As the long summer approaches many people had hoped that the Coronavirus legislation would have been lifted and our lives might have returned to some semblance of normality. As New Directions goes to press the lockdown has been extended for a further 4 weeks, and there seems to be the looming prospect of further restrictions to come. For our churches, then, the work very much continues and we continue to be as adaptable as we have been to the ever changing rules and regulations. It is clear that the government will face a long public inquiry into the handling of the crisis. We very much hope that the Church Commissioners will undertake the same sort of independent public inquiry into the handling of the response to the pandemic by the bishops and those in national and local church government. Particularly we hope that the conflicting information given by bishops and diocesan officials will be examined closely in order that we might learn from the way in which things worked well in our response, as well as from the inevitable mistakes that were made. Whilst such an inquiry may be difficult it will be essential if we are to move forward as a church, and if trust is to be restored in our episcopate and ecclesiastical civil servants. It is fair to say that this trust is at all time low. Trust can only really be restored when responsibility is taken and when mistakes have been made they are acknowledged. This same lack of trust is reflected in the way in which matters of safeguarding and clergy discipline are handled by the church authorities. In the years to come this will be a challenge for this magazine to face with honesty and the same forthright approach it has adopted in the past.
As I come to the end of my second stint as editor of New Directions I have been looking back on the various issues we have covered over the years, many of which are still at the forefront of the life of the church today. There have of course been some successes. New Directions was there for the formation of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and our reporting of this will surely form part of the official history of the Ordinariate is written. During the long progression of the legislation to ordain women to the episcopate through the Synod, New Directions reported on each twist and turn of the legislative pen and indeed of the foundation of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda – which of course we now have come to know as simply The Society. It was a great pleasure to be able to report the successes of our movement and all that we have achieved, perhaps less so when we failed to achieve all that we might have hoped to have done.
In the years to come New Directions will face many of the same challenges that we have had to face in recent years. The debates and discussions around issues such as holy matrimony, the seal of the confessional and the very nature of the parochial system will come to the fore. New Directions will take these challenges head on and will not be afraid to stand up for the Catholic faith as the Church of England has received it. Forward in Faith was founded to defend the Catholic life of the Church of England and in particular to defend the nature of the sacraments. The sacraments are a gift from God, given to the church and it has always been our view that they cannot be changed or altered unilaterally by the Synod of the Church of England. We must continue not just to defend the sacraments but ensure that we undertake to teach people about them, to explore what they mean to the modern church and world. It is only when we can teach about the sacraments with confidence and clarity that we can hope to defend them against those who would seek to change their very essence.
Looking back at my summer editorials over the years it seems I have rarely failed to encourage you to spend your summers supporting each other’s churches and patronal festivals. This year above all I would encourage you, if you are able to, to support our parishes as people gather to celebrate their faith. Why not attend one of the summer lectures? Or perhaps a patronal festival mass? You might also find your way back to Walsingham on pilgrimage, to bring all of the prayers of the last year to the feet of Our Lady of Walsingham. Whatever you are able to do, do not fail to pray for our parishes as we seek to move Forward in Faith together. Thank you for allowing me opportunity to be your Editor, not once but twice, it has been a wonderful experience.