th anniversary, are the same. They are about being ready to meet Jesus face to face. And how do we do that? Easy, really; just love the Lord your God with heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbour as yourself. Well, no, of course it is not easy; it is a lifetime’s work.
But begin the other way round; if you love your neighbour as yourself, first you must love yourself. We all of us have things we don’t find loveable in us; our bad temper, or our greediness, or our tendency to lie or whatever. No good pretending that is not us; but face it. And face it with God’s help – the help he has given us in the sacrament of forgiveness. If we all started there, this church and parish would be transformed. Well, you can’t do it for other people; but you can do it for yourself. Make a promise to go to confession before Christmass; make an appointment with your priest TODAY. That will be the very best start to the renewal of St John’s in its 150th year.
Then, once you are able to forgive yourself and so to love yourself, start doing the same for other people. Forgive them as you are forgiven, and you will start loving them too. What a transformation that would be for St John's if it was known as the one place in Walworth where you could be accepted WHOEVER you were and WHATEVER you had done. That is what the church is meant to be; the place of forgiveness and welcome.
We are talking about having the confidence to face Jesus when we come face to face with him. It is not IF we meet him, it is WHEN. Pray at all times, he says, for strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man. It means being forgiven, and then forgiving other people; it means loving other people because we have learned to love ourselves; and from that we shall be able really to love God. No one can hate the brother he has seen, and love God whom he hasn’t seen. Simple as that.
We shall all of us be renewing our promises of baptism soon; as you do that, realise what it will involve:
Confession, so that we can be forgiven and come to love ourselves
Generosity, in forgiving and loving other people.
Praying to be ready, so that we can look forward with confidence to seeing God, because we have learned really to love him.
May this be a marvellous year for St John’s; and so it will be, if first you are committed to it, and looking forward to a marvellous year for yourself.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Walworth the Visit
Friday, 27 November 2009
Thursday, 26 November 2009
There was some good music from the choir & organ, and some other music from a Music Group from Highfield Church - seen [above] dismantling some of their gear. I needed to be sure they were going - rather like bagpipes, such offerings are better heard at a distance. Unfortunately Jane and I had been sitting with the official guests, in direct line of fire from this group. The central section of the service (evensong, we were told) was to be three worship songs - or so the programme promised. By the time there had been reprises and choruses it seemed about as long as the Ring Cycle ... well, perhaps it earns time off purgatory.
The Bishop of Basingstoke was in attendance. He soon departs for Dover where he is to be the Archbishop's right hand person in the diocese of Canterbury. Alas I am not able to be at his farewell, but I am sure there will be many there to see him off.
Now that he is losing both his Suffragans at once, Bishop Michael of Winchester will be looking to appoint their successors before he himself retires. If you have suggestions you might like to try giving him some names. It won't do much good, though. As he told me, there are so many women priests in the diocese, and so few Resolution C parishes, that it would be very difficult to appoint a traditionalist. The reason, of course, that there are so few C parishes is that we once had Bishop Geoffrey Rowell here and so were told 'no need to take any resolutions; you can always have Bishop Geoffrey'. Now it is too late. Blackburn, London and Chichester dioceses, take note.
I have agreed to undertake a few confirmations during the interregnum to ease the diocesan's burden - though if the Ordinariate get up and running quickly I shall perhaps not be able to fulfil all those engagements.
Monday, 23 November 2009
There are downsides to every job; and perhaps the biggest downside to being Monarch of Great Britain is having to open Parliament. The Queen was at it again on Wednesday; tedious enough riding in an unsprung ancient coach and wearing a crown which, she has said, quite ruins one’s hairdo. Far worse than any of this is delivering a speech written by a politician with the aim of boosting his party’s poll rating. How it must irk, to sit on a throne saying “My Government…”
But then, that is one of the things about constitutional monarchs; they have to let other people tell them what to say. Until the mid nineteenth century, Kings of Denmark were absolute monarchs. Their word was law. Here that had died out when Charles I lost his head in Whitehall. It came very late to Denmark, but when it did the result was even more thorough-going than here. The Queen might complain about wearing a heavy crown; all his life the Danish King is not allowed to wear his. It is on display among the crown jewels in Copenhagen, but the only time it comes near the king is at his funeral; then it is put on the coffin. The Danes say it is the only time when it is safe to let him wear it.
So there are monarchies, and monarchies.
Which is where today’s gospel matters so much. The question put to Jesus by his judges was “Are you the king of the Jews?” He would not answer that directly, for he would have been misunderstood. Instead he tries to get them to see what his kingship is about; and it is not a this-world kingship at all.
The proposals by the Papacy concerning a special deal for Anglicans has some marvellous things about it. The one place where it really falls down, though, concerns the trappings of bishops. In the explanatory document, the so called ‘norms’ of the ordinariate, there is this sentence:
‘A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate and who has not been ordained as a bishop in the Catholic Church, may request permission from the Holy See to use the insignia of the episcopal office’.
Now it may be that that is a concession for the sake of the people who have been used to treating Ebbsfleet and Richborough and Fulham as bishops. It certainly should not be a concession for those men themselves. Once they have become married priests in the Ordinariate, even if they have a special office, they will not be bishops. If the Holy See wants them to dress up like bishops, in the way that some others do, mitred abbots for instance, then it should instruct them what to wear; not give them the responsibility of seeking it for themselves.
The experiment of flying bishops made for difficulties about ecclesiology – how could the bishop of a province be in only partial communion with other bishops? But then, that problem was not created by the flying bishops; it was there from the moment our church decided it had the authority to ordain women as priests, while at the same time saying that anyone had the right to refuse their ministry. Alongside those difficulties, though, there were great benefits which came from the experiment. None of these bishops had great establishments to maintain. They were given the means to live simply, in modest houses, with no staff of chauffeurs and gardeners and pa’s, no cathedral, no chapter. Many of those in their care came to value this; it seemed a new sort of episcopacy. It meant, for instance, that during an interregnum the bishop would drive a hundred miles or two, and would be happy to stay overnight with one of the parishioners, just in order to consult with the parish about their future and what sort of priest they wanted.
For the bishops themselves it enabled them to get to know the people in their care, not just churchwardens and PCC representatives but their families and children. It was easier in this way to learn the job of being a shepherd – and even a shepherd king. Putting on the crown, the mitre, seemed no longer to distance him from people; the mitre and crook and ring were symbols of office, and made him the king’s representative. And one PEV's demountable crook in its leather bag was referred to by a perspicacious Verger as "the tool kit".
The Imperial State Crown, the Crown of St Edward, the Orb, the Sceptre, none of these belongs to the Queen. They are about delegated authority, and the anointing at the coronation shows us all whose delegate she is. It is an anointing she shares with priests and bishops; and with all the holy common people of God in their Baptism and Confirmation.
So when he is asked are you THE King of the Jews, Jesus does not answer; but when they rephrase it, when after he describes his kingdom Pilate asks “You are a king then”
Jesus answers Yes, I am a king. A king in a different sort of kingdom from any we know on earth.
The kingdom of heaven is not like the kingdom of Elizabeth I or Elizabeth II, nor the kingdoms of Denmark or the Netherlands. All these will pass away. One of the most endearing stories about Queen Victoria is that her favourite hymn was “The day thou gavest Lord, is ended” … she must have imagined the sun constantly rising on some new outpost of Empire. As the flag was lowered at sunset in Canada it was being unfurled in India. She also knew, to her great credit, that Our Lord’s throne “shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away”, though it is unlikely she thought the demise of the British Empire would follow on her heels quite as swiftly or completely as it did.
But the Lord’s kingdom is not of this world, and is not subject to the fall of empires. Among the crown jewels of heaven none is greater than that of woven thorns, bejewelled with the Saviour’s blood. His rule is service, his robe of state humility. Whoever would be first in His Kingdom must be last, whoever would rule must be the servant of all. Perhaps, after all, the Holy Father will let former Anglican bishops set aside their jewellery, and put all their efforts into building up the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
Refuting the Bitter Pill
Sunday, 15 November 2009
After the Storm
In his blog, Fr Aquilina was also shaken: 'The C of E seems [it] cannot hide any longer its real intention to unchurch those who like me hold dear what Christians held always and everywhere across the centuries'. And Fr Trevor Jones was saddened by the passing of the church he had loved, "Tell me it is a dream" he wrote," this cannot really be happening to the Church of Hooker, Laud, Keble".
At the cost of sounding like the last chorus from the Life of Brian, I really do think the clouds are breaking and we get a glimpse of a marvellous future. The church we shall belong to will be truly a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It will contain within it the treasures of a glorious past - Hooker, Laud, Keble - and also Newman and Pusey and Kemp and Ramsey; and the promise of a more glorious future. As the Church of England plc makes it clear that it wants to clear out its traditionalists to make way for the great new liberal agenda, so the Church of Rome offers us a welcome more generous and heartfelt than we could have ever expected.
It is going to take time, and prayer, if we are to explain to our people just why this is a time for decision, and bring them with us. Our Provincial Bishops and the Bishop of Fulham and the handful of other orthodox bishops, are giving a lead. We have the duty to support them - and thank them for all they have done on our behalf so far. There is a long way to go yet, but ... well, I might as well say it: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE!
Saturday, 14 November 2009
And if there IS no provision, that will open the door for many to claim constructive dismissal from a church which has changed clergy terms of employment retrospectively ... "obedient to the Bishop and his successors" indeed!
[PS: So now we have it, thanks to Fr Ed Tomlinson; it is, after all, the Manchester Group which has decided not to support anything but authority delegated from Diocesan Bishops - and we all know how generous those gentlemen have been to us in the past.
The paragraph from the Manchester Group's Press Release which is most relevant says:
The effect of the Committee’s decision is therefore that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will need to be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting.
Hurrah! Now we can get on with the serious business of applying to the Holy Father for shepherds instead of having to rely any longer on the CofE's ravening wolves.]
Monday, 9 November 2009
We were made very welcome, as ever - the celebrant was Fr Ben Andrews, Curate of the parish - the Parish Priest, Fr Graham Francis was returning from a cruise; no doubt he chose to go on one this weekend when the Gospel was about the Widow's Cruse that never failed...
Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus'
In one particular paragraph some of the difficulties raised by priests before its publication have been allayed; but not all.
III. Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.
This makes it clear that the Roman Rite will be available to those within the Ordinariate; and so will allay the fears of those clergy for whom Anglican rites have little appeal. But the same paragraph begs another question which I hope will not go away. It speaks of the need to maintain "spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion". For me, one of the greatest gifts of our Communion is the fact that our priests may marry. My wife is not a problem to be negotiated; she is a gift to me and to the Church, and my vocation to the married state is no less important to me than my vocation to the priesthood.
'Anglicanorum Coetibus' goes a little way to admitting that our priests may continue in the married state: in VI para1 it says "In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed." That is to say, married Anglican Clergy may be ordained in the Catholic Church in certain circumstances.
This does not, though, affect the general rule of celibacy: VI para 2 "The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See."
We should recognise first that it is a very great concession by the Holy See that ANY married former Anglican clergy may be ordained, and we should be very grateful indeed for this. The question for me is how far the 'derogation ... on a case by case basis' will actually be applied. It could be the thin end of a wedge permitting a gradual acclimatisation of the Catholic Church to a married priesthood - which, of course, it already has in some of its Eastern Rite variants. Or it might mean that this is something which will die out within a generation.
I believe the Holy See is serious about wanting to bring the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of our Communion into the fullness of the Catholic Church. We should not suppose that all of what we want to bring with us will be appropriate or valued or acceptable immediately. Certainly, though, there is a need for prayer for mutual understanding; between those Anglicans who will want to accept this generous offer at once, and those who will hesitate; between those who will join the Roman Catholic church, and those who will feel obliged to stay attached to the see of Canterbury; and above all, perhaps, between those who will seek to become part of the Ordinariate and those already in the Roman Catholic Communion who might find us a bitter pill to swallow.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Edwin John Charles Davis, priest. R I P
As John had requested, Fr Charles’ sermon was not a eulogy, but a proclamation of the Gospel, calling us to pray for the departed. Fr Charles did, though, give us the wonderful picture of Fr John’s meeting with our Heavenly Father; who would be first to say to the other, “My dear”? For me, it recalled that most lovely of poems by an Anglican Divine, George Herbert's “Love bade me welcome”…
‘And know you not’, says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
And so did we; we shared the Eucharist in thanksgiving and prayer for John, and we met and talked over a great buffet. How he would have enjoyed it all! And who is to say he did not, and does not, with Angels, and Archangels, and all the Company of Heaven. Requiescat.
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Oxford & Beyond
Other former Seminarians of St Stephen's House (besides, that is, Fr Davage, Fr Orford, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Preacher and the Principal of Pusey House himself) included (right) the Blogger Blogged, Fr Hunwicke who, warned of my approach, almost managed to hide his glass.
At the glorious Festival Mass, the preacher excelled himself. In the peroration of his sermon, Fr Robin Ward looked forward to a time when Pusey House might be operating in a rather wider field than the present narrow confines of the Church of England. We all left with a sense that the history of the Puseum had barely begun - there are great things still to come.
Jane came up on the train (delayed, of course) and after the Mass and more Pusey hospitality we took off for East Anglia.
There yet another SSH Alumnus, Fr Jeremy Dowding, Diane his wife and son Tom welcomed us to Thorpe-le-Soken.... about as far as you can get from Fr Jeremy's homeland of Wales without falling off the edge of the map. We concelebrated and I preached for All Saints, we enjoyed a great luncheon, and the faithful Barnesmobile brought us back to Lymington without incident, completing a four hundred mile round trip. Just one more weekend which I shall think about when people say "Don't you find retirement terribly boring?". Boring it is not. Tiring, maybe, but boring, never.
Friday, 30 October 2009
Old Familiar Places
Monday, 26 October 2009
Patrimony and Matrimony
 the Communion of the people - that it should be frequent, and in both kinds;
 Prayer - that common prayer should be in a language 'understanded of the people', and
 Clerical Marriage - that the clergy should be free to marry, if called by God to that Holy Estate.
We have given up on the part of the first thanks to the swine flu 'pandemic' (or more properly panic), Rome has conceded the second, but for me the third is the most important of all. The wives and families of priests and bishops have been one of the glories of our Communion; and by permitting clerical marriage we have increased the value of clerical celibacy when it has been freely chosen. It has also drawn us closer to Orthodoxy.
Of course it might make difficulties for the Roman church if there were another authentic part of the Church in England which does not share its rules on celibacy. But if we are genuinely to bring our (few) gifts into the greater church, then the married priesthood is crucial.
A married episcopate can wait - though I have heard some Orthodox bishops say that they wish they had the possibility of consecrating married men. On this, though, the concession about Ordinaries not necessarily being bishops is quite enough for the moment.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
And Pigs Might...
Blogmaster General and Regional Dean for Scotland, Fr Len Black SSC, preparing to put us on air as the Assembly gathers in Westminster: on the wall behind him the words (which became almost the motto of the Assembly) "He hath put a New Song into my Mouth".
Then, on Saturday afternoon, my spirits were restored. Four young men addressed us, two already ordained, two preparing for ordination. One of the ordinands is soon to be married; the other had hoped that one day he might be married; but it was not a near prospect, and that might mean he would have to remain single in the Ordinariate. All of them are ready and eager for us to press ahead, as a body, and seek corporate re-union with the Holy See, whatever the personal cost to them or their families – and the cost will necessarily be greater than to any of us older clergy and lay people..
On Sunday I was with a faithful congregation in Porstmouth, facing the prospect next month of another interregnum because of the illness of their priest. They were concerned, of course, about the future; but they were also thrilled at the prospect of becoming what they had always wanted to be, Anglicans in full communion with the Holy See.
I also heard this weekend of the death of two friends; Fr John Heidt, whose son Michael had been at St Stephen’s House when I was Principal there; and Fr John Davis, who had taught Old Testament (and a great deal more, such as the delights of Lamb in Gin) to a succession of ordinands. It is as though their lives are laid on the altar as an offering for the Unity of the Church. May they rest in peace.
Of course it is a confusing time, full of ‘what if’s’ and ‘shall we be able?’. But it is a also for me a time of huge hope, for a reunion to which I so long looked forward but never thought I would live to see. Thanks be to God!