Andrew Davis reports on the Third Richborough Eucharistic Conference


The Clergy of the See of Richborough led by Bishop Norman met over 7-9th November at Walsingham. It was magnificent bright autumn weather with the trees turning to red and gold. We started in the Parish Hall with a showing of ‘Babette’s Feast’, the 1987 Danish drama film based on a 1958 story by Karen Blixen which won the Oscar for the best foreign language film shortly afterwards. 

The next morning Canon Paul Noble and Fr Ed Martin of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament presented a detailed analysis of the themes and issues in the film (including the conflict of the earthly and heavenly perception of life, the reception of grace, tensions of living and the converting power of the feast, among others). A lively discussion followed and ended with the implication of Babette’s feast as an image of the ‘Sacrum Convivium’ (convivium, both sacrum and saeculum, was very much the mark of the conference).

In the afternoon, Bishop Norman led a Walk of Reparation around the Priory grounds based on a rite devised by Fr Hope Patten. We prayed in reparation at the entry to the church, the site of the high altar, the wells and the site of the Holy House. It’s not enough just to appreciate the beauty of the remains. Our prayer looks back to the sins of our forefathers and soothes our minds in the present. It’s so disturbing to recall so much malicious intent and despoliation in such a short time in 1538. 

Later Fr Ross Copley led a session on vocations. He outlined a new initiative to attract candidates to the priesthood and to be able to encourage them especially in the initial stages of discernment of vocation. It will make full use modern media tools and reach across the Richborough and other PEV areas. The initiative will be supported by the Additional Curates’ Society and launched in the New Year.

In the evening, Bishop Norman hosted a ‘Convivium Richboroughiensis’ in the refectory with Stephen Parkinson as guest speaker to amuse us with his mordant wit.

The next morning, after post-convivium recovery, Tom Middleton from the Society, Fr Ed Martin, and Bishop Norman on behalf of the Guild of All Souls, gave us updates and outlined future projects. Fr Ed and Bishop Norman encouraged us all to be realistic about the future and not cling to old ways of thinking as so many things in the way we minister and in parish life will have to be managed differently in the future. Bishop Norman thanked CBS for their contribution towards the cost of the conference, then he and Canon Adrian Ling gave a presentation on the planned pilgrimage to Avila next October. 

The presentations were all upbeat and positive. The masses and devotions in the shrine were uplifting as always. Together we shared in a ‘convivium bonorum’ – a feast of good things. The conference ended with an enthusiastic outburst of thanks to Bishop Norman for his robust leadership and unflagging good humour. It was a golden autumn in Walsingham and also a springtime for the Richborough Family.