Tuesday, 3 August 2010

On the one hand - and on the other

Fifteen of our more catholic-minded bishops in the Church of England have penned a letter to the clergy. I am not sure quite why they did it. Apart from encouraging us all to attend regional meetings in the Autumn, and saying we must not be uncharitable, there is not a great deal which I can discern there of leadership.
Perhaps that will come later, when those who have made decisions will declare themselves and call on the rest of us to do the same. I hope and believe this is so, and reckon the waiting is simply in order to get the visit of the Holy Father behind us. That's very laudable, for we would not want the media focussing on Anglican turncoats (as they will call us) rather than on the visit of the Pope and what he has to say.
Yet it is frustrating to be told by those who are thought to be our leaders "we must be honest and say we are not united as to how we should respond to these developments". We all know there are catholic-minded CofE bishops who have those four letters written down their spine, and they will find ways of staying CofE even when an Imam is installed in Canterbury. We have come across men like them before, who claimed to be catholic, but once they were in high office simply failed to help us. Such men are not our leaders; they will go on playing games until kingdom come. We do not want or need their advice.
These are the ones who say "the closeness of the vote on the Archbishops' amendment for co-ordinate jursidiction suggest (sic) at least a measure of disquiet in the majority". But they also say that even if that amendment had been accepted, there were "concerns about its adequacy". Concerns! I'll say there were concerns! It was a pathetic sop, which no one with any integrity could have swallowed. It gave no jurisdiction to any bishop appointed to care for us, and no certainty about what sort of bishop that might be - male, yes, but nothing at all about what he believed, or whether or not he himself participated in women's 'ordination'. What is more, he would be wished on us by a women 'bishop'. We said, and many of these fifteen bishops agreed, that "A Code of Practice will not do"... and now they seem to be saying, 'Well, maybe we will have to put up with that, and it will all be alright in the end'.
So the Bishops turn to consider those who will stay "perhaps even reluctantly because of family circumstances". These are those who "cannot currently imagine themselves being anywhere else but within the Church of England". Surely it is for our bishops to say to such people, "Well, you'd better start imagining". There will BE no Church of England, or rather none that can feasibly call itself part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, after women are consecrated as Bishops. The shell may remain, appearances will be kept up here and there, but it will all be a sham. A Church, a real Church, served by priests who were once called without any irony "stupor mundi" - that will have gone.
"Those who are not actively seeking a home elsewhere must work to defeat the currently proposed legislation". Oh dear, what can we say to such dreamers? The legislation is all but through. Any amendment accepted now will be no more than applying a fresh coat of paint to Titanic's deckchairs - even less worthwhile than rearranging them, and a great deal more trouble. Those bishops among the signatories who think there is any hope of defeating the legislation are not capable of leading anyone anywhere. Sorry, it is just too late. And it is cruel to encourage people to stand for Synod knowing that their role will be to be abused, ignored, and mocked.
We are told that even such people 'not seeking a home elsewhere' must be respected. "Each of the possibilities we have outlined has its own integrity and is to be honoured". I do not think it is a kindness to encourage people to live like Mr Micawber, hoping against hope that something will turn up. It will not, and it is no kindness to pretend otherwise.
Why was there this special meeting of bishops who disagreed with one another, called in order to put out a statement? We have enough of that from the official C of E. What we want is leadership; and I pray we may get it, for like the Holy Father I am too old to be patient.

[I have also submitted this piece to the Anglo Catholic blogsite]

If these Stones could Speak

Ancient Keep and Lighthouse, from Victorian walls,
the Isle of Wight beyond

Where have we come from? Who lived here before us? Television is constantly asking these and similar questions; "Who do you think you are?", "Time Team", "How old is your House?" the channels seem full of such programmes. For me, local history has always been an interest, and since coming to live in Hampshire we have been finding out a great deal about our locality. There are very ancient roots; "The Rings" are half a mile from where we live, and they are pre-Roman conquest earthworks on a huge scale. Then there was shipbuilding all along the Solent, with the clearest evidence at Buckler's Hard near Beaulieu - some of Nelson's vessels were built there. The local birdwatching site, the Salterns, has a long history as a place for producing salt; these were part of an ancient industry, salt pans along the sea margin where the water was evaporated to concentrate the salt before being boiled to give the end-product. So successful was it that in one year in the eighteenth century the tax on Lymington salt was £40,000. The church and many of the buldings in our high street witness to that success.
A long history

Most evocative of all for me, though, is Hurst Castle. It stands at the end of a spit of land which runs east from the southern tip of land facing the Isle of Wight. It commands the entry to the Solent, which at this point is only half a mile wide. Standing at Hurst you are muchnearer the Isle of Wight than you are to the rest of the Hampshire mainland.

Graffiti from 18th C and earlier
Odd openings witness to re-used stones

It was such a strategic spot that it was chosen for one of Henry VIII's many coastal castles. Why the need for these defences? The Church of England is the answer; or rather the Royal Succession, which Henry found no way of solving other than by putting away his first wife. Since she was a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, he managed to enrage the strongest power in Europe, Spain. Spain had been enriched by the wealth of its conquests in the New World; so you could say that the reason for much of the history of England through the past five hundred years can be put down to America.

1585: getting ready for a Spanish Invasion

Yesterday we visited Hurst once more, and this time I paid attention to the fate of one Paul Atkinson, whose crime was teaching the catholic faith. This was not during the bloody upheavals of the reformation, but at the start of the Century remembered for the Enlightenment. It was in 1700, in the reign of Dutch William and Mary Stuart that he was betrayed by a young woman whose confession he had heard. He spent the next thirty years locked up in Hurst Castle, until his death in October 1729. The much-vaunted tolerance and liberalism of the Church of England, and of England itself, takes some knocks when you consider the treatment of Catholics right down to their emancipation in the nineteenth century. The fulminations by the press over the forthcoming visit by the Pope show that those feelings of suspicion and hatred towards Rome, which have their origins in Tudor times are still flourishing. So here in pictures are some of those stones; stones of Hurst originally robbed from the monastic houses around the Solent shore.

Our liberal English Patrimony

Sunday, 1 August 2010


A big daunting space for little performers

Parishes in interregnum have to struggle to keep afloat. When they are A, B and C parishes, the struggle is far harder. All credit, then, to parishes which are not content just to keep things as they were, but are ready to reach out beyond the faithful into the local community.

We have lift-off!

That, the Churchwarden told me this morning, was one of the reasons why at St Francis' Bournemouth they were determined to put on a children's teaching week. These have happened in the past, but they have depended heavily on the enthusiasm and commitment of their former incumbent and his wife.

Today, I was warned not to prepare a sermon; some of those who had taken part in "Lift-off" would be presenting the congregation with a taste of what they had been doing over the previous six days. There are pictures of their presentation here - but they are static and without the enthusiastic singing and dance which made the morning, as one lady said to me after Mass, "very lively". The theme was servants of God; from Noah to Our Lord Himself, with references to Joseph and many other heroes of the faith.
There had been many more participants through the week; but non-church-going parents found ready excuses not to let the children attend this morning's mass. That is a great pity,for they missed a lovely morning. It was not just the young participants who enjoyed it; there were older members of the congregation, and a very lively group of teenagers, who threw themselves into it with gusto. I hope the diocese will note what occurred in St Francis' Charminster Road this past week. Perhaps they will even put a tick in the box marked "fresh expressions". What is more, it happened with the participation of the locals, including several of the choir and servers and the Churchwardens. This is the sort of parish which General Synod has recently attempted to vote out of existence. What they should realise, though, is that these are transferable talents; and many of the congregation heard a talk last week from an SSC Priest on the Ordinairiate.
Music Maestro with admirers after Mass