The Ordinariate way of the Cross
Ed Tomlinson gives a personal account of the painful but worthwhile journey to the Ordinariate
Walking from the Church of England to embrace the Ordinariate is increasingly feeling like a walk on the way of the Cross. Spirit-filled but far from easy. Perhaps this is inevitable: if we wish to rise to a new ecclesial life in Christ then first we must die to the old life. And as everyone knows embracing death is often difficult.
Our ecclesial demise will inevitably be painful then. Many will lose buildings, money, stipends and anticipated future pension. Others will have to cope with a lack of love and approval from family and friends. Sacrifice is costly and doubtless the ‘Stations of the Cross’ will take on particular resonance this Lent.
But before I reflect on a couple of similarities between Ordinariate pioneering and the way of the Cross, let us acknowledge that our own suffering is nothing compared to the plight of others. Let us pray for those in danger of death. Let us remember the starving, those imprisoned for their faith, those who endure violence and those in any kind of need at all. My purpose is not to suggest our pain is intolerable but to reflect on the fact that the pain we endure may be leading to a deep joy in our future. After death comes resurrection!
The first similarity with the stations becomes apparent when we reflect on Jesus standing at the mercy of Pilate as we Anglo-Catholics were left at the mercy of Synod. Who gave this mock parliament a right to exclude our traditional faith? This betrayal has hurt and we stand before Christ in need of healing. May we learn to forgive and may we be forgiven.
Had Jesus uttered one word in hatred then the devil would have triumphed. Those forming the Ordinariate are in the public eye as never before. Many watch with interest and ponder the significance of our moving. The temptation is to grumble about the sacrifice we make, but we must remember that the manner of our leaving is as important as its fact. We must not burn bridges but build them.
Next we might consider how those who helped Jesus were surprising. Those expected on the journey were largely absent. Thus it was Veronica and not the Magdalene who mopped his sweaty brow, it was Cyrene and not Peter who took the weight of the
Cross. And it is interesting to note those entering the Ordinariate, often not those one might have expected but precious and willing nonetheless. And we should remember how the disciples followed later. We should be praying for those not yet ready for this journey and for those who will not make it.
One of the most shocking stations sees Jesus stripped of his garments. How one understands that when one anticipates closing the doors on a dearly loved church for the very last time. I have been shocked by the lack of generosity shown to the Ordinariate thus far. Diocesans acting like dog in the manger clutch hold of church plant they have little use for. Parishioners remaining Anglican howl with protest at the very suggestion that those departing might be helped. It is now clear we must leave naked. Perhaps, in the end, this is an important part of our sacrifice?
A difficult path
And then we might reflect on the falls. Three times Jesus collapsed on the way of sorrows, each one worse than the last. And we who form the first wave of the Ordinariate will fall as well and probably more than three times! I know that I must apologise for insensitive words and lack of patience with those remaining Anglican. Walking this way is not easy and the devil delights in tripping us up. Has there ever been a time when formal confession was so necessary?
And of course there was the violence, hatred and anger. Since making it clear that the Ordinariate appeals to me it is interesting to note the tone that some have taken. Two clergy have written the most foul hate mail, one I lament to report a brother from Forward in Faith. Others have presented cold shoulders or whispered behind backs. It becomes clear that friendships are fragile when we move in new directions.
The final station
Next month the journey will reach its historic climax. On Ash Wednesday our Anglican death will befall us and doubtless it will be painful in myriad different ways. Upheaval, uncertainty, loss of comfort – these will all be part of the equation. But so will growth, opportunity and development.
As each week goes past I am amazed by how things are slotting into place without fuss. Our Ordinariate meetings are feeling so right and spirit filled. Money is coming in to support the new venture. Opportunity arises which makes the transition simple and smooth. And that is why I truly commend this walk of the Cross to you, not because it is not challenging and painful, but because the final station, the resurrection station, is the most powerful of them all.
If we dare to die then we shall be raised to new life in Christ Jesus. That is the promise of faith and, increasingly, I am understanding that it is also the promise of the Ordinariate. Why not join yourself? Come on over. The journey is terrible but it is worth it in the end. ND