We welcome the election of Bishop Jonathan Baker as Chairman of Forward in Faith and assure him of our prayers. In the months and years ahead we will all need to work closely with Bishop Baker and our other Catholic bishops as we seek to serve God and his people. As this magazine goes to press hundreds and let us hope thousands of young people will be preparing for the Youth Pilgrimage to Walsingham. The Youth Pilgrimage this year will encourage the youngsters not only to look back at the history of the Shrine but to look forward to the future.
We need all to look forward in faith, hope and love, rededicating ourselves to the work in hand. The Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage raises the morale and spirits not only of those who attend it but those who remain at home sure in the knowledge that the big top will be a powerhouse of prayer. Some of our members will have been feeling like voices crying in the wilderness as they addressed their diocesan synods. They may have felt isolated in small catholic and evangelical groups. I am also sure that in some cases support and comfort came from the most unlikely of people.
These men and women, lay and ordained are due our thanks for that which they have done. They have stood up and been counted and may not always have been treated as they should have been. Over the past months and in the months ahead many will try to speak for us without asking us what we need. They will try to tell us that the legislation as it stands is indeed what we need and indeed want. We need to repeat again and again that the only solution to this problem is to allow us to have bishops with jurisdiction: jurisdiction that is enshrined in law for our protection. A code of practice will not offer us the protection we need as we seek to find a solution not only for this generation but for generations to come.
We are working not just in a selfish way that we might ‘be all right’ but that all generations will have the sacramental assurances we have. This was promised to us in 1993 and this promise must be upheld. It is possible and indeed probable that the new Mission Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda will help form our ecclesial future.
The Society will only work, however, if we have bishops around whom we can gather in confidence. Already the Society is beginning to take shape at the grassroots; it is growing where it is needed, adapting the local provision to its needs. As time moves on the Society will need to focus on developing our Catholic life together, setting up groups to work with young people, on education, liturgy, mission and evangelism. It is a large task but one that, working together and sharing our resources and knowledge, we can achieve.
At the July meeting of the General Synod members were told that it was possible that in twenty years time there would be very few members of the Church of England left. Due to the age profile of the Church of England she risks extinction unless something is done to remedy the situation.
One initial response might be to say that the Church has always had a higher age profile than other institutions. This is only natural, many people start going to church later in life and in many cases it is only the retired who have the time to dedicate to busy parish life. The problem we face is not so much one of people coming to church but people coming into contact with Christianity at all. We must as Christians be willing to take our faith out to meet people where they live and work. Schools work is of vital importance.
If a parish doesn’t have a church school then the priest or lay workers must seek to try to work in the local state school. We need to make sure our church is visible to our local communities, whether it is people seeing the church door open, the parish priest walking about the parish or people from the parish involved in local projects.
People are often surprised that the church should take an interest in their lives; this is a terrible indictment on the church. It should be the most natural thing in the world for the church to be involved. With our strong emphasis on the incarnation we need, in Catholic parishes, to lead the way in this.
We are all called to serve God and his people, let us take up this mantle with renewed joy.