News from the far east where Fr. Nicholas, and his wife Mary, are spending August. It is their favoured destination each summer due to the fact that their eldest resides in Hong Kong. This year he joins our intrepid duo in Borneo where they soon plan to set off in canoes to hunt out Orang-utan. But before the pith helmet and giant shorts of the missionary priest can be donned time is being spent in the Cameron Highlands from where he sent me this wonderful photograph and news of his escapades thus far.

It transpires that Fr. Nicholas celebrated and preached Mass there on Sunday morning. This was followed by a visit to the farm of Joseph the Crysanthemum grower who requested a solemn blessing for a motor car and two flats. Father Nicholas assures me he remembered the precise sequence of blessing in Latin and English and flourished the aspergillum with aplomb. Perhaps it is fortunate that Joseph the Crysanthemum grower is neither a liturgist nor fluent in either language…

Being less flippant- Father Nicholas timed his visit well given that the duty cleric that day was an 84 year old French mission priest who was recovering from a hip operation five weeks ago! He, in turn, was covering for the parish priest who was away in Kuala Lumpur on annual leave. Given that the recovering priest was not very mobile an enthusiastic and energetic eccentric from England to trek off on parish duties was just what the doctor ordered.

And after the blessings of car and flats Father was driven up into the hills, in a distinctly unroadworthy jeep, to give the last rites to a brain damaged grandmother incapable of speech, movement or sight. Father Nicholas tells me it was unusually humbling even for a priest of the Ordinariate. He adds that he will “never again complain about life in Pembury, Wateringbury and school in a single day”. His point is apposite- we in the West really do take our privilege for granted sometimes.

Please pray for all our holidaying congregation. Pray that families may have much needed quality time together- they do not get enough of it in the modern world. I myself am off to the Ordinariate lay conference in Worth Abbey this afternoon to deliver a talk. Then I shall drop the workload and head to the Loire Valley in France with tent and family in tow. I am grateful to a friend who is residing in the presbytery in our absence to care for the dog. And to Fr. Des of the Mill Hill Fathers who is offering cover this Sunday and making an appeal. Finally do pray for the Orang-utan of Borneo who must now brace themselves for a visit from dear Father Nicholas…

A little late but time to share some of the wonderful photographs taken at our children’s holiday club: Catholics in the Wild West. It was a brilliant week and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, from the youngest children to the oldest helpers!

Cactus are being painted here by one of the youngest groups. The children having been grouped by age into various Indian Tribes- the Comanches, the Sioux, the Novajo and the Cherokee. Each began the camp by decorating a teepee in which they could gather each day for instruction.

As ever the craft was first rate; all of it having been meticulously planned by Hayley who puts a great deal of energy into leading it each year. Having burned the candle at both ends in the run up to the club she is deserving of much thanks and praise. Below we see the children creating a modern take on native American jewellery.

In between craft activities and games in the paddock there was time for relaxation and laughter. Here we see Father Nicholas, ever eccentric, being taught, at his request, to state “can I buy some coconut water from your cousin’s stall” in Malayalam. It proved no problem to our talented children!

The clergy dogs were also in attendance on the first day. Coco and Aeschylus receiving an awful lot of fuss and a goodly proportion of most sandwich lunches.

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Each day the children listened to a talk on the history and culture of the Wild West era. They also had a short talk from me on the faith and how it unfolded in that place. We chose three amazing people from that era, two saints and a blessed, and also considered how the primitive animism of the native Americans, whilst faulty from a Catholic viewpoint, demonstrates man’s desire to know God. This animism inspired the Totem Poles and we thoroughly enjoyed making our own.

The children also made puppet horses. These were great fun and painted in a wild array of different colours. Including pink stripes?!?!

All in all it was a fabulous three days and it is little wonder that the club is now over-subscribed each year. In three packed days we managed to do a huge amount of children’s work as a parish. A massive thank you to all who helped in any way. And also to the children who behaved impeccably and helped make it all a lot of fun.

Pembury be on alert because outlaws are coming to town. The good news being that we are fully booked for this year’s eagerly anticipated holiday club ‘Catholics in the Wild West’. This means 35 primary school aged children are lined up to don spurs, craft cactus and paint head-dresses as we explore 19th Century North American history.

Now some people might consider the lawless West a very dangerous place for the children of our parish to explore. But do not be concerned for these are experienced and intrepid explorers who, in recent years, mastered journeys to Space, explored under the Sea, trekked on Safari and overcame Tigers in India! Perhaps it is the wanted men who should fear. Here is the most notorious of all who, rumour has it, is planning to escape the country before the club begins.

The holiday club is always great fun, enjoyed by children and helpers alike. But it is only possible thanks to the organisational genius and dedicated hard work of my wife Hayley. She spends most of her spare time in July preparing craft, ordering equipment and planning each day meticulously. We are also indebted to all who assist her with prep and help on the day. Less than a week to go and the excitement is mounting…

 

My wife Hayley is the star of the latest educational video produced by the National Gallery in London, where she works, three days a week, as a painting restorer. In this short film she explains how varnish is removed from oil paintings as part of that restoration work and we see various techniques used by the conservators. The picture is Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’.

Being married can bring about a sense of familiarity which makes us forget how talented and gifted our loved ones really are. Wow! Those days when Hayley sets off for London really are spent doing vital cultural work and it is good that her talents do not go to waste. Signed a proud husband!

Each year the Catholic author Joanna Bogle leads a series of walks around London which focus on our Catholic heritage and history. I am told they are first rate. Details about the 2018 walks are below and you would be very welcome to join Joanna for any or all of them:

MONDAY September 10th

In the footsteps of St Thomas More

Meet 6pm Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row, London SW3. Nearest tube: SLOANE SQUARE or SOUTH KENSINGTON

 

SUNDAY September 16th

The City and its Wall

Meet 4pm (note time) St Etheldreda’s Church, Ely Place London EC1.

 

SUNDAY September 23rd

WESTMINSTER and PARLIAMENT

Meet 4pm (note time) on the steps of Westminster Cathedra, Victoria Street London SW1

 

SUNDAY October 7th

Southwark and The Borough

Meet 4pm Church of the Most Precious Blood, O’Meara Street London SE1

 

TUESDAY October 9th

WESTMINSTER AND PARLIAMENT
Meet 6.30pm (after 5.30pm Mass) on the steps of Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street London SW1

 

SUNDAY October 21st

In the footsteps of St Thomas More

Meet 4pm Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row London SW3.

 

NO NEED TO BOOK: JUST TURN UP!

Each Walk lasts about 1 ½ to two hours: you can of course leave at any time. We suggest a donation of £5.00p per person for each Walk.

Wear comfortable shoes and suitable clothes – we walk whatever the weather!

More information: www.catholichistorywalks.com

On Saturday Father Nicholas joined a large number of people in making the journey to Birmingham where eight men were ordained to the sacred priesthood, for work within the Ordinariate, at the Oratory church. The celebrant was Archbishop Bernard Longley who used the crozier belonging to Blessed John Henry Newman which now belongs to the Oratorians.

Several people have told me that the occasion was wonderfully uplifting- if hot! The Oratorians were all vested to support us and the congregation made up of Ordinariate members and supporters from across the UK. This was a unique occasion because it was the first ordination of men who discerned a vocation from within the Ordinariate; amongst them Thomas Mason who spent a summer chopping down trees and being chased around by the children of the summer holiday club here in Pembury. The Catholic Herald have written about the service here.

Meanwhile I was at Wonersh Seminary in Surrey where Jack Lusted was made a transitional deacon for work within the diocese of Arundel and Brighton. Jack was formerly Anglican minister in Robertsbridge and had wanted to join the Ordinariate. But with a family to support and no openings at that time it was eventually discerned that he would better serve the church by joining his local diocese. So a gift from us to them that shows how the Ordinariate is not only growing itself but helping serve the wider church in England and Wales.

Jacks delightful family were, of course, present and it was nice to catch up with them and share news from Pembury. Over lunch I ensured that the very many good wishes from folk in Pembury reached their ears; it is hoped we can organise a group from the parish to support him later this year when he is ordained priest. He will begin his ministry serving the Catholic parish in Crowborough which is positive news for the family as it means they continue living in Tunbridge Wells and schooling etc is not disturbed.

Jack was also supported by various priest friends. Here you see him posing, yes definitely posing, alongside Frs Biggerstaff and Bostock. All three were once students together at St. Stephen’s House in Oxford when training for ministry within the Church of England. They were both on very good form and it was a pleasure to catch up with them.

Yesterday we gathered for a very special Evensong in thanksgiving for the beautification of the church in recent years and for the generosity of all who enabled it to happen. It was a very uplifting and fitting occasion ably led by our choir who were bolstered for the night by various friends from local choral groups.

The Evensong setting was fittingly the Pepenbury Responses and the anthem, sung during the solemn blessing of the new window, was ‘This is the record of John’ by Orlando Gibbons. The three psalms were sung to Anglican chant and our hymns were Lead us heavenly Father, lead us, Eternal Father strong to save and Lead thou me on. The first two to reflect the nautical backstory of the new window. The final hymn penned by Blessed John Henry Newman, patron of the Ordinariate.

Monsignor Keith Newton and Bishop Paul Mason were our special clerical guests and we were also joined by clergy from the local deanery, ecumenical guests and former priests of the parish. A cohort from the Worshipful Company of window Glaziers were present having been so helpful in enabling us to secure the and restore the window. They were presented with a plaque which is to be erected in church in their honour.

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After the Evensong and solemn blessing of the window we all moved outside for a glass of bubbly and some canapés. Huge thanks to the ladies of the congregation who prepared the feast. Guests mingled and enjoyed a late summer evening. They included the headmistress of Kent College, pictured below right, which ensured my daughter Jemima was on very best behaviour. It will be her school in September!

I was delighted that two representatives of the parish of Shottermill in Surrey made the journey to Pembury to be with us. This is the parish that gifted us the gorgeous reredos by C. R. Ashbee which is now located in the Sacred Heart Chapel. It is of exquisite quality and remarked on by most every visitor to St. Anselm’s. Their parish, along with all who have gifted us items, were prayed for during the service.

Once everyone was refreshed they were marshalled back together by Father Nicholas, who was given some extremely rare praise from his priest for all his help in dealing with the procurement of the window. I simultaneously apologised to the Worshipful Company for having unleashed his eccentricity upon them. As you can spy over his shoulder Ron Crane was also present on behalf of the Ordinariate Portal- so watch this space!

We were then treated to a speech from Michael, a key figure at the Worshipful Company, who gave us the backstory of how our window came to be in their care. Rather shockingly, before they got hold of it, it spent several years lying on the garage floor of a vicarage! His speech brought home just how vital is the work of the Company in preserving, restoring and rehoming stained glass which is part of our national treasure.

All in all a wonderful evening then on which to thank God for the beautification of our parish. Looking back we have achieved a great deal together since the Ordinariate first arrived in Pembury seven years ago. May the next seven be just as exciting and full of life and promise.

For more photographs click on this link. 

A reminder that tomorrow is the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul and a day of holy obligation for Catholics. There will be no morning mass at St. Anselm’s, as I will be away celebrating a Mass for St. Gregory’s school in Tunbridge Wells, but there is an evening Mass in church at 8pm. All are welcome.

SS Peter and Paul shepherded the church in its earliest days. They were radically different characters yet both were crucial. Peter for maintaining unity. Paul for ensuring growth. A healthy Church needs authority and wisdom. The authority of Peter- the wisdom of Paul.

Given their impressive status one might be forgiven for assuming each led a blameless life. Not so! Peter was impetuous and a slow learner who often dismayed Jesus; so much so he was  scolded with the words, ‘Get thee behind me Satan’.  Peter got things wrong repeatedly. He even promised to die with Jesus, only to give in to cowardice.

Paul was equally fallible. He had a fiery temper. In early life he persecuted Christians even rejoicing in the murder of Stephen. And after his conversion that temper remained. He upset churches. In Acts we read how when Paul returned to Tarsus, “the churches were left in peace”. That is pretty damning. Paul was a pain.  He wasn’t popular. He fell out with people- most famously Barnabas and Peter himself!

So Peter and Paul were complex characters. Men of talent yet beset by weakness. So what made Peter great? What made Paul wonderful? It was not their human strengths and gifts, as we have seen, but rather that, despite being flawed, they submitted to God and were transformed by grace. They gave their lives for the sake of the kingdom and God used them in a wonderful way.

Paul, highly educated, had a burning intellect that enabled him to become the first serious theologian. Peter ever pastoral and strong, had the loving authority needed to guide the Church. Neither man was perfect- but both were made perfect by grace. Both lives, once given to God, reaped a harvest for the church.

Ss. Peter and Paul remind us that the church is not a club for the perfect but a hospital for sinners. God calls imperfect personalities to spread the Gospel. He works through frail humans, warts and all, if we would but submit to his will and not our own agendas. Human weakness is no barrier to living faith.

A reminder that this Sunday, at 6:30pm, we hold a special Evensong to celebrate the beautification project of recent years which transformed St. Anselm’s from a tired mass centre into a church fit for daily worship and reflecting both the patrimony and worship of the Ordinariate. We shall also be blessing the new stained glass window kindly made available by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers, who will be in attendance.

Our director of music, Aidan Lee, has chosen a fitting musical setting for the occasion- Richard Sheppard’s Pepenbury Responses. Fitting because Pembury is an ancient settlement whose name used to be ‘Pepenbury’ drawn from a legacy as an apple growing region. You can here these responses by clicking the link below.

Several guests will be in attendance for the evening, which culminates with bubbly and canapés in the church grounds. Monsignor Keith Newton, Bishop Paul Mason and Father Hugh Allen O Pram will be the mitred guests and we have various clergy and ecumenical friends joining us. Ours is a small church and seating will be on a first come, first served basis so parishioners are advised to arrive in good time.

Ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood often occur on or around the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul these days; a season known as Petertide. This year two familiar faces are getting ready to receive sacramental gifts that imbue ontological change and I am sure the whole parish will join me in praying for them and wishing them well.

Jack Lusted was an Anglican minister for many years having trained at St. Stephens house in Oxford. His last post was as vicar of Robertsbridge. A few years ago he made the courageous decision to enter into the Catholic church, along with his family, via the Ordinariate. He had hoped to serve within it but, lamentably for us, no opening could be found that would enable him to support his family. So he was released to the diocese of Arundel and Brighton and they will now gain an excellent cleric. He is pictured above in shirt and tie alongside family and other candidates received into the church in Pembury that year. Fr. Lusted has been studying since then at St. John’s seminary in Wonersh and will be made deacon this coming Saturday. I shall be present to represent St. Anselm’s and support him.

Thomas Mason, pictured above serving at the altar alongside Mgr. Burnham, was one of the first young men to discern a vocation from within the Ordinariate. He has studied at Blackfriars in Oxford and latterly at Oscott and was made deacon this time last year. Fr. Nicholas will be travelling to the Oratory in Birmingham this coming Saturday where deacon Thomas is to be ordained a priest alongside 7 others for ministry within the Ordinariate. The ordinations will be conducted by Archbishop Longley in the presence of Our Ordinary, Mgr. Keith Newton. Thomas will be known to members of St. Anselm’s parish having taken a summer placement here a few years back.