Two years on, an ordinand offers another personal reflection on the current situation in the Church, finding much to be hopeful about, but also highlighting areas needing improvement and the importance of maintaining unity
It is over two years since I wrote under the above title of my hopes for the future and my hopes for a free province. Sitting down to write it then I was awaiting a trip to the Bishops Advisory Panel; and nervously wrote of how I thought we might all work towards a new province that would set us free. Well, I went before the Panel, was selected and am now in my final year at theological college, looking forward to getting on with the business of being a curate.
Much has happened since I last put pen to paper: but where are we now? Certainly I have the same hopes and desires to be allowed to get on with the work to which I believe God is calling me. I suspect I am more concerned now than I was then to see the end of the so-called phoney war over women bishops.
I rather wish the powers that be would get on with it, so that we might be able to get on with the job in hand in a new province.
Those who have gone
There are of course those who have decided their journey is not with us, those who have felt called into communion with the Holy See and those who have decided to accept the ordination of women.
Each departure from our fold is met with sadness, especially when someone who was once a staunch defender of the faith decides that they can accept the ordination of women. Often, sadly, these are people whose loyalty to the Catholic faith has been an example to us all, and who have now obtained high office in the Church.
Writing as I do on the anniversary of the death of Father Mackonochie, one cannot help but reflect on the sacrifices of the fifteen years since the ordination of women and on the sacrifices to come. But there is much to be hopeful about: as a people we are in better spirits than ever before.
Active and growing
Bishop Edwin Barnes once commented that we as a constituency truly look like a church when we gather together. You only have to look at the diaries of our parishes and of our bishops to see just how busy life is. Indeed on several Saturdays in this past month, I could have been at three different events organized by parishes and societies of our constituency.
But yet there is much more. Our parishes are getting on with the business of evangelizing our towns and cities. There is amazing work going on in parishes such as St Luke’s, Grimethorpe, whose annual mission was a celebration of all that is good about the Catholic faith. A lost people are crying out for the love and support of God and finding it through the ministries of Catholic people celebrating the Catholic faith. In this we should rejoice – it is this work that we will do when we are finally granted a free province.
What is more, in the fifteen years since the decision to ordain women, our numbers have not fallen and the number of those men offering themselves for the sacred ministry is growing. Ordinands from our constituency in general are younger than the average ordinand. It would be easy to sit back and say all is well, but there is still so much we can do.
Goals for the future
A recent Liturgical Commission report, Transforming Worship, spoke of creating centres of excellence in worship. Our parishes must become such centres, offering a wide variety of worship styles. There is room for those who want to do things in a more traditional way, as well as for those keen to explore the ideas offered by the fresh expressions movement.
We must also remember that many in our constituency remain loyal to the Book of Common Prayer. Indeed, in our cathedrals, the best-attended service is often Evensong.
But our excellence must not stop there. We must not forget that the Oxford Movement had its origins in academia and learning. As Anglo-Catholics, we are of course concerned with education, but perhaps where we fail is in our encouragement of academic study by our clergy and lay people.
We should encourage good, sound, Anglo-Catholic theologians, both lay and ordained to offer themselves in this valuable field, in which men and women from our movement once excelled. There is much good work being done by Anglo-Catholic ordinands and clergy in many academic fields and this should be encouraged.
We must all support the work of academic societies such as the Anglo-Catholic History Society as well as the study days run by the PEVs. Our opponents may think they have a monopoly on academic study and theology; we must prove them wrong.
If a new province is to succeed, we must ensure that we are a united body of Catholic Christians. We may have our differences: one may prefer one style of worship or music, one may use Common Worship and another the Roman Missal or hold slightly differing views, but yet we are united in our faith: the faith of our fathers.
In order to do this, some things may need to change. The Catholic societies and trusts will need to work more closely together, from sharing information about when things are happening to ensuring that work does not overlap.
We will have to get better at sharing our resources and funds as well as learning to support one another. We must not leave it up to someone else; we must get out and support our parishes and our institutions, whether it be going to a parish patronal festival or the Caister retreat or indeed the National Assembly. In this way we can hope to shape a new provincial structure, one that will be strong enough to survive and to look forward ecumenically.
We await then the birth of this new province, where we can continue to grow. There is much good work being carried out by the Regional Deans and their working parties.
Let us all dedicate ourselves afresh to the work of those Oxford Movement Fathers and strive for the ‘conversion of England’ and the propagation of the Catholic faith. A new province is coming into being and we all have a part to play in its life.