Elsewhere in this edition you can read Archdeacon Edward Dowler’s important call for our movement to engage more fully with the traditions and teaching of the Universal Church; through study, engagement and pilgrimage. It would seem sensible to add to this call for greater outside engagement the need to delve more deeply into our own history and the writings of our own Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholic forebears. It can sometimes seem that we are in danger of losing an understanding of our history and of where we have come from. When we do this, others simply take on the stories and examples of Anglo-Catholic priests and teachers as their own. Whilst we cannot predict exactly how the likes of Keble, Pusey, Lowder and Mackonochie (or indeed Marion Hughes, Priscilla Lydia Sellon and other leading women Anglo-Catholics) would have responded to the innovations of the modern Church of England, it seems fair to assume that as they saw the Church of England as part of the Catholic church they would not want to do anything to distance themselves from the unity for which they worked. It is not only the academic and scholarly work of these heroes of our movement that we need to study and take as our example. There are many examples of amazing social work and community engagement in all of our parishes: through missions, social outreach, religious communities and a raft of other works our parishes have engaged with people and brought people to Christ. We need as a movement now more than ever to look at our past and see how we might shape the future. Not everything might work that worked before, but we must cast aside any attempt to characterise us as a movement interested in debating the length of lace on an alb (or indeed if lace should be there at all). That has never been the hallmark of traditional Anglo-Catholicism, which has always acknowledged the need engagement with the whole person and the redirection of an individual’s interior life towards God. Such an engagement with the past will help us in finding ways to engage with the future; it will also help us to see how the concerns of the church for society have not changed, although we may now be ministering in different contexts.
It is also too easy to characterise the Catholic Movement in the Church of England as being led and controlled by the clergy. This simply is not the case. In our recent history Forward in Faith, from the moment it was founded, has sought to include lay people in all decision making through its Council and Executive. It is too easy to say that parishes are run by priests alone and controlled by them (it might be said people who suggest this have not themselves tried to run and manage a parish on their own), and this is simply not true. Healthy, vibrant and missional parishes are where priest and people work closely together and each person lives out their calling as a follower of Christ. We recognise the important role lay people play in spreading the Gospel and in keeping the Catholic faith alive in parishes, after all during a vacancy it is lay people who consider and vote on whether to keep or ask for the oversight of bishops of The Society. It is the people of the parish who engage in that theological discernment and who in the end make that decision. Forward in Faith has produced material (a booklet entitled: Vacancies in Society Parishes: Advice from Forward in Faith) that will help parishes when they prepare to enter an interregnum so that lay people can be properly informed about the process. This booklet will also serve as an important reminder of the role lay people play in nurturing, fostering and passing on the Catholic faith and tradition in a parish. In many clergy studies up and down the country you will find collections of parish histories or biographies of long forgotten heroes of our faith and movement. Whilst we are a forward-moving and -thinking movement that seeks to make new disciples here and now, we could all do with spending some time looking back and giving thanks for what has gone before. November is the month of Remembrance and so perhaps there is no better time to start and perhaps, if you come across a story or a hero of the faith and you would like to share it you might be in touch with us here at New Directions. We know there were ‘Giants in the Land’ and we look forward to a time when they might be with us again.