Mark McIntyre reports on Anglo-Catholic Charismatic celebration at Walsingham, August 2012
Towards the end of August this year, a group of about forty Anglo Catholic Christians from al over the country met at Walsingham, identifying themselves as Charismatic. The pilgrimage was a mixture of conference, spiritual renewal and rest. There was a lot of meeting up with old friends and the joy that this brings, as well as making new friendships. For me, as the speaker for the week, I met up with some of this group for the first time and was made very welcome indeed.
After the friendship and openness of the group to others, the first characteristic I noticed was a real desire to pray expectantly. It seems a very strange thing to say but I was challenged into asking the question, ‘What would the Church be like if we all prayed expecting God to work and act?’ During the week of prayer, celebration and teaching we saw God bring healing and restoration into people’s lives. People were also very willing to tell of the way in which they knew God had worked since the last time this group of people had been gathered together. Imagine on a Sunday morning, at our parish mass, people giving testimony to God at work in their lives during the past week, and then praying that God will be seen to be at work in the coming days.
The teaching focused on biblical journeys, being led by the Holy Spirit, not always on the easy journey, but on the journey that would bring us closer to God. We looked at the journey of Phillip and the baptism of the Ethiopian, the story of the Exodus journey, the journey of Jonah, Mary’s journey through the life of Jesus, the journey to the cross and the Resurrection journey on the Road to Emmaus.
Hopefully all this journeying helped us to see that we are not called to stand still in our faith but to grow as disciples. We acknowledge that like some of the great biblical figures we are not always ‘going forward’, but we know that when we fail, we can get up and are led by the Spirit, back to the authentic journey of a disciple.
The celebration also included optional workshops on planning for parish mission, healing, and worship in a new way around an Olympic theme! There was also a session called ‘equipping the saints’. These were designed to give practical examples of how we can celebrate the gifts God has given to his Church so that others may come to share in the joy and Good News. A group of young people at the conference guided us through what it truly means to ‘inspire a generation’. In an action-packed programme some chose to relax, take a nap or a walk through the Norfolk countryside. That was fine too.
This was the second year that the conference/celebration has taken place at Walsingham, though the group itself has its origins in the life of the Shrine. The conference received a very warm welcome from all at the Shrine of Our Lady, and the hospitality there is always well-organized and very friendly.
It seemed to me the ideal place to go for spiritual refreshment, a chance to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to find a moment or two of rest and relaxation. The group, while following their own programme, also had some time to join in the regular weekday pilgrimage programme. For example we took part in the sprinkling at the Well and the torchlight procession in honour of Our Lady. I am sure that many will have taken the opportunity to steal those few silent moments in the Holy House or another quiet corner of the Shrine.
Another marvellous feature of the conference was the attractiveness of the worship and an openness of the group to welcome the passer-by. A number of people, who were visiting the Shrine, heard the music and worship songs and simply wandered in and joined us. Christians from different traditions found it easy to return and identified with the joy of celebrating the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Disciple.
It is so easy to be idyllic and have the ‘top of the mountain experience’ at a conference like this gathering of Anglo-Catholic Charismatic Christians, in such a place as the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. However, as a visitor and as the speaker, I came away refreshed and having discovered again something of the joy of being a disciple. It is so often the case when you think you are going to contribute something to such a conference, that you come away having received blessing yourself. For many of us in the Church today, the journey is not always a joyful one and is certainly not described as an easy one. But weeks like this give us a glimpse of what God intends for us. Perhaps we all came away praying a little more expectantly and looking for the signs that show us God really is at work in the Church and in us too. ND