Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

After the EU: restoring order

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Enough with the division, hatred and anger. The fallout from the EU debate is turning ugly and threatening the stability of our nation. We now need peacemakers, on both sides of the debate, to be heard; that we might reconcile differences and be brought back together in love. For who doesn’t have friends and family with whom we disagree on this matter? People we know to be principled and decent whose friendship we would miss should politics divide us long term.

Whatever our personal views- we must look forward not back; it is our duty, I sincerely believe, to accept the vote in the interest of democracy- whether thorough gritted teeth or a smile- and then commit ourselves one to another afresh. What might we learn from this episode of history? How might we bring the very best of each other’s views to the table? Because- when people are not slinging mud -they tend to accept there was something to be said on either side. Seeking compromise and therefore common ground would be wise now. The alternative being too bleak to even consider. Let us be brave enough to seek the path of love not hatred.

For the reality is that both sides of this debate have something sensible to say.  At least the better part of each side of the debate does!  The most noble voices in the remain camp reminding us to be open to strangers, to work in collaboration with our neighbours and be inclusive in our attitude to life. The noble in the out camp reminding us that we cannot work towards this goal of loving neighbour as a nation if our leadership is not committed to the same! The enterprise fails, and so does democracy, when elites become self serving, greedy and detached from grass roots. Brussels and Westminster failed to speak with moral force because both have been found guilty, in recent years, of corruption and the rise of big business over the interests of all. Free markets giving way to self serving quangos.

Before you splutter outrage let us admit to the worst of both camps too. It is sadly true that the worst Brexiteers seem to be motivated by fear and hate. There are xenophobes amongst them who would show disdain to the stranger, whose small minded vision would lead to a vile and resentful little England. But it is equally true that the worst  Remainers demonstrate an awful bourgeois arrogance, snobbishly discounting the voice of all others in a cast iron belief of their own moral superiority; yes, to the point of suggesting betrayal of the democratic process!

A curse on both those houses! We do not need haughty voices or fearful ones at the table of our common future. It is the best of the arguments, the best of the people, that we need to locate that they might be heard. Let us hunt down those who can work together and help us build a future in which all feel represented.

How then might a compromised future look? Well it might require our nation to go back to basics. To reflect with maturity on how we might encourage principled leadership to lead us back to the table with renewed confidence.

Perhaps this last week will spark a revolution and a brighter future? The old crusty order dying that something better might emerge? Who knows? Nobody at present for the dust has not yet settled. But what I do know is this;  the future is only going to be as good as we ourselves behave. Together we stand and divided we fall. It is time then to silence the bigots and raise up the wise and loving. Those able to listen to those they profoundly disagree and find common ground. That together we might forge a better future.

Church Summer BBQ

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Next Sunday, 3rd July, is the Church Summer BBQ. Tickets are on sale from tomorrow at £5 per adult and £3 per child, with under 5’s free. As ever we ask for people to sign up to provide either a salad or pudding. The form is on the table in the church lobby.

Do feel welcome to bring family and friends and make this a great social event for the parish. It will begin once the 11am Mass ends- and those who attend at 9:15am are welcome to remain behind and help with the setting up!

The forecast is for clement sunny weather…

Waking up to a new era

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A Brexit vote has triumphed over a remain campaign. There is a great deal of media noise at present with people inevitably pondering the seismic shift in the political landscape, but wisdom suggests we should perhaps pause for reflection instead; we need to wait for the dust to settle before making any bold predictions or sounding the alarm of Armageddon! Change is never easy, though it is inevitable in life, and often the future is neither as bleak as we fear nor as wonderful as we hope- but something in between! And for the dismayed- remember the wise quip that disaster is another word for opportunity!

To my mind this vote is a reflection of several things. Firstly of a people disillusioned from the political process. Democracy is in crisis at present. Why? Because of the collapse of free markets and capitalism in favour of elite driven quangos and corporationalism; of which the eu was part of the problem not the cure. This has left people feeling marginalised and disenfranchised and they took the opportunity to hit out. In that regard democracy triumphed today and a reminder sent to politicians regarding the power and importance of voters.

Another aspect, few will recognise and fewer will admit, is the rise of nationalism throughout the West that is caused by declining birth rates. When birth rates drop below a sustainable level, for any nation, history teaches that confidence departs and fracture and disintegration follow. Our anti-family culture is beginning to reap what it sows. A fear and uncertainty about the future which is enflamed by the rise in immigration. I heartily recommend Mark Steyn’s ‘After America’ or ‘How civilisations die’ by Mark Goldman for a better explanation of this phenomenon. If you prefer to watch rather than read then this film covers the basics. 

And finally I think the referendum was a wake up call to Britain regarding manners and decency. Both sides resorted to appalling deceits and demonisation of other; resulting in a loss of honest debate that might have pulled people together. A situation made worse by the arrogant and snide remarks of the EU leadership itself. Not only did they refuse renegotiation prior to the vote but they threatened and bullied throughout recent weeks. The tone has been wrong then and the debate rushed. I certainly felt ill equipped at the ballot box. Recognising the problems but uncertain of the solutions.

Ultimately I stand by my belief that for nations to flourish they need faith. Without God we cannot flourish or be free. What is really needed is a sustaining vision beyond the material realm around which people can unite.

There isn’t a clear Catholic position on Europe

It is almost crunch time. And many people, I know, are still grappling with the question of Europe. Others have decided one way or another. It is worth spelling out that there is no clear Catholic vote. And so it comes down to a question of personal conscience. And to help you come to your decision I am posting today the four speeches given at the EU debate held by Catholic Voices. The first (above) was given by Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph supporting the decision to leave.

The second contribution is from Tom Tugendhat who supports remain.

The third contribution comes from a female voice, that of Gisela Stuart, who was the other supporter of Brexit.

Then we have Baroness Smith giving the second defence of the Remain position. That should give something to get your teeth into. Happy voting.

Re Europe: I vote for Gaugin!

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Perhaps it never existed? Perhaps I was just young and naive? But it does strike me that there has been a terrible deterioration of first principles across the political spectrum of late. Virtues such as integrity and honesty and altruism seem rare. Spin and lies and manipulation seem common. Perhaps it is the effect of a general moving away from our Judeo-Christian inspired values? Perhaps it is the triumph of relativistic belief over a philosophy based on any objective notion of truth?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that whatever powers our political landscape is not just flawed at present but so obviously broken. I have said it before and it is worth stating again; democracy is in a deep crisis. Something I link with a shift away from healthy capitalism and free markets, that which inspires growth and prosperity, to controlled markets via elite driven giant corporationalism. Which both Britain and the EU aspire to at present!

The debate over Europe has not been energising and it has not been much fun. Rather it places a cloud over our nation. So many lies, so many fanciful predictions, so few tangible facts and so much blatant manipulation. How are we meant to know what we vote for, let alone vote, when so few are prepared to admit gaps in knowledge or merit the other side with some respect? Instead of creating space for mature reflection our purile media fosters bitter divide at every turn.

The truth is that nobody, in or out, can predict the future. Not least when the West is in terminal decline and the world so very unstable. And the solution to these larger problems will not be found in economic forecasts or demonisation of those we disagree with. What is so manifestly needed- it strikes this man of faith- is a bigger consideration of who we actually are as a nation and where we want to go.

It is time to put surface politics to one side and consider our Judeo-Christian roots asking how they fit with the modern world view? Who were we, who are we at present and why? And what do we wish to become? What governing principles guide us? What, beyond mere acquisition of wealth, drives and sustains us? What is our anthropological outlook? What is our vision and understanding of self? What is our faith- that ancient belief which many still hold t0, however loosely, or that new secular elitism proscribed from above by the tiny but over powerful minority?

The reality is that no nation without faith has ever thrived in the history of the world. Man needs more than self to drive forward. He needs that which is worth sacrificing for. He needs that which is beyond the material to sustain him. He is a spiritual creature. He needs a guiding vision! And what is missing within the present debate are these deeper philosophical and theological considerations. Ever the foundation of all that follows.

However trendy the desire to foster neutrality to faith might be- it doesn’t succeed because that very desire is based on fallacy- for it stems from a system of belief itself. One imposed not chosen. The attempt to govern on economics alone is therefore hackneyed and failing. Founding principles matter and so the West declines because she has lost sight of what she is and what she stands for.

Hence the confusion. Who cares what makes money? The real question to confront is what will lead to the greatest human flourishing- but nobody is tackling this at present.  Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? The words of Guagin’s famous painting need to be before us….but alas they are not. And until they are- brexit or remain- we are in trouble.

We apply the sticking plaster and avoid the major surgery. We discuss what does not matter and do not confront the one issue which does. Britain’s people may believe in many different things- they always will- but what does Britain herself believe in? Until this is answered then we grope about in the dark. Faith matters.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

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This coming Wednesday is our next Year of Mercy Lecture. The speaker is the ever inspiring Joanna Bogle who will speak on the beatitude ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’. 

A couple of years ago I heard Joanna deliver a truly memorable talk on the courageous early life of Pope St. John Paul II. At my behest she has promised to incorporate some of this into Wednesday’s talk; so I am supremely confident in stating that this lecture is not to be missed. As ever Low Mass 7:30pm followed by refreshments and, at 8pm, the lecture itself.

Unfortunately, having only just arrived back in England, I have not had the opportunity to advertise this talk as much as I would have liked. So do please email and telephone friends and drum up the support. It will be worth it!

Acton course begins 

Yesterday afternoon was busy with registration and welcome and meeting lots of interesting new people. There are nearly 1000 delegates here from 55 different countries. Dinner at my table was spent with three Americans, one Spaniard, an Irishman who works in Angola, an Argentine, a Lithuanian, a Ghanaian (yes he knows fr Jo!) and a priest from Brunai! 

After dinner the first main lecture was delivered by a most impressive woman by the name of Magatta Wade. A Senagalese Muslim business leader she is spending her life on an inspirational crusade. To challenge the system whereby Africa is dependent on aid by bringing about economic growth through the establishment of local thriving businesses. This work is, of course, hampered by how very difficult wealthy nations, Western corporations and the International Monetary Fund make it for businesses in the third world at present. Red tape exists to ensure the playing field is never fair and the wealthy will always grow richer as the poor are made to depend on them. Much of her work at present involves raising awareness and pressurising nations to do better. Do watch the film she has been involved in, which is called Povert inc; you will never view charitable work the same again!  I plan to show it in the parish on my return. 

The Kitchen Appeal

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The last few years have been busy for our little parish. It has been a period of renewal, growth and renovation. With the help of volunteers, loans and grants we managed to transform a tired dual-use room into a proper church with a hall, complete with bespoke storage. In the grounds over 70 unsightly leylandii were felled and disposed of and a new lawn, trees and shrubs planted. A salvaged Calvary has added dignity and a welcome to the grounds. Inside the church the arrival of salvaged quality ecclesiastical furnishings have beautified the whole. New stations of the cross, pulpit, ambo, altars, candles, statues, altar rails, confessional, rugs, pews, chairs, reredos, icons, frontals, bells and vestments have arrived. And all without the need for a major fundraising drive from within the congregation.

The bit we missed…

Whilst the new hall and church greatly enhanced our parish, one area remains desperately in need of refurbishment. Our kitchen; it is, simply, not fit for purpose;  which limits opportunities for letting. Last year we could not even host our annual Christmas lunch for pensioners on site. For the kitchen floor is broken, units are damaged and there is no cooking appliance at present.

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It had been hoped that a grant might fund this refurbishment work but, alas, the request was turned down on a technicality. We therefore need to raise £8000 to create a commercial kitchen fit for purpose; one to stand up to heavy use and pass hygiene standards. We ourselves can tear out the old, paint and prep- but skilled labour will also be needed…

It is therefore hoped that, having received so many gifts in recent years, the congregation will now rise to the challenge and take on the task of funding this work, via donations and fund raising; a way of giving thanks to God for all that he has given us these last few years. And you, blog readers from afar, are very welcome to help too. We are not at all fussy whose money comes to the rescue!

Plans in place

Prior to filling out the grant application two reputable builders submitted design plans. This means that we are ahead of the curve and when funds are found the work can begin. Geoffrey Ravenhill, who so expertly delivered our hall to budget and schedule, has been asked to oversee the project working in collaboration with clergy, treasurers and congregation. A new kitchen will enable us to generate income for our parish by giving us a lettable resource.

The clergy will thank you

As a act of thanksgiving for the generosity of the congregation- Father Nicholas and I have pledged not to be idle whilst the fund raising is done. We will be cracking on with the beautification of the church; mounting the new reredos, building a gradine, plastering walls and raising the altar. So the money raised will not only see a fit for purpose kitchen spring up but even more development in church.

On Sunday July 3rd, the day of the parish summer BBQ, a gift day will be held. The sacrament will be exposed in church to facilitate private adoration and a gift box set before the altar from Mass until Evensong. But you need not wait for the gift day to donate. Anything offered between now and then will be added on the day! So do send us a cheque today- made payable to SAINT ANSELM’S CHURCH, PEMBURY  It can be sent the following address.

c/o Revd. E Tomlinson

THE PRESBYTERY, 31 HENWOODS CRESCENT, PEMBURY, TN24LJ

GIFT AID

To enable us to grow your gift via gift aid, eligible tax payers are asked to include a note stating the following

I want to Gift Aid my donation. I am a UK taxpayer and understand that if I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on my donations in that tax year it is my responsibility to pay any difference.

Name____________________________________

Address __________________________________

Postcode _________________

If you are not able to offer a financial gift at present due to hardship- then why not hold a coffee morning or cake sale or take on a sponsored activity? That way everyone can get involved in some way. My own children have already suggested that the parish children might host a Cake sale! So now it is over to you….

Growing up, growing out

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Have you read ‘growing up, growing out’? It is a special five year report produced by priests within the Ordinariate. The aim being to create a strategic document to help us plan together for the future by reflecting honestly on the first five years of Ordinariate life in the UK. What has worked? What is frustrating our development? What needs to change? What needs preserving? You can read a summary here.

The report formed the basis of our first ever Kent area lay conference which was held last Saturday at the residence + Paul Mason, the new Kent area bishop for Southwark Archdiocese. Six priests and several members of the laity gathering together to grapple with the report.

The day was productive and the points raised will now be fed back to the hierarchy. We were joined by Fr. David Waller, dean for the South East, and he summed up the main points raised and gave us a final blessing. It being the fifth anniversary of Catholic ordination for Ordinariate clergy in the Kent area champagne was drunk with luncheon! It is hoped there will be future meetings like this, which are open to anyone associated with the Ordinariate in the Kent area. Diocesan and Ordinariate.

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What were the main points raised? Firstly a unanimous belief that the central vision  of the Ordinariate MUST be better owned and transmitted. Until this happens all other considerations are secondary. As evidenced by the fact that, in the last five years, those who simply used/viewed the Ordinariate as a way of getting from A to B- have met with frustration and have contributed little. But those who have ‘got it’ – understanding that this is a new movement for the future with a special charism- have delighted in it and offered us much. We must ensure this becomes the norm.

The second point to come out of the discussion centred on a need for ownership, resources and energy. Put bluntly one can see how better served the Ordinariate has been where her priests are enabled to live out their vocation. Where they have some sense of autonomy, and where buildings are free for worship according to our liturgy and at a sensible hour. But where clergy are working primarily to cover gaps in a diocese, with little to no autonomy or space and resources with which to promote the Ordinariate, well there it inevitably flounders.We recognised these latter situations, though regrettable, had arisen from need. When the Ordinariate was formed the first priority was simply to house and feed clergy families. But now we must look again at some situations asking if they are truly assisting both diocese and ordinariate? For changes must happen where Ordinariate clergy are housed miles from their people, or asked to work so hard for a diocese that they have no time or energy left to uphold the Ordinariate vision and to celebrate her liturgy.

Another need is for the creation of an effective second tier management. Support for the Ordinary (who we noted is universally liked and who has been given a very hard task) via senior priests who can offer pastoral support to parishes and strategic advice to the church. This is beginning to happen but it needs sharper focus and proper roles provided- that such clergy might work with a proper authority. Unless they are formally recognised how can they intervene and help?

This led to a wider discussion about clerical life. And whilst most clergy seem in good spirits concerns were raised; how do we get the best out of priests lacking any opportunity for healthy progression? How do we ensure dioceses work collaboratively and don’t exploit our lack of resources- pinching priests to cover gaps? (A problem in some dioceses and not others). How can we grow without being offered buildings and presbyteries? Where will our pension provision come from? How can we support clergy in small groups, especially those with families, often at the bottom of any deanery line for lucrative stipends and stole fees? Resources…always we come back to this. But it is a genuine problem.

Many other things came to light over the course of the day, including how we battle a widespread apathy in the modern culture to actually get our lay folk together? Doubtless our local area dean, Fr. Lindlar, will produce a comprehensive summary of the day for better scrutiny. But the idea here was to give a flavour of the day. A conference fuelled by the excellent report ‘growing up, growing out.’ I really do commend it to ordinariate clergy and lay people, and those who worship with us- please read it!

And having highlighted some of the challenges faced it must be said that the overall sentiment and mood was extremely upbeat. Everyone felt that joining the Catholic church has been an extraordinary and grace filled blessing. We all have witnessed miraculous moments and there is a genuine vibrancy about the Ordinariate. ‘It has something of the early church about it’ said one wise head. And indeed the most positive news is that we have been able to write this report at all. For, in truth, our limited resources should have ensured failure long ago. But we do not fail. Rather we go from strength to strength, continually punching above our weight, and bit by foundations are building. It will take years for us to see the end result. But nobody doubts that God is with us and, therefore, the future is bright. Please pray for us and support us.

Catholics brave the elements!

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“Catholics braving the elements” is the name of this year’s summer holiday club being run by our parish between July 25th – July 27th. The club, which is for primary school aged children, will run from 10am -2pm each day and costs £15 for the first child and £5 for each additional sibling.

This is the fourth annual holiday club we have run. The previous ones – ‘Catholics on Safari’, ‘Catholics under the Sea’ and ‘Catholics in Space’ proved very popular- with the last two being over subscribed. Early application is therefore advised and application forms will be available in church, or from Hayley in person, very soon.

We will also be looking for plenty of adult helpers. Put the date in the diary.

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