Sheffield: a remarkable story of evangelism

The Revd Paul Benfield, writing in the Ordinariate Portal magazine, comments thus on the current reorganisation of the Anglican diocese of Sheffield:

” … the Diocese of Sheffield is to have four
further Associate Archdeacon Transition Enablers to
work with two existing ones. The diocesan website
informs us that:
These are innovative and transformational roles
aimed at leading and supporting … twinned
Deaneries through a period of transition. The
intention is to create a collaborative context that
enables Deaneries, Parishes and Mission Areas to
embrace significant change. Full-time Associate
Archdeacons will work with flexibility, ingenuity
and imagination to grow teams of lay and
ordained leaders in shaping a mission-focused
The role of the Associate Archdeacon is to work
in partnership with the Bishops, Archdeacons,
Parish Support Team, Area Deans, Oversight
Ministers, Focal Ministry Teams, Lay Leaders,
and all the baptised members of the diocese of
Sheffield, to help realise the Diocesan strategy
to be a flourishing and generous Diocese of
Sheffield by 2025: Renewed, Released and

This is of particular interest to me, since I was ordained as an Anglican in 1974 to a parish in Sheffield Diocese. The parish of Parson Cross became something of a cause célèbre for its successful evangelistic strategy in an area not before or since associated with such success in the C of E. Moreover, I have recently been in touch with some Sheffield Anglicans who are becoming concerned about what is happening there. It had been my intention for some time to write about the experience of Anglo-Catholic evangelism in the 70’s, and perhaps some comparison with the current experiments might not go amiss.

The parish of Parson Cross on the north edge of the city of Sheffield had been established when the estate was built between the wars. With a population of 42,000 it was reckoned to be the largest conventional parish in England. The parish had been staffed by the Kelham Fathers, but after their withdrawal, a married vicar and curate had struggled with this colossal parish and its three churches. In the late 1960’s a team of five clergy and one lay member of the Company of Mission Priests established itself in the rambling clergy house (the former Kelham priory) under the leadership of the late Fr Derek Gibbs (himself an old student of Kelham). The evangelistic thrust of parish life was clear right from the beginning with a simple but demanding commitment expected of Church members. Every year in preparation for the Patronal Feast of St Cecilia the clergy visited those on the electoral roll to renew his or her Rule of Life. During this time the large majority of people made their Confession.

The numbers rose steadily: I was there as a curate from 1974 – 1977 and on a average Sunday 200 people made their Communion. There was a noticeably high proportion of men – indeed at the weekday masses the congregation might consist entirely of men who had come straight from work in the steel mills. A great feature of the parish was the Social Club. Several years of hard fund-raising (no grants to my knowledge) provided a modern hall, bar and lounge, open every night of the week with social events at the weekend. Here the Church met the Parish – in a place familiar to the local people, clergy and church members socialised with their friends – a began to explore the deeper questions which began to arise. The annual Confirmation provided an opportunity for witness and commitment: local people were proud of the parish and belonging to it. Fr Gibbs prepared a large adult class with teaching which was deeply biblical and made real demands.

What was the role of the Bishop in all this? In terms of policy I guess he had little input: he was a pragmatist in believing that if it worked, if people were being brought to Christ, he would support it. But it was essentially a local initiative, and it went against the grain for its neighbours. And yes, there was a good deal of disapproval from the diocese at large. Our practice of Mass attendance and Confession annoyed both the liberals and evangelicals: our opposition to the Anglican Methodist Reunion Scheme and the growing feminist movement in the C of E meant that we were not supposed to grow the way we did. Today the Parish Church of St Cecilia is closed and demolished, the parish left with one daughter church and combined with its neighbour. No Anglican clergy live on the estate.

Faced with tiny congregations, worried laity and indifferent parishioners, the Anglican diocese of Sheffield is certainly working at its plan to reverse this trend. Here is a quote from its website,

The role of the Associate Archdeacon is to work
in partnership with the Bishops, Archdeacons,
Parish Support Team, Area Deans, Oversight
Ministers, Focal Ministry Teams, Lay Leaders,
and all the baptised members of the diocese of
Sheffield, to help realise the Diocesan strategy
to be a flourishing and generous Diocese of
Sheffield by 2025: Renewed, Released and

The contrast with what we did at Parson Cross is obvious: this is a top-down plan, the initiative of the Diocesan Bishop and staff, a plan to appoint many more people at management level while cutting posts at the parish level, eye-watering amounts of money spent on re-organisation. What is going on at a deeper level? Well, what’s in a name? It’s easy to dismiss the title of “Associate Archdeacon Transition Enablers” with a giggle about what the word ‘transitioning’ means today, but I was struck by “Oversight Ministers” – who would seem to be Team Rectors by a new name. “Oversight”, that’s what bishops do, isn’t it? And “ministers” is what the Protestants call their clergy; it’s “priests” in the C of E, or used to be. The diocese of Sheffield, at least some people in it, created a stink about the nomination of Bishop Philip North, on the grounds that he couldn’t accept women as priests. It would be ironic if now they were working towards the abolition of priests of either gender!

There will be those who argue that my concern about an Anglican diocese is impertinent: when I became a Roman Catholic I ‘deserted’ the C of E and left it to go its own way. I do not agree with them. The greatest boost to evangelism in England would be the re-union of the C of E with the worldwide Catholic Church. From its inception the Oxford Movement sought to demonstrate that the National Church stood in a peculiar and particular relationship to Catholicism. It claimed that it had not rejected hallmarks like the episcopacy, ordained priesthood, sacraments and liturgy. The formation of ARCIC and the pronouncements of Archbishops and Popes all seemed to be pointing the C of E in the direction of re-union (something even our secularised press would have found it difficult to ignore). The worry that this process has now gone into reverse must be of deep concern to all Christians. 150 years of progress towards unity and the possibility of the transformation of the religious scene in England should not be lightly set aside.

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(Anglo) Catholic Renewal – Loughborough & Caister

A friend of mine has been reading ‘Catholics in Crisis’ by Francis Penhale. Written in 1986 it was part of a Mowbray’s series on the Church of England. (At one time I had another book in the same series, ‘Evangelicals on the move’ by Michael Saward). My friend had been struck by the author’s portrayal of a movement on the decline and fearful about its future. ‘But I don’t remember it being like that in the 1980’s!’

Neither do I, which is why in this post I want to reminisce a little about the two Conferences held at Loughborough University in 1978 and 1983; and then the Caister Conferences, held annually (with some exceptions) between 1996 and 2008.

I was not at the first Loughborough Conference: my vicar at the time went, and brought me back copies of the addresses. I remember being deeply moved by one entitled ‘Consecration’, delivered by Richard Holloway. I recall his remark that priests usually make lousy prophets: they cannot see the wood because they are too busy caring for the trees. The second Loughborough Conference I did go to, though I remember little of it, except the evening hour of adoration led by the Charismatic Group (and presided over by a Bishop) – the first time I had experienced open prayer and the tongues in front of the Blessed Sacrament. A powerful combination I thought at the time – and still do.

The Caister Conferences (held at a holiday camp in Norfolk) were the initiative of the then Bishop of Horsham, Lindsay Urwin. He had felt the need for something that combined the elements of a Conference, teaching and fellowship, with a Retreat, worship and times of prayer. The Conferences were received with acclaim: with the daily centrepiece being an hour of prayer in silence before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There was much getting-together and much laughter, as you would expect of Anglo-Catholics. (I am reminded that the first night of the first Conference the bar ran out! They had had a well-known Evangelical Parish there the previous week – bar closed – and were stunned to discover that it was back to normal consumption with this group of Anglicans!) Attendance at the Conferences varied between 500 and 1,000. Not bad for a Movement judged from outside to be on its last legs.

Good modern liturgy, hymns and songs from Gregorian chant to Graham Kendrick, orthodox teaching and lively presentation – all stuff which one could take back to the parish. The current obsessions of the C of E were far away. It felt as if we were on the move – and perhaps we were, though not in the direction that we imagined. For a time it seemed as if the promises made by the C of E about ‘mutual flourishing’ would be honoured. Twenty years later I am inclined to agree with another friend who remarked, “It wasn’t so much that Anglo-Catholicism was dying, but rather that it wasn’t being given the space to breathe.”

Many of us now find ourselves swimming in the much larger sea of the Catholic Church. In the early days of formation for reception we were wisely advised to try to put behind us the controversies which had filled our time as Anglicans and I hope that posts like these do not reveal an obsession with the past. But I do want to give thanks for all the blessings heaped on us during difficult times, and for the joy and hope which I myself shared with many others. And I hope that the patrimony represented in the liturgy, prayer, teaching of fellowship of Caister is something which we can bring into the Catholic Church.

I have been reminded of the great gathering of Anglo-Catholics in East London to welcome and celebrate the Millennium in 2000, “Christ our Future”. The Mass filled the 10,000-capacity London Arena, and was concelebrated by the Archbishop of York, David Hope, with more than 35 other bishops and 750 priests, and the preacher was the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. So many clergy (visible in those days by the collar and often, the cassock) crowded on to the trains and tubes approaching the Arena that people stopped to ask what was going on. It was said to be the largest gathering of Anglicans to celebrate the Millennium. Significantly, it received little publicity in the Church or secular press. In spite of this, gatherings like this are of great value at the ‘celebration’ level (‘the more the merrier’ the books say) and Anglo-Catholics have been good at organising them).

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War graves – and racism!

My great uncle, Frank Anderson, died of his wounds in the Great War. His body is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Aubigny-sur-Artois in the Nord departement in France. Here in the Somme is the Chinese Cemetery at Noyelles-sur-Mer, on the way to the coast. The entrance gate, the design of Sir Edwin Lutyens, is shown in the photograph above.

In this cemetery are the graves of those Chinese who came from far away to join the Chinese Labour Corps. Many of them stayed on after 1918 and died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic. The cemetery is poignant and deeply moving.

It is sad to hear the reports from Africa of the bodies of black soldiers not treated with the respect that was undoubtedly their due, alongside their white colleagues. One hopes that this will soon be rectified.

The little cemetery at Noyelles shows the intention (apparently not always fulfilled) of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that there should be no distinctions among the dead of race or class.

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Entering the Catholic Church – Catechumenate, Reception, Infant Baptism …

The title of this post indicates the three ways in which people become Catholic Christians. But there is a lack of coherence, a mismatch, if you like, between the three.

Research has shown that a substantial of people become Catholics who are already believing Christians; they have practised their faith as Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals … A much smaller number are converted to Christ; they have not been baptised or brought up in the Christian Faith, and are therefore called Catechumens. Then there are the infants of Catholic parents brought to baptism. The commitment of these families will vary from those who are regular at the Sunday Eucharist and manifest a clear understanding of the Faith, right through to those who are there for social reasons – grand-parental pressure or the party afterwards.

Infant Baptism

The preparation of people in these different groups varies enormously, and the link between what is basically the same process – men women and children entering the Catholic Church – is not at all clear.

The preparation of those who are already believing Christians has become much more sensitive and understanding in recent years. These are people who have been living the Christian Faith for many years. They have come to realise that for the fullness of Christian life they need to embrace the unity and truth of Peter. If they come from the C of E and its Anglo-Catholic tradition they may well have a grasp of the Eucharist, a devotion to Mary, and an adherence to the Sacrament of Penance deeper than some cradle Catholics! In the past this has not always been understood by Catholic laity and even some Catholic clergy. Nonetheless, they do not want to ‘slip in by the back door’. They want to prepare seriously for a profound moment in their Christian journey and they want to mark that moment liturgically within the Catholic Community.

The preparation for adult baptism lasts normally two years. Various rites presided over by the Bishop in his Cathedral Church mark the decisive process of becoming a Catholic Christian. The newly baptised are anointed in Confirmation and receive the Eucharist, thus restoring the traditional order of Initiation. The process is profound and absorbing, though it needs to be animated effectively and imaginatively by those who accompany and teach the Catechumens.

Sunday by Sunday, often in the afternoon fitted in between the morning and evening gatherings for the Mass, infants will be baptised. Here in this rural diocese in France the huge majority will be of families who rarely, if ever, go to Mass. More and more parents in this group defer the baptism until they can afford the obligatory party (which they have arranged before approaching the parish) The Baptism preparation team does its best in a couple of sessions, but its suggestion that the families might want to continue their connection with the parish community after the baptism is greeted with blank looks. Of course, this attitude is not universal, but I believe it is widespread. Even among the faithful there is a belief that baptising a child – without any sign of commitment from the family – might somehow do some good; and that refusal or even conditions somehow “puts off” parishioners. The evidence suggests otherwise.

I am not for one moment suggesting the abolition of infants baptism – such a position would be unscriptural! I am proposing that the gap between baptism of adults and of babies (and questions concerning preparation, celebration of the baptismal liturgy, and discipline) be acknowledged and tackled.

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Praying in troubled times

On Good Friday a special intercession was added to the Solemn Prayers of the Liturgy. Here is the prayer for use with the Ordinary Form:

Let us pray also for all those who suffer the consequences of the current pandemic, that God the Father may grant health to the sick, strength to those who care for them, comfort to families and salvation to all the victims who have died.

Almighty ever-living God,
only support of our human weakness,
look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children
who suffer because of this pandemic;
relieve the pain of the sick,
give strength to those who care for them,
welcome into your peace those who have died
and, throughout this time of tribulation,
grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love.
Through …

In the Ordinariate this prayer, based on one found in the Anglican 1662 Book of Common Prayer, was said by those using the Divine Worship Missal:

Let us pray likewise for all who suffer through plague or sickness: that God the Father Almighty may bestow on us the healing of his grace.

V. Let us bow the knee. R. Arise.

O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also in the time of King David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, 3and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest; Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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A new perspective on the Easter Vigil

Last year I celebrated the liturgies of the Easter Triduum on my own! We were in lockdown, here in France. This year we are in lockdown again, but we can gather in church for worship providing we are careful to observe the necessary precautions. But one of features of the confinement is the curfew: we cannot go out after 7pm. This meant no Vigil during the night of Holy Saturday, and we were advised to celebrate it beginning before dawn on Easter morning.

The immediate cry of the faithful was “too early” but we pressed ahead with the arrangements. I had not attended such a pre-dawn celebration since my days at Kelham, when we had a truncated liturgy without the Mass. I had always defended (as well as enjoying ) the night Vigil – so what would this experience, forced on us by the times we are living in, mean for me?

I was immediately struck by our drive through the dark and silent villages on our way to the other end of this parish. We had simplified the rite as per the instructions and I missed gathering round the large bonfire outside the church, and looking in the gloom across the valley. We proceeded with the Exsultet: after five years I can sing it fairly fluently in french and the words now make a direct impression on me. When we reached the Gloria the bells of the carillon started to ring; I imagine that at least a few of the inhabitants of the village of Long were wondering what on earth was going on. We finished with the hymn “Allez par toute la terre” which repeated the words of the Risen Christ in St Mark’s Gospel, as we came out into the first light of Easter morning.

In spite of the initial reservations 40 people exactly came to the Vigil. (In 2019 there were 55 present at 9pm on Saturday evening). What did surprise me was the number who went home, had breakfast and then came to the 11 am Mass at Pont Rémy. I teased the singers and musicians that they sang better first thing in the morning: certainly, the music was good, and the participation by everyone clear and confident. This, I think, is the result of several years of consistent and straightforward liturgy in which the people are expected to be alert and intelligent – and not treated like children who have to be taught some novelty on every occasion!

The early morning Vigil has a different ethos: it is gentler (more English?) while the night Vigil has great strength and power in it. During Eastertide it will be helpful to hear the reactions of those who took part in this fresh expression of Easter worship.

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Were we really Catholics?

Soon after the vote in the General Synod of the Church of England in 1992 to ordain women to the priesthood, a colleague of mine expressed his sense of anger: “Once I was a bitter Catholic; now I am just bitter.” For many laity and clergy in those years after that vote there was to be profound questioning of what they had previously believed about the nature of the Church of England. It was expressed by the late Brian Brindley who said that he felt like a vacuum-cleaner salesman who had discovered that the product he had been selling all his life just didn’t work. Some who went “over to Rome” were quite happy to leave all that they had been and done in the past; others hesitated over the move, believing that to accept Catholic ordination would be to deny what they had previously believed.

Many were helped by the remark of the Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglicans who had approached him were living the Catholic life, although outside the Catholic Church as defined by the Catechism. Those who sought to be reconciled with the Catholic Church were encouraged to bring the life they had led as Anglicans as a gift to be shared.

Those who have experience of school inspections will perhaps recall the phrase ‘working towards’ – for those who had not achieved a certain level but were on the right path. Increasingly in the second half of the 20th century Anglo-Catholics rejected the ‘Branch Theory’ – that the Catholic Church had three branches, Anglican, Roman and Orthodox. The dynamic move towards Christian unity convinced them that Anglo-Catholicism could not be a ‘party’ within the C of E. Its aim was to identify elements of Catholic belief and practise, and to steer her into fullness of communion with the See of Peter, the rock from which she was hewn.

Would this have been possible? Yes, it would! But as we look back now over nearly 30 years we can see that the C of E stood at the cross roads and had to make a crucial decision. Before it could decide whether or not to admit women to the priesthood, it had to be clear what that priesthood was. But it could not ask that question because it feared the answer. Or rather, the answers: for the C of E had held together three groups who held mutually incompatible doctrines of the ministry. This was most vividly illustrated recently by the ordinand on BBC Radio 4 Sunday worship who spoke of being “ordained a curate” later this year. It appears that this is now the understanding of ordained ministry in the C of E – as we feared after that fateful vote.

Now what of the Ordinariate project? Certainly in England the numbers did not materialise as hoped. At times there were surprises among those who became Catholics and those who did not – not always the people one imagined. The groups were small, and whole or even majority congregations fewer than expected. The Anglican authorities were defensive and not, on the whole, generous; the Catholic authorities (in the UK at least) seemed sometimes not to understand the rationale for the Ordinariate. Yet it has survived, and perhaps most important of all, shown a new path to unity. This has been a real challenge when the unity movement has been largely reduced to a service in January followed by a weak cup of tea. Perhaps the chief difficulty for the Ordinariate in the UK is the unwillingness of so many, both within and without the religious scene, to treat it seriously and to give it that publicity which it needs.

The question of the “Anglican Patrimony” – that gift to be shared with the whole Church – remains a tricky one. The publication of the Divine Worship Missal has led many to concentrate on liturgy, somewhat to the marginalising of spirituality, pastoral practice, the clerical life, preaching and music. In all of these areas there is a rich Anglican heritage. But then it is difficult to develop these areas when so much time and energy has to be spent in the business of survival!

Jesus said, ” unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ” (John 12,24) These words give me hope for the future.

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And after the virus?

I was on the ‘phone recently, one Thursday evening, to some friends in the UK. A few minutes before 9pm they said they had to ring off, as it was time to stand in their front porch and applaud the National Health Service and all its personnel.

Bravo to that say I. Both before and during the crisis we (by which I mean the British) have often spoken of how much we value the Health Service and all who work in it – doctors, nurses, ancillary staff. But we have a problem which is that we don’t want to pay for it. That’s because it’s a ‘service’ and is funded out of taxation, and we don’t vote for any party which might increase taxation. Yet we are prepared to pay phenomenal prices to go to a football match or the opera, or to go on holiday or to a restaurant. We tell ourselves that we ‘need’ all these things, when in fact we ‘want’ them, which is different. That’s where advertising comes in – to convince us, first, that we ‘want’ something (usually with the argument that everyone else is having/doing/enjoying it) and then justifying the ‘wanting’ by turning it into ‘needing’ (which is morally more comforting).

We don’t have advertising campaigns for the National Health Service. From time to time the tabloid newspapers run a sentimental story about our ‘angels’  but you can be sure that, come the next election, their anti-tax campaigns will have ousted stories about health workers.

So what will happen when the pandemic is over, or when we have got used to living with it? Was the Thursday night clapping a sentimental gesture, or will there be real change, which means a change in our values? We human beings in our unregenerate state are selfish. Our present economic system relies on that selfish individualism to maintain itself. Only conversion of heart to the true God who created us and redeemed us, can change the way we live. The Church must call for conversion and grace, not just in individual lives, but in politics and society.

The Church knows (it) to be false – namely man’s competence to save himself. In this respect, the human race is in the same plight as Humpty-Dumpty, whose fall involved a break into fragments, just like that of the human race, which no-one, neither he himself nor even all the King’s horses and all the King’s men, could mend; for man’s only hope of re-integration lies in the act of the One who originally created him. 

Man made schemes such as Communism (‘Workers of the world unite’), National Socialism (‘the solidarity of the race’) Federal Union (‘Nations, get together’) all collapse because of their partiality, the limitation of their scope to men in some particular capacity as class, nation or race and because they ignore the root cause of this disruption, which is sin. 


Fr P McLaughlin of the Church Union, writing in 1944, in a series designed to look forward to the re-building of society after the Second World War. 


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The language of the liturgy

Thaxted Church in Essex

At the Reformation the Catholic Mass emerged from behind the screen and became visible: the Anglican liturgy emerged from behind the screen and became audible.

Compare and contrast, as they used to say in exam papers, the mediaeval building with its long chancel and rood screen, with the classical churches of Rome or the baroque churches of Austria. In the former the liturgy is veiled and distant, the people are almost in another room. In the latter the altar is visible, close, and all the participants are in a single space. In the Anglican buildings from the 16th – 19th century it is the pulpit which dominates often with the reading desk. The word is proclaimed to the people in their pews. From time to time – even every Sunday in  town churches – some will move from their seats to gather round the Holy Table. The  action of the liturgy, which had almost disappeared in the 1552 Prayer Book of Edward VI, is somewhat restored in the 1662 Book where the priest is required to place bread and wine on the Table, and during the Prayer which is now headed Prayer of Consecration, he is to take the bread and break  it, and then to take  the cup of wine. In the Catholic Mass of the post-Reformation period there is considerable (perhaps too much) action, but at the heart of the liturgy the taking-blessing-breaking-giving action remains intact. The gradual withdrawal of the laity from Communion, which began in the mediaeval period, has now become the norm. It takes the concerted action of Pope St Pius X at the beginning of the 20th century to restore this central act of participation to the Mass.

The Gothic Revival in architecture in the 19th century, combined with the Oxford Movement in the C of E,  saw the restoration of the altar, though distanced from the people by the erection of screens and the positioning of the robed choir in the chancel. In spite of the frenetic activity of AWN Pugin, the long chancel and the screen did not return to Catholic worship: indeed, the colossal reredoses and soaring Benediction thrones serve to make the sanctuary more prominent, though sometimes reducing the altar to the appearance of a shelf or sideboard.

So we enter the 20th century with the Liturgical Movement in both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, encouraging the restoration of both the  visual and the  aural,   action and  word, in the worship of the Eucharist. This is realised to some extent in the  Parish Communion Movement in the C of E, though there is a reactionary movement among some Anglo-Catholics copying the then current Catholic practice, and among Evangelical Anglicans who want to return to a Cranmerian doctrine of the Communion Service, and for whom  action  leads inexorably to offering. 

In the liturgical reforms which emanate from the Council, the restored emphasis is on both  action and  word and the full participation of the whole People of God in the worthy offering of the Mass.

The Ordinariate liturgy stands within the liturgical and theological context of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In its celebration therefore, the active participation of all the people is to be clearly seen. From the theological emphasis of the English Reformation comes its insistence on the proclamation and preaching of the Word of God in scripture.

Fr Herbert McCabe, writing in 1964, said, “The actual Scriptures ceased to be thought of as a nourishment for Catholics, and they substituted books of Christian doctrine. It did not seem to them scandalous or even particularly surprising that the Epistle and Gospel at Mass should be read in an inaudible manner in a foreign language by someone standing with his back to them – it is all right because soon he will turn round and tell us quite audibly about the catechism and the second collection. ” (The New Creation – Herbert McCabe OP p.14)

The ‘proclamation’ of the Ordinariate liturgy in a careful, articulate, thoughtful and coherent manner is all the more important because it uses Tudor English, with words and grammar which are not immediately obvious to our generation. Speaking too quickly, mumbling, emphasis on the wrong words all detract from the one of the fundamental principles of the liturgical patrimony of Anglicanism, clearly included and incorporated in  Divine Worship. 

It will not be easy, that is clear. We live in an age when the English language, because of its wide use across the world, is subject to uncontrolled change. Unlike the French, we have no  Académie to direct the evolution of the language. To suggest that some new words, phrases and grammatical constructions have debased and spoiled the language are greeted with hoots of laughter and cries of ‘elitism’. The truth is worse still: that many of these words and phrases are designed to hide the real meaning or to cover up the fact that the speaker does not know what he is talking about!

Divine Worship  is not perfect. It includes ‘sublime’ Cranmer (the Collect for Advent Sunday), ‘heavy’ Cranmer (the Confession at Mass) and sometimes the sort of latinate translations so wickedly parodied by Fr Harry Williams CR in his autobiography. But nonetheless, when it is used it deserves to be ‘proclaimed’, as far as the words of the liturgy are concerned, with clarity, simplicity and even a certain elegance; but always with the intention that it shall be ‘Pastoral Liturgy” – that the people may be enabled to worship worthily and to grow in the faith.




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Can you teach an old priest new tricks?

Yes, you can!  My sister and her husband in England suggested that we might put my new acquired competence with Skype to spiritual use. So today the three of us recited the Office of Lauds on Skype. Slight problem with synchronising – quite took me back to Kelham days when we used to sing the Psalms back and forth across the choir with a long pause in the middle of each verse. I used to wonder whether, one day, no-one would come in for the second half. It never happened, and a sort of grunt from Fr Alfred was the usual prompt. When Fr Robin Ward was my colleague at Willesden Green he taught me to recite  the Breviary Office like that.  Most people nowadays seem to say the psalms with the 4-line stanzas, and no pauses, and don’t know what the asterisks and daggers denote.

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