Ecumenism in Chester

The Summer gathering of Chester Forward in Faith was attended by some 150 people on Friday, 5th July in Chester Cathedral. After a welcoming cup of coffee and an introduction from Canon Richard Price and Canon Owen Conway, a pilgrimage was made to the Shrine of S.Werburgh. The daughter of the Saxon King Walpargus, Werburgh led a holy life as Abbess of several religious houses. When she died, in about 700, her body was taken to Chester from Lincolnshire to avoid the invading Danes. On the way, the cortege rested overnight at Church Lawton where the Church of All Saints stands today. The first monastery in Chester was founded in her name and later became the Abbey and then the Cathedral Church of Chester. At her Shrine Canon Conway led prayers and there was time for meditation and reflection.

There was a poignant reminder of this heritage when the recently installed Prior of Chester, a Benedictine monk from Ampleforth, gave a thought-provoking and amusing address. Fr Dominic is a visible link with the Cathedrals history as a Benedictine Abbey. (see New Directions June 1996) He spoke about his life as a monk and a headmaster in the Order, reminding those present that a monk has a structured life within a family. He contrasted this life with the multi-choice instant world of technology and gadgets in which so many live today. While recognising the value of progress in this direction, he warned of the danger of neglecting spiritual depth in favour of instant choice. Some things are constant – faith cannot be switched on and off at will. It has to be worked at. Fr Dominic explained that all aspects of the monastic life are given equal weighting mealtimes, gardening and cleaning lavatories have as much importance as the times of worship, because God is in all aspects of life. When we worship Him, we bring all this before Him. All life matters to God and all is offered to Him. A return to this deep and very practical spirituality, as outlined by Fr Dominic, is obviously important not only to Forward in Faith members but also to all Christians. He also urged the development of patience in a world of competitive pressure.

The evening continued with a look at the Cathedrals new Visitors Centre, following a talk from Nick Fry explaining its importance in the Cathedrals ministry of welcome, remembering the many reasons people have for entering such a building. The Office of Compline brought the evening to a prayerful conclusion. Thanks are due to the Dean and Chapter and particularly Canon Conway, for their assistance in organising the evening with Canon Price and the Forward in Faith Diocesan Committee and Fr Dominic deserves special thanks for his words of encouragement to strengthen the faith of those fortunate enough to be present.

A Grand Draw

Forward in Faith London announce a Grand Draw – First Prize : an 8 day Pilgrimage to Lourdes for two (twin room) during 1997 – with other grand prizes. The Draw will take place immediately after the Forward in Faith London Regional Festival to held this year at Christ the King, Gordon Square on Saturday, 23rd November, starting at 11.00 am. Tickets for the draw will be available at the National Assembly from members of the London Committee and from the Promoter, Fr Malcolm Gray – from whom details of both the Festival and the Draw are available on 0181 360 2947. More details about the Festival in due course, but in the meantime get out your French Phrase Books and get hold of some tickets for this excellent fund-raising initiative – at 50 pence per ticket, it will the cheapest pilgrimage ever for someone – and it could, as they say, be you!

Honouring Saint Augustine

Next year will mark the 1,400th anniversary of the arrival of S.Augustine and his companions at Ebbsfleet on the Kent coast to begin his mission to revive the Christian Church in England. He was sent by S.Gregory from Rome and his mission clearly met with much success. To

St. Augustine we owe the founding not only of the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, but also the sister Cathedral of Rochester, which was established by S.Justus. Justus came in response to Augustine’s request for further monks to reinforce his mission, and in due course was sent by S.Augustine to found a diocese and church on the Medway at Rochester.

Forward in Faith in the Dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester is holding a CELEBRATION OF FAITH to honour St. Augustine and to renew his mission, on Saturday, 4th October in Rochester Cathedral (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter). There will be a Solemn Eucharist at 12.00 noon at which the Celebrant and Preacher will be the Bishop of Richborough, the Right Reverend Edwin Barnes. All will be welcome. Hot drinks will be available and all are invited to bring a packed lunch so that they can stay to share in Cathedral Evensong at 3.15 pm. Further information may be obtained from Canon David Herbert, the Forward in Faith Regional Dean, on 0181 467 3809, or from the Forward in Faith Sub Dean, Canon Michael Houghton, on 01303 254472.

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Ever since the dark days of 1992 gathered around us, Forward in Faith in the Diocese of Chichester has come together in St. Martins, Brighton to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption with Vespers of Our Lady; a sermon by one of the PEVs or a similar Bishop; and with a procession along the road to the School followed by Benediction; and naturally, it being Brighton, a party afterwards! All this under the umbrella ‘Merrily on High’. And so once again, almost a couple of hundred people gathered in St. Martins to hear the Bishop of Richborough preach an inspiring sermon and to be led by him in their devotions.

The Regional Dean, Fr Beaumont Brandie, takes up the story: The dark clouds hovered round us and there was some doubt as to whether or not we were going to get along the road before it rained but, shepherded by the police and bearing with us the image of Our Lady of Walsingham carried by theological students doing a pale imitation of a pair of Marian Church Army Captains, we achieved everything before the first drop fell. This gave us a convenient excuse to have our internal wetness in the school hall.

A new feature this year was that, instead of being waved to and tooted at, we were actually jeered at, abused and heckled by a group of travellers, most of whom were known to the clergy of the parish and who will almost certainly get short shrift when they come asking for money in future! I fear that they appeared to be fairly high on drugs or drink, so perhaps the abusive suggestions about the sexual proclivity and activities of the participants and the high moral tone of their concern for world poverty and the financial probity of the Church of England were not motivated by the highest of motives. Strangely enough, it was the police who were the most embarrassed by the whole affair and when one of them made a lunge at the Bishop, they acted extremely firmly. Those of us who were well used to a different kind of abuse at Walsingham rode it out, but I have to say that some of the teenaged servers needed a swift reminder to turn the other cheek, otherwise there might have been a somewhat un-Christian confrontation!

None of this detracted from a thoroughly uplifting and enjoyable evening and the bookstall run by the Diocesan Walsingham Pilgrimage Committee, which also serves the needs of Forward in Faith locally for literature, did a roaring trade, as did the raffle for the Sisters at Walsingham.

A Thankless Task

We all know what a thankless task membership of the General Synod can be, so we are grateful for one of two observations from our seasoned observer on the floor.

The Synod looked at some gloomy figures for selection of ordination candidates in 1995. The Bishop of Hereford was re-assuring: 1993 had been a difficult year and there were particular reasons why it had been difficult. The Church Commissioners had lost some money. Well, yes. We waited for another factor – one perhaps emanating from the end of 1992. None came. Ah well . . .

The modern heresy that no-one should commit themselves to anything, especially if it is to last some time, found expression in the new churchwardens measure. In future, a six year stint only. Fine in suburbia where likely candidates abound. It may cause embarrassment in rural communities which have difficulty in raising two wardens, or where in any case different perceptions apply. A slight concession to the rule will probably cause further pastoral perplexity.

A happy event in the middle of Synod was the Archdeacon of York’s 65th birthday. Although no longer on synod (readers may remember!), he appears never to be that distant from it. He and his wife were guests one evening at dinner and he was serenaded with Happy Birthday to you.

Finally, the liturgical debates brought good news with the official inclusion in the new calendar of the Feasts of SS. Peter and Paul (June 29th) and of Our Lady (August 15th). An amendment moved by Forward in Faith Council member Major Patrick King of Norwich, although defeated, allowed for a speech on Our Lady of Walsingham and the work of the Shrine, which must have been the first time synod heard of its work. The debates on the revision of Rites A & B brought the inclusive language adherents out of the woodwork, and exception was taken at the credal statement and was made man. Somehow ‘was made a full human being’ does not sound quite right, though doubtless Merbecke could be re-arranged!