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Forward in Faith: Catholic devotion is a vital witness

25 November 2016

alan martin

“Nurture devotion”: the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, preaching at the Forward in Faith National Assembly in St Alban’s, Holborn, last Saturday

“Nurture devotion”: the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, preaching at the Forward in Faith National Assembly in St Alban’s, H...

THE Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, urged members of Forward in Faith, at their National Assembly in London last weekend, to take care to nurture Catholic devotional practices in the young, and new Christians.

In his sermon at St Alban’s, Holborn, he said: “I shall never forget the experience, in Walsingham, of seeing a young man recently released from a Young Offenders’ Centre kneeling next to a peer of the realm. They were equal in the sight of God, equal in their offering of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, equal in dignity as they approached the altar for communion at the intersection of time and eternity.”

The drama of liturgical worship was an act of witness “to the reality of heaven, to the communion of saints, and to our intimate encounter with Jesus”, as was the “joy and awe” with which they, as communicants, approached the altar. “I want you to ensure that you are ever attentive, in a casual and inattentive culture, to the quality of your devotional practices, and to the care with which you nurture them in the young and in new Christians.”

The Assembly heard that 412 parishes had resolved to seek ministry from the traditionalist bishops of the Society under the Patronage of St Wilfrid and St Hilda — rather more than the 368 Resolution C parishes that existed in 2014.

“We are sailing away from the battles of the past towards a safe harbour,” the Society’s projects officer, Anne Gray, said. “But this mustn’t mean we become stranded in self-absorption: it enables a refit and re-equip for our real task, that of mission.”

She had seen positive signs that they were becoming less isolated, “and more a respected, integral part of the Church of England” — as, for example, in the attitude of the Strategy and Development Unit at Church House to co-operation on statistics and mapping.

The Independent Reviewer appointed under the women-bishops legislation, Sir Philip Mawer, was also positive: “I am delighted to say that, after what might be seen as two ‘test cases’ in year one, this year I have, so far at least, been entirely unemployed.”

He hoped that the reason was that “bishops, dioceses, and parishes are simply getting on with the job, and are successfully rising to the challenge of implementing arrangements within the framework established by the Declaration” (accompanying the Measure).

After a presentation about the “Here I Am” vocations initiative, and IME 4-7 (post-ordination training) at Walsingham, during which the members were urged not only to pray for more priests, but to talk about vocations more to potential ordinands in the parishes, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, introduced a presentation and group discussion on the future of Catholic life in the Church of England.

As part of this, members were asked for their views on “six priorities”: forming all the baptised in Christ; making young disciples; offering worship that transforms; celebrating sacramental priesthood; being intentional in evangelism; and serving the common good.

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