Ardour in the laity
In a second excerpt from the Working Party report, Philip North continues his passionate and provocative manifesto of renewal from last month with a plea for a more serious renewal of the laity
There are many ways in which renewal can be encouraged within the local church. The Worship of Christ in the Eucharist. The Caister Conferences have been one of the most significant signs of hope for Anglo-Catholics in recent years. The heart of the conference is the hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Many parishes who have experienced times of growth speak of the way in which renewal began with the introduction of a Holy Hour, even one that was not all that well attended. Personal renewal can only begin with a profound desire on the part of the individual to seek Christ afresh in the Blessed Sacrament. We would urge all parishes to encourage their people in the silent adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Pilgrimage. A pilgrimage should be a time of intense personal renewal. The pilgrim is encouraged to turn to Christ afresh, to confess their sins, and to hear anew the Great Commission. The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has seen considerable growth in recent years and seeks to be a place of evangelization and renewal.
To take full advantage of all that a place like Walsingham can offer, pilgrimage needs to be seen as an activity of the whole church. Pilgrims need to be prepared in advance and to have guidance in taking full advantage of their time in a holy place. When this is done, pilgrimage can play a central role in the renewal of a parish.
Catechesis. Complacency is the great enemy of evangelization. When Christians take their relationship with God for granted and forget the power of the gifts that are theirs, the ardour to evangelize goes. Good catechesis will counter complacency by recalling Christians to the heart of their faith. We have increasingly become a church in which the only instruction most laity receive is the Sunday homily.
Encounter with the Bible has often been limited to the opportunity once every week or so to listen to three badly-read passages. Meanwhile Junior Church has too often been making sunflowers from paper plates and confirmation classes have been thin and/or ill-thought through.
A new Pentecost
Renewal Programmes. Mission events and weekends, while challenging to organize, can be powerful renewal experiences. The Fan the Flame programme, developed by Bishop Lindsay Urwin, has as its core purpose the renewal of ardour. It is a five-night teaching week organized by lay people from the participating parish, assisted by two trained members of the Mission Task Force. Fan the Flame can be a remarkable vehicle for renewal and growth, but like any programme, you get back from it only what you put into it. Often the problem seems to be that clergy are reluctant to hand over the organization of such a major piece of work to lay people. Or if they are, once the week is over, they want their parish back and those lay people, often motivated and ready for action, are relegated to their former position of subservience.
We are convinced that the Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century was a powerful moving of the Holy Spirit, seen in the renewal of laity and clergy alike. The worship and the preaching of many of our churches was fervent and emotional. The aim of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses was 'to bring men and women to acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and King'. It is on record that Fr Wainwright at St Peter s London Docks in the 1920s thought that the time of conversion for the men in his Confirmation Group came when they prayed together freely and in their own words. Anglo-Catholics believe in the Holy Spirit. We teach that the Spirit is truly given in Confirmation and Ordination, and that the same Spirit transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Eucharist.
Charismatic Renewal came to the Church of England first through the influence of American Anglo-Catholics, and there are probably more charismatics in the Roman Catholic Church than in all other denominations put together. Renewal in the Holy Spirit belongs, not with denominational Pentecostalism, but at the heart of the Catholic Church.
Ardour in prayer and a new confidence in telling of the Good News of Jesus Christ in our lives will come to Anglo-Catholics as we open ourselves and our parishes to the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. There will be tongues and tears in prayer for some, and profound and expectant silence for others. But there will be no fear or division over this, for Anglo-Catholics will have discovered a new love of God and each other.
The working party was unanimous that the one single factor most necessary to rebuild an evangelizing Catholic movement is lay development. We are locked into the stranglehold of a suffocating clericalism in the Catholic movement.
For many it is demonstrated at the big celebrations such as the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham or Stand up for Jesus when for hours we watch as hordes of clergy parade forward to kiss the altar while laypeople look on in admiration. Many would argue that this represents a profoundly dis-eased model of the Church in which it appears that the role of the baptized is to watch and be impressed. All too often this attitude is replicated in parishes where the people of God are left stunted and unused, their gifts unacknowledged.
Often, even when there have been attempts to develop lay ministry, lay people have been turned into pseudo-clergy, taking on some of the tasks that cannot be achieved by a reduced number of priests. Proper lay ministry means forming a community of the baptized who have an ardour and an understanding of their faith which enables them to live it out and proclaim it. To achieve this, priests need to accept that their key role in the future is to draw gifts out of others, to call people to lay ministries in the church and to resource lay people to live out their faith boldly. Lay people need to see that their responsibilities do not end when they walk through the church door and that their vocation as the baptized involves more than 'helping Father'.
The renewal of the laity lies right at the very heart of effective evangelization and if the working party had been asked to make one single recommendation, this would have been it.
Return to Home Page of This Issue
Return to Trushare Home Page