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Sunday, 1 July 2018

A joyous, solemn occasion

New priests for the Personal #Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, ordained yesterday at the Birmingham Oratory.          Source: Twitter @FrJamesBradley

Compare the above photograph of eight new priests ordained at the Birmingham Oratory yesterday with the selection of photographs of Church of England’s dabbing deacons and jumping bishops.

As a Guardian article put it prior to the Petertide ordinations, "the stern, decorous images that used to mark these occasions are being replaced by a trend for more frivolous action shots – with dabbing deacons showing up alongside priests leaping, baring their knees and even wearing L-plates. Their defenders see the new informality as a sign of holy joy. But hardcore traditionalists, along with casual curmudgeons, are less than elated.

"Their ire was recently roused by a shot of six readers being licensed at St Alban’s Cathedral, showing clear air under the heels of a jumping bishop of Hertford, the Rt Rev Michael Beasley."

Ministry reaches new heights in St Albans as 6 Readers are licensed.        Twitter@StAlbansAbbey

There is no dignity of office apparent in the St Albans photograph. The sacred ministry is made to appear comic. While the Anglican Church has become 'more relevant to society' it has lost its sense of 'otherness'.

Following a previous entry a commentator took exception to my reference to Messy Baptism which appears to be getting people out of church rather than in. When the Messy 'font' was revealed a child could be heard calling out, "That's our paddling pool!" Precisely. 

Fonts are often placed at or near the entrance to a church's nave to remind believers of their baptism as they enter the church to pray, since the rite of baptism served as their initiation into the Church (Wikipedia). In bygone days there was a link with the past when generations of the same family may have been baptised at the same font.

Surely it is more important to get people into church and Holy Baptism is one of the main opportunities for doing so along with marriages and funerals.

But that is no guarantee of success. People can be easily put off as was a mother who complained to a friend about a modernised confirmation service in which the bishop invited all the candidates to stand around him in a semi-circle. He awkwardly negotiated his way between the vicar and the candidates in an informal, happy-go-lucky manner rather than having the candidates kneel individually in front of him to hear those memorable words: "Confirm, Lord your servant with your heavenly grace, and anoint him/her with your Holy Spirit; empower him/her for your service and keep him/her in eternal life.  Amen." A moment I still recall as one of deep spiritual significance, probably enhanced by the austere bearing of the bishop.

The lack of 'otherness' was not helped by the fact that the bishop first baptised one of the confirmation candidates inserting a few wisecracks. If holiness is next to Godliness the Almighty was conspicuous by His absence.

Familiarity is killing Anglicanism. On BBC Breakfast TV yesterday, the Chief Constable of Durham police shared his supposedly impartial views on the consecration of woman bishops.

Consecration of woman bishop                                                                 Source: BBC Breakfast TV

Struggling to explain what was happening he reached a consensus with the presenters that the consecration of women bishops had become 'normal', creating a 'balance'.

It may be 'normal' for the Church of England as currently informed by society, mainly non-churchgoing bystanders who feel free to voice an opinion from a position of ignorance.

It is definitely not normal in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.


  1. That's not the Bishop of Lancaster!

    Congratulations to the new Ordinariate priests!

  2. Replies
    1. I'm sorry I didn't make myself clear!

      I think that is the lady who now calls herself "Bishop of Lancaster". My point was that the newly consecrated Bishop of Lancaster is actually this fellow:

      I'm not, principally, trying to make a point about the invalidity of Anglican orders, of the impossibility of ordaining women, but airing a complaint about one of my bugbears: when the Catholic hierarchy was restored a law was passed to prevent Catholic dioceses being erected with the same names as Anglican ones - hence "Westminster", "East Anglia", etc. But when the boot is on the other foot there's no problem, hence "Liverpool", "Birmingham", "Southwark" etc., not to mention the appointment of auxiliary bishops with titles like "Lancaster", "Shrewsbury", etc. I suppose the most egregious example of this idiocy is the diocese formerly known as "Ripon".

      It's some time since I read my local paper, but if they're true to form they'll be describing Jillian Duff as "Bishop of Lancaster" and Paul Swarbrick "Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster" - as if he weren't the real thing. That's wrong in so many obvious ways that I don't feel comfortable invading your comment thread even further in order to explicate them all.

    2. Simon Platt, why on earth should it work the other way round? This foreign religion should be grateful we let them practice here at all; I always remind people that papists were here terrorising long before the Mohamedans

  3. There's a world of difference between flippancy and a light touch. Maturity - being grown up - recognises this, and prefers the latter.

  4. And here, surely taking the proverbial Petit Beurre, is the Newchurch's latest gimmick:

  5. "NewRevs". Says it all.

  6. I understand and respect your views. However, I do struggle with them.

    I like seeing clergy happy and smiling. I even enjoy seeing them jump. For me it’s a joy. I see Spiritual joy in them.

    Of course, many people don’t like that. Again, I respect them. But those who are joyful are Biblically sound. David danced in the streets. He also was denounced for not looking serious enough!

    The Psalms ring out with praise.

    Jesus had a ministry that could be described as familiar. Even some of his parables, many scholars believed, would have been full of humour.

    Joy is a spiritual gift!

    The truth is some people like Church and their clergy to be laid back and familiar. Some people like their clergy to be less so.

    The familiar approach is not what is killing the Church. If that were the case many other denominations, especially Pentecostalism, would not be recording growth. They do not have fonts at the back. They do not have clergy investments. But they grow. They do so because they take scriptures, mission and (in their own way) sacraments seriously.
    Of course there is the argument of why don’t the ‘happy clappy’, ‘informal’ lot go and join another denomination. Good question, but one that is equally applicable to Catholics. The Anglican Church is big enough for both.

    But, there also needs to be respect for both. Though different we believe the same thing. We worship the same God.

    1. I see your point and yes the Anglican church has always been accommodating of most expression of worship. However, its formality in terms of robes and vestments demands an appropriate sobriety in public. Jumping on the air in full regalia looks ridiculous, serves no purpose and is fulsomely undignified.
      It reflects an uncertain Church and clergy looking for popularity as the pews empty.

  7. There was nothing admirable about King David's leaps; indeed, I seem to recall that his wife despised him for it. Quite so. Old Testament religion, not at its best. A world away from Jesus on the mount praying early in the morning. Lots of people do not want a spiritually mature religion. They prefer excitement or entertainment.

  8. Very true, she wasnt impressed! However, it was still honouring God. Her disapproval was discovering to God:

    “When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” (2 Sam: 20-23)

    Naturally there were times when David was more Sombre, but at this time of celebration he demonstrated his joy.

    In the same way it is true that Jesus went up the mountain and prayed. But, in this story:

    “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 1When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:13-15)

    It is clear that he did want us she be more joyful, as a Child is.
    He also warned against overly religious attitudes that didn’t match the heart:

    “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

    “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra-long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honour in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ (Matt 2 3:1-7)”

    Or even

    “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:16-18)

    Now, I wound not accuse any one of acting in this way. How they act is between them and God, who knows the heart. However, the same must go for those who are like David, who danced….or the children, who Jesus called us to be like.

    It’s about the heart. If a newly ordained Priest or Deacon’s heart calls them to look sober, that is fine. If they look joyful that is fine as well. It is all about where the heart is. The fundamental question is: ‘is the heart for God or man’?

    I want to be positive and suggest both photos here are for God!


  9. I am with Michal. She had the right idea. 'How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today..' Indeed!

  10. Alwyn from Abertawe4 July 2018 at 16:50

    Good to see Sam citing plucking isolated bits of scripture out of their wider original context to endorse his views - and the, frankly, cringe-worthy naffness we have seen in recent ordination photos. Thankfully, this year's photo of deacons at Newcastle was taken with all feet firmly on the ground - which is where they should be.

    Back to the point at issue here: the reason the Catholic Church is flourishing is that it has an energizing leader whom people trust in the person of Pope Francis. Doubtless, he's a bit too liberal for many readers of AB; but he is a focus of unity for the whole Church. He doesn't need to produce £10m for 'mission.' He just opens his mouth, and lives by the Gospel, and people are attracted. I would be struggling to say that of Barry the Golfer, Shirley of Brecon, or the P.E. Teacher in Bangor, who merely evoke ridicule.

    1. QuietRevolution6 July 2018 at 09:19

      "Pope Francis...Doubtless, he's a bit too liberal for many readers of AB; but he is a focus of unity for the whole Church. He doesn't need to produce £10m for 'mission.' He just opens his mouth, and lives by the Gospel, and people are attracted" - liberalism is completely contrary to the Gospel, so how on earth can you claim that he lives by it? Full of oxymorons.

      People leaping in the air at ordination isn't what kills the Church. It's false teaching. Perhaps we need to get our priorities straight and choose exactly which hills we wish to die on!!

    2. Quiet Revolution and Alwyn, you have obviously not read much in the Roman Catholic world. There are plenty of Catholics who denounce Pope Francis as a heretic, a schismatic and a devious manipulator who is hell bent on leading the RC Church into error. He makes wonderful soundbites, but all is not sweetness and light behind closed doors. Only last weekend Cardinal O'Malley denounced the Pope's handling of the Chilean sex abuse scandal, and his puerile comments associated with those cases. Henry Sire has written an entire book on grievances against the Francis papacy. The Vatican quite interestingly has stopped telling us how many people attend the weekly Papal audience because the numbers are at an all time low. The grass always look greener on the other side of the road.