Monday, 22 September 2014

Westminster Day

A Pair of Scousers

So was it worth it, getting up early to be in Westminster for 10.30am, and returning home very tired with Sunday's duties looming? Well, yes it was. Everyone present seemed to want to repeat the exercise next year. But I hope we will have learned from this one, and do even better in 2015.

Part  of the audience, ready to hang on every word
A little parochial parable. Many years ago in our Surrey Deanery we used to have regular Clergy Chapter meetings, at which some Speaker would come to tell us what we ought to be doing. He would be a paragon, someone who was expert at Youth Work, or Preaching, or Evangel-isation. After the talk we would return home, determined to do better in future - but pretty sure that we would not be able to reproduce his success in our little parish. Then one week the speaker failed to turn up. One of our number, a person we all thought was too good to be true, a whizz-kid with flocks of young worshippers, asked if he could fill the gap. Our hearts sank, but there seemed no option. In the event, David spoke not of his success, but of his failures; the impression he gave was all show. Underneath he was insecure and disappointed. We were genuinely almost reduced to tears. Chapter meetings were never the dame again. David's honesty had enabled us all to be more truthful with one another, to admit our own failures, to support one another's ministry.

We spent much of the morning in the Cathedral Hall listening to success stories; a Group of more than eighty were recruiting new
Lancaster. Devon and Notts among others
members all the time; another Group was raising money to buy a redundant Methodist church building. Even the one example of a small Group managed to be entirely up-beat. Now we need such encouragement; but we also need to be able to admit how hard things are for some of us - perhaps even a majority. I spoke to a couple of priests about "Called to be One". Like us, they had thrown themselves into it, put out a great deal of advertising,  but in the end scarcely anyone came except members of their own Group and a few well-disposed local Catholics. I found myself more heartened by these conversations than anything from the 'official' speeches. So, next time, can we loosen up a bit? Not sit in serried rows listening to those thought to be encouraging to us, but have a real chance for meeting? One of our number proposed that everyone should have name badges (big legible ones) to include where we were from and that seems very worthwhile.

Deacon and Ordinary
He hails originally from Leicester and would have loved to meet people from there, but he could not find them. There was so much about the day that was good - particularly the concelebrated Mass (forty priests, I think - though are we not 150 by now? Where were the others?)  The Cardinal's address was great - and unlike much of the rest of the proceedings, AUDIBLE! Surely someone besides an Archbishop can adjust a microphone? On thanking one of the Stewards afterwards I was told how much they appreciated the SINGING - real congregational whole-heartedness. It was especially good to have that best of all Marian hymns, Thomas Ken's "Her Virgin Eyes saw God Incarnate born" - a wonderful bit of the patrimony, which I hope will now become familiar to Diocesan Catholics.

Waiting for Kick-Off
After such excitement,  it is back to the trivial round, the common task. We are hoping to collect some Harvest goodies for the local Food Bank, and encouraged by Mgr Keith we will join the Parish for a Harvest Supper. Sorry if much of this post sounds a little carping; it was good, but might have been so much better. Very good, though, hearing Mgr Burnham on Liturgy - brisk and informative. Good to be with so many old friends - even though there was not enough time to speak to them all. One of the Cathedral Servers told me he had been MC at an event where I had presided (in Leicester) probably fifteen years ago... how time flies when you're having fun.

After the final whistle