Friday, 15 September 2017

Money Talks

A brief visit to Oxford gave me a chance to call in at my former College, Pembroke. The porters were most welcoming, and expressed amazement that I had matriculated such an aeon ago - in fact in 1955. Now you may not be able to name many of the alumni of that place. Michael Heseltine was an undergraduate there, though it is said that he would slip across the road to Christ Church on every opportunity to give the impression that "The House" was his real home. Among my own contemporaries, Dick Lugar was a Rhodes scholar who became a leader in the U.S. Senate. Then there is a plaque outside the library commemorating a great benefactor of America, James Smithson. If you have been to the States you cannot have missed the many branches of the Smithsonian, from museums in New York to the Zoo in Washington D.C. Again, if you are a devotee of Victorian Church decoration, you will also know the name of Charles Eamer Kempe, whose stained glass occurs in so many churches.


The greatest Pembroke man of all, though is undoubtedly Sam Johnson, the grand Cham, Doctor Johnson of the Dictionary. Because of his poverty, alas, he was only at Pembroke for a very short time, and far from getting a Doctorate then he went down without taking a degree. Yet the College makes much of the association, and even had reproductions made of his tea mug - a vast thing, he must have had wealthy friends by the time hecame to consume such quantitites of tea.

In recent years it was decided to rename the College Chapel. There is a painting in the Reredos of  the risen Christ, so you might have supposed it would be called the Chapel of Christ.That might have led to confusion with Wolsey's college over the road, since it is no longer called Cardinal College/.At any event, it was determined that the name should be "The Damon Wells Chapel".

Was the great Damon Wells perhaps one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales? Not so. Then who was he? Google the name and you will find a dozen claimants. This one is a former member of the college, apparently. On a fund-raising visit to the States an atheistically minded Master of Pembroke was, it is said, a little embarrassed to return to Oxford with a great endowment from the said Damon Wells - earmarked for the Restoration of the Chapel. He contnued to be very generous. We cannot know whether his generosity depended on the renaming of the Chapel, but at any event the Chapel now bears his name.

There was a temporary notice planted at the Chapel's entrance on one particular Gaudy night, bearing
Pembroke, John Betjeman's favourite Oxford College.
the new name. And curiously that was removed during the course of the celebrations - I cannot imagine who did such a thing. Yesterday, on visiting the College, I discovered a permanent notice affixed to the building announcing "The Damn Wells Chapel" - no, sorry, it read "The Damon Wells Chapel". Do visit when you are next in Oxford. But if you go ignore the notice and enter the Chapel. You will see the organ case (Wren's work from the Sheldonian) and a great deal of stained glass, plaster ceilings, and painted statuary, all the work of Kempe. Once there, perhaps you can say a prayer for former students; and include among them, of your charity, Damon Wells. I'm sure he needs it.
A section of C E Kempe's ceiling decoration.

Kempe's Glass - much more dense and heavy than his usual church work.
Annunciation




Monday, 5 June 2017

Welsh Requiem

At rest in Abergavenny Priory Church of St Mary


Today, among the ancient splendours of the priory church of Abergavenny, hundreds gathered to pray for the last and only PAB ofWales. The initials stood for Provincial Assistant Bishop; but Dai Thomas used to delight in telling us that 'Pab' was also the Welsh for 'Pope'. He was appointed just as several of us in England were designated PEVs - Provincial Episcopal Visitors. But whereas those posts continue in England, at least in name,  in Wales the bishops refused to appoint a successor to David Thomas.

St Mary's Abergavenny
So today the many Welsh priests and people who gathered to mourn a wonderful Father in God were also mourning the death of something else; the Church in Wales itself. There had been in Wales a remarkable flowering of the Catholic Revival in the Anglican Communion, Today many asked me what they were getting in the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff. Since I live in Salisbury they supposed I must know the Dean who was soon to become their chief pastor. In fact as Dean I only know her by repute - I have only been in Salisbury since January. But I certainly came across her when I served on General Synod. I could not, in all honesty, say much to encourage the Llandaff clergy, for she has been an enthusiastic supporter of all things 'liberal' in the Church of England, from women's ordination (naturally) to the claims of the so-called LGBT community - though I understand those initials are no longer enough; they do not include the whole gamut of those who suppose their sexuality is fluid, to be chosen or discarded according to whim, Anything new seems to commend itself to the Very Revd June.

'John the Baptist' according to the caption on a metre high exhbit currently in Salisbury Cathedral
 
The idea of this being a requiem for the Church in Wales is not mine; several people independently said this was how they saw today. No more scholar bishops of David's calibre. No more genuine pastors who cared for their clergy. Just diocesan apparatchiks appointed because they went along with the spirit of the age.

One priest said "Ah, but though this is a death perhaps there will be a resurrection?" I could only point him to three former Provincail Bishops who attended today as 'ecumenical visitors'. Keith Newton, John Broadhurst and I were all present to pray at the funeral of a much loved former colleague. David had attended many meetings of PEVs when we were trying to discern how we could save something of the Catholic nature of the Church both in England and in Wales.  All three of us have discerned that the only hope of preserving the best of Anglicanism lies in responding positively to Pope Benedict's generous offer to us in 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'; the opportunity for bringing some of the treasures of Anglicanism, not simply liturgical words, but a syle of worship, and a pastoral spirit learned over the years - in the Church of England and also in the Church in Wales.

Some Welsh clergy I know are worried about whether they would be ordained as Catholic priests; there might be something which could become an obstacle for them? But none of us now in the Ordinariate had any certainty of being 'recycled'. The first essential was that we believed what the Catholic Church believed. We were then received into the Roman Catholic Church. Only then could the process of discernment begin. All I can say is that the process has been unfailingly generous towards us, and that we all are sure we made the right decision, I know, because I have lived in Wales myself at various times and have family living there now that as David Thomas used to say "Things are different in Wales". Indeed they are - but no longer, I fear, for the better. The future looks increasingly bleak for orthodox Christians in the Principality. Yet with an enthusiastic leap of faith the Ordinariate could grow from its small beginnings - there is currently a group which worships in a chapel in Cardiff Cathedral - into something which the English Ordinariate would come to admire and even envy.

John paying tribute to his father.
I have to say I was almost in tears today as David's son John spoke of his father, and led us in singing. That spirit is something the whole church needs; part of the Welsh Patrimony which is at present missing but which will be a gift to the entire Catholic world, For us to be a part of today's celebration was a real privilege, Diolch yn fawr - as always, you were very kind and made us 'ecumencial visitors' feel at home. Do know that in your turn you will be very welcome with us. You are needed. Join us in this great catholic renewal.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Investing in the Church's Growth

 'How is the Ordinariate managing financially?' I was asked the other day. 'Surviving', said I. But then today I read the Church Commissioners' results in their annual report subtitled "Investing in the Church's Growth".[H.T. to 'Thinking Anglicans'] They made returns of 17.1% last year. The Church Commissioners manage, the report tells us, investable assets of some £7.9 billion - yes, billion. If you prefer to see the figures written out, that is £7,900,000,000. Well done the Commissioners. In my little way I helped contribute to that fund, by getting a local Agent to handle the sale of our Parsonage (for about £2.6k more than the Diocese was quite ready to accept) and then getting the same Agent to act for us, rather than the Diocese's man, when we sold off some other small parcel of land. Eventually the diocese profitted from that parish by about half a million pounds - which the diocese persisted in referring to as our 'windfall'. All the clergy who joined the Catholic Church after 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' had done similarly, if not through land deals then by running numerous Planned Giving campaigns.

Now I am very glad still to be in communion with the C of E Pension Fund, if not with the rest of Anglicanism. But I do wonder if the Commissioners might not do some little thing towards assisting at least with life insurance for younger members of the Ordinariate - and perhaps even encouraging the Anglican hierarchy to share some of its church buildings.  Had a clergyman died while still an Anglican his widow and family would have been greatly assisted from the Commissioners' investments. If one of these same former Anglican clergy, now a Catholic priest,  should die (absit omen )  the Ordinariate will have to bear the entire responsibility for those they leave behind. Yet the fund which the Commissioners manage, formerly Queen Anne's Bounty, derives very largely from the Catholic sources which were nationalised at the time of the 'reformation'. Even those little plots of land which I sold when a Vicar had come ultimately from the Religious House which provided a Vicar and Church for that parish. Queen Anne graciously endowed the Church of England with a little of the money which had come to the Crown from such pre-reformation Catholic sources.

I suppose it is too much to expect there will be any such generosity. After all, the Ordinariate seems not to be seen by Anglicans as a generous Catholic gesture towards those Anglicans who really believed what the C of E consistently said, and still says, that the it is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Instead we Ordinarians seem to be thought of as somehow renegades, denying our birthright. Yet many of us found it increasingly impossible to remain in an Ecclesial Community which allowed itself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine - or of fashion. Surely Christian Mission might very properly be funded from the ancient endowments set up in large part by our Catholic forebears? How good it would be if we separated Anglicans could be drawn into conversation and fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion - or at least with the Church of England - while there is a recognisable part of that Church of England yet surviving. For as a commentator in "Thinking Anglicans" has said, in response to the Commissioners' Report, 'many congregations advance towards extinction' and 'we will soon have the paradoxical situation of an impregnably flush fund providing periodic subventions to the tattered remnants of a Church'. Together we could make a future, genuinely 'investing in the Church's growth'. Kept apart our situation in England becomes ever more like that in Ireland - where one church hangs on to ancient buildings, with everyone at least called 'Very Reverend', while Christianity can mostly be found in a quite different part of the vineyard.  

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The tongue holier than the hand?

The Bishop in Wisconsin in the USA has apparently claimed  'The practice of Communion in the hand grew out of a disobedience that can be traced back to Holland. Because of the widespread abuse of receiving in the hand, Pope Paul VI granted an indult for the practice in a 1969 letter from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.' He also asserts that  'Communion on the tongue is more reverent'. Reverence is a cornerstone of Anglican worship, as it was once generally practised by Anglo-Catholics, and still is by a few. It may be though an uphill task, in view of Cardinal Sarah's support for receiving on the tongue, but at least a case should be made for reverent receiving of Commuion in the hand .

The Dutch might have used reception in the hand as an act of disobedience. In the Church of England, the very reverse was true. Long before Dutch disobedience, many young confirmation candidates were taught that the correct way to receive was on the palm of the hand, one hand placed on the other, for we understood St Augustine had said that in this way we made "a throne for God". Then we were taught to bow our heads to receive the Host from the palm of the hand. We were also taught to sign ourselves with the cross just before receiving the Host or the Precious Blood. It may be that it is the taking of the Host between finger and thumb that looks irreverent to the Bishop of Madison and other upholders of, as they would claim, 'the tradition'. Well, there are many different traditional ways of receiving Communion - for instance it is administered on a spoon in the Eastern Churches, and that can probably claim at least as long a history as reception on the tongue.

What appears particularly irreverent to many former Anglicans is the way so many Catholics studiously avoid receiving from the Chalice, seemingly deliberately avoiding reception of the Precious Blood when it is offered to them. We are well aware of the assertion that 'the Lord is the same in either kind', but we still find it strange that if that is so He chose to initiate the Communion with both bread and wine. It has come as a great encoragement to us to be able to use again the words (taken by Cranmer originally from a Spanish Cardinal) 'that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood'. What is more the words accompanying Communion are terribly brief, whereas in the Ordinariate when we say AMEN we say it at the end of a prayer with which the Sacrament is given to us - that the Body, the Blood, of Our Lord Jesus Christ might preserve us, body and soul, to everlasting life.  Brevity, haste even, seems to be the prerequisite for some Catholics.  I fancy too that our Anglo-Catholic forefathers would have told communicants that they should not attempt to receive on the tongue; it was rude to poke out your tongue, and the priest did not want to be slobbered over from so many open mouths.

In all this, though, what matters is the interior disposition of the Communicant. If he or she intends to be reverent, then how that reverence is expressed is a matter for them and the Lord, not for any onlooker. The non-conformist who receives Communion from the hands of his neighbour, seated, is not doing so from irreverence, but because that is how he believes he might get nearest to the way it was for the first disciples in the Upper Room.  I seem to recall Our Lord telling us not to judge, least of all to judge another's servant. And certainly the tongue is no holier than the hand.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Welcome to the Ordinariate.

Mgr Andrew Burnham (in the Catholic Herald) had some very helpful comments about Philip North and the options before him, There was one sentence, though, that worries me. He suggests that an Anglican Priest seeking to join the Catholic Church has two routes, If he comes with a group of Anglicans he might join the Ordinariate, but otherwise he must use the Diocesan route.

Now certainly 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' begins by being concerned with groups approaching the Holy See; but it not is and cannot be interpreted as applying only to group submissions. If it were, then the whole Ordinariate project would have no future - yet it was not set up by Pope Benedict as just a temporary measure.  Priests die, and there must be replacements for them. Slowly the Ordinariate might produce its own ordinands. Before then, individual priests (or bishops) seeking union with the See of Peter should look first to the Ordinariate. Just as any lay person with Anglican previous can seek to join the Ordinariate, so can any Anglican minister. There will be no certainty of Catholic Ordination until he has first become a Catholic. Then if he wants to be ordained into the Catholic prieshood he should first approach the Ordinary. In some cases there might not be an obvious opening for him in the Ordinariate, and he will be advised to seek help from a Catholic diocesan bishop. But there are and must surely continue to be many opportunities and needs for new priests within the Ordinariate. Some existing groups are struggling simply because their pastor is single-handed, and has many other responsibilities besides his Ordinariate group.

Not all Anglican clergy wanting to become Catholic priests have any hope, realistically, of bring a congregations with them. There are chaplains to schools, hospitals and other institutions where such group submissions are impossible. There ae parishes where at best only a handful of lay people might agree with their Vicar on this issue. The important thing is that the Ordinariates must become ever more approachable and flexible,  always opening doors  to those outside the Catholic Church - and to some inside it, too.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Honoured Place

What possible right does a Roman Catholic priest of the Ordinariate have to make any comment on events over the fence in the Church of England?  I think I have two pretty good reasons for writing just now; first, because I was there when the Church of England said that catholic Anglicans held and would continue to hold an honoured place within it. That was one of the reasons I felt it right back in 1995 to try to make that promise a reality, and accepted the post of Bishop of Richborough. Then we were told that the Church of England could not determine finally what was right concerning women's ordination. We were in a time of discernment, until all the Churches, Eastern and Western, came to a common mind. Today the inability or unwillingness of the Church of England to allow an Anglican with doubts about the rightness of women's ordination to become a diocesan bishop seems to be a breach of those promises, one more nail in the Anglo-Catholic coffin.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Philip North
That would be reason enough for me to express an opinion; but there is another reason I presume to write now. When Philip North trained for the ministry at St Stephen's House, I was its Principal. In his year the academic achievements of that small college were outstanding. Of a handful of candidates who entered for degrees in Oxford University's Honours School of Theology, four were awarded Firsts. One of them is Philip North. There are few Bishops, Anglican or Catholic, with a more impressive academic grounding. There are even fewer with Philip's generous pastoral heart.
As he withdraws from the post of Bishop of Sheffield, to which he was recently nominated, I simply want to express my sadness for Philip, and for the Church of England. It is no joy to any Christians when fellow Christians are hurt - when one member suffers, every member suffers. If the Church of England is diminished by the activities of a so called 'liberal' group, intent on driving out any who disagree with them, then all the Churches are wounded too. Worse still, it is a wound in the Body of Christ Himself.

Then pray for the Church of England, and for Bishop Philip. He wants a place where he can minister to the poor and the neglected for whom he has an especial care. Pray that he may find that place.  Pray for the women in ministry in the Church of England, many of whom have tried to support and encourage Philip, and have valued his pastoral care - even while others have refused his ministry. Pray too for the whole Church of God, all baptized Christians, for a spirit of penitence and reconciliation in this holy season of Lent.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Attachment to Buildings

Torbay Mission
Why is it that the American Ordinariate seems so far ahead of us in England?  Part of the reason I suggest has to do with buildings. Whereas in the States it is sometimes possible for the Ordinariate to purchase a former Episcopal church, this never happens here. Indeed there are some Anglican bishops who have said they would be more ready to let a church go to the Islam than to the Ordinariate. It is very rare indeed (I only know of the Torbay Mission) where a church building has been bought by the Ordinariate - and that was formerly a Methodist, not an Anglican, church,

It all stems, I think, from history. Until the 1530's every church in England was Catholic. After Henry VIII - and once his bastard daughter Elizabeth I was on the throne - every church was nationalised for the 'Church of England'. At different times, churches have  occasionally been handed over to other Christian bodies. French Protestants, for instance, were given the use of some churches when the Huguenots were exiled to England. In the 20th Century, some churches have been given to Orthodox communities, or they have been permitted to buy or share them.
Sikh Gurdwara: once St Luke's
Also in the 20th Century there have been instances where other religions have bought or been given church buildings - the former St Luke's in Southampton is now a Sikh Temple. The occasions when Catholics have been able to take over or use an Anglican building are very few indeed. In 19th Century Arundel there was a great legal battle when the catholic Duke of Norfolk presumed to rebuild the ruins of the Chancel of the Anglican Parish Church where his ancestors were buried for a Catholic Chapel.
Slipper Chapel
In Walsingham, the equally ruinous Slipper Chapel was rescued from its use as a barn and brought back into Catholic worship. There is the former chapel of Ely House, London home at one time of  the Bishops of Ely which had been sold and laicised long before. And that is about the sum of it.
Ely Chapel as it once was









In London, though, where Catholic congregations customarily fill their churches to bursting, the good old Church of England hangs on to its buildings even when congregations are down to a mere handful - in the hope perhaps of realising a good sum from a developer.

Italianate Wilton
I was reminded of all this on visiting Wilton. There the old church was pulled down in the 19th Century and only the chancel left standing. In its place a sumptuous Italianate church was bult by the local grandee, the Earl of Pembroke; and it was fitted out with stained glass, carved woodwork and stone from all over Europe - the aftermath of the French Revolution and other upheavals. It must have seemed perfectly reasonable to the noble Lord that these Catholic artefacts should become decorations in an Anglican building.

We are very wedded to our buildings and our history, in a way which it must be hard for others - especially Americans I think - to understand. Perhaps the time is coming when Parliament will recognise that the Church of England is no longer the religion of the country, and that it would be sensible to find other bodies to take over some of the buildings which it struggles to maintain - but don't pray for it too hard. St Paul's erstwhile Cathedral would make such a good Mosque.