Friday, 18 February 2011

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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Statement and final post

Christ is the human face of God; the fullness of Revelation. He lives in his church and operates through the baptised who are his hands, his feet and his merciful face. What the Church believes across all nations, by everyone and down the centuries is his unmistakable voice.

With the recent developments in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion I have increasingly found myself in a situation where I cannot preach the Gospel of Christ and celebrate his sacraments with any integrity. It is the generous offer of Pope Benedict XVI in the form of the Ordinariate that gives me the joy of continuing this faithfulness to this Gospel. The move to the Ordinariate also gives me the opportunity to offer to you the greatest witness I can possibly give you.

For this reason I have written to the Bishop of Rochester notifying him that I intend to resign from this Parish in order to become a Roman Catholic in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Fr James has notified the same bishop that he intends to resign for the same noble reason.

God willing, our last Sunday with you will be the 6th of March. On Ash Wednesday, a group from this parish will start the journey to be in full communion with Pope Benedict and received in the Catholic Church during Holy Week.

Now that the time of reflection is over, the time of the parting of friends has come. Parting is sad, but it will be healed by love. We need to make sure that this is truly a parting of friends with generosity from all sides.

This is not the time to say goodbye. I am sure we will have the opportunity for that during the next few weeks. Today is the time to hold each other in prayer and give thanks to what we have received and given to each other.

I will always hold you in my prayers and will always be available for you from within the Catholic Church in the Sevenoaks Ordinariate Personal Parish.

Fr Ivan D Aquilina
13th February 2011

Following on from the above statement which was read in church this morning, this blog comes to the end of its life. When it started some three years ago, I never thought that it would have the following it has. I am truly grateful for your support and prayers. In the first ever post I spoke about this blog in these words: "I launch my blog, with trepidation. A small raft in a huge ocean. But I want to sing God's praises too and maybe encourage you to join me." I would like to conclude it in the same words. We launch into the Ordinariate with great joy. Our Sevenoaks group is a small raft in a huge ocean. But we want to sing God's praises too and maybe encourage you to join us."
What a journey it has been. Thank you for being such great companions. What a wonderful journey it promises to be. Follow it on the Sevenoaks Ordinariate blog.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A visit from Anna Arco

An extremely good turn out for the Walsingham Cell meeting today. We started with Mass which was followed by an engaging talk from Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald. We are truly grateful for her gracious yet committed enthusiasm for the Faith Catholic and witness to the truth.
The talk was followed by a delicious supper lovingly prepared by Janice and her team.
An enjoyable evening indeed!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Congratulations Fr Barnes!

New deacon for the Ordinariate!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Our Lady of Lourdes

Today we celebrate the memoria of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The echo of forgotten laughter

You need to walk briskly down the hill shrouded in a cassock as the rest of Yorkshire is in turn shrouded in mist and drizzle. I quickly got used to the workers crammed in steamy busses staring out of the windows looking at me. What did they make of me? I felt uncomfortable but then I knew I would get used to this. Today Mirfield does not use cassocks any more, ordinands are the poorer; and those they shall care for too.

You had to walk down in silence, joining the dots with the silence around and searching for the silence within. Silence broken by unoiled gates and heavy doors. The welcome warmth of a corridor after the cold outside and then back to the sharp cold of a short walk to a silent underground church, for more silence, and prayer and Mass, and then a silent breakfast – I loved those mornings, they still live within.

You need to live with other ordinands and study and work and pray and talk to monks. Acquaintances shaped, joys and sadnesses shared, aspirations analysed. Two years that set the pace for ten and more; experiences that forged the handling of experiences yet to come. Two years in Mirfield that upheld the many years one lived before and paved the way for those yet to come.

Two years of prayer, and study, and laughter; forgotten laughter that still echoes brightly at the threshold of the Ordinariate.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sky report...

...can be found here. Watch the video.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

In all weather...

We can always rely on David and Greg to keep the church grounds looking splendid - even in this grim January drizzle!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Homily in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

I appeal to you […] that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
Father and I have a little standing joke. Each Sunday we stand in the sacristy a little before the Mass and ask “Is this an ordinary Sunday?” Inevitably the answer is always ‘no’. There’s either a baptism, or a feast, or a window to bless, or a new shrine to dedicate: the list goes on. It’s never very ordinary.

Well today there’s no baptism, we’re in simplest green, and there’s nothing to bless or dedicate. But fear not, pedestrian mediocrity is not quite upon us, because, in fact, this Sunday falls during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has its’ origins in what was called the Octave of Christian Unity. This was established at the turn of the last century in order to promote prayer for the visible unity of the Church. Between two influential priests and a Sardinian nun, Blessed Maria Gabriella, the devotion spread and became popular across the denominations.

Amongst the great Anglo-Catholics of the early twentieth century, the Chair of Unity Octave, as it became known, had a very special meaning and intention and was to be championed by the likes of Dom Gregory Dix, the great Anglican Papalist liturgical scholar, and Fr Fynnes-Clinton, sometime Vicar of S. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge, and a significant figure in the refounding of the Shrine at Walsingham. It was their prayer, and the prayer of many, that the great wounds of the Protestant Reformation would be healed, bringing all Western Christians together in one body in union with the Holy See.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, these days, is somewhat less prominent. It’s less popular amongst those Anglicans of a catholic flavour, not least because it usually consists of some feeble hand-holding liturgy in which some vague reference is made to ‘unity in diversity’, followed by a lunch comprising bad cheddar, tinned soup and a stale bread roll.

A few years ago I was at a roundtable discussion about Christian Unity. At it, a very nice gentleman stood up and stated that his Anglican parish had very good relations with the local Roman Catholic church, and that all the big debates in the Church of England were, in fact, meaningless at a local level. When asked what ‘good relations’ meant, it turned out that they shared a community meals-on-wheels rota.

I believe the phrase is ‘Close, but no cigar’.

That example—one of many—is neither the unity we seek nor the unity we need, it’s just being Christian and nice. The unity for which we long is something a great deal more.

During his General Audience address this week, Pope Benedict made reference to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and, I think, pointed us back towards the true sense of unity, which brought about by this week of prayer. The Holy Father referred explicitly to ‘four pillars of unity’: fidelity to the gospel, fraternal communion, communion through prayer, and Eucharistic communion.

In other words, true unity—more than being nice and doing things together—requires a common faith in the gospel of Christ, a common sense of being united to Christ through the Church, a common purpose in prayer, and the ability to receive Holy Communion from each other. Like a chair with four legs, if one of these is broken, the whole chair is weakened and undermined.

In this morning’s reading from S. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we are reminded that, in some sense, such a unity already exists within the Church through our baptism. S. Paul insists that it is Christ into which we are baptized, a fact that is true of all those who share the sign of faith through the waters of rebirth.

Our baptism into Christ is, literally, our incorporation into his body, the Church. Christian baptism ‘constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians’. It is the ‘sacramental bond of unity’ which links all who are reborn through it. In other words, it’s the bottom line, the thing which undergirds everything else.

But whilst baptism is, indeed, deep and integral to the overall picture, the unity which it brings about is still marred by our sinfulness: that which keeps us distant from our brother and sister Christians.

How, then, are we to achieve that elusive fullness of communion, that true sense of unity, which brings us into the fullness of human relationship with the Church, and with Christ himself?

Well, unity has to be based on commonality. In other words, everyone around the table has to have a common understanding of Christian teaching, and the ability to share that belief unhindered. We have to be in ‘communion’ over what the Church believes, and in ‘communion’ with the ways in which those truths are communicated, namely the sacraments.

For many years parishes such as ours hoped that the Church of England would become convinced of her Catholic roots, and be drawn closer to sharing that common faith and practice with the rest of the western Church. That hope was, and is, expressed through our common liturgy, teaching, and faith.

Despite such hopes and efforts, in more recent times such progress has been drastically and indefinitely halted. Seemingly endless innovations within Anglicanism have rendered the work to achieve full, visible unity—that kernel at the heart of everything that our Movement has stood for—as worthless. For that fullness of unity to come about now, requires some 'magnanimous gestures' on all sides, and a genuine, urgent desire for reconciliation.

It is more difficult than ever to imagine a visibly unified Church, but that should not stop us from doing everything within our power—both as individuals and a community—to furthering its cause, and bringing that day closer, however far off it might seem. It is a gospel imperative to do so.

This bringing about of unity, despite the current impasse, is the purpose of the newly formed Ordinariate—it would have seemed petty not to mention it at this stage. This new body—appropriately under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham; a place where disunity seems wonderfully distant—should be seen, first and foremost, as a ‘prophetic gesture’ which seeks to fulfil the unity of the Church, in some discrete but significant way—‘a small bridge on the long road to unity’.

Because what was once hoped for at a denominational level is now impossible, the Ordinariate will seek to achieve it in smaller groups. That this project may bring about a more urgent sense of the need for unity, at the very least, is indeed a great blessing.

As we come here today, then, we do so in penitence and sorrow for the divisions of the Church. As we approach the altar to receive the very body and blood of Christ, we have an opportunity, here and now, to pledge ourselves afresh to the cause of unity with Christ, and to the fulfilment of that unity between all who profess his truth.

The call which brought us to the font, where we were shown a glimpse of the fullness of unity with Christ, is the same call which brings us here today to recommit ourselves to the fulfilment of that unity in the visible unity of the Church. Let us pray God for the strength to do it.

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

Friday, 21 January 2011

Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Rochester concerning the Ordinariate

A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Rochester
21 January 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters

The Ordinariate and related issues

The establishment within the Roman Catholic Church of the Ordinariate for former Anglicans moved forward significantly last weekend with the ordination as priests of three former Church of England bishops, and with the nomination of one of those former bishops, Father Keith Newton, to be the Ordinary of the Ordinariate. With the Ordinariate thus beginning to become a reality, this seems the right time to write to you about this and related issues.

I want to underline first of all that this takes place within the setting of rich and strong relationships between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church at national, diocesan and local levels. We work together closely in many places, as we do with Christians of other denominations and traditions. We have also become used in recent generations to a fairly constant pattern of people moving between different denominations for a variety of reasons.

As the Ordinariate becomes a reality, some clergy and lay people in congregations within the Diocese of Rochester are considering seriously whether to join it. Equally there are those from the same congregations who have clearly indicated their intention to remain within the Church of England, and their desire to maintain the life of their parish churches. Our diocese of course includes many who greet the prospect of women being ordained as bishops with joy. We also have those who, while having serious reservations about the proposed legislation, are waiting to see how the national discussions go forward.

That draft legislation for the ordination of women as bishops has now formally been referred to dioceses, and will be considered through our deanery and diocesan synods later this year. This process will be introduced at our Diocesan Synod meeting on 5th February. At the same time, Bishop Brian, the Archdeacons and I continue to meet individuals and groups who have differing views and perspectives.

Some specific questions have been aired through the media and elsewhere concerning some of the legal and pastoral arrangements if and when a priest and/or groups of lay people decide to move into the Ordinariate. National guidance from both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church is being made available as things move forward, and the following points may be helpful.

Stipends. Where a stipendiary priest moves to the Ordinariate, there will be a stage in the process when that priest (whether at the point of becoming a Roman Catholic or by earlier resignation) ceases to hold office in the Church of England. At that point payment of a stipend would automatically cease. I understand that the Roman Catholic authorities are in discussion about the support of priests (and where relevant their families) after that point. National level contact between the House of Bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference will seek to facilitate that move.

Housing. For a priest living in a house provided by the Church of England a similar pattern would apply. While the formal right to housing would come to an end when the priest ceases to hold office, we would be in discussion with the individual and the Ordinariate authorities about the timing and other practicalities of a move of home.

Pensions. There have been press reports that priests moving to the Ordinariate would lose their pensions. This is not true. Pensions earned in respect of the years of stipendiary service within the Church of England would still be payable at the appropriate time, as is the case for any priest who moves out of stipendiary ministry before retirement age.

Parish Churches. A Church of England parish church is owned neither by its congregation nor by the diocese; it exists for the whole parish community and population and would remain a Church of England parish church even if all of its present congregation were to join the Ordinariate. The PCC also continues to exist as a legal corporate entity even if many or all of its individual members depart.

Congregations who remain. It is in fact very unlikely that whole congregations will leave and we will, therefore, need to make arrangements for the continuing worship, support and pastoral care of the remaining congregation. It is possible that a neighbouring or retired priest would be asked to provide this care on an interim basis, working with the Rural or Area Dean. By virtue of the priest becoming a Roman Catholic, the benefice would of course have become vacant and so the normal vacancy discussions would soon begin under the guidance of the Archdeacon. The nature and outcome of those discussions would, as for any vacancy, depend on the particular circumstances in each parish, the mission opportunities and so forth.

Ordinariate Congregations. The Archbishop of Westminster has on several occasions made public his view that Ordinariate congregations should worship in Roman Catholic parish churches. While the sharing of a parish church by two congregations is perfectly possible under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act, such an arrangement would require the consent of the (continuing) Church of England PCC, the Bishop and the relevant Roman Catholic authorities. It is, therefore, not expected that many new Sharing Agreements will arise as a result of the Ordinariate.

Church Schools. A Church of England school (whether aided or controlled) is of course Anglican by virtue of its foundation. This status is, therefore, not affected by the decisions of particular priests or lay people to join the Ordinariate. Decisions will have to be made case-by-case in relation to individuals who are Foundation Governors. That said, our schools of course seek to be inclusive rather than exclusive and welcome children from many different faith communities.

I hope that these comments may clarify some of the issues that have been raised, especially where media reporting has been less than clear. If a personal conversation about any of these matters would be helpful, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me, Bishop Brian or your Archdeacon - for those needing fuller guidance, more detailed advice is available particularly on the legal aspects.

Please also hold in your prayers those for whom these issues are particularly personal and focussed. For any who move to the Ordinariate, we would wish that to be with grace on all sides; for those of us who remain within the family of the Church of England in this diocese, our desire should be for continued fellowship and shared mission alongside the Roman Catholic community in all its forms.

With my prayers and good wishes,

+ James Roffen:

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Pope Benedict calls for unity of Christians

To mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Holy Father has made some remarks about the importance of, and difference between, fraternal communion and full eucharistic communion. These are particularly important concepts to consider at this time - we are called to full, eucharistic communion: how can we respond?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, all the Lord’s followers are asked to implore the gift of full communion. This year’s theme – “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42) – invites us to reflect on four pillars of unity found in the life of the early Church. The first is fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by the Apostles. The second is fraternal communion, a contemporary expression of which is seen in the growing ecumenical friendship among Christians. The third is the breaking of the bread; although the inability of separated Christians to share the same Eucharistic table is a reminder that we are still far from the unity which Christ wills for his disciples, it is also an incentive to greater efforts to remove every obstacle to that unity. Finally, prayer itself helps us realize that we are children of the one heavenly Father, called to forgiveness and reconciliation. During this Week, let us pray that all Christians will grow in fidelity to the Gospel, in fraternal unity and in missionary zeal, in order to draw all men and women into the saving unity of Christ’s Church.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Ordinariate: Getting the ball rolling

Fr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (I'll never get bored of saying that!), gave a Press Conference this morning. Audio is available here.