Saturday, 22 January 2011

A letter from Darlington

Fr Ian Grieves is the legendary priest at St James the Great in Darlington. He has served there for 22 years. When Claudia and I came to England for the first time many years ago with two very small children he was a good friend and support.
On his website he has posted this letter to his congregation which I would like to share with you. Let us keep him and his congregation in our prayers.

From The Vicar,

S. James' Vicarage,
Vicarage Road,
DL1 1JW.

February 2011

Dear people of S. James,
I have served you as your parish priest for 22 years, and I now find myself in an impossible and difficult situation because of what the General Synod has done to the Church of England. Very soon, we as a parish and congregation will no longer have an honoured, respected and permanent place within the C of E - as solemnly promised in 1992 to Parliament - when women were first ordained to the priesthood. Not only is this Synod unwilling to listen to the leadership of its two Archbishops, it is now not prepared to make any meaningful provision whatsoever for those who oppose the ordination of women on grounds of conscience or theological principal. Resolutions A & B - which provide the basis in law on which the ordination of women can be opposed - are to be removed. So too, the Provincial Episcopal Visitors (Flying Bishops like Bishop John Gaisford and Bishop Martyn Jarrett), are to be abolished! This leaves parishes like ours in an intolerable position. Nearer to home, our Deanery wishes to take more and more of our annual income (between 70% and 60%) and leave us eventually with a half-time priest and paying a parish share of £62,215 in 2011! This means that for every £1,000 we give or work for at S. James, the Deanery expects between £700 to £600! Your Church Council has decided for another year to cap the quota and pay £35,000 as being a fair and adequate sum to pay for a full-time priest here at S. James, and to cover all other expenses associated with the post of vicar. One thing is very clear - WE CANNOT STAY AS WE ARE - INTEGRITY and our CHRISTIAN FAITH demands a response from us all.
S. James the Great has always been about the proclamation of the orthodox, Catholic Faith, grounded, at first, in the principals of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England - sound theological thinking and a serious call to holiness of life. Worship and life at S. James has never been more concerned about what we wear than what we believe - sound belief in the teaching of the Catholic Church has always come first. If we are more concerned about the fashions in the sanctuary than what we believe as Christians, then we are lost indeed. Perhaps that is why there are so many, even in our own constituency, who think you can be a Catholic, without seeking visible unity with the Holy Father and the See of Peter! We, as Catholic Christians in the Church of England, have prayed for this and worked for this unity - this is the unity for which Christ prayed so that the world might believe.
Yes, it would be so easy to stay as we are, as many of my clergy brethren are; not to rock the boat and pretend all is well! It would be so easy for me personally to live at The Vicarage protected by the freehold, drawing my stipend and then my full pension at 65! And in ten years time, what would happen then? - no priest, or at best a half-time priest ordained by a women bishop of Durham or a quarter-time priest ordained by a male bishop who has been consecrated by a woman bishop! There is no future in staying where we are. In this matter we must not just think of ourselves, the here and the now, and of our own comfortable position. The C of E has changed beyond recognition - we all know that - it is dying - churches are closing, congregations are dwindling, vocations are few and money is short - 'and by their fruits you shall know them!' We, however, must lay aside pettiness, private judgement and a false loyalty to a Church of England which has turned its back on us, rejected what the majority of Christians believe and practice, and now publicly going back on a solemn promise to allow us our conscience and honoured place in the church. We must think of the future and future generations who will come and worship at S. James. We must think of others before ourselves and the larger picture - Christian unity in our own land, and this for us at S. James the Great means responding to the Holy Father's generous and considered initiative - THE ORDINARIATE.
The Ordinariate provides us with an opportunity to stay together as priests and people, worshipping, loving and serving our Lord Jesus Christ through the Catholic tradition and our liturgical and musical heritage and enter into full communion with the See of Peter. We pray that the Church of England will be as generous as the Holy Father and allow us our buildings; buildings we have restored and refurbished at great cost to ourselves (we have raised over £150,000 to restore the church hall & almost £600,000 to restore the church). We have indeed come a long way in the last twenty odd years and we have much to give God thanks for - not least the renewal of our parish and congregation which now needs a secure future.
I hope you all will join me at Mass on Sunday 13th February 2011 at 10am, and afterwards in the Church Hall for a meeting to consider the Ordinariate. The principal speaker will be Father Keith Newton, formerly the Bishop of Richborough, who has given up everything to enter the Ordinariate, and who will give us: information, explanations, answer questions, and address concerns on the Holy Father's historic and generous offer to Anglicans.
Finally, in this matter, we must pray that God's will is done and not ours. It can be so very difficult to let go of our own will, to give up what we want, what we desire, what we find comfortable and nice, and embrace God's will for our lives. Yet, when we do, it is like opening a door into a new world - a world of freedom, of peace and truth. We must make the words of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane our own, 'Not my will but your will be done'.

Your priest of 22 years,
Father Grieves

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