A report to the FiF General Assembly in May
The main theme for this New Directions report is thanks. First of all, an enormous thank you to Fr Philip Corbett for his stewardship of the magazine for so long and with such consistency. It is not an easy thing to produce each month but he did that and ensured it was worthwhile, so for his example and continued support I am extremely grateful.
Secondly, thank you to all those who write anything for New Directions (and with apologies to those who submit but don’t appear in print; it sadly isn’t possible to run every article). Not a single contributor to ND is paid a fee; everyone does it for free, and that includes professionals. It is extremely rewarding to work with so many submissions of such high quality and helps to make the magazine what it is. So to everyone who gives of their time, energy, expertise and interest – heartfelt thanks.
The readers must also be thanked. Forward in Faith members are the core base and that goodwill along with endorsement, feedback, even debate, gives ND a unique position within the Church of England and beyond (as it is also distributed overseas). The point is: where do Catholic Anglicans now look for a publication that speaks to who they are and what they are about? It is obvious that a ‘membership magazine’ should do this, but New Directions is far more than that. It goes to every bishop and member of General Synod and is something of a shop window for FiF and the Catholic Group. Yet it goes beyond that too. At a time when the Church of England is unaware or uninformed of so much of its Catholic identity, history, doctrine and mission, this humble magazine helps to hold the line in a reasoned and sensible way.
New Directions must continue to be readable and include a range of topics which interest people. It will keep promoting the Catholic cause, and it will explore the major themes and questions of this present time where people need guidance, assurance and education. It will be loyal but not blindly partisan or inward looking. At times it may expose hypocrisy and prick pomposity, and not be afraid of helping us to laugh at ourselves, because life is also about having fun. In short, it will do what a good magazine should, with honesty and integrity, a depth of concern for its readers, and a commitment to the greater truth we witness in Christ Jesus. It is customary, after all, for writers and affiliates of a publication to be called ‘of this parish’ and how such a cure of souls here in the tradition of ‘mine and thine’ is shared with and in support of the bishops of The Society along with its aims and purpose.
The redesign has been very well received and gave the opportunity for a little refresh at the same time. Comments about this have been overwhelmingly positive. Our designer, Jason Forster, continues to do an excellent job, and from this summer we are now printing on slightly heavier paper, in a shorter timeframe, and distributed in a compostable polybag – all at no extra cost. The New Directions editorial board members have been helpful and encouraging throughout and we all owe them a great debt.
Finally, my personal thanks to the Bishop of Fulham, Director Tom Middleton, Fr Adam Edwards, and Fr Guy Willis for all they do as the editorial production team. Their readiness to talk through ideas and possibilities, put the work in, and commitment to the wider project is invaluable. I hope you agree it is worth very much more than the sum of its parts and will continue to promote the cause for us all.
Letters to the Editor
It was good to see the two articles by Tom Middleton and Fr Paul Hutchins in the June issue of New Directions. Tom Middleton told us that between 2009 and 2019 confirmations fell from 25,000 to 13,400, a reduction of 42%, and he went on to say ‘The purpose of raising this falling away of around half the the total number of confirmations is not to be alarmist’. However if we look backward from 2009 and forward from 2019 perhaps we should be seriously alarmed. From 1970, when there were 113,000 confirmations, the number has dropped significantly in every decade since then so that in 2019, nearly fifty years later with a growing population, the total was only 12% 0f the 1970 figure. Meanwhile if we look forward from 2019 to 2021, it would not be unreasonable to guess that, following two years of the covid pandemic, there will be a major fall in the numbers over that period. Sadly we also have to bear in mind that a considerable proportion of confirmation candidates lapse quite soon after their confirmation.
I am not in the business of being alarmist, but surely the precipitous decline in confirmations over the past fifty years indicates that too many more of our churches will close by 2040. I don’t expect to be here then, but this prospect causes me great concern.
Dr Charles Hanson,
Wetheral, Carlisle CA4 8JG
Tom Middleton responds:
It is worth noting that were the Sees of Beverley, Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Fulham to be regarded as a single diocese for the purpose of confirmation statistics, and everything added together, then they would be second only to the Diocese of Oxford in terms of total confirmations administered in 2019 alone.