Friday, 6 February 2009

An Evening Out.

Last night we had a Parish Dinner at the catering college which is part of Bury College, a few miles up the road. It was an enjoyable evening, I had to leave early to take one of our parishioners home who was feeling a little queasy (for unrelated reasons!) , but I went just in time to take this picture of the student chefs who came out to receive our congratulations on cooking a splendid meal.

Here you can see Ken, one of our Churchwardens, who you will know as the taker of many of the pictures of the Mass from week to week. Sitting to his right is Phyllis, our treasurer, who you cannot see, she organised the event thanks to, in part, her connections with the senior catering lecturer at the college. Happily the 'curse' did not strike and we had fine weather for the evening.

Andy Aspey looks happy and far more smartly turned out than your scribe who had no time to iron his shirt so was warm all evening, wearing a jumper to hide the creases. I find that only collars and cuffs are necessary to be ironed in the winter, if it gets hot in the pub during the evening, then a creased shirt is excusable if put down to the rigours of the day.

About sixty people came, I would estimate, which brings me onto the point of these pictures and the point of us being there really. We are apt to get bogged down in parochial matters in the CofE and there is, usually, little wrong with that. Sometimes people fight over positions, or resent other people having situations they do not, which is, under any circumstance, wrong, but we live and thrive for the glory of God and under His care, so we carry on, forgive each other as we are commanded to do and make the best of a situation under God and the teachings of Christ His Son. Problems flare up, personalities clash, people sulk and we mirror any other community of people, like the mormons under Brigham, crossing America to reach Salt Lake, we rejoice too much in the good times and despair too much in the bad. Being good Lancashire lads and lasses though, we are made of pretty hard stuff and are used to the odd bit of discomfort. Last night was part of the good times, a night of good food, fellowship and comfort, but of course it came just days before what could well be a cataclysmic event for us in the wider Church.

Last night was the Parish Lunch, next week is Synod and a debate about whether we can, or cannot, stay in the Church of England, to whom will go most of the proceeds of last nights dinner and raffle, to pay the Parish Share. We have fund raised for years to pay the share and save money for improvements to the building which we love and which belongs to the CofE, in which we have been proud and happy to play our not inconsiderable part. We have sent representatives to synod, we have been involved in Deanery chapters and meetings, we have worked with our fellows in other Churches, we have prayed for our Bishops and Archbishops and we have welcomed our Diocesan Bishop to our Church many, many times. Many of our fellows support and love us, our Archdeacon cannot work out why we are one of the only Churches in his area which is growing and our Bishop has supported us - except in his voting patterns in Synod which came like a kick in the proverbials when you least expect it.

Next week we find out if our unswerving loyalty and our constant hand of friendship to those who, occasionally, would ignore it, has been in vain. Next week is the last chance, but whatever happens, I sat in a room last night with sixty people who will not give up come what may and I sit in a Church every Sunday with far more who will be pretty formidable fighters, committed to remaining in a Church by hook or by crook. I know far more potential Non Jurors than I know potential converts. We have a history of dissent at Saint Hilda's, from the erection of the iron Church and the first aumbry within it, to the 'no Popery' demonstrations which attacked us, to court cases over six candles and incense, our foundation stone states 'This Catholic Church...', in short, we are not for giving up. We have stuck it out before under a hostile governance and can do so again - but we are perfectly happy, indeed we would rather - just carry on, with the safeguards that we need, which we all need.

It is my unwavering belief that the world will come to realise it needs the Church again, in this country and many others and furthermore, it will respond to a Church which is not afraid to tell the truth under pressure and to preach the Gospel without wavering under the tremendous onslaught of post modernist secularism which creeps in from all angles like sweet smelling medicine, entering every crack in society and the Church with its promises of relief and a removal of pain and angst. Addiction leads to more problems, however, even to the rejection of the potential of the human soul and the presence of God. A Church which is organised, which looks outside the Parish system, which gives the basis for the sanctification of our human lives and the presence of God, in and out of season - that will attract people and eventually will reform the Church of England. If it remains within it, if it is given the possibility of staying within it. Confirmations at Walsingham anyone?

This morning, on Radio 2, Christina Rees, whose pressure group to rid the Church of Anglo Catholics in favour of the 'new diversity' of doing whatever Christina tells you, mentioned that God loves us even when we are not doing anything, a lesson I wish she would take to heart next week, but WATCH has called for its members to fast on Wednesday next week, to petition the Lord to destroy His own Church and allow it to deny His own teachings.

All these things, I am convinced, will pass and eventually people will turn again to a Church, and it would have to be the Church of England, I feel, for there are the people who need us, which is not scared to preach the Gospel undiluted. It has brought the Church out of torpor and sin before and will do so again. It's just going to be hard work, that's all.

Why? Because I wouldn't abandon the people of God to a Church which seeks to mould them into zeitgeist-friendly mono-people and they sure as heck are not going to go anywhere else. The faith brings colour, meaning and joy into peoples lives as well as the hope of salvation for the eternal soul. How a Church can vote for a measure which defies tradition and scripture I do not know. It is, he said to himself, almost as though they do not believe in the eternal soul and the judgement of Christ on the last day anymore. They do, don't they?