Celebrating Abundant Life

by Gerry Lynch last modified 18 Sep, 2014 03:35 PM

Catholic Anglicans, including many from Salisbury, gather in Southwark Cathedral.

More than 300 people attended the inaugural festival of Anglican Catholic Future at Southwark Cathedral, entitled Life Abundant, including over a dozen from the Diocese of Salisbury. Anglican Catholic Future is a network of parishes and individuals that seeks to proclaim and embody the Catholic faith in the Church of England.  It is a network rather than an organisation, and seeks to complement rather than compete with existing Catholic groupings in the Church of England. 

Two major acts of worship were the anchor points of the day. A Sung High Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Southwark and the sermon was preached by the Most Revd Roger Herft, Archbishop of Perth in Australia. Evening worship was Lift High the Cross, a liturgy for the first evening office of the Feast of the Holy Cross devised by Canon Jeremy Davies, a resident of Farley in Wiltshire and former Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral, followed by Solemn Benediction. 

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, was one of those who attended the event, as one of the concelebrants at High Mass. Bishop Nicholas said, “The ordination of women was a question that preoccupied, divided and weakened Anglican Catholics. Now the ordination of women bishops has been decided there is an opportunity to renew and strengthen the Catholic witness in the Church of England. 

ACF Festival at the High Altar“The Anglican Catholic Future day was encouraging.  The key note address by Professor Alison Millbank, the sermon by Archbishop Roger Herft, the service and the groups were inspiring and renewed hope. It was a really good day for the whole Church.”

In his sermon, Archbishop Roger commended the new network for its commitment to a broad Anglicanism, saying, “I commend you for the desire you have to move outside of ecclesiastical party politics. There must be an alternative narrative to the words and actions that devalue the worth and dignity of those who are different. None of us leave such battlefields unscathed and we have no right to speak of reconciling grace to a broken church and to a fractured and hurting world.”

The day was opened by the Revd Alison Milbank, Professor of Theology at Nottingham University, whose keynote address celebrated the importance of beauty in worship to Catholic Anglicans – as long as it is done for the glory of God rather than as an end in itself.

“Beauty is at the heart of who we are as Anglican Catholics”, she said, “and we do liturgy with great care and elegance. It will, of course, only be truly beautiful if it is not an end in itself but an offering to God. God really does not care nor an angel fall if a sub-deacon makes the wrong move. Liturgy is in its decadence if concerns like that dominate our thoughts. What we do is seek to come close to the source of all beauty, and beauty, as Dionysius the Areopagite reminds us ‘sheds upon all things her life-giving ray’.”

The meat and drink of the day was provided by serious discussion and friendly banter of coffee and biscuits, and a series of workshops discussing issues from worship for young people to Biblical imagination to faith in the public square.

ACF Festival PackedOne priest from the Diocese who attended was the Rev’d Becky Roberts, Vicar of Harnham, a parish in the City of Salisbury.

“I attended the event because I wanted to be challenged by a Catholic understanding of the Church of England”, she said, “and I knew there would be good speakers at the event. I especially enjoyed worshipping with like-minded people, and having the space to think about sacraments and social justice.”

Many of the same themes were echoed by the Revd Janneke Blokland, a newly ordained deacon and Assistant Curate of Marlborough.

“I was surprised how many people attended”, she said, “and the atmosphere was buzzing. I really liked the friendship and fellowship, and the way lay and ordained people came together in discussions. So much of what we discussed in the workshops is applicable to day-to-day parish life. In fact, the sacramental understanding of faith comes alive in parish ministry. It was eally beneficial to reflect theologically on this.”

Learn more on the Anglican Catholic Future website: www.anglicancatholicfuture.org.

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