Sunday 21 December 2014

Harmonious relations

After a rather unecumenical post, here is better news. The Service of Lessons and Carols today was led by an augmented choir; our own little group, together with singers from other churches, Anglican and Catholic.

Choir rehearsal
Preparing Lunch
We had a brief business meeting after Mass this morning, then joined in a bring-and share lunch. We seem to be getting rather good at these, and as always there was enough of the leftovers to fill twelve baskets full. The picture was taken as the food was being set out - this was at about the half-way stage, before the hot dishes came out of the oven.

There were visitors, Canadian friends who live in Bradford on Avon but who drove over for Mass just in order to experience the Ordinariate Use. They said it was well worth the journey and that they will be back another time. We are almost at the end of our first trial period with the Ordinariate Use. Mixed reactions, but we decided this morning that it was worth another outing - and so we shall be using it throughout Lent in 2015. Perhaps it is especially well suited to penitential seasons?

Shared lunch - a great time for meeting.

Our Organist, Peter Cook, sported his plum jacket for the occasion - you can see him on the right responding to tricky musical questions over lunch.

One of our visitors joined the washing-up brigade - he can certainly come again!
Post prandial

Now we are gearing up for the Festival; a Mass of the Christmas Eve Vigil on Wednesday morning, then the First Mass of Christmas at 10pm that night. On Christmas morning we can join our local Catholic parishes. Then we are giving Organist, singers and servers a chance to rest on Sunday 28th, when there will be a simple said Mass (many of our people will be away with family). Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Bigots all

Many in the Church of England will have been thrilled to hear that the first woman bishop has been nominated. It would be sad, though, if that announcement were to lead to bitterness; and so far as I can see there has been none from those opposed to this new move.  So I was sorry to receive a green ink letter today with a picture of the newly appointed lady, headed "Church of England names Rev Libby Lane first women (sic) bishop".

The Revd Mrs Lane
No problem with that apart from the grammar, but beneath it the caption went "Wishing all the Anglo-Catholic bigots a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!" Were I an Anglo-Catholic that might have stung me a little. As I am not it is really no concern of mine what the Church of England does - I maintain an interest simply because so many of my old friends continue (I am not sure how) within that body. No, I am sorry for the person who, in his or her jubilation at the appointment, felt it necessary to rub salt into the wounds of those who hold legitimate theological views about the steps the Church of England is taking.

There are, I suppose, two good things to come of such vitriolic mailings. First, it might make some realise just how hated they are by the triumphant majority, and so get them looking once more at the Catholic option. The other is that the (anonymous) mailer used a first class stamp, and I still hold some Royal Mail shares.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Parish Ministry

One of the places where I used to visit as a Flying Bishop was Northwest Norfolk. There, a little group of parishes around Watlington had asked for the PEV's ministry, as had two other benefices in that little part of North West Norfolk. The Watlington group was in reality just two churches, in Runcton and Watlington, though the title of the Rector's post included Tottenhilll with Wormegay. A few miles away were three other parishes, Barton Bendish with Bechamwell and Shingham. Then in 2003 Fincham, Shouldham with Shouldham Thorpe and Marham were added to the Rectory of Barton Bendish. Today in what the Daily Telegraph inelegantly calls "Appointments in the Clergy" it seems these two collections of parishes have been lumped together. Barbara Burton is priest in charge now, we read, of Barton Bendish w Beachamwell and Shingham, and Marham, and Shouldham, and Wereham and Watlington, South Runcton, Runcton Holme w Watlington, South Runcton and Runcton Holme with Wallington and Thorpland and Tottenham w Wormegay. All this chunk of Norfolk is in the Diocese of Ely. And lest the Revd Ms Burton should feel underemployed she is also Rural Dean of Fincham and Feltwell.

Now certainly these are small places, though many living in them will remember when there used to be at least three incumbents living in and caring for those parishes. With the decline in numbers of clergy (decline which women's ordination was supposed to reverse but did not) it becomes increasingly difficult for the Church of England to claim that it has the cure of souls of every person in the land.

St Edmund Downham Market in the deanery of Fincham & Feltwell

Downham Market was one of my larger concerns back in those days. It belongs still to the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfred. Not sure if Hilgay and Southery, also in that deanery, are in the care of the present Bishop of Richborough - I doubt it since they call themselves 'liberal catholic' on their website. They are working with the Grimshoe Benefice (five churches) so perhaps more amalgamations are on the way. At least the Catholic Church does not have such a problem of so many ancient buildings in small communities. It is also capable of taking drastic action if a parish no longer viable because of having too few worshippers. All of us, Catholics and Anglicans, have a great responsibility to pray for and foster new vocations. The harvest is still plentiful, the labourers ever fewer. Pray therefore the Lord of the Harvest that he will send labourers into his harvest - and pray that the leaders of the churches will be given the wisdom to continue ministry to the whole nation and not just the bits that can afford it.

Saturday 6 December 2014

A Thousand Ages....

So - forty years don't amount to much in the sweep of the Church's history. This weekend though there is to be a celebration of forty years which means a great deal to me. In 1974 there began an experiment in ecumenism which has outlasted many other much grander schemes (do you remember ARCIC? The agreements on Ministry? On the Eucharist? Or the proposals on Petrine primacy?).

St John's Farncombe
Forty years ago the Catholic Priest in Godalming was concerned that whereas the northern part of his parish had developed hugely, there was no Mass Centre there. So he wrote to me asking if he might use one of the schools for a weekly celebration. As Rector of Farncombe I was also chairman of Governors, not only in our two church schools but also in the more recently opened school in Binscombe. I thought it would be possible; but surely it would be better to use the Church? Unlike a school hall there would be no need to set up a special altar, move the furniture and so on. We had after all recently re-ordered St John's in accordance as we believed with the intentions of Vatican II. It would surely serve for a Catholic Mass as readily as for our celebrations of Holy Communion. Clergy and people in both communities were happy with the idea.

It was more difficult to persuade the Authorities that this was a workable solution - a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated on Sunday between our two Church of England morning Eucharists. Eventually both bishops gave their consent - provided it was acknowledged that this was just an experiment.

So it began - and so it has continued - a long-running experiment. After I became a Catholic in the wake of  'Anglicanorum Coetibus' I was delighted to receive a letter from someone whom I had prepared for Confirmation all those years before. He said he had lapsed after a while, but rediscovered the faith at University, and had become a Catholic. Now he was living back in Farncombe and he and his family were able to worship regularly in St John's where his journey of faith had begun.

This weekend Catholics and Anglicans are joining in a festal Evensong. The Rector will sing the Office, with the present Catholic Priest giving Benediction - and I am to preach. It will be a very moving occasion for many of us. Sad, though, that something which began forty years ago has not since then become commonplace. With church buildings becoming an increasing drain on resources, surely the Churches should be looking at more opportunities for sharing? In many places Churches are having to 'diversify'- becoming post-offices or libraries during the week, and used for worship only on occasional Sundays. How much more important that parishes should share their gifts with other Christians. It might give new life to that experience which so surprised pagans in the first century that they said, "See how these Christians love one another".

{The photograph is from the Farncombe Church website: and shows the most recent alterations to the building - 
a new timber floor and greatly improved lighting.)

Saturday 29 November 2014


Tomorrow in Bournemouth we begin celebrating Mass according to the Ordinariate Use. We shall do so for a month, to immerse ourselves in its words and actions. In part (the better part) this Use derives from the Book of Common Prayer - devised by Dr Cranmer and amended in the reign of Charles II. So there are great translations of ancient Latin collects. Just look for example at the one appointed for the week before Advent.  "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people, that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded". Compare that with the clumsy version in the most recent Roman Missal translation: "Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that, striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows". No contest.

So I have nothing against the language of the Book of Common Prayer. The prayer of humble access (moved to follow the Agnus in the Ordinariate Rite, instead of breaking up the Canon as Cranmer did) is a fine prayer. So too is the thanksgiving after Communion (albeit a little wordy for daily use). What I do find hard to take, though, is the god-wottery of the American Book which has been imported into the Ordinariate Use. For those unfamiliar with the word, god-wottery is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as 'an affected quality of archaism, excessive fussiness and sentimentality'. These, I fear, are the very things which many English members of the Ordinariate find so unhelpful.

First the archaism; we have been happy saying "and with your Spirit". Is it helpful to change this to "thy" spirit, last used by some of us half a century ago - and to younger ones totally unknown? Perhaps in remoter parts of the Pennines people still 'thee' and 'thou' one another, but for most of us this is just archaism for its own sake. Now some would argue that this is hieratic language and to put everything into the "you" form would be to treat Almighty God with too much familiarity. But that is exactly what Our Lord taught us to do! It is retained in the Latin of the Lord's Prayer (qui ES is coelis .. ES being the singular, informal address.) French and Italian and all those languages which make a distinction between the second person plural and the second person singular invariably address the Almighty in the familiar 'tu' form. That is what the prayer book did by speaking to the Lord as "Thou". By reverting to this usage, long dead in England, we now put an artificial distance between us and him which neither Our Lord not the Prayer Book intended.

Then, the excessive fussiness. Why have a threefold repetition of "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed"? The phrase 'vain repetition' comes to mind. And why introduce multiple kissings of the altar? Or duplicate genuflections?

As for sentimentality, I leave it to others to look through the Propers of the Book of Divine Worship. Perhaps we shall be spared some of its mawkishness when our own Propers are produced. Even so, I'm afraid that the Ordinariate Use has missed a great opportunity for finding beautiful and accessible language for today's worship. It might have begun by excising the most obvious archaisms; what is wrong with "Stir up, we beseech you, Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they, plentifully bringing forth the fruit of good works may by you be plentifully rewarded"? But we will try to use the rite we have been given to the letter, and by the time Advent ends perhaps I shall have been persuaded of its beauty and charm. We can only hope.

Not Black Saturday

After the madness of black Friday's sales, good to walk through Lymington and find the market as busy and happy as ever. It's pleasant to walk to Mass and be greeted by some of the stallholders and shoppers - "Morning, Padre", "Morning Vicar". Sometimes I even get called "Father". Back half a century ago when we walked from the clergy house to church in North End the Dockyard mateys on the way to work everyone called us Father - but then, Portsmouth had experienced a century of the Anglo-Catholic revival. By the 1960s there were four of us unmarried clergy looked after by a Housekeeper - besides the Vicar and two married priests-in-charge living near the three churches. There was a Sister on the staff too, a Nun of St Peter's Convent in Woking. I think that parish is now down to a solitary Vicar. O tempora, O Mores!

After Mass on Saturday there is always coffee and cakes in the old school (now called "Joseph's Place"- he seems to live across the road from Mary, since the Presbytery is now called Mary House. Today the cakes were especially lavish - probably to prepare us for the rigours of Advent

Then home again up the hill through the market crowds. Later today we may get to St Dominic's Convent where the Sisters are having a Christmas Sale - but not, I expect, a black Saturday.

You can get anything in our Market
Certainly not a BLACK market

Monday 17 November 2014

After the Fall

Mass of St Hilda this morning at Lymington Church (Our Lady of Mercy). I offered the Mass for the Church of England, and especially for my friends who will have found today so hard - I well remember Synod on November 11th 1992, when I had to return to face those at St Stephen's House who really had believed (as I once did) that "the Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church". For me, that became an increasingly difficult position to defend .

But what picture could be appropriate for such a day? Maybe a series of lines drawn in sand, with an incoming tide sweeping them all away?  No, too unkind. Instead here are a couple of images from the garden. On this damp and dull day the dying foliage glows with one last burst of splendour. Of course, such visual parables cannot be pressed too far; for the Wisteria and the Maple there may be new glory next year. Institutions, though, simply wither on the vine.


Cheer up, though. There is new life - but maybe not for the branch severed from the trunk. Pope Benedict XVI (blessed be he) found a way of grafting us back into the stock where we belong. That way is still open for those brave enough to ask for it. It is called the Ordinariate.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Precious Stone Set in a Silver Sea

The Union Flag at Milford on Sea
Between the two Masses at St Thomas More today, that is after the Parish Mass and before the Ordinariate one, a little Anglican Patrimony. Fr Darryl had us singing "For those in peril", we heard the Last Post (recorded) and he recited "They shall not grow old". We kept two minutes silence, finished with another hymn and a verse of God Save the Queen (sorry we omitted 'Confound their Politicks') and still managed to begin the Ordinariate Mass on time at 11.15. After Mass we met baby Jack (who had slept throughout) who is to be baptized next Sunday.
Trying to catch the tide

After a late lunch we just had time to catch some spectacular moments as the sun set over Dorset and the Isle of Wight. There was even one hardy soul on a paddle board. I could not stop taking photos, so there might be a few more on Facebook.

Thursday 6 November 2014


Despite leaving the Church of England, I am still in communion with an important part of it - the Pensions Board. After forty-one years of full-time ministry, I was able to sit back in 2001 and take things easy. Until, that is, five years ago Pope Benedict gave us the great opportunity of the Ordinariate.
So since 2011 I have once again been in pretty active ministry, looking after our little flock in Bournemouth and giving a hand in local Catholic parishes.

Our Lady of Lourdes, New Milton
This morning, as most Thursdays, I celebrated in the lovely Catholic parish church of New Milton. This enables the Parish Priest, Fr Marcin Drabcik, to take a day off - though he seldom does, being something of a workaholic. It is always a pleasure to say Mass in his church. Everything is beautifully ordered, and the people are very welcoming. I never leave without one or two people, and usually several of them, thanking me. Today we were about thirty. This is the usual Thursday number, though some weeks it is forty or more. Occasionally I have been able to help on a Sunday, particularly when Fr Marcin has gone to his native Poland. The most recent time was to lead a Pilgrimage from New Milton. Then, as on every Sunday, the church has been packed to the doors

There are Catholic parishes up and down the country welcoming former Anglicans to their altars. Indeed there are churches which might have closed but for the influx of Ordinariate clergy. If there is one message for my Anglican clergy friends, it is that you would be very welcome in the Roman communion, and you would be well used.  I cannot imagine a happier or more fruitful way of spending my declining years. But you don't have to be retired! I wish I'd had this Anglicanorum Coetibus opportunity earlier. In any case, don't leave it too late; you are needed now..

Tuesday 4 November 2014


Today is the fifth Anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus. Ad Multos Annos.

Neil Addison
By a happy chance today there was also a meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic St Patrick's Soho Square, and a number of members of the Ordinariate  who also belong to the Confraternity were present. The occasion for our meeting was a paper presented by Neil Addison on the Church, the Law, and Religious Freedom. The most important part of his talk for me was the advice that if you CAN avoid going to law, then that is the best solution!

Mgr Keith has often commended the Confraternity to us, and it is one of the places where we are able to meet with Catholic Clergy from around the county and not have any need to explain ourselves. From the moment I joined I have felt at home and welcomed. Next year there is a great International Meeting in Rome - I'm sorry that I shall not be able to be there - but there is to be a Retreat after Easter when I do hope to be present.

The meeting today was a local regional event for London and the Southeast. There a few other groups which meet around the country, but apart from London (which is easy but expensive to get to from home) our next nearest is in the Southwest, usually meeting in Exeter.

Today we were guests of Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, who always makes us welcome - we have also been to his Church as the Ordinariate. If you do not know St Patrick's it is, as Michelin used to say, worth the journey. Just round the corner from Tottenham Court Road, it is most beautiful - and most hospitable. Sorry I caught Father looking a little fraught - probably at having such a gang of priests on the premises.

After a good lunch we had a time of prayer and then discussion about the recent Synod of Bishops - but since visitors were arriving in Lymington I had, sadly, to leave early.

Fraternity is one of the Objects of the CCC: today's lunch provided a good opportunity

Friday 31 October 2014

So, Mr Turner

Turneresque? Or is Turner Creationesque?

It just needed a steam tug and the hulk of the Temeraire to make a perfect picture. This afternoon we went to look at the sea, after raiding the local shops This is going to be a busy weekend. The Ordinariate in Bournemouth has a 'bring and share' lunch party, so that we have time after Mass  to discuss some of the things which need decisions - such as how much we can send to Central Funds, and what we are to do about more hymn books, and how we will introduce the Ordinariate Use from Advent Sunday. That luncheon partly accounted for our shopping; the other event (the same day) is a dinner party at home for some Anglican friends.

The Friends of the Ordinariate are making available to us copies of the Ordinariate Use (as produced first for Warwick Street) and Mgr Newton has said he is happy for us to use this version. We need to have enough copies of both the Mass and the English Hymnal to enable us to invite friends from other churches to experience the new Use. There seems to be considerable interest among both Diocesan Catholics and Anglicans who want to see just how it works in practice. After Christmas our Bournemouth Mission will have to decide if and when we continue its use, and if we do, then how often.

But back to JMWT. Last year we revisited Petworth where some of the great works he painted there are still hung. Good to look out on the deer park and realise the great great grandparents of those deer are the ones Turner painted. More recently we went to Greenwich for the wonderful show "Turner and the Sea". People make such a fuss over the French Impressionists, but Turner outdid them all before any of them had laid brush to canvas. I'm rather sorry that the ancient Jews were not a sea-going race - there is far too little about the Oceans in the Psalms, and precious little in the whole Bible (despite Jonah). Others may lift up their eyes to the hills, but for me the Creator's supreme handiwork is the sea. Landscapes change, even mountains are eroded, but the tides have been going in and out ever since the land and the sea were first divided; and they will be doing so long after we are gone. 'When I consider your handiwork, the moon and the stars' - yes, and the seas and oceans too ... 'what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?'

The sea is his and he made it, and his hands prepared the dry land: sunset over Dorset


Friday 24 October 2014

Margaret Laird

Pusey Wreathed in Smoke
Memory Lane today; a visit to Pusey House for the Requiem of dear Margaret Laird. She was a stalwart of the Catholic Group in Synod, and so highly regarded that she became Third Estates Commissioner. The Celebrant was the Principal, his predecessor, the Bishop of Fulham, was at the throne (you might discern a fifth unbleached candle hiding behind the crucifix on the Altar. And the House was filled with smoke, which won't make it any easier for you!) Bishop Geoffrey Rowell preached - his sermon, when it gets into print, will be well worth reading.

Mother Harriet of Clewer
On the stairs to the Library where the reception was held I came across two of the foundation stones of the Oxford Movement. When Queen Victoria visited the Community of St John the Baptist, Clewer, she asked to do so incognito - no fuss. So she was put out when some of the Sisters curtsied as she passed. When she remonstrated with Reverend Mother she was told "They are not curtseying to you; they are curtseying to me".Seeing her portrait you can well believe the truth of that story. You would not mess with Mother Harriet!

Dr Pusey

An altogether more avuncular figure was the Regius Professor of Hebrew, Dr Pusey: and
here he is too:

But it was the current leaders of the Anglo-Catholic rump who were here today; several of the clergy (like the Bishop of Fulham) former students in my time at St Stephen's House. Look carefully in the photographs and you might spot Sir Michael Colman (one-time First Estates Commissioner) together with several from Forward in Faith. There will be pictures of others  on Facebook: but most important of them all, of course, was John Laird, Margret's devoted husband of many years. They called on us in Lymington, and we had seen them both in Truro from time to time - for despite having a flat in Lambeth Palace and latterly the house of the Chaplain to the Salisburys at Hatfield, Margaret was a Cornishwoman above all. Now John is preparing for another move, this time to the College of St Barnabas in Lingfield. May he have a long and happy retirement there.

John Laird (rt) and friends

Sunday 19 October 2014

South Coast Religion

Parish Mass concluding
Hurry, hurry, hurry; the parish mass overran a trifle today (9.30 Mass concluded at 11am) and with our Head Server visiting his sister in Leicester-shire, one other server job-hunting and another unwell we were down to a team of two; but they coped manfully, set everything up and we were ready to go at 11.15.

Coffee, biscuits and chate
Fr Darryl had celebrated a Baptism during the Mass which is why things were longer than usual. He is also asking if we will do a Baptism during our Mass. I shall have to discover if this is possible for a mainstream Catholic family. If it is in Advent we will be using the Ordinariate's version of the Roman Mass, and will necessarily then use Holy Baptism from our Occasional Services .. "Dearly beloved, seeing that God willeth all men to be saved from the sinful nature which they inherit &c". So we shall see.

Billows and Beach Huts at Milford

After Mass, the usual bit of patrimony: coffee & biscuits and a good deal of chat. The weather remained fine all day, with a blustery sou'wester, so this afternoon I ventured down to the channel coast to get a few pictures; most of them will be on my facebook page, but here is one as an arrabon (no, I shan't spell it out; ask Father.) Charles (on the left in the picture above) spoke about Fr Simon Heans, a mutual friend. He was an Ordinand at St Stephen's House and is now a priest of the Ordinariate. Charles knew him when he lived in Beckenham. Small world

Saturday 11 October 2014


Sermon prepared (so what do YOU make of the guest without the wedding garment?) and notices printed,which gave us a little free time this afternoon for another visit to Exbury. The Rothschild house in the middle of the estate is a bit severe (and a very odd shape - 20th century re-working of a Georgian original which belonged to the Mitfords). The gardens though are magnificent.Jane buys us an annual ticket, in time for the Azaleas and Rhododendrons  - but in some ways I prefer to visit now - the trees are magnificent and you can see them without being distracted by all the flowering shrubs - and in any case these autumn colours are marvellous. Today we had the whole place almost to ourselves.

The acers are making a great show, but so are many other trees. This year too everything is fruiting well; so before long the pigs will be out in the forest, eating the acorns. The Verderers hope that this will stop too many ponies from becoming ill - their digestive systems do not work on acorns, and they can even die if they overdo it. At Exbury it was the beechmast which was crunching underfoot everywhere, and the maples were bright with their fruit.

Tomorrow we will be looking at the recently produced booklet of the Ordinariate Rite. We've decided to use it throughout Advent, so this production by the Friends of the Ordinariate will be very welcome - we simply have to determine tomorrow how many we might need. It is a very  handsome production, with rubrics properly done in red, and the music (Merbecke) set out very legibly. I think it will do a great deal to help commend the Rite to those who have misgivings about it. It was originally intended for the Ordinariate's London Church in Soho, but I think it will have a much wider use than just Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregorys' in Soho.

There are so many more pictures of Exbury which I took today - but I think I will post the rest of them on Facebook rather than boring you with them here.

Cedars are a feature of Exbury

Sunday 5 October 2014

Safely Gathered In

Distinctive Patrimony, and working with long-time Catholics. That is the balance which Cardinal Vincent Nichols held out as an ideal whenhe addrssed the Ordinairate in Westminster. Not always easy to achieve, but this weekend gave us the perfect opportunity. The readings at Mass were about the Vineyard of the Lord, so it was a good time to celebrate that essentially Anglican occasion, Harvest Thanksgiving..

The Anglican Patrimony bit at St Thomas More in Iford came mostly in our hymns. We ploughed the fields and scattered, we joined the song of harvest home, we waved the golden corn, and we collected for the Christchurch Basics Bank.

Before all that, on Saturday evening several of us joined parishioners at their Harvest Supper. We hope this fulfilled some of the Cardinal's  advice to the Ordinairate a week ago, underlined by Monsignor Keith our Ordinary, that we should retain our identity, but also join with Diocesan Catholics whenever possible. Only so can we hope to overcome some of the misconceptions about the Ordinariate.

Good to have Fr Brian with us again today. He celebrated and preached at the ordinariate's Sunday Mass for the first time in quite a while. He is holding the fort in Christchurch while they are in an interregnum. How great it would be if many more Anglican priests were to seek Ordination in the Catholic Church - they would be well used, and everyone would appreciate their ministry. I never say Mass for a diocesan parish without several people stopping by the Sacristy after Mass to thank me. It is very moving.

Fr Darryl, Priest of the Ordinariate and Parish Priest at S Thomas More,  with his wife Lisa at the Supper

Thursday 2 October 2014

Christianity - a world view

Mgr Keith and Bishop Michael

Today priests of the Ordinariate met in St Patrick's Soho to hear Michael Nazir Ali - and what a tour de force it was. He began by reminding us of the rapid growth of the Christian Faith throughout the world over the past century. In Africa and East Asia that growth has been phenomenal. It is only in Western Europe that the churches are in decline.

He then went on to speak of world Islam, its diversity in different regions, and the reasons for its animosity towards particularly Israel and Christianity.

He talked enthusiastically of the challenge for the Catholic Church - to be more open to diversity (and the Ordinariate was a good sign in that direction) and to different expressions of faith coming from different ethnic and cultural situations. We threw all manner of questions at him, even challenging him to join us in the Ordinariate - and it was apparent that we have a great friend in the former Bishop of Rochester. He wants us to  reach out of our former Anglo-Catholic comfort zone and realise there are many evangelicals who are well disposed towards the Catholic Church and need us to encourage them.

a chance to meet
We chatted away over lunch - this is one of the best features of these occasional meetings - and then  heard from the Ordinary.He made a special plea for loyalty from all of us; loyalty to the Ordinariate ideal, for which all of us had made oaths on ordination, and without which many of us would not have been ordained at all in the Catholic Church. We should have left our 'only doing what I like' behind us. It is not every Group which will eventually use the Ordinariate Rite - but we should all give it at very least a decent trial run.

Cyril Wood
Mgr Andrew spoke briefly about  liturgy, our Communications wizard Catherine Utley said what a very good communicator we have in Mgr Keith, and how easy it is to work for him compared with some other clerics - and politicians. I think we suspected that already, but it was good to have our view endorsed by a media professional. Cyril Wood, our Treasurer, was present throughout and both he and Mgr Keith told us once more of their concern for a proper sick and retired fund to be built up.

For me one of the most important contributions of the day was from a priest who has been given a diocesan parish to run. It had been built up by
Mgr Broadhurst comes between the Ordinry and Fr Ed Tomlinson
clergy who were totally swept up in the post Vatican II euphoria - which had led them to misinterpret what the Council said so they supposed guitars and popular music, however banal or even explicitly anti-Christian, were of the essence of worship. He is having a hard time reminding his people that they are Catholics, and that they are not at liberty to ignore the Catechism or the Instructions on the Roman Rite. This resulted in Ed Tomlinson (do look at his blog) saying that he had dealt with a similar spirit of indiscipline by placing on the altar on his first Sunday the Missal,the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and telling folk that this was what they would be getting in future. Those who chose to leave were surprised to receive a letter from Fr
Fr Keith Robinson communicates with
Catherine Utley
Ed congratulating them, saying they would have no difficulty in finding somewhere to their taste. He has stuck to his guns, and the parish has grown greatly because of it. It was good though to be reminded what considerable difficulties - real antipathy - some of our Priests receive. Most of us, though, are more fortunate and the 'cradle catholics' we minister to are appreciative of us and what we do for them.

We are all hugely grateful to our Ordinary for giving us these opportunities to meet and exchange views, and to listen to some outstanding theologians. Next time we meet, on February 12th 2015, it will be in Westminster with an opportunity to concelebrate with the Cardinal at the Cathedral's 5.30pm Mass. That day the Ordinaries from the USA and Australia will be with us so if you are a priest who might have been present today but had recently bought an Ox or married a wife maybe next time you will remove all obstacles and join us. It really is a very encouraging occasion.

An encouraging occasion

Sunday 28 September 2014

Stella Maris

St George's Cathedral, Southwark
Thursday was another trip to London, this time for the celebration in Southwark Cathedral of Our Lady Star of the Sea. Bishop Tom Burns of Minevia was Principal Celebrant and Preacher, and you can read a full account at the Apostleship of the Sea website. It was a very happy occasion; in the morning we heard from some of the Staff of Stella Maris, and met some of the priests who have acted as Chaplains on cruises, and also in the emergency after the hurricane in the Philippines. Many of those who crew the Cunard and other fleets are from there, and Stella Maris was quick to respond to the disaster by providing volunteer chaplains at very short notice to minister to those whose families were caught up in the hurricane and its aftermath.

Southampton's Port Chaplain

 Good also to hear from the Port Chaplain in Southampton who gave an overview of his work. Fr Roger is someone I shall hope to visit and get to know since we live so near to his workplace. It was good, too, to know that the Revd Dr Dn Stephen Morgan (of Portsmouth Diocese) is the new Chairman of Stella Maris - there to see his predecessor being honoured as a Knight of St Gregory. I shall hope to post a few other pictures on Facebook, having just given in and returned to that organisation.

Bishop Tom and Eamonn Delaney - a Knight to remember

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