Sunday 8 August 2010

The Heart of the Matter

St Ambrose Bournemouth is a handsome church on the West Cliff, built at the turn of the 19th/20th Century to bring catholic worship to that part of the rapidly growing resort. Four years ago there was a devastating fire; and around that time the incumbent retired. Since then the parish has struggled on with the help of retired clergy. Now at last it has something to look forward to; the Church Council voted to seek extended pastoral care with a unanimous vote in June. Now they await the Bishop of Winchester's visit (promised sometime this autumn) when he will tell them what provision he will make for them, and they will be able to comment on his proposals.

In reality, this should mean the care of the Provincial Episcopal Visitor, the Bishop of Richborough, for neither of the new appointments to Basingstoke or Southampton fulfils the criteria set out in the Act of Synod. These two new bishops are both content, it seems, with women's ordination. The act of synod requires that the bishop caring for "C" parishes should himslef be opposed to women's ordination. Of course, if the proposals by the two Archbishops had been accepted during the July Synod, that would not have mattered. Basingstoke or Southampton could have been given the task of caring for "Third Resolutioon" parishes even if they were the most enthusiastic proponents of women bishops; all the Archbishops' Amendments would have offered was a male bishop, to be nominated by the bishop of the diocese, and no chance for a parish to demur.

This evening I was invited to pontificate and preach at solemn evensong. All the church plate was on display (including a very handsome monstrance - maybe next time I can be asked to use it!) and I absolved and blessed and swung incense during the Magnificat. St Ambrose has, from it vestments and fittings, clearly had its high church moments. At present it would call itself "prayer book catholic". I suggested that if they wanted to be genuinely prayer book there was a better chance of achieving that in the Ordinariate than in the rapidly disolving Church of England. It was my third sermon for the day; I had preached at 8o'clock in Lymington (My house is the house of prayer") , at 10 o'clock at St Francis Bournemouth ("The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect") - the third one you can see for yourself if you care to look at the Anglo Catholic blog - where I shall also try to put a few more St Ambrose pictures. They have made one brave decision, to seek extended espicopal oversight. Will they be ready, when the time comes, to take the much bolder decision, to join the Ordinariate? If not, it may be they will have just the catholic decor, without the heart of the matter.