Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ascension Day and the Work of Margaret Barker

For many years I have had an interest in how the Old Testament forms the backdrop to the New Testament, and in particular how the New Testament authors use Old Testament passages and symbols. My observations led me to embrace a basically typological approach to the OT at a time when friends - both conservative and liberal - were pursuing debates about the OT from a purely historical/critical angle. Among my guidebooks back then were the works of Anglican writers Austin Farrer and Gabriel Herbert. Although typology can give rise to unrestrained and subjective allegorisation, I have always thought that a failure to embrace a balanced typological hermeneutic results at best in a sidelining of the OT except as "historical background", and at worst (as Aidan Nichols pointed out in his book "Lovely Like Jerusalem") in our becoming modern Marcionites.

The connection of typology with the development of Christian worship seemed obvious to me as a young man formed by both highly liturgical Anglo-catholicism and those parts of the charismatic renewal emphasizing the worship of the community as somehow part of our "offering" to the Father through Jesus our great High Priest.

In recent years there has been a revival of interest in these themes among Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Wesleyan scholars. One of the most significant contributors is Margaret Barker, a Cambridge theologian and Methodist whose work has been acknowledged across the Christian traditions. A number of her essays are online. Visit her home page HERE. In July 2008 Margaret Barker was awarded a DD by the Archbishop of Canterbury "in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research."

While not being totally convinced on absolutely every point she makes, I have to say that her book, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy is nothing less than magnificent. It is required reading for all thoughtful Christians!

I mention this in the lead-up to Ascension Day, because I want to share with you a key passage which shows how central the Ascension was to the early Christians. (It also vindicates those teachers, theologians and hymn-writers in the Anglo-catholic tradition who have emphasized the Ascension as primarily a celebration of the Lord's high-priestly work.)

So, from pages 221 - 222 of The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy:

Only the high priest was permitted to pass through the veil and to stand before the throne or, in the desert tradition, before the ark, and he was only permitted to do this once a year on the Day of Atonement. The words of Leviticus 16:2 could imply that at an earlier period, the high priest had entered more frequently: "Tell your brother Aaron not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die." Entering the holy of holies was a terrifying experience, because the LORD appeared to the high priest "in the cloud upon the kapporet". Before making the blood offering, the high priest took incense into the holy of holies, and this seems to have been a protection for him. "Put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the kapporet which is upon the testimony, lest he die" (Lev. 16:13). In later texts, the high priest carries a "fire pan" in to the holy of holies and places it before the ark. Then he puts the incense on to the charcoal, and fills the holy of hollies with smoke (m. Yoma 5:1). Other texts, however, imply that there was a golden altar, within the veil of the temple. The Letter to the Hebrews is clear; in the holy of holies stood the ark and the golden altar of incense (Heb. 9:3-4). The Hebrew text of 1 Kings 6:20 - 22, however, is not so clear, but could have described a golden altar within the veil. Unfortunately, the line, "He covered with gold the altar that belonged to the holy of holies" (1 Kgs. 6:22) does not appear in the LXX, and the text of v. 20 is disordered. The Vulgate, which is quite clear that there was an altar within the veil, was translated at the end of the fourth century CE by Jerome, who would have known the Letter to the Hebrews and thus would have read the ambiguities of 1 Kings 6:20 in the light of the later Christian text. However the incense was actually offered, the tradition is clear that the high priest needed the incense as protection when he entered the holy of holies, and that the incense used in the holy of holies was a special blend. It was deemed "most holy", and anyone who used that blend outside the holy of holies was "cut off from his people" (Exod. 30:34-38).

Entering the holy of holies with a cloud of incense is the temple reality that underlies the visions of the human figure entering heaven with clouds or of the LORD appearing in clouds upon the throne. Thus did Isaiah describe his call to prophesy: he saw the LORD enthroned in the temple, between the six-winged seraphim, and the house was filled with smoke (Isa. 6:1 - 4). Daniel saw a human figure "one like a son of man" coming with clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13). When Luke described the Ascension he said that Jesus was "lifted up, and a cloud took him" (Acts 1:9). Jesus was passing beyond the veil, beyond the constraints of time and place. The men in white said that he would return in the same way. John introduced the Book of Revelation with the assurance, "He is coming with the clouds" (Rev. 1:7), and John was granted his own vision of the LORD's return, which he recorded as the Mighty Angel coming from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head (Rev.10:1). Entering the holy of holies was entering heaven. And so these visions of a human figure going or coming with clouds must be understood in the temple setting of the high priest entering the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement.

Peter's sermon in Solomon's Portico shows that this was indeed how the early Church understood the departure of Jesus. He had gone to heaven as the great high priest, and would emerge again at the appointed time, that is, to bring renewal from the presence of the LORD. This is exactly what happened on the Day of Atonement, sin was judged and the earth was then cleansed and healed for the New Year. Hence Peter's warning: "Repent, that your sins may he blotted out" (Acts 3:19 - 21). What had been ritualized annually in the Day of Atonement was happening in their own times through the self sacrifice of the great high priest Jesus. Jesus had passed through the veil into eternity; he was outside time and matter and so had passed into the eternal present, no longer limited by the particular time and place of first-century Palestine. This is the context, too, of the words in the "high-priestly prayer" in John 17. Jesus knew that he was about to pass through the veil, that he was returning to Day One, i.e. beyond and "before" the creation. Thus: "Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory I had with thee before the world was made" (John 17:5).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bishop Graham Walden preaching at Horsham (Dio of Ballarat) on Our Lady

S. John's Horsham, Diocese of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Since it is still Mary’s Month of May, and I have been looking at some older archives on my computer, I would like to share with you a sermon preached on Saturday 23rd February, 1992 at S. John’s Horsham, Diocese of Ballarat (where I was Rector at the time) by the Rt Rev’d Graham Walden, then Bishop of The Murray. We had created a shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham; Bishop John Hazlewood (the Diocesan) dedicated the shrine, and Bishop Graham preached.

Bishop Graham and his wife, Margaret, live in retirement in Dubbo, New South Wales.

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he, too, shared in their humanity". (Heb. 2:14)

The way Jesus did this was to take humanity from his holy Mother, Mary of Nazareth, and being born in the likeness of man to redeem our humanity as the mediator between God and man.

Some years ago when I was at school, I was told, as we all were, by our headmaster, that we should behave toward girls as we would toward our mothers, and we should behave toward women as we would toward the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now, I grant that if you were to say that kind of thing today, especially to a group of schoolchildren, you would be treated like a feral cat! You would be stoned. You would have objects thrown at you across the classroom and you would be rendered somewhat inadequate, powerless, if not ridiculous. And yet, those words have remained with me for many years.

And today, when we come to this service, we are honouring our Lord Jesus Christ in honouring the person whose attitudes he adopted and whose humanity he bore. When we study the attitudes of Jesus in the Gospels we find the influence of the Holy Family, those who had an influence on the bearing of his young life. And so we rejoice that she who had that influence is honoured by the Church, and by this church in the way in which this particular image is being placed here.

Now, I don't want you to think that we are 'bowing down to wood and stone' or anything like that, because the Church in her wisdom has always made it possible for us to have images to remind us of the invisible world, of the great mysteries of our faith. We look around this church and we see stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross, crucifixes and crosses. We are reminded of the invisible by the visible. And we are not worshipping Our Lady, a creature, as if she were the Creator. Far from that! We are worshipping God, who has made it possible for her to be given the highest honour among the Saints as "Mother of God", the "bearer of the Eternal Word" who most graciously magnifies the Lord . . .

It was in 1061 that the first shrine dedicated to the honour of the holy house of Nazareth was built at Walsingham. The Lady of the manor, Richeldis de Faverché, saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin; she was told to build a shrine in honour of the Holy House at Nazareth, and to build it near a spring of water which miraculously appeared. A small wooden shrine was built, and pilgrims started to come there from all over the country.

People found there that God was very real to them, and the things of God, too. They found that they prayed better and that prayer was answered. They believed, too, that wonderful healings and blessing came to them when by faith they used the waters of the well. It was a simple age. But we are told that God gives great blessings to the simple and the humble.

And I can tell you from my many visits to Walsingham through the course of my life that everything I have just said is absolutely true . . . still! In fact one of the prayers that was answered quite recently was when Bishop Robert and Mrs Porter and I were praying there at the Shrine for his successor in the Diocese of the Murray, none of us knowing who was going to be chosen . . . except one, and that was Our Lady of Walsingham. A most incredible experience of wonder, of adoration, so that we do not go there for what we get, but for the sake of the glory of God. And as we glorify God in that place of our Lady's choosing, so we are raised just one step higher on the road to holiness and faith.

For nearly 1000 years that shrine has stood there in good days and in bad, in splendour and in ruins, to remind the English of what took place at the holy house at Nazareth, and to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, the village girl who became the Mother of God. So closely was her name associated with this Norfolk village that she was and is called by the title "Our Lady of Walsingham".

It is very wonderful to think that monarchs down through the centuries came to this holy place. The first one was Richard the Lionheart. He came there to honour God, to seek the prayers of the Mother of Jesus, and to drink of the water from the spring that had appeared at the time when the Holy House was built. It is said that King Henry VIII journeyed the last mile to the shrine from the slipper chapel (where the shoes were taken off) on his knees!

And yet, it was during the reign of Henry VIII that the shrine was despoiled in order to finance his own coffers for various projects. He required money for the establishment of six new dioceses; he required money for education; he required money for the navy. So the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham helped to make six new bishops, a number of schools, and many more ships! In 1538 the monasteries were dissolved.

BUT GOD IS NOT MOCKED! One of the things that I would draw your attention to is that the image you can see is of the Holy Mother seated, holding her lily sceptre, crowned, with Jesus on her knee. The image reflects the honour given to womanhood. This was a feature of chivalry in the 11th century. And if you study the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they reflect the way that people responded to the central image of the grace of womanhood in our humanity.

Just looking back to the cultural background of the eleventh century, we find that knighthood was a very important feature for the religious life of the time. At the age of 21 when he had acquitted himself as a page and as a squire, a man was made a knight. The ceremonies were elaborate, the vows were solemn. After a bath of purification the man would stand or kneel all night in prayer before an altar on which lay his polished sword. In the morning the knight received the Blessed Sacrament. He heard a sermon on his duty to protect the weak, to right wrongs, and to honour women. After worship he was led to the courtyard where his armour was buckled on, his sword fitted, and his shoes and his spurs attached. Then he received the accolade, a light blow on the neck or shoulder from the officiant, a lord or a knight with the words, 'In the name of God and S. Michael and S. George I dub thee knight. Be both brave and loyal." The spiritual and temporal heroes, S. Michael and S. George were named to remind the knight of his duties, and he was given three watchwords: religion, honour, courtesy. The knight was then to take a lady whose honour he was to defend, whether or not she was somebody with whom he was in love (and usually that was NOT the case), but someone whom he considered to be worshipful. The knight took his lady and went out to seek the honour of womanhood. Many knights took Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and they sought to do duty to honour her. And so they were spiritual warriors above all else, and they were to behave in that particular way. Now chivalry encouraged qualities which gave to human relationships ideal significance: courtesy and honour, which are indeed, thank God, persisting to the present day. And the practice of honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary encourages us in the practice of these particular virtues.

Pilgrims travelled all over the then known world. They went to Jerusalem; they went to Rome; they went to Spain. But that was very expensive, and many who could not afford to do that went to Walsingham, 'England's Nazareth', for the representation of the holy house of Nazareth brought the Gospel home to the people. The Venerable Bede wrote some marvellous words: 'The Mother of God is indeed blessed because she was a temporal minister of the Word Incarnate; but much more than this, because she remained the eternal keeper of his love.'

Now, as I have said, God is not mocked. And in his good purpose, that shrine of Walsingham which meant so much to the culture and the religion of England for five hundred years, has been restored. In 1921 through the efforts of the Vicar of Walsingham, Father Hope Patten, pilgrimages commenced once more. In 1931 the Holy House was rebuilt, the Shrine Church was built, and it has attracted both the common people and royalty. On the left hand side of the altar a candle burns perpetually for the Queen. And it is paid for by Princess Margaret!

During the Lambeth Conference of 1978, the Queen had put on a garden party. But she was not present, for she was in Canada. And the Duchesses were required to entertain the Archbishops while the ordinary Bishops were entertained by lesser mortals.

In the pavilion where the Archbishops were being entertained, Archbishop David Hand of Papua New Guinea was being looked after by the Duchess of Kent. She said to him: 'How is the Lambeth Conference going, Your Grace?' At that particular point it hadn't been going particularly well, and he told her as much.

She said, 'I do wish you bishops would stop talking about the Church and talk about Christ and God.' Archbishop David was up to that one! He said, 'After all, the Church is the Body of Christ, you understand, and we are trying to do what Christ wants for his Church.' She said, 'I know that. But there is a dimension that we lay people want to see in our religion. And I'll tell you from my own life an experience I have had.

'I was pregnant with my last child, and I was very worried because I was over forty years of age, and I hadn't been well. A friend of mine said, "You live in Norfolk. Why don't you go to a village in Norfolk called Walsingham where there is a shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary?" I had never been there, so I went along to this place - you probably don't know it, Archbishop'. (Archbishop David was almost bursting at this point, because as a boy he had grown up in a Norfolk village only five miles away from Walsingham where his father happened to be the Vicar! He was courteous enough not to interrupt the royal Lady, but when she finished, he told her.) She said, 'I went to this place, and there I found great peace as I sought the prayers of the Mother of Jesus and the grace of her divine Son.' Those are the words of the Duchess of Kent.

She said, 'I found a place of peace and of healing, and although I lost my child, I still went back there. In the trauma I found peace.'

Now, I have told you that story because it reveals something of how the hearts of the ordinary people of God are crying out for the sort of faith and personal warmth they can find by associating themselves with the prayers of the holy Mother of Jesus.

Indeed at this time in the history of our Church in Australia we desperately need those prayers, and we must ask her to join her prayers to ours for our Church; and incidentally we must also ask the prayers of King Charles the Martyr, who gave himself for the Church of England. May his prayers and his precious blood avail for its healing, salvation and reconciliation in these dark days.

And so, use this shrine in this church to remind yourselves that Jesus is truly human, as well as truly divine. And also to remind yourselves that we honour God by honouring womanhood, and by responding to the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Christian tradition.

Pray at this shrine for families that are being torn apart by domestic violence in these days when womanhood is not honoured, and courtesy is not known, and children grow up in a social jungle where the law of tooth and claw seems to be able to prevail.

Pray at this shrine that Jesus may be presented to us, to our own hearts, and to the hearts of those who do not yet believe.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mary's Month of May - Impi McBain's painting

Shortly after becoming rector of All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, in 1995, I realised that the Society of Mary and others in the parish thought as I did about the desirability of a shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in the church . . . just inside the entrance, on account of the constant stream of people slipping into the church each day to pray. Money for the image was given in memory of departed parishioners and friends, and it was on Sunday 13th October, 1996, that the Rt Rev’d John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham and International Chairman of Forward in Faith, dedicated the shrine.

In those days one of our parishioners was Impi McBain, an art teacher and an artist in her own right (who now lives in Victoria). She was commissioned to paint a backdrop for the shrine. This project developed over the years, including the time that Impi and her husband Max lived and worked in England, during which Impi made numerous visits to Walsingham to sketch, paint and work out how she would balance scenes and symbols in such a way as to complement the image itself.

The result can only be described as sumptuous, and the overall effect is to emphasise - as Walsingham itself does - the great joy brought into the ordinariness of our lives through the Incarnation of the Son of God, born of Mary and nurtured by her in Nazareth. The painting was installed in All Saints’ last September (while I was overseas). I had seen parts of it in various stages of completion, and managed to take this photograph during a quick visit last week.

What better way to mark Mary’s Month of May than to share this with you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Jesus' Blood never Failed Me Yet . . ."

When having a look at Facebook early this morning, I noticed that the LITURGY page of the Revd Bosco Peters referred to a CD - "JESUS' BLOOD NEVER FAILED ME YET" - that a friend gave me nearly 20 years ago when I was in particular need of encouragement. That CD meant a great deal to me, and over the years I have loaned it to a handful people in crisis, suggesting that they leave it playing while doing their housework or whatever. In an odd sort of way, it's not unlike having the Jesus Prayer going on in the background.

Anyway, thank you, Fr Peters, for reminding me of this wonderful CD.

Jesus' blood never failed me yet
never failed me yet
Jesus' blood never failed me yet
this one thing I know
that He loves me so . . .

It is a 1971 composition by Gavin Bryars. An unknown homeless man sings. It was recorded for a documentary about street life around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo (London). The first LP recording was 25 minutes long. A cassette tape version was 60 minutes. The CD version is 74 minutes. Bryars writes:

"In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

"When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

"I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."

I hesitate to share with you the severely abbreviated YouTube clips of this piece, for I think that the spiritual force of the music builds most powerfully over the 74 minutes of the CD. But . . . here it is. (Incidentally, the CD is available for purchase HERE)

(Stay with the start of Part 1 of this recording, it is very quiet …)

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wisdom from Fr Schmemann

Alexander Schmemann (13 September 1921 - 13 December 1983) was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian priest, teacher, and writer. He was born in Tallinn (Reval) Estonia to Russian émigrés. His family moved to France, where he received his university education. He married Juliana Osorguine in 1943, before completing his theological studies at the Orthodox Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris (where he studied with the noted Russian theologian, Sergei Bulgakov, amongst others) and was ordained a priest in 1946. From 1946-51, Fr Schmemann taught church history at St. Sergius. He was invited to join the faculty of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, then in New York City, where he taught from 1951 onwards. When the seminary moved to its present campus in Crestwood, New York in 1962, Fr Schmemann assumed the post of dean, which he would hold until his death. He also served as adjunct professor at Columbia University, New York University, Union Theological Seminary and General Theological Seminary in New York. Much of his focus at St Vladimir's was on liturgical theology. (From Wikipedia)

Fr Schmemann's writings contain so much wisdom, which is why Christians of East and West quote him often. I share with you today two particular gems:

From the religious point of view, nothing is more harmful than to live by illusions in an artificially recreated past, seeking in 'ancient, venerable and colorful rites' an escape from a prosaic and burdensome present. Such a religious attitude, quite common in our days, openly contradicts the Christian faith, which is aimed at transforming life and not at supplying religious substitutes for life. To understand this study as an appeal simply to restore the past is to misunderstand it, for there is no simple restoration, nor can there ever be. Equally harmful, however, is the attitude which rejects the past simply because it is past, which, in other words, accepts at its face value modern rhetoric about the radical 'revolution' in man's worldview that makes it impossible for him to 'continue' in any ideas of the past. If we do not believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church today as He guided her yesterday and shall guide her until the end of the world, that Christ is 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever' (Heb. 13:8), then obviously we do not believe in the Church, and she is either a precious 'cultural heritage' to be preserved or an archaic past to be discarded.

If, however, we believe in the Church, then the study of her past has only one goal: to find, and to make ours again and again, that which in her teaching and life is truly eternal, i.e. which precisely transcends the categories of past, present and future and has the power to transform our lives in all ages and in all situations."

From Fr Schmemann's book, Of Water & The Spirit, 149-50.

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day - Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another - Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.

From Fr Schmemann's article, The Orthodox Celebration of Great and Holy Saturday, which is online HERE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We CAN trust him

Sister Ann Shields, S.G.L., from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancing, Michigan, is an internationally noted speaker and author (including her book Deeper Conversion: Extraordinary Grace for Ordinary Times). For many years she has exercised a ministry of teaching in the Catholic charismatic renewal. (See the Renewal Ministries website) Back in the 1970's Sister Ann edited teaching sermons from the Church Fathers for modern Christians. She is currently the host of the daily radio program Food for the Journey. This article was written for New Covenant Magazine in 1984.

"Your heavenly Father knows all that you need" (Matt 6:33).

"I am the good shepherd. I know mine, and mine know me" (John 10:14).

I wonder if we really believe those verses from scripture. Do you daily know that God sees all your circumstances, your cares, your needs, and that he wants to provide for you? Take time to read Matthew 6:25-33 and Psalm 139.

Do you believe that your God is your shepherd, who knows his own personally and intimately? And that as a shepherd he is there to guard, to protect, to make provision for, to save from harm? Take time to read John 10:1-15.

So often when difficult circumstances arise we rush off to help ourselves and meet our own needs. We run from our Father, our shepherd, seeking to save ourselves. And in so doing we move from the only real source of help we have. And then we wonder why things don't work out.

Or we go to God in difficulty looking for help, but when we don't get immediate relief we decide that "God doesn't love me" or that "he doesn't care about this need" or, worse, that "God didn't answer, therefore God doesn't exist."

How foolish we can be! God knows what is best for us, and he knows that what is best often comes with time and patience and endurance. God wants us for himself. And whatever our circumstances may be he wants to use them to bring us nearer himself. We need to draw nearer to our Father in time of danger, for he knows all that we need.

Some years ago I spent several weeks in England. One afternoon we took a drive in the country. A sudden storm came up, so we pulled of the road to wait t out.

In the distance I saw a man standing by a huge rock. He had a large cloak on and a shepherd's crook in his hand. He was calling his sheep. They came, bells tinkling, from different parts of the field. The shepherd never moved in all that rain and lightening, but stood steady for his flock to gather round him.

That scene has been forever engraved on my memory. The shepherd didn't leave them. He didn't let them find refuge of their own. But neither did he take them out of the storm. Instead he bore the storm with them. He provided them with safety and security by his presence.

So God our Father, God our shepherd, desires to do for us. In time of crisis, in the midst of a storm, let us not try to save ourselves. Let us run quickly to the shelter of his arms, where we will find refuge and stay there until the storm passes by.

For God knows us, and he knows all our needs. He will provide in the midst of the storm. The fruit of such faith is peace and confidence in a God who cares.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Exciting News: Turkey Cultivates Sites of Its Christian Heritage

Professor Celal Simsek, head of the excavation team, briefs government officials on the church building in Laodicea dating from 313-320 AD. (Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire in 313 AD). The major part of the church covers 2,000 square metres and parts of it are in good condition. It was found by underground radar search.

All who are interested in early Church history must be excited about the current ecumenical and inter-faith initiatives in Turkey, which have had begun to use Anatolia’s Christian heritage as a way of drawing visitors and - admittedly - of cultivating an image of the nation as a meeting-point of civilizations.

A few days ago AN ARTICLE appeared in the New York Times describing huge local investment in the restoration of sites that belong to the heritage - the "family history" - of every Christian. The fact that a massive increase in tourism will bring its own considerable economic and cultural benefits ought not dampen our enthusiasm for this project. Here are two extracts from the article:

. . . A case in point is the ancient metropolis of Laodicea, in southwestern Turkey, where Turkish archaeologists unearthed a spectacular church dating to the early fourth century.

“This is one of the oldest churches in the world to survive in its original state,” said Celal Simsek, the archaeologist who is leading the excavation team that has worked through the winter to reveal the huge church that was first spotted underground last year on a radar scan. “When the 10 most important archaeological discoveries of the 21st century are totted up one day, this church will definitely be on the list.”

Mr. Simsek dates the construction of the church to between 313 and 320 A.D., immediately after the Edict of Milan, by which Emperor Constantine I of Rome legalized Christianity in the year 313.

Scrambling around the church, which has 10 towering pillars on a floor area of 2,000 square meters, or 21,500 square feet, flawlessly preserved mosaic floors and a walk-in baptismal fountain for mass christenings, Mr. Simsek said he was hoping to invite the pope to the official unveiling of the restored church, tentatively planned for next year.

. . . It is a vein of tourism that other towns in heritage-rich Anatolia have begun to invest in as well. The small northwestern town of Iznik, which has long marketed itself on the fine tiles produced there in Ottoman times, now evokes its former incarnation as Nicaea, site of two of the seven Ecumenical Councils that shaped the basic tenets of the Christian faith.

All seven councils were held on what is now Turkish soil — the two in Nicaea, three in Constantinople, now Istanbul, one in Ephesus in western Turkey and one in Chalcedon, the modern-day Kadikoy district of Istanbul on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. Last year, Iznik invited historians from the Vatican to join a search for the exact location of the first Council of Nicaea, at which bishops from all over the Roman Empire gathered in 325 to draft the creed that is recited by Christians around the world to this day.

The Nicaean church in which the seventh Council dispatched iconoclasm in the year 787 has been roofed and restored . . .

Friday, May 6, 2011


I ask all readers of this blog - whatever your ecclesiastical allegiance and on whichever side of the Tiber you may be! - to pray daily for the two new PEVs . . . as well as for the Bishop of Beverley. Pray, too, for the new Bishop of Fulham (whoever he might be!) These men have a daunting task ahead of them. But their appointment is a sign of hope and a cause of great rejoicing. Is it too late for some other provinces of the Anglican Communion to recognise the need for such episcopal ministry?

I share with you these two important statements:

Downing Street has today announced the appointment of the Reverend Jonathan Baker as Bishop of Ebbsfleet and the Reverend Norman Banks as the Bishop of Richborough, both of whom will be consecrated at a service at Southwark Cathedral on 16th June.

In line with the 1993 Act of Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury has commissioned the Provincial Episcopal Visitors to work with the diocesan bishops to provide extended pastoral care and sacramental ministry, as well as acting as spokesmen and advisors, to ensure that ‘the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and respected’.

The Revd Jonathan Baker who is currently Principal of Pusey House succeeds Bishop Andrew Burnham as Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Commenting on his appointment, Jonathan Baker said:

‘The appointment of two new PEVs for the Southern Province is a real sign of commitment by the Church of England to the growth and renewal of every aspect of its common life, particularly its catholic tradition which I know and love. I look forward immensely to serving as Bishop of Ebbsfleet and to leading the clergy and lay people in my care to have confidence in their faith and in proclaiming the Gospel to all.’

The Revd Norman Banks who is currently Vicar of Walsingham, Houghton and Barsham, succeeds Bishop Keith Newton as Bishop of Richborough.

Commenting on his appointment, Norman Banks said:

‘One of the real pleasures and privileges of being Vicar of S. Mary’s is getting to know so many of the people who visit Walsingham regularly and make the Parish Church part of their pilgrimage.

'I am both delighted and honoured that for those in the Richborough area I am about to have the opportunity and privilege of becoming their bishop and visiting them where they regularly worship. From the many recent conversations I have had, I believe that there is real desire across the Church of England to find a way for us to hold together with integrity and generosity. I hope the appointment of two new PEV’s will be seen as both ‘gift’ and ‘sign’ at this crucial time in the life of our Church.’

Welcoming the news, Dr Williams said:

‘I am very happy to welcome two such faithful and gifted priests as colleagues. They are taking up a very demanding pastoral ministry at a time of much upheaval and uncertainty, and will need our prayers and friendship as we work in the Church of England for a future in which there is full mutual respect and constructive work in mission to be undertaken together.

'I am deeply grateful to those who have exercised pastoral care for traditionalist priests and parishes in recent months, especially Bishops John Ford, Mark Sowerby and Lindsay Urwin.

The Society of the Holy Cross is delighted by the appointment of two of its Brethren to the vacant sees of Ebbsfleet and Richborough. Both priests, Fr Jonathan Baker and Fr Norman Banks are men of the utmost integrity and have been both in their different ways in the forefront of our catholic witness in the Church of England. We look forward to welcoming them wholeheartedly on 16th June at the Ordination in Southwark Cathedral. Their appointments will bring joy and a renewed sense of confidence to many, who will look to them to give to the whole of the Church of England an understanding and recognition of its Catholic identity.

We are grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for all the trouble and care he has taken over recent months to secure this happening. The Church of England will indeed be fortunate to have two such good pastors in its episcopate.

Prebendary David Houlding SSC

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Wonderful news for the Church of England (released today) . . .

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Norman Banks, MA, Vicar of Walsingham, Houghton and Barsham, in the diocese of Norwich, and Chaplain to The Queen, to the Suffragan See of Richborough, in the Diocese of Canterbury, in succession to the Right Reverend Keith Newton, BD, AKC, PGCE, on his resignation on the 31 December 2010.

Father Norman Banks

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Jonathan Mark Richard Baker, MA, MPhil, Principal Pusey House and Honorary Curate of Oxford St Thomas, in the diocese of Oxford, to the Suffragan See of Ebbsfleet, in the Diocese of Canterbury, in succession to the Right Reverend Andrew Burnham, MA, ARCO(CHM), on his resignation on the 31 December 2010.

Father Jonathan Baker