This year’s Anglo-Catholic Hui meeting in Wellington has recharged Anglicans to go out and share the Good News of Jesus through the beauty and wonder of God and the best of ‘high church’ traditions. (Anglican Taonga)
My wife, Diana, and I were privileged to be able to attend this lovely occasion of Anglo-Catholic Fellowship and Renewal, based around the buildings of the Church of Saint Peter, Willis Street, Wellington, New Zealand.
Organised as a follow-up to the first Anglo-Catholic Hui – held in Dunedin in 2018 – this (second) Hui was a welcome reminder of the fact that the Anglican Church throughout the world is part and parcel of that world, needing to reach out with love and fellowship to all who may be seeking the meaning of life for themselves.
Our Main Speaker, Bishop Stephen Cotterill – of the Diocese of Chelmsford, in the Church of England – had much to say about how the mission of the Church had to change tactics in order to engage the interest and support of ‘outsiders’; the sort of people whom Jesus attracted by his generous and loving inclusivity.
No longer can Christians expect people to respond to ‘a set of dogmatic principles’; rather, we need to walk alongside people, listening to their individual concerns and aspirations; their fears, hopes and dreams. In other words; we are to meet people on the ground that we have in common, rather than presenting them immediately with a set of theological propositions with ‘oughts and shoulds’ that may not attract or encourage their assent or even interest.
Bishop Stephen challenged us to be ‘other Christs’ after ther manner of Jesus with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus – who listened to their concerns and sought to meet their needs as they, themselves, were able to articulate them. The Christian life is a pilgrimage for most people – rather than an instantaneous conversion experience; drawing upon people’s own spiritual resources and clarifying their deepest thoughts on the mysteries of human experience and its relation to the divinity instinct in every human being.
These thoughts certainly resonated with my own experience – that Faith is caught rather than taught – although one’s initial attraction to Christianity will need ongoing mentoring (such as all the attendees received on this occasion from our gifted Speaker) that helps us to move further along the pilgrim way of (and into) Christ.
What struck me at the Hui was the readiness of everyone to respond to the Bishop’s invitation – at the passing of The Peace in the Mass – to turn to one’s neighbour and say the words: “You are beautiful!” This simple utterance was received by most people with both surprise and joy! This followed a gem of an exposition of the need to become part of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our relationship to Jesus and in our intentional outreach to our sisters and brothers in the world.
I welcomed, also, the reminder from Bishop Stephen of our need to more deeply consider the role of Mary, as the ‘Mother of God’ and the response she made to God’s invitation to become a partner with God in her collusion with the work of the Holy Spirit in her womb (the depths of her being!). On reflection, it was good to be celebrating Mary’s Assumption on the same day that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was presiding at the Annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in the Church of England.
It was interesting to me, having spent a year (1971/2) at All Saints, Margaret Street, the Anglo-Catholic mecca in London, studying (as a lay-member) at the Institute of Christian Studies under the leadership of the Vicar, Fr.Michael Marshall, that; when the (later) Bishop Michael Marshall had been made Director for Mission in the C. of E.; our Speaker, Bishop Stephen, (at that time a priest) had become one of Bishop Michaels’s missionary staff, actively engaged in preaching missions around the Church of England! I had been profoundlty affected by the Anglo-Catholic worship and preaching at ASMS, and it was there that my own ministry journey began.
Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand