Forward in Faith Readers On Friday, 26th September, immediately before the Forward in Faith National Assembly, we are to hold our second Conference for Licensed Readers. Details will be going out presently to all Readers on our list, and any other Readers in sympathy with Forward in Faith are welcome to apply for details. In the meantime, though, Forward in Faith Council Member Colin King and Peter Arnold – both Licensed Readers – look back to last year’s Conference:
“A quiet Saturday Holborn, the attention and activity of London being focused on international football at Wembley. Quiet tube station, quiet Gray’s Inn Road, and, tucked away behind, the high-shouldered bulk of St. Alban’s Holborn. Tucked away again, at the east end of the church, a spanking new parish centre, where the conference was. Catholic representation of 29 readers ( Catholic here in the comprehensive sense) with a wide geographical, age and experience spread. There were two representatives from the Isle of Man and one West Midlands Parish alone had provided three.
Definitely a sharing occasion and also very definitely a getting-to-know opportunity to meet Forward in Faith’s national leadership and to benefit from their knowledge and vision. Straight in with a welcome from Stephen Parkinson, FiF National Director, followed by the first main speaker of the day, John Broadhurst, who told us that we must ensure that all our services are indeed for the Glory and worship of God. Church planting was one of his other themes. There were areas of the country where there were no Forward in Faith parishes to meet the spiritual needs of the laypeople of that integrity. But there were a number of retired priests willing to help by saying mass privately for such finding themselves in the wilderness. It made sense to bring these together to set up new congregations. His session concluded with questions and discussion of Readers concerns and aspirations.
Then into Church for the Conference Mass, at which the celebrant was Bishop Edwin Barnes, who gave us a five-minute address based on St. John’s Epistle advice, Dear friends, let us love one another. After lunch, Bishop Edwin began the afternoon on the subject of the Provincial Episcopal Visitor as ‘helping hand’. Anyone can approach him for advice and help. Of course, interregna are special problem times, and the PEV can be of real help provided he is approached. There is no point in suffering in silence – ask. And (take note) Parishes in Interregnum can pass Resolution C to put themselves under the PEV’s pastoral care. Archdeacon George Austin told us that there was a real hunger for the truth of the Gospel in the congregations, and that we, as preachers, had the privilege and the responsibility of meeting that hunger through orthodox, bible-based preaching. Most of the failures of the Church go back to the neglect of the Bible’s authority, hence all the moral calamities afflicting the American Church. And the Gospel truth had to be proclaimed in the counsels of the Church by speaking out. Speaking out can – and does – lead to the smaller (but nevertheless nasty) martyrdoms of ridicule and hostile administrative action, but it is martyrdom in a winning cause. The battle is won and Christ is the victor, for the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church.
We then split up into four groups to do our bit, talking through a short list of issues of moment. This was the point at which sharing came in, as no two Readers seemed to have identical parish backgrounds. A majority came from Parishes which had not passed Resolutions A, B or C. There was a definite geographical problem when it came to attending a PEV’s chrism mass, and several Readers maintained uneasy links with diocesans who were not of the same integrity. One reader was actually licensed to a Parish of the other integrity but did not minister in it, instead helping elsewhere with a kind of travelling ministry. There were also Readers present who had Diocesan licenses, instead of the more usual Parish ones. Particular issues to come up included:
The Isolated: Readers could use their local contacts to locate and get to know those who were unhappy where they were, and bring them into a group with which they could share and identify. This was especially where Readers could help in FiF’s work.
Diocesan Rules: Each Diocese had it’s own set of rules, some of which were changed at inconvenient times. The simple expedient of licensing by the PEVs would ensure a common and simple set of rules to be kept all over the country. There was a wide variation over the terms and conditions of Readers licenses, particularly in connection with duration and the administration of Holy Communion.
FiF Organisation: Remoteness from the Regional Deans could be an issue, so it was important to work with FiF through a neighbouring Region or setting-up a new sub-group to meet local needs.
Incumbent Relationships: These were not always easy in Eucharistic Parishes where worship was led by the clergy, who preached.
Relationship with the Ordained Ministry: There was interest in old and new ideas for a permanent diaconate – though some stressed the importance of the traditional reader ministry – and the potential difficulties to be experienced as candidates for Non-Stipendiary Ministry and Locally Ordained Ministry / Non-Stipendiary Ministry.
Representing the Orthodox Viewpoint: Readers had a great opportunity to speak out for the true faith at Deanery and Diocesan Synods. These meetings were often chores where orthodox views were not often represented or heard. Somebody who contribute in a lively and forceful way would be welcome. In Diocesan Synod, questions for written reply were particularly useful.
It was quite powerfully symbolic to be holding the Conference at St. Alban’s Holborn. It was from here that Fr. Maconochie was hounded by persecution to become an effective martyr for the Catholic reformation of the Church of England, which, nowadays, did virtually everything for which he had suffered. Here also Fr. Stanton has ministered for so many inspiring years without ever becoming the incumbent himself. We were reminded that there was a hostile, persecuting temper in the present hierarchy, which could – and did -make things difficult for orthodox parishes. But we were part of the life of the future Church and members of a surprisingly large constituency, not a small marginal group. The opportunity to listen to the Forward in Faith leadership was important and useful. Here was lucidity and a clear vision, backed by determination and a historical/political perspective that showed the way forward. We dispersed into the continuing quietness of Saturday afternoon Holborn. Many Readers horizons stop at the Parish boundary. It was therefore valuable to meet Readers from all over the country with a great variety of backgrounds. Yes, it was worth it. We could contribute to FiF and FiF could help us.”
News from Oxford The Annual General Meeting of the Oxford Region of Forward in Faith was held at St. John’s, New Hinksey on Saturday, 14th June, preceded by a mass at which the preacher was Fr Jeremy Sheehy, Principal of St. Stephen’s House, Oxford. Attendance was 10% up on last year and those present heard reports from both the Regional Dean, Fr. Michael Melrose, and the Lay Chairman, Charles Bell, on all that had been achieved over the past twelve months. John Hares gave a resume‚ of all that is planned for the future, including in particular a major gathering for a number of Regions covering the West of England which it is hoped will take place in September 1998. In his report to Faith House, John Hares concludes by saying “Despite the many difficulties that have been and are being placed against our integrity in the Diocese, we are gathering in strength and optimism”.