Understanding the Ordinariate

In my time as a Catholic I have discovered two things. First, that most ‘cradle’ Catholics assume that fomer Anglicans in the Ordinariate are conservative, liturgically and otherwise.  Second, that the English in the Ordinariate do not grasp the importance of the Book of Common Prayer as a rallying-point for American Anglicans of orthodox belief.  I want in this post to examine these issues.  Clearly, I know much more about what happened in my life time to English Anglo-Catholics: perhaps others will be able to fill in my sketchy understanding of American Anglican history of the last fifty years.

The heritage of the English Prayer Books

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption …  (1662 Prayer of Consecration)

I am of an age which can still recite  sections of the Book of Common Prayer (sometimes known as 1662 from the year of its last revision).  This is because when I was a child it was the liturgy used in every parish church.  Of course, if you know anything about the C of E you will also know that the setting in which this liturgy was celebrated and belief about it varied enormously.  Here is the sort of church in which I was brought up and prepared for Confirmation.  You will notice that the Holy Table has books at either end.  This allows for the  custom (normal until the 19th century) of the priests kneeling for the Communion Service at the short end of the altar, which was known as the ‘north-end’ position.  There is neither cross nor candlesticks  on the altar. low church

Yet every Sunday in this setting, the three Prayer Book Services of Holy Communion, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were celebrated, with little deviation from the permitted form except for the use of hymns at the two latter services.  Now it is my understanding that such Evangelical Anglicanism never really existed in the United States.  In England such churches were the inheritors of the Puritan tradition, who remained for various reasons within the National Church rather than forsaking it for “Dissent” in the 17th century.  In spite of the Evangelical Revival at the end of the 18th century, Anglican Evangelicals became ever weaker in the 19th century, although closely associated with the establishment and producing many of the bishops.  Their revival began after the Second World War and was boosted by the missions of Billy Graham and, somewhat paradoxically, by the decline of the mainline Free Churches in the second half of the 20th century.

The influence of the Liturgical Movement

So when at the age of 14 I moved to the neighbouring parish which was Anglo-Catholic, I found a huge difference in the ceremonial presentation of the services, but little difference (audibly at least) in the words.  What was noticeable was that the words of the Prayer Book had been re-arranged so that the Prayer Book Communion service now took on the shape of the Eucharist as it had been known since the first centuries of Christianity.  Of course, there were doctrinal issues at stake here, for Archbishop Cranmer had deliberately re-arranged the order in his Prayer Book of 1552 because he no longer believed in the Mass.  From the beginnings of the 1833 revival, the Anglo-Catholics had sought to restore Catholic belief in the Eucharist, and by the end of the 19th century were expressing this in the renewed ceremonial of the service.  They followed this in the 20th century with a call for changes in the rite to express what they saw as the primitive understanding of the Eucharist, beyond and behind the controversies of the Reformation. For some time Evangelical Anglicans  clung to Cranmer’s rite, as expressing their reformed theology.

english altar 2

The English Use

In their search for the recovery of the Catholic form of the Eucharist in the Church of England, Anglo-Catholics had moved along two paths, and these are usually distinguished as ‘English’ and ‘Roman’ (though the ‘Roman’ school often called themselves ‘Western’ to avoid ruffling too many feathers.) The protagonists of the ‘English Use’ contented themselves with the Prayer Book Service clothed with ceremonial which they had borrowed and adapted from pre-Reformation England. The sanctuary above with its long, low altar, gothic reredos, and two candles, shows the ideal of the ‘English Use’. The English Use was the liturigcal expressions, by and large, of  an eccesiology which understood the Church of England to be a legitimate (and independent) branch of the worldwide Church – a sort of ‘Catholicism without the Pope’ which came to be tagged ‘Prayer Book Catholicism’. (But I have become aware that those who held to the Prayer Book in the USA were doctrinally orthodox, and from among them were many who made the first moves to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church) .

The Western Use

By contrast in the UK those who followed the ‘Western Use’ rejected the idea that the Church of England was some sort of independent expression of the Catholic Church, (with its own mind on ceremonial) standing on a par with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. (Such an ecclesiology had grown in the 19th century among some Anglicans, and was known as the ‘Branch Theory’). Rather, ‘West Use’ Anglicans believed the C of E to be two Provinces which had been cut off from the rest of the Western (Catholic) Church by the actions of King Henry VIII. They attempted to conform the English liturgy to the contemporary ceremonial of the (Roman) Catholic Church, thus looking forward to the day when the C of E would be restored to Communion with the Holy See.  (This last point would become more significant during the changes of the 1970’s and 80’s. )

Below is the side altar and Walsingham shrine at St Magnus, London Bridge: it represents the ideals of the Western Use in the first half of the 20th century. But it is worth noting that churches which were refurnished in this style rarely looked like contemporary English (Roman) Catholic churches, but rather more like the parish churches of France and Belgium. They are often geogeous but rather decadent looking, and designed to be both un-Anglican and un-English!

The papalist ideal: St Magnus, London Bridge

The papalist ideal: St Magnus, London Bridge

Anglicans across the Atlantic

As I understand it, the divisions among Anglicans in the United States were different, and expressed differently in worship.  There was no established Church, nor was there any history of the Catholic Church being the ‘original’ Church, as in Europe. Yet there was a great deal of church-going and a lot of money to be expended. The Episcopalians (as Anglicans are called in America) identified with the cultured, literate and  governing classes and built magnificent Gothic Revival churches, (like the Cathedral in Washington) with refined English music and furnishings. Thus they defined themselves over against the immigrant working class Catholics, and the revivalist Baptist and Pentecostal denominations. No significant tradition of ‘Anglican Papalism’ grew up, as far as I am aware.

Yet I wonder whether it was the lack of such (papalist) Anglo-Catholics, as well as their opposite numbers the conservative Evangelicals, which contributed, in part, to the growth of the most extreme Liberalism in what we must now call TEC – The Episcopal Church. Vestments and banners, candles and even incense, were widely used; but under this ‘front’ of outward Catholicism TEC was losing its grip – at first on moral issues like divorce and re-marriage, then on issues surrounding Holy Orders, and finally even on baptism and the doctrines of the Atonement and the Trinity.  Traditionalists in TEC took their stand over the liturgy, seeing the Book of Common Prayer as representing a norm of belief and practice which the Liberals were rapidly forsaking.  They clothed the celebration of the liturgy with a rich, traditional form of ceremonial which borrowed elements of both ‘English’ and pre-Council ‘Roman’ sources – but which identified them as definitely not belonging with the  new, liberal, TEC.  Thus Prayer Book language and the older forms of Anglo-Catholic ceremonial became associated with orthodox belief in the Episcopal Church: modern language rites, central altars and big modern vestments with liberal belief and the new moral agenda!

Church of the Advent, Boston, USA

Church of the Advent, Boston, USA

Meanwhile in England …The Vatican Council was widely welcomed by English Anglicans (although Evangelicals were cautious and even sceptical about whether ‘Rome’ had really changed), and there were hints of rapprochment, and even of re-union between the Communions.  The insights of the Liturgical Movement on the Continent now seemed to be coming to the fore, and the new English translation of the Roman Missal published in 1970 looked very much like the Eucharist which the C of E was moving towards. Admittedly, the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the Mass had taken a knock when Colin Buchanan had persuaded his fellow Evangelicals (especially in the House of Laity) to vote down the use of the word ‘offer’ in the Eucharistic Prayer. And unlike 2012 and the Women Bishops Measure no-one seemed to be outraged by the laity ‘thwarting’ the ‘clear mind’ of the C of E on this issue.

But some Anglo-Catholics were unhappy about the liturgical changes now coming from the Catholic Church. The loyal papalists, of course, put away their folded chasubles (or converted them into concelebration vestments)  and began facing the people for Mass. But the days of the very grand and wealthy Anglo-Catholic priests whose word was law, these days were over, and the laity were more assertive.  The lack of curates had meant a generation of lay ‘sub-deacons’ at the High Mass, and these men were not going to give up their tunicles without a fight! Just at the point when the Area Bishop had been persuaded to wear gloves and read his part by the light of the bugia,  these things were being abolished.

Anglo-Catholicism goes ‘gritty’ – at least in the north!

My first curacy (1974-77) was served on a huge northern housing estate, with a staff of six, and living together in a Clergy House.  For my first Mass I asked the Vicar if  the choir might sing a motet.  He grudgingly allowed it, was gleeful when it went wrong, and told me afterwards: ‘You’ll never be any good as a priest, because you’re too Radio Three.’  (I have to tell you that I got two friends to sing the same motet for my 25th anniversary, and they too got into trouble in the middle of it!  Perhaps Fr Gibbs was right about me.) Liturgy had its place, but too much interest in it was suspect.  (The Kelham influence in clergy formation, of course.) Visiting, teaching and hearing confessions – as well as time spent socialising/evangelising in the Parish Club were all given high priority in terms of our daily routine.  It was a success story and we were proud of it.  And I’m afraid we were rather disdainful about what we regarded as the ‘all-fur-coat-and-no-drawers’ Anglo-Catholicism of London, especially.

Lent in Leytonsone

Lent in Leytonsone

London Anglo-Catholicism catches up

My second curacy was in London, and it came as a shock.  The tiny congregation came to 11 am High Mass every Sunday, and there had been no changes, mainly because of pressure from the servers and choir (all three of them).  The next Vicar was having none of this, and had a large and spacious nnew sanctuary constructed in the nave,  (it was my late father’s first retirement project) introduced the Lectionary (younger clergy just cannot imagine what a joy it was to begin reading the Scriptures day by day through the year, and Sunday by Sunday over three years – in place of the Prayer Book readings repeated every day for a week!) and daily concelebrated Mass.  And what ‘proved’ that the changes were ‘right’ was that the congregation grew.  And when 30 years later the priest and most of the people joined the Ordinariate, Mgr Newton received twice as many people as I had known be at Sunday Mass in 1978.

A generation of ‘Vatican Two Anglicans’

Perhaps to the puzzlement of (Roman) Catholics, a generation grew up of Anglo-Catholics in England who were gladly swimming in the refreshing and sparkling waters, for so it seemed to us at the time, of the Council.  We convinced ourselves that we were winning over the C of E, and that re-union was around the corner.  We could see the resurgence of Evangelicalism, but we imagined that the Liberal/Establishment party was dying of dullness, and boring everyone else to death.  What we had not forseen was that the issue of ‘women priests’ would unite these two groups – both of them more deeply antagonistic to each other, than ever they were to us Anglo-Catholics.  Evangelicals convinced themselves that, after all the Bible did allow women to exercise leadership of the congregation, and united with the Liberals, who in turn saw this as just the issue to convince the people of England (well, Putney, Islington and the BBC) that the C of E was actually alive to the real concerns of ordinary people.  Both groups, voting in favour for entirely different reasons,  knew deep down  that this was the one issue which would prevent re-union with the Catholics and force the Anglo-Catholics to leave or conform.

Anglican clergy concelebrate at Walsingham

Anglican clergy concelebrate at Walsingham

The growth of  ‘Modern Catholics’

In the aftermath of the Synod vote of 1992 to allow bishops to ordain women to the Anglican priesthood, orthodox Anglo-Catholics moved into ‘semi-detachment’.

And the result was that those  who defined themselves and their parishes as ‘Modern Catholic’ in the C of E were the ones who – beginning in 1994 and again from 2011 (the Ordinariate) – sought to enter the fullness of Communion with the See of Peter: they became Catholics.

The implications for the future

The Apostolic Constitution which set up the Ordinariates speaks of Anglicans bringing those parts of their Patrimony which are consistent with the Catholic faith with them into the Church.  No doubt the liturgical services which have been and are being produced will be loyally used by the priests of the Ordinariate, for they are Catholic priests: they will use them appropriately, as they would both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of Mass which they have and celebrate with their people at the moment.

Moreover, due acknowledgement must be given to the simple fact that – in England at least – it was the celebration of the renewal of mission, life and liturgy which came to us through the Second Vatican Council – that led many Anglo-Catholics to be reconciled to the Catholic Church.  It is the reason why, time and again, former Anglicans speak of ‘coming home’ and ‘feeling at home’ after their Reception.

The Anglican Patrimony then, is not something at odds with modern Catholicism, but is becoming part of the current faith and practice of the Catholic Church, which we have always seen through Anglican lenses, as it were, and now celebrate within our full Communion.

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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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15 Responses to Understanding the Ordinariate

  1. Rhiannon says:

    What’s wrong with Radio 3?
    I think I’ve spotted the deliberate mistake – “kneeling” (at the north end)? Surely not?
    I might have read too fast, but did you never come across the “English Missal”, used by CSJB at Clewer in the 1950s – I suppose, looking back ,that it must have been the “1928” – which my father also used, but without calling it either 1928 or English Missal

    • No – the clergy really did kneel at either end of the Holy Table on large hassocks. Chairs were placed at either end so that they could sit for the readings. The elements of bread and wine (never mixed with water) were put ready before the service began on the centre of the altar, but the priest who was going to say the Prayer of Consecration took them to his end while he said the Prayer. He performed the ‘manual acts’ – taking the bread, breaking it, taking the cup etc. – as they are laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. This is as I remember it from the early 1960’s, and I believe this was standard practice in Evangelical parishes. The clergy always wore cassock, surplice, (academic hood) and black scarf. It was only after this time that the younger clergy began to develop a dislike of what they now call ‘the robes’.

      • Harry says:

        Try as I can I can’t remember the clergy kneeling at the north end, although the priest did kneel in the middle for personal prayer before communion. I do remember the bread and wine, or the wine at least, on a credence table at the side. There was also water, but from (hazy) memory this was only used after communion for the ablutions – not sure they would have used this word however, and the bread was small cubes of ordinary loaf bread. I do certainly remember the manual actions happening as laid out in the rubrics and communion immediately after consecration and ending with the Gloria. It’s all a bit to long ago and too many different liturgies since.

      • Rhiannon says:

        happy to take your word for this – have only once attended a north end celebration, and that was almost sixty years ago – but I do remember my friends from that church saying scornfully “all that papist kneeling” – about my own tradition

  2. Pingback: “Understanding the Ordinariate” by Ordinariate Pilgrim | Ordinariate Expats

  3. Don Henri says:

    Your historical points are indeed true, but now there is a need to probably return to more patrimonial forms of worship for English ordinariate people, because there is a need for some sort of differentiation from the “usual” Catholic, and because Benedict XVI asked them to bring to the Church something that is certainly not the 1969 Roman Missal! I suppose too that, as much as modern liturgy was “in” in the 70’s, we are now in need of more traditional patterns of worship, if only for the sake of attaining an equilibrium. Christianity is now counter cultural, let its worship be counter cultural too! Otherwise we might fall in liturgies that are mere “entertainment”.

    • Thank you for these thoughful comments which certainly help my thinking. Yesterday, after our Sung Mass (Ordinary form, facing the people, four hymns, de Angelis Gloria, Sunday School presentation at the end, engaging homily) one of our ‘cradle Catholics’ was enthusing about what the Ordinariate was bringing to the parish, including our ‘beautiful’ worship. He seems to have worked out what our ‘patrimony’ is while I still puzzle over it!

  4. Don Henri says:

    In France, the Bishop has to choose a mean of designation for all the Conseils paroissiaux of the diocese’s parishes. Members can be elected by the laity, co-opted by the other members, or designated by the Rector. I think in my diocese they are co-opted.
    Another reason why the priest should have the last word, as I have heard it from a rector: “the members of the conseil paroissial have not given their whole life to the Church, I have, therefore I decide”.

    + pax et bonum

    • Don Henri says:

      This was intended as an answer to your article about church governance, I have no idea why it displayed here!

  5. Harry says:

    Many thanks for your analysis of the Catholic side of the Cof E. Your experience is very similar to mine and I guess that we are contemporaries, perhaps I’m a bit older! My first encounter with “bells and smells” was in Aberdeen at S Margaret’s and I suspect that they used the English Missal or something very similar, but I can’t be sure as this was about 1972/73. Before that I was a member of the Church of Ireland and I do remember the Prayer Book Order for the Communion Service and certainly the celebrant standing at the north end. A big advance in the parish I used to attend was the adoption of stole rather than scarf,
    When I moved to South London the church was a mix of Roman and English, nave altar, “big six” and series whatever it was at the time. Subsequent parishes have used the Roman Rite but with Anglican variations, eg peace before the consecration, and Prayer of Humble Access.
    The layout was for the most part English, very much along the lines of Dearmer’s ideal in the “Parson’s Handbook” so really I suppose a hybrid.
    At present I suppose I’m more of a diocesan catholic, but I’m not alone in the parish as someone with “Anglican Previous” and we do try to bring a bit of that to the liturgy, though it’s hard to define just what it is. Perhaps a wider range of hymns, slightly less casual ceremonial.

    • I think your last sentence may well be the crucial one, and contains some very simple but very important wisdom. ‘Liturgy’ is fascinating, but in the end I hope that every Catholic wakes up on Sunday morning with just a little joy, gratitude and wonder at the thought of going to Mass. And those of us who have any responsibility for the worship owe it to the People of God to do everything to make this possible.

      • Harry says:

        My last sentence reflects experience both pre and post Ordinariate and I agree Liturgy/Ceremonial is fascinating, it gives an insight into belief but there is always a danger of becoming fussy or over concerned with detail. Nevertheless I still have my collection of the various “manuals”. Didn’t someone say that the Sunday Liturgy should give those present a glimpse of Heaven?

  6. Rhiannon says:

    Indeed – at least, to know that it is happening somewhere – there are so many places now where it doesn’t happen – or is impossible to get to –

  7. Harry says:

    On the general topic the Editorial in this month’s Portal Mag and Auntie Joanna are both worth reading – as is the whole mag!

  8. William Oosterman says:

    Thanks for the helpful overview and analysis of liturgical layout and doctrinal trends. North End was indeed the norm in Colonial Anglican churches in America, and stayed on in some places. Many committed Evangelicals organized the “Reformed Episcopal CHurch” in 1872

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