The Ordinariate and the New Evangelisation

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden… your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

I was greatly looking forward to the Conference on the New Evangelisation for the Ordinariate, held at St Patrick’s, Soho   Square, in central London. There was a last minute change in our speakers, Fr Aidan Nichols OP taking over from Fr Allan Hawkins, who was recovering from a nasty accident. Both Fr Aidan in the morning, and Fr Paul Richardson (a former Anglican Bishop) presented us with carefully prepared, useful and thought provoking addresses. The text of Fr Aidan’s address can be found on the official Ordinariate website (will Fr Richardson’s soon join it? ) and the Ordinariate Expats blog – and Fr Ed Tomlinson’s blog both have their own summaries. Rather than just join the summaries, I want to take some of the points the speakers made and draw them out, especially in the light of past Anglo-Catholic experience of growth and decline.

‘What you need to do is to grow churches.’  These words of Fr Aidan’s stirred memories of reading, and trying to interpret for Anglo-Catholics, the theory and practice of the Church Growth Movement (CGM). This is where it would have been most interesting to hear from Fr Hawkins, for the Americans have much more direct experience of ‘planting churches.’ This means, quite simply, that you establish a congregation in an area where one does not exist, and you then evangelise to add new members and thus make it grow in size.  In the last 30 years we have seen this happening in the UK among evangelical Christians. We became conscious of what we then called the House Churches. At the early stage of their life they were just this: a group of Christians meeting for Sunday worship and weekday fellowship in someone’s house. Their primary means of evangelisation was through friendship: each of the group bringing a friend.

Fr Aidan gave us a useful three-fold division of the mission of the church: pastoral care which is for the faithful; missionary activity which takes place among non-Christians; the new evangelisation which is directed to post Christians, i.e. those who have  been baptised but have never practised the faith –  those who once did, but now have lapsed – families who have abandoned the faith which they kept (but also gradually lapsed from) over several generations.

The work of the CGM has identified four ways in which congregations grow: first is biological growth, by which the children of believing parents grow up in the faith and life of the Church coming to make their own mature commitment; secondly, recovery growth, in which those who had lapsed return to regular practise of their religion; thirdly, transfer growth, as people move home (or country!) and join a new congregation; and fourthly, conversion growth, when an unbeliever is converted, baptised and enters into the Christian Way.

The statistics show that the Church of England has been in gradual decline from the beginning of the 19th century. There was at that time a dramatic increase in population coupled with the wholesale removal of the rural population into the towns and cities because of the Industrial Revolution.  The decline which follows is masked by the tremendous church building programme, and by the heroic efforts of a newly energised and professionalized clergy, together with the revival of the Religious Communities, and women ministering as Deaconesses and Parish Workers.

The statistics show that by the latter half of the 18th century the Catholic Church in England had almost died out. Even with the Catholic Relief Bills and finally Emancipation in 1829, it took the external forces of clergy émigrés from the Terror of the French Revolution and waves of Irish immigration to give to the indigenous Catholic Church new heart and courage. Then the Church grew continuously until the 1960’s, when decline set in.

Fr Paul Richardson pointed to some of the things which have contributed to the decline of church-going: secularisation in all its forms; the general decline of clubs and political parties; women gong out to work; leisure activities. But the facts are indisputable:  in 1980 12% of the population went to church on Sunday, but by 2007 it had halved to 6%.  Fr Paul took us through new forms of spirituality (proving that religious practice is far from dead, though often expressed in ways far removed from orthodox belief) and the idea of ‘believing without belonging’, pointing to the statistic of a recent survey where 70%  of the population of the UK identified themselves as ‘Christian’.

Fr Paul was quite clear that churches do grow!  Fr Aidan’s observation was that while the native Anglo/Irish Catholics are declining, numbers are increasing with incomers from Asia and Africa – transfer growth in CGM terms.  The Anglican Diocese of London claims 70% growth between 1990 and 2010, but the Anglican Diocese of Southwark has seen decline. Why?

‘To know Jesus Christ and the power of his Spirit.’  Both our speakers were clear that there could be no growth without the renewal in
holiness and discipleship of each individual Catholic Christian. And even where this happened good people were still unclear about what they believed and how they could speak of it to others. The Year if Faith is the essential preliminary to any meaningful evangelisation.

Both our speakers engaged with the hopes and the difficulties of evangelisation. It seems to me now that the Ordinariate has a very important question to ask itself.  In the Church of England we were often small congregations of perhaps 50 – 60 people. We declined because we were absorbed in maintaining large buildings, elaborate worship, music, fundraising, paper work and committees.  If we take an Ordinariate Group of 20 and put it into its own building and with its own priest to support, why should the previous pattern of decline now be transformed into one of growth?  Good liturgy (however that may be understood) will not, on its own, reverse the decline.

Speaking of liturgy, a few reflections on the Mass which concluded the day. The use of the (American) Book of Divine Worship was not an obvious one for a day like this. But it certainly helped to remind me just how far Anglo-Catholics in the UK have moved from the ‘Prayer Book’ liturgies which are now a memory only for those of us over 60. Indeed, I have spoken in a previous post of just how much we have been formed by our use of the 1970 Roman Missal and Breviary.  The language of Cranmer felt repetitive and over-wordy, and had an uncomfortably ‘Protestant’ feel to it.  The ceremonial which accompanied it seemed incoherent: cross and two candles, burse and veil and clergy sitting uncomfortably in the choir stalls seemed rather like a C of E Deanery Eucharist; then to this was added censing of everything and everyone at the offertory, and five lines of rubric to tell us communicants that we must NOT touch the chalice.  It was a liturgy which really fell between two stools – it is not where most ordinary English (Ordinariate) Catholics are, nor will it appeal to the Prayer Book enthusiasts waiting in the C of E.

That said, thank you to our speakers, our organisers and our host parish. More on evangelisation and more on growth, please.

Scott Anderson

The Year of Faith … is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord… the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith.                                        Pope Benedict XVI in Porta Fidei.




About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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5 Responses to The Ordinariate and the New Evangelisation

  1. M1 says:

    Amen to your comments about the liturgy. I don’t remember the days of ‘Prayer Book’ liturgies within Anglo Catholicism and have only really known the 1970 Roman Missal and Breviary. My worry is that those who are most enthusiastic about the reintroduction of such liturgies are the ones who never experienced them (ie. Those under 35). They seem to be seeking to recreate a golden age which either never really existed or which petered out through liturgical evolution.
    The thing that we always need to remember is that for Anglo Catholics the cobbling together of catholicesque liturgy using Cramner and the silent canon was only an interim measure and was never intended to be a permanent feature of Anglo Catholic Worship. With this in mind it seems to me that the introduction of the Book of Divine Worship is a backward step.
    The Ordinariate has sets its course and runs the risk of alienating those faithful that it so desperately needs to attract in order secure its future. I pray that there may be a balance (and I pray even more that next years Chrism Mass will still be Novus Ordo.)

    • Don Henri says:

      Well, if the ordinariate adopts the Novus Ordo, where is its patrimony besides clergy wives? I, for one, like very much the feel of the Prayerbook liturgy (as much as I like the Tridentine Mass, and I’m less than 30 years old) and hope the ordinariate will help fostering good quality vernacular liturgy (that the 1970 Missal is NOT) in the Catholic Church.
      I think ordinariate groups in England will, once the definite rite is authorized by Rome (one equally acceptable for English, American, Australian and other shades of Anglicans), either adopt it, and introduce a new generation of Christians to Abp. Cranmer’s magnificent prose, or disappear in the mainstream Church, having no peculiarity whatsoever to prevent them of doing so.
      After all, if so many young people are attracted to the Tridentine Mass, most of whom have never experienced it beforehand, why couldn’t the Anglican Use thrive in England?

      + PAX et BONUM

      • Edward says:

        The Patrimony is certainly not matrimony! Indeed it is not just liturgy either. I am a member of the Ordinariate and rather saddened that the Ordinariate here in the UK in its publicity and PR has shown something of an obsession with liturgical matters. It is therefore understandable that you, Don Henri, have not been alerted to the the much broader contribution to the life of the Catholic Church that we former Anglicans can, and do, make. Yes, liturgy and music are part of that but there is, I venture to suggest, a great deal more which I hope will be explored more thoroughly in future posts on this most helpful and welcome blog.

      • Harry says:

        I mostly agree with you Edward, we must get the Liturgy right (almost typed rite!) but like you I am more interested in what else we can bring to the Catholic Church. A clue might be in a comment that was made elsewhere that the CofE always saw itself as the Church for the whole community and not just the faithful. I’m not saying that a Catholic Parish ignores those around it but I think the CofE’s history has developed a different approach. My own feelings in the Catholic Church are of a different “culture”, for want of a better word, that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I think that this may hold the clue to “Anglican Patrimony”. It’s a different approach to being a parish and it may be helpful to look at this. Like you, I agree that we have to get beyond worrying about the liturgy but I’m concerned about the move to adopt Divine Worship or something similar.

        Now to Don Henri, from the 1970’s a large proportion of us used the Roman Rite while Anglicans and any regular use of the 1662 Prayer Book Communion Service (Cranmer’s book was 1549) became relatively rare, those who did not want to use the Roman Rite were able to use Series 2, Series 3, the Alternative Service Book and finally Common Worship all of which used vernacular English more or less of the same style as Novus Ordo. Divine Worship was authorised for use by ex Anglicans in North America who joined the Catholic Church before the establishment of the Ordinariates. When I obtained my copy my first reaction was why adopt archaic language? The language Cranmer used in his book was the normal good style of his day, which is precisely why it was used to make the liturgy more accessible to the laity in contrast to the Latin Mass. If we follow this approach of making the Mass accessible, then our liturgy must be, as you say, be in the vernacular and in good style. You must also take into account that the 1662 Prayer Book is based on a differnet understanding of the Eucharist and this is why its structure is different from the Roman Rite and these differences are a continuation of the Prayer Books of the previous century (the books of 1549, 1551, 1559 and 1604), There are difficulties in translating any text, especially a liturgical one and both the earlier and the present translations of the Roman Rite have their problems, ( eg the use of “you who” as a modernisation of “thou who” – say it out loud) but are for the most part “fit for purpose”. I am like you attracted to the dignity and ceremony of the Mass done properly either in Latin or the vernacular but we must be careful not to let the language obscure the real meaning of the Mass. As Edward says our main interest must be what contribution we can make to the Church.


  2. Dr Harry Donnelly aka "Aitch" says:

    Hear, hear to both of your reflections on the Liturgy following the meeting. I acquired a copy of Divine Worship a few years ago but this is the first time I’ve “seen it in action”. I think its general use would be a mistake, I was brought up a Prayer Book Anglican, but I agree with M1 that those who want to use this Order are seeking to re-create a goldent age which never existed and do risk alienating at least some of us in the Ordinariate. We really must try and see beyond Cranmer in understanding our Anglican Patrimony and what we bring with us into the Catholic Church. Comments on the Liturgy aside, well done to all who organised the day and to our hosts at St Patrick’s for their hospitality.

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