As Anne Gray’s overview of The Society, printed elsewhere in this edition, shows, the catholic movement continues to serve in the most deprived parts of our nation. This puts into sharp focus the many challenges that face our constituency as we move forward. The next steps for us will require an overview of our movement as a whole: what resources we have, both in terms of people and of finance. There will need to be some joined-up thinking from our bishops and their councils; there will also need to be a renewed commitment by the Catholic Societies to the use of their financial resources, and also in offering training and practical assistance to our parishes. We, too, will need to focus our own efforts on using properly the financial and practical resources offered by our dioceses and national churches. As a constituency we have shown ourselves dedicated to mission and we will need support to make this a reality. What our parishes need is an opportunity to use these funds and resources to develop our mission and ministry. It will be no good if our parishes are handed over to evangelical plants, because they are ‘good at mission’, and bring the money with them. Give us the money, the training, and the opportunity to evangelize in a truly catholic way. This may require some risk, but surely, in the cause of the Gospel and the spread of the Christian faith some risk, undertaken prayerfully, is important. This risk is also essential if our defence of orthodox theology is to be heard: a concern for mission and a concern for orthodox teaching go hand in hand today, just as much as they did in the past
Elsewhere in this issue Fr Ian McCormack and Fr Rodney Marshall remind us that Anglo-Catholics have always had a concern for the most deprived in our society. This has naturally been the focus of much of Anglo-Catholic ministry for the last 150 years. There are many fine examples of this sort of ministry from which we can, and must, gain much inspiration. We must, however, be careful not to try to replicate as a ‘set piece’ everything from the past. Some things will work and other won’t. Amongst the younger generation of Anglo-Catholics there is an impetus to create their own story and their own style of Anglo-Catholicism for the 21st Century. We need to give them the freedom and space to develop new ideas and methods to work for the conversion of England, as they remain faithful to the teachings of the Church.
It would seem that our critics cannot get away from characterising Anglo-Catholics as obsessed with the minutiae of ritual and vesture. Whilst a concern for the ‘beauty of holiness’ is at the part of any incarnational catholic theology, so is a concern for the life of all people made in the image of God. It is this social concern that is the focus of so much of the work of priests and people in our parishes and it has always been thus. To try to claim otherwise is to misrepresent what our constituency is all about.
At New Directions we would like to learn more about this valuable work in parishes around the country. If your parish has found new ways to evangelize, has a wonderful youth group, has found good practice to encourage people to come to church – then please write an article about it, and send us some photos. The article need not be long, but it would be a great way to promote this valuable work. In a similar way, if your parish has a social outreach project like a foodbank or a project that works with refugees, for example, we would like to hear about it. These articles will serve as an example and an encouragement for other parishes to begin this important work of caring for those in need. Very often we need to see what others are doing in order to have the courage to try it ourselves. Just think, your parish could set a trend for hundreds of parishes around the country. The Society has much to offer the wider church and we all need to take our part in this. We have a huge task in reminding the Church of England of her catholic heritage embedded in her DNA. Part of doing this is reminding her that from this catholic faith flows a concern for all people and a sense of service. This means the doctrinal debates and a desire to serve those in need go hand in hand just as much today as they did for our Anglo-Catholic forebears, who had a deep concern for doctrinal orthodoxy whilst having a deep devotion to the poor. Let the marriage of these two concerns be what typifies our movement today.