Well over 500 delegates, clergy and lay, gathered in Westminster on October 6th and 7th for the second National Assembly. One of them, Gill James, a lay delegate from the diocese of London and a lecturer in physiotherapy at University College, London reflects on the experience . . .

Last month, I attended the FiF National Assembly and a part of the International Conference that preceded it. Hearing of the experiences of the Norwegian and Swedish representatives created mixed emotions since it was clear that they were suffering considerable persecution. It was, however, inspiring to hear how firmly people are holding fast to orthodox beliefs.

Friday evening saw the Assembly proper begin and after some preliminary work (and a supper break!) we all listened with rapt attention to the Bishop of Richborough and Fr John Broadhurst. Then Night Prayer and trying (fortunately successfully) to find my guests for the night. Happily, they found me and we headed home for coffee, a chat and a late night. We were all up early on Saturday to attend the Concelebrated Eucharist and Commissioning of the Regional Deans in a moving service, despite the unlovely venue.

Then to business and continuing the work begun the previous evening on resolutions. It was noteworthy that although people’s views differed the Assembly dealt with such disagreements in an atmosphere where consensus was sought and views were respected, not trampled on. Surprise has been expressed that the resolution about the consecration of bishops was so overwhelmingly passed but there was a sense of the inevitability of that step. We left feeling refreshed and uplifted, if a little tired!

What will I remember of the National Assembly of 1995? Certainly, the Commissioning of the Regional Deans and the feeling that this is a positive step towards supporting all those of our integrity. The low spot has to be those singularly uncomfortable seats which must increase the work of every GP and physiotherapist in the country. The irony of the weekend? The news about George Austin breaking on the very day the Assembly began. But, my enduring memory is hearing about the Norwegian ordinands who have refused to accept ordination from their apostate bishops. We are privileged to stand alongside such people – and we must not fail them.

We don’t know how we’ll cope . . .

“We don’t know how we’ll cope if more than 3,000 people turn up” lamented the staff of S. Paul’s Cathedral at a recent planning meeting for the forthcoming Forward in Faith London Region Festival in the cathedral on Saturday, 25th November at 11.00 am. Well, of course, we are entirely confident that they will cope . . . But let’s make sure that they have the challenge to face! Together, we can make absolutely certain that well in excess of 3,000 attend what will surely be a most marvellous occasion and give the cathedral staff the opportunity of finding out just what we – and they – are made of!

In the Steps of S. Richard

Over 900 pilgrims responded to the Bishop of Chichester’s invitation to meet with him in his cathedral to walk In the Steps of S. Richard on Saturday, 14 October.

Organised by Forward in Faith and the Catholic Societies in the diocese, they gathered for a Mass of S. Wilfrid, the bringer of Christianity to Sussex, and with over 60 concelebrants in addition to Bishop Eric, the Bishop of Horsham and Bishop Luxmoore, sang lustily and prayed for Canon Beaumont Brandie, the new Regional Dean, who (predictably enough!) was organising the choreography and motivating the stewards via a walkie-talkie!

After a break for lunch in glorious sunshine the pilgrimage re-assembled in the nave of the cathedral at 3 o’clock to celebrate their common heritage in the sacramental life of the Church. They were divided into 8 groups and, singing Laudate Dominum, moved round 8 stations in the cathedral celebrating their Baptism, Confirmation, the gift of the Body of Christ, their belief in the Communion of Saints, their devotion to Our Lady, their willingness to be forgiven, their quest for Christian Unity and their task in Mission. The sheer logistics of moving these groups around the cathedral worked like a charm, thanks to the ubiquitous walkie-talkies and encouragement from the cantor, who sang the verses in an exhilarating tenor from the pulpit. At each of the stations there was scripture reading, prayer, teaching, versicles and responses.

After a break for tea, the pilgrims returned for Cathedral Evensong, following which they formed a procession and, singing For All the Saints, moved through the Cloisters and down S. Richard’s Walk into the gathering dusk to re-group in front of the Bishop’s Palace, where Bishop Eric gave Benediction, during which there was a meditation by the Regional Dean which reflected the tone of the whole day – “Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. Tired, but enthused and re-committed, the pilgrims piled into their coaches and cars and set off across the Sussex countryside to take the faith once delivered to the saints back to their parishes.

Peterborough Forward in Faith Assembly , Saturday 14 October 1995

More than a hundred local members of Forward in Faith crowded into seventh-century All Saints’ Brixworth, the oldest church in the Diocese of Peterborough. The meeting began with a Eucharist, at which the celebrant and preacher was the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Edwin Barnes, recently appointed as local Flying Bishop. He urged those present to keep up contacts with isolated traditional Anglicans who find themselves in unsympathetic parishes, but together number a third of the Church of England. The need for his ministry is overwhelming, and his diary is already solidly booked for many months ahead.

After lunch, the meeting was addressed by Anne Williams, Vice Chairman of Forward in Faith, who spoke about the recent National Assembly; and by the new Regional Dean, Canon John Laird, as well as by Bishop Barnes.

International Synod of the Westminster Group of Churches

The Forward in Faith Assembly was preceded on 6 October by the first International Synod of the Churches which produced the Westminster Statement of 9-10 May 1994. The English delegation from the Forward in Faith Council was joined by delegates from the Free Synod of the Church of Sweden, and from the Council on the Foundations of the Church in Norway. Observers were also present from the Church of Denmark, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, and from the Polish National Catholic Church of the USA.

The morning session was taken up with addresses from the leaders of the English and Scandinavian bodies, describing the history of their Movements, and the present situation in each country.

Forward in Faith, with its three Provincial Episcopal Visitors, has at present a much more firmly assured future than colleagues in Scandinavia, where any provision once made for the position of traditional Christians has now been withdrawn. After further debate and discussion in the afternoon, the Synod took the historic decision to pledge to bring the participating church movements together, in a process of convergence in the faith and order of the undivided church. This was promptly endorsed by the Forward in Faith Assembly, raising the exciting prospect of a new ecumenical integrity across Northern Europe, fulfilling the Reformers’ original vision of a restored Catholicism.