To the great credit of its Principal, staff and students, inspectors from the Church of England’s Ministry Division have recently praised the work of St Stephen’s House (and your Editor declares an interest as a member of the House Council, the college’s Governing Body). The Inspectors wrote that the House is ‘a community at ease and comfortable with embracing a variety of perspectives and traditions on numerous issues whilst situated clearly within a distinct theological and spiritual tradition: In this issue of NEW DIRECTIONS, we publish an article by Fr Damian Feeney, St Stephen’s House’s departing Vice-Principal, which seeks to set out a little of what that `distinct theological and spiritual tradition’ consists in. We hope readers enjoy this text, originally delivered as an address to ordinands of a different tradition, as Catholic Anglicans reflect once more on this question of identity in the context of life in a changing Church of England.
The careful and disciplined formation of those preparing for lives as deacons and priests has always been a fundamental building block of the Catholic movement in the Church of England. At present, the whole Church of England is engaged in a major review of the way in which it trains candidates for ordination. At the heart of the proposals is the aspiration to increase the number of those being ordained by 50%, annually until 2020. NEW DIRECTIONS supports this aspiration: the Church needs priests. It is very good news indeed that our theological colleges in the Catholic tradition are experiencing an upturn in numbers, and that so many of these candidates for the priesthood are young and very able. It is essential that the quality of ordination training is maintained, and, whatever the merits of non-residential and mixed-mode training, there remains a vital place for the full time, residential theological college in the Church of England’s formational landscape. Those making decisions for the future must beware the law of unintended consequences by not making it (for example) practically unaffordable for married candidates to train residentially, or by implementing policies which will obscure the coherence and academic excellence of training pathways. The expertise of those employed by the Church to deliver formation — and whose skills result in the sort of inspection report recently issued about St Stephen’s House — must not be lost amidst the drive for structural reform.
At the end of April, two people very well known to all who worship in the English Chapel at Forward in Faith’s headquarters in Gordon Square will be retiring from a long and distinguished period of service. Reg and Doreen Martin have been unstinting in their duties as the sacristans at Christ the King over many years, and Reg of course has served regularly at the altar at the daily Mass. This work has been unpaid: the quiet, unsung work typical of lay people across our parishes, without whom the routines of Catholic life and worship would be simply impossible. NEW DIRECTIONS thanks them warmly for all they have done at Gordon Square and offers them every best wish on their retirement — although knowing Doreen and Reg that is hardly the right word.
It is all change at the English Chapel for Fr William Davage will have retired from his duties as Chaplain, by the time this issue of NEW DIRECTIONS reaches readers. He too leaves with appreciation for all he has done to ensure that the Mass has been offered, and a priest has been available at times of need to staff and visitors alike. It is indeed vital for the work of Forward in Faith that it is supported by the offering, five days a week, of the Holy Sacrifice.
Reg and Doreen Martin are indeed a wonderful husband and wife team. Now the Church of England has its first married couple who are (or soon will be) both bishops — bringing a new resonance, we suppose, to the term episcopal household. Congratulations to Canon Alison White, the bishop-designate of Hull. Congratulations too to the Venerable Rachel Treweek on her appointment to the See of Gloucester. There we are one day you are the lead columnist for NEW DIRECTIONS, the next you are the first female diocesan bishop and off to the House of Lords. Talent will out!