Monday, 14 July 2008

Prayers for the Church of England and Almost Nothing About Synod.

Exposition begins in the Lady Chapel.

Incense was burned in this converted ashtray. Who said the smoking ban did no good!

This morning at 10,30, we started an hour of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the work of the Church and to give thanks for the Oxford Movement, begun a hundred and seventy five years ago when the Assizes Sermon was given, protesting, mainly and oddly about the Irishness of the Bishops in Ireland. The Oxford Movement was begun by a group of Oxford clerics who saw the Church of England as a dead body, so wrapped up in patronage and power gathering and the distribution of it's vast pits of wealth it had abandoned the Faith altogether. They, Pusey, Keble, Manning, Newman and many others, fought for the faith. For the reverent and frequent celebration of Holy Communion and the use of liturgical trappings such as candles and simple vestments.

The establishment could not tolerate them and Queen Victoria passed the Public Worship Act, banning pretty much everything apart from an (edited) Bible in the Church and a wooden table at which, peculiarly and to the bafflement of many, the Vicar would stand at the North end for the very occasional celebration of Holy Communion. The Church and the state were hand in glove and existed for the subjugation of the majority of the nation.

These Liberation Theologians, then, the Oxford Movement's founders, read the Bible in a way which called for change. They campaingned until the end of their time in the Church for this and inspired generations of 'pioneer' Priests, who worked slowly to teach the faith and say the Eucharist more often. Some were put in jail for putting six candles on the altar and installing tabernacles. Some were censured by their own Bishops and some suffered thousands of protesters descending on their Churches to wave placards and shout abuse. However, things slowly changed. The Queen Mother presented St Peter's London Docks with a box of the forbidden incense, urging them to us it, Bishops became softer on change, probably shamed by their clergy ignoring them and 'importing' colonial Bishops complete with full Episcopal Vesture. Eventually, the situation cleared to something similar to what we have now.

And then it all went downhill. Once the day was won, once the Church became suitably Catholic - and you will find very, very few preaching gowns and North Ends in the CofE now - once the daily Mass was not uncommon and there was reservation in almost every Cathedral in the land and the Mass was the usual Sunday Service, the day seemed won. But once again we see the need for a similar movement, for after the publication of Common Worship, with it's Catholic trappings and assumption of a well furnished Church, suddenly we see great swathes of the Church falling away again, into their Protestant agendas. GAFCON rears it's ugly head, full of promises of a return to days before Keble, mixed with Evangelical new blood wanting change and certainly not wanting tabernacles, the Real Presence and the Catholic Faith.

So we see ourselves moving away once again to the time before we existed. So it was that most Anglo Catholic Churches in the country pray today for the resurrection of those values and beliefs that once shaped the Church, that they may do so again. We finished our vigil with Low Mass, to which the twenty stayed. It is a good turn out for Monday morning for an hour and a half and it shows our determination to keep praying and keep hoping. One of the great sadness's of the last Synod is that many of the women who will be named as Bishops will be Catholic through and through and will directly benefit from the work our forebears put in. They will ask how we cannot accept them, as we 'are all Catholics now' and they will wonder where we went wrong.

If you have no Church to go to today to pray for this cause, take a few minutes out and give thanks for the faith, for the Christ, born and sacrificed for our salvation and pray that we may rebuild the Church in His own image, without ego or divide.