Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Martinmas. In the meantime….life goes on.
No “St Martin’s Summer” in the Wye valley today as a rather chilly, thick fog shrouds the landscape, reducing visibility to a few hundred yards and muffling all the sounds of the natural world and of human activity as well. Appropriate weather, as we seem to be moving forward in a fog of uncertainty and hesitation, groping our way towards an understanding of what is taking place and, we pray, towards a brighter and sunnier future.
Parish life goes on. Yesterday, after the office and early mass (for St Leo the Great) an hour's drive down the M4 to SSC Chapter in Port Talbot, a stop for coffee at the end of the Mothers’ Union Meeting back in the village, some necessary ‘phone calls, Evening Prayer, then a wedding interview and a P.C.C. meeting until about 9.30 p.m.
Yesterday’s St Dyfrig Chapter of SSC (for South & West Wales) took place at St Theodore’s Port Talbot (pictured left) The Chapter's programme is planned well in advance and, after the requiem mass for the souls of the departed brethren of the Society, we heard a fascinating talk (with chanted musical illustrations) from Fr Luke Holden of the Orthodox Church, and a brother priest who accompanied him, on the subject of prayer for the departed in the Orthodox tradition.
It was interesting to make mental comparisons between the memorial of the departed in the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy and the commemoration of the dead in the Roman Canon, one of the oldest liturgical texts and part of our common patrimony, West and East.
After lunch the business meeting was the first chance to discuss together the extraordinary developments of the last few weeks.
The reality of the situation in Wales, after over a year without a Provincial Assistant Bishop and now no realistic chance of further “official” episcopal provision, is beginning to hit home. As for the other and directly related “issue of the moment,” the process of prayer and reflection in Wales is only just beginning!
My own thoughts are increasingly that the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, marks the logical end, and in many ways the fulfilment, of the Catholic Movement in Anglicanism (at least that mainstream part of the movement which traces its origins directly from the Oriel Common Room of Keble, Froude, Pusey and Newman to the “ritualists” and beyond: and here I make no apologies for my view that modern “Anglo-Papalism,” rather than being an extreme and aberrant deviation from the tradition, is only the legitimate and logical development of the ecumenical thrust of the Oxford Movement itself.)
The implications of that ending or consummation will take years to become fully apparent both for Canterbury and Rome, but one thing is very clear: when the dust settles the situation will never be the same again.
For those who make a decsion to remain within the structures of Anglicanism, certainly in the Welsh province, the future would seem at the moment to be a rather bleak one of at best “toleration up to a point” or “terminal care” until the present generation of clergy and laity dies out – as someone remarked yesterday, a future similar in some ways to that of the Non Jurors.
For those who are able to join the new ordinariates, the future will be very much brighter, although, of course, not without its initial uncertainties and struggles as new structures and patterns of priestly ministry are developed and we see exactly how the Anglican liturgical, theological and pastoral patrimony can be reclaimed and developed within the Catholic Church.
We are beginning what will be an intense period of prayerful reflection and discernment over the next few months and even years, and it is already becoming clear that, as we guessed all along, not all catholic-minded Anglicans (in Wales, England or throughout the world) will be heading in the same direction. But that being the case, it is even more important in the meantime to pray and work together and cement continuing ties of friendship among us, as, whatever individual plans turn out to be, we all make what will inevitably be painful, costly, and far reaching decisions about the future.
But, sooner rather than later, we will experience the final Anglo-Catholic “parting of friends” - a time, despite insecurity, of great joy and hope in the future for some, and yet more prolonged anxiety and a different kind of insecurity for others; but for all of us it will be tinged with a certain sadness for the “might have beens” of our past.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken by Dr Bob Osborne, and was a winning entry in this year's Photo Competition organised by St Mary's, Penterry (one of the five churches in the parish grouping)