Friday 19 July 2013

Centenary at Corringham: Address by Bishop Norman Banks

At St Mary's in Corringham, Essex, on 5 July 2013, the first members subscribed. It was the patronal festival and those who had formally founded the League at St Mark's Bush Hill Park on the 2nd, together with others who had planned the movement with Henry Joy Fynes Clinton at an earlier meeting, arrived from London to take part in the celebrations and to image how the League could transform the thinking of the entire Established Church - be a church within a church - and lead it into corporate reunion with the See of Peter once more.

Fr Mark Woodruff, priest director, and Mr David Chapman, general secretary, by generous invitation of the rector, Fr David Rollins, visited the parish on 14th July 2013, 100 years after the inauguration in the same building, if not quite to the day. David had been present as crucifer on the 60th anniversary and brought the pictures to show it. Fr Philip Gray, vicar of Mendlesham and past priest director, had been the thurifer. Also in the company were Fr Milburn from Brighton and Fr Dominic Pyle Bridges. At least one member of the present congregation at St Mary's had also been there for the 60th.

Presiding at the celebration was Bishop Norman Banks of Richborough, a past member of the Council of the Catholic League and vicar of Walsingham. Here follows his address at the beginning of the mass.

It is wonderful to be here with you in Corringham. I have heard so much about this Church and it is indeed beautiful. I can see it has the Laurence King touch, which make me feel I have something in common with you, because one of my Churches in Walsingham, St Mary’s, like so many much loved beacons in the Anglican Catholic world, was restored by Laurence King too (although I hope yours, unlike many of the rest, suffer from roofs with a tendency to leak whatever you do to keep them repaired).

Another reason I am so pleased to be with you is because it was 100 years ago this very month that the Catholic League was founded here. This was the result of conversations within the Catholic movement in the Church of England to bring about the unity of the whole Church, so that Christianity could once more live and worship as one and speak to the world with one voice. Those conversations have continued ever since the Catholic League’s first members were enrolled here at Corringham, and the repercussions have gone on throughout the Church, as we have prayed and hoped for unity ever since.

One little known fact about the League is that, when Fr Hope Patten established the Shrine at Walsingham, with his vision of bringing the Catholic Faith to convert the hears of the people of this land once more, it was the League that was the first to raise and send funds to support him and it was the first body to organise a pilgrimage to England’s Nazareth restored. The work not only continues to this day, but its witness flourishes.

We are so pleased the Fr Mark Woodruff and Mr David Chapman, respectively Priest Director and General Secretary of the League, are with us for our parish celebration today. They are Roman Catholics who have been dedicated to the work and cause of Christian Unity for decades and it shows that the League continues to hold people together in hope that the Church can overcome its divisions and be true to its One Lord.

There have been setbacks and even new obstacles have emerged. Part of these are due to our personal and corporate prejudices and in a moment we will confess our sins and our part in the Church’s divisions and rivalries as we seek his forgiveness and the power of his reconciliation.

But I want to tell you about last week at General Synod, when I had lunch with Archbishop Justin. He was not long back from Rome and full of excitement after meeting Pope Francis. Something wonderful had happened. He and the Holy Father were discussing the many values from the Gospel that they share about the needs of the poor, and the way in which the priests and the people of God ought to follow Christ. As they were discussing how the Churches can stand together in witnessing to the Gospel for the sake of the poor, the Holy Father took hold of his pectoral cross and said it was something on which “We bishops…. We bishops…” could give the lead. This moved Archbishop Justin, but he did not want to read too much into it; yet it happened again. He was immensely moved, but also encouraged and inspired by this warm gesture of fraternity and ecumenical closeness.

Francis and Justin are going to take risks for unity. They are going to be bold in order that they can work and stand together, for the sake of the world. For this, they will both rely heavily on our prayers. And the prayers of parishes like Corringham are going to be vital because, in the Anglican Catholic movement, it is parishes like yours that get it, that understand what is being prayed for. You understand that the Catholic Faith is essential to the proclaiming of the Gospel, and for that to be convincing it needs the Church not just to act as one, but to be one and to be seen to be one, if it is going to capture the hearts and minds of people and convert them to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hope and prayer for reunion between Catholics and Anglicans in one Church began 100 years ago in this very building and they remain driving forces at work among us to this day. So you know that prayer works and bring about new life and new possibilities. So pray for Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis, and the risks they will take to break down whatever stands in the way of the Church serving and proclaiming Christ in the world; pray too for their concerted efforts to answer the prayer of Christ, “that they all may be one, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”


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