The National Assembly 1995 – a glimpse into the future

The view of the National Assembly from the Director’s desk as he writes these words is one of well-controlled and purposeful chaos! The Assembly is just fourteen days away. Will all the papers ever be ready? Will we ever find beds for all the delegates that need them? And will that parish ever get round to notifying us who its delegates are to be? But the view as you read these words is, DV, one of happy memory – of important business transacted in a spirit of confidence and hope; of old friendships renewed and new friendships forged; of uplifting worship and stirring speakers; of another step on our pilgrimage completed.

It is, as they say, an accident of history that the second Forward in Faith National Assembly should be taking place in Westminster precisely as New Directions is being printed in Bristol. If we were all in a Hollywood movie (and doesn’t it feel like that sometimes!), we would of course simply “hold the front page” and be able to report in full precisely what transpired in Central Hall on October 6th and 7th. But, alas, in real life, one has to make do with printing schedules long since agreed and a full report will have to wait until next month. In the meantime, though, some reasonably safe predictions . . .

The Assembly will gather at Central Hall by 4.15 pm on Friday, 6th October. During the morning and early afternoon of that day, there will have been an International Conference, comprising delegates from the Council of Forward in Faith, Samråd på Kirkens Grunn (The Council on the Foundations of the Church – Norway) and Svenska Kyrkans Fria Synod (The Free Synod of the Church of Sweden), at which proposals for co-operation between the three bodies will have been discussed. Forward in Faith is utterly committed to building up its relationship with fellow christians around the world who share its opposition to the ordination of women priests and this International Conference is just one expression of that determination. A number of the National Assembly delegates will have attended the International Conference as observers, in preparation for Saturday’s debate on co-operation with Norway and Sweden. After a welcome from the National Secretary of Forward in Faith, Fr Geoffrey Kirk, delegates will commence proceedings with the consideration of various resolutions. Among items which they will discuss will be the “job specification” for our newly-appointed Regional Deans, some consequential amendments to our Constitution and the means by which Forward in Faith can begin to minister to isolated laity.

In the evening, they will listen first to a keynote address from Forward in Faith’s National Chairman, Fr John Broadhurst. He will no doubt devote time to a review of our progress over the past twelve months and begin to tease out for his audience the matters with which we will need to concern ourselves in the coming year. He will be followed by Bishop Edwin Barnes. It will be the first opportunity for most delegates to greet the newly consecrated Bishop of Richborough and they will be looking forward to hearing from him something of his vision from an ecumenical standpoint.

On Saturday morning, the delegates will meet for a Solemn Eucharist at 9.30 am, at which the Bishop of Beverley will preside and preach. Concelebrating with Bishop Gaisford will

be Bishop Barnes and Bishop James Johnson, who ministers in particular to traditionalists in the diocese of Chelmsford, under the provisions of the Act of Synod, along with some 100 priest delegates. After his homily, Bishop John will commission on behalf of the Assembly our new Regional Deans.

Following the Eucharist, delegates will return to work on various resolutions until Anne Williams, the National Vice-Chairman, and Stephen Parkinson, the Director of Forward in Faith share the platform for an address in which they will, inter alia, speak about the necessity to achieve a satisfactory showing in the current elections to General Synod. After lunch, the debate will turn to Scandinavia and our co-operation with our friends there; three new members of the Forward in Faith Council will be elected; and those present will hear a Devotional Address from Fr Gregory CSWG. Fr Gregory is the Father Superior of the Community of the Servants of the Will of God at Crawley Down in Sussex, a contemplative order founded in 1953, which does much to foster the ministry and mission of the urban church. Finally, Fr Broadhurst will return to the platform for the Chairman’s closing address.

If you were present in Westminster, the rest you know; if you were not, then watch this space!

SHEEPDIP – moving Forward in Faith

Forward in Faith is sometimes accused of being a single issue organisation, which has no real vision for the future. This accusation is usually made by those who either really don’t know what they’re talking about, or by those who know better but simply don’t like the truth. The truth is of course very different; Forward in Faith is an organisation which is concerned with preserving the orthodox faith, in all its richness, and building for the future. It is in other words a missionary society! On the weekend of 8th – 10th September, Fr Mike Cain, assistant priest at S.Francis, Mackworth, in the diocese of Derby, was among those present at an event which was truly missionary, in the sense that it was building up those members of today’s Church who will have the burden of leadership in the future, and helping them to take into their hearts the eternal truths of the Gospel. The event was called SHEEPDIP. Fr Cain takes up the story:

“SHEEPDIP is a youth festival. It is designed primarily to give young people a chance to celebrate their faith in a manner which is appropriate to themselves. This of course does not necessarily involve rock music, or dancing in the aisles, (although it may), but it will always include enthusiasm and fun.

Built more on the Taizé than the Greenbelt model, SHEEPDIP brought solemnity and laughter together in a way that perhaps only Anglo-Catholic worship can do. Silence blended almost seamlessly into song, and then into adoration. Benediction and Mass were differentiated from abseiling and workshops, more through location than intention, for they are all clearly about celebrating God’s great gifts of Faith, Hope and Love – although in very different ways.

SHEEPDIP however has not finished. Although it was originally designed as a parish event, it has now grown into an event for Forward in Faith parishes in several dioceses in the Midlands. Next year, it is set to go national! It will be based in Birmingham as it is fairly easy to get to from almost anywhere in England. This will be an event which shouldn’t be missed by any of our young people. The problem next year is likely to be one of oversubscription!

Young people are part of the Church of today, and must always be respected as such, for they will form the basis of the Church of tomorrow. They need training for that, and it is reassuring to know that so many young people hold to the orthodox faith with a fervour that would put most adults to shame; that this event has been, and will be, supported and promoted by Forward in Faith is also a sign of our faith in them.”

“And the sluices of heaven opened”

Those arriving at The Friars, Aylesford on Saturday, 16th September were greeted by a Yorkshire Water Chief Executive’s wildest dreams! Torrential rain fell from a darkened sky and the beautiful site was awash. But with the indefatigable good humour which is the very hallmark of traditionalist Anglicans, the preparations were made, the choir rehearsed and the people prayed . . .And, of course, the rain stopped.

Two hours later, nearly 4,000 happy pilgrims ate their (rather soggy) packed lunches and reflected on what had been a most remarkable gathering. The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, had presided at a Solemn Concelebrated Eucharist – the first time that an Anglican Eucharist had taken place at the main altar of the shrine since the Dissolution. He was assisted by fourteen other traditionalist bishops from around the world, who had been attending the Canterbury Conference on Authority, Order and Communion. The bishops were surrounded by over one hundred concelebrating priests from all over the southern province. Pilgrims from as far afield as Coventry and Bristol listened with rapt attention to the sermon given by the Right Reverend Theo Naledi, Bishop of Matabeleland. “I have prepared my homily”, he said, “against the background of the news we sometimes hear that the traditionalists are a dying group in the Church and that they will eventually be eliminated entirely. I believe that our catholic faith is laid on the Rock, Jesus Christ, and it is that which we have received from the Apostles of Jesus Christ. The winds and storms of innovations . . . will not shake us or crush us if we hold fast to the catholic faith and the teaching of scripture.”