The Bishop of Ely told over 300 people gathered Thursday night in the stately Church of The Annunciation, Marble Arch, that as he entered in procession he felt like it was “a foretaste of heaven”.
The occasion, in Central London, was the National Launch of Anglican Catholic Future, a new network seeking to renew the Catholic witness of the Church of England. The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, was celebrant of the Mass of the Holy Spirit that had as its preacher, the Vicar of historic catholic shrine, St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, Fr Peter Groves:
If we are prepared to stop talking loudly about our own new ideas we might be patient enough to listen to and learn from the universality, the catholicity, of the Christian faith. There is nothing in God’s creation which is not transformed by the incarnate love of Christ, past, present and future.
Anglican Catholic Future seeks to inspire laity and clergy for the work of Christian mission and ministry rooted in Catholic practice, piety and theology. Its mission statement declares, “By returning to the fundamentals of the apostolic faith, but without recourse to political agendas and party rivalries, we seek the renewal and revitalisation of the church’s mission and apologetic proclamation.”
It goes on to say, “The Catholic identity of the Church of England has suffered a crisis stemming from a preoccupation with divisive issues. As a result the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism has become fragmented and nerveless. Many who hold this tradition dear feel that the time is right to rediscover our Catholic roots and values for the sake of the church’s witness in our land.”
A letter of greeting and encouragement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, was read to those assembled. In the letter he said, “I am deeply grateful to God for the catholic principles which you espouse and by which you live. I am thankful that together we belong to a church both catholic and reformed – a church which welcomes a breadth of Christian expression under the Lordship of Christ” A pastoral letter was distributed signed by nineteen bishops from the Catholic tradition of the Church of England. The bishops state “Within the ministry of the whole people of God we believe that a catholic future for the church will be one that rejoices in the ministry of women and men as bishops, priests and deacons. We know that you will be open to the insights and fruits from the breadth of the whole church and trust that you will be an encouragement to all at the start of this new chapter.”
Ten regional groupings are being established to make this a truly national network, and we invite anyone interested in associating with this new venture to register via the website, www.anglicancatholicfuture.org and to help support the work as they can, as individuals and congregations.
The congregation included bishops, priests, deacons, laity, young and old, seminarians and a wide spectrum of persons overall. An array of photos of the Launch by Toby York can be downloaded here.
Future events will include Canterbury Pilgrimage in October.
At the end of the Mass one parish priest said, “It was like Easter Day all over again, and then some.”