It is all happening at St. Anselms


It is all happening at Saint Anselm’s over the coming weeks….

Tonight, following 7pm Mass, there is a ‘taster evening’ for all who are interested in the parish pilgrimage to Rome taking place in October 2016. At this meeting the proposed schedule will be shared and booking forms made available. Wine and nibbles will be served.

This Saturday we hold the parish quiz night. As well as the usual picture rounds there will be 8 rounds of questions on various topics. People are asked to bring their own refreshments and entry is £5 per person. You can enter as a team or be placed into a suitable group on the night. It should be a lot of fun as well as helping parish funds.

Christmas leaflets are ready for delivery. Please take a parcel from church and commit to leafleting one road in the village. These leaflets, produced jointly by all three churches in Pembury, provide the times of festive services. Take one and note them down! Alternatively keep an eye on this blog where all will be revealed…

Next Sunday is Advent Sunday and we present our outgoing director of Music, Antony Pitts, with a farewell gift. In the evening it is the Advent Carol Service, at 6:30pm. This will be the first time our new director of music, Tom Davis, takes hold of the reins. So please make an extra special effort to come and show support. We will of course be singing the great Advent Carols. O come, O come….

Looking ahead a little and we need the most support from the parish on Saturday 12th December. During the day we host our annual over 60’s lunch, this year in the Scout hall due to our kitchen being temporarily out of action. We need bottle washers, cooks, waiters, table setters, drivers, carvers and others too! There is a sign up list in church which helpfully tells you the timing each task requires. Please sign up early and calm the nerves of those organising.

That evening, December 12th, we sing carols in front of Tesco at 5pm. We will be raising money for charity. We will then make our way to Hazeldene nursing home to sing to the residents. After which a great thirst will undoubtedly have built up and so we will make our way to the Black Horse for a well deserved beer!

Ours is just a quiet little village church you understand!

More good news for the Ordinariate


The Vatican has announced today that Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, who heads up the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (the American branch) has resigned and will be taking on an administrative role in the future. He is to be replaced by The Reverend Monsignor Steven Lopes.

News of the new appointment might not seem important at first glance. But the significance lies in the fact that, unlike Mgr. Steenson, Mgr Lopes is not married. And that means he is free to become the very first bishop of the global Ordinariates. And this is welcome news indeed for it will make the structure within American operate as a proper functioning diocese.

The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter currently has forty communities and over seventy clergy. And, unlike here in the Uk, groups were able to retain their property meaning that they are financially secure and ahead of the curve when it comes to establishing autonomous communities.

Mgr. Lopes will leave his current role in the CDF in Rome to take up this exciting new ministry. Not that he has much to learn about the Ordinariate vision. He was one of the chief architects of the project working on the legalities from within the Vatican.

Advent charity 2015

This Advent we are, again, raising money for Aid to the Church in Need, a trusted Catholic charity with an excellent reputation for delivering aid on the ground where it is most desperately needed.

In 2015 the Syrian people have been living lives of unimaginable horror. Their homes, schools and places of worship have been have been bombed and a huge number of those not killed in the terrorist activity have been driven out of their homes. 

It is thought 4 million people are internally displaced at present and that some 1.5 million people have fled abroad since 2011. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need have been there on the ground providing emergency support to suffering families; offering education, medicine, transport, trauma counselling, shelter, food supplies and bedding.

The money we raise at St. Anselm’s this Advent will go towards supporting ACN’s campaign to help the people of Syria whose lives have been devastated by conflict. Please give generously.

Celebration of motherhood


One of our sacristans recently shared with me her positive memories of her devout and loving mother. Later our conversation shifted to a discussion of poetry and it transpired that this inspirational but modest mother, one Vera Prince, had delighted in writing her own poems. Indeed she had submitted one for a BBC competition many years previously and won a prize.

I asked if I might read the poem in question and last week she brought along the following which I think is fantastic. It reveals to me a woman who cherished family life and her role within it. I thought I would share it with you. Tomorrow I will share another of the poems which is also very good. What hidden talent you find in life with just a little digging!

The Gate by Vera Prince

Here with my hand on the latch, I am two persons,                                         I am the woman with the basket, the passer-by in the street,

Unnoticed, anonymous, an infinitesimal part                                                 of a great multitude that, with purposeful feet                                       plodding the pavements, streams on perpetually                                          into the abyss of time past.

One person: I have only to push the gate open,                                           and, in a step, I shall be wholly that other;                                                      for here, where so small a plot contains a world,                                             I have a face, a name; I am wife and mother,                                          blessedly beloved. The stored years wait in the house,                              and, as I cross the threshold, their warm sweet breath                                 will welcome me again into that happy bondage                                 intangible as the hearth-smoke, and stronger than death.

With familiar incompetent click, the gate half-closes behind me,                I have all things, I am myself, I have come home.

To be a pilgrim

My first parish, as an Anglican curate, was dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury and situated in the Essex town of Brentwood. I soon discovered that the town owed its heritage to pilgrims. For the name Brentwood came from ‘burnt-wood’ – because the dwelling began life as an area of scorched forest, which sprung up as a resting place for pilgrims who journeyed to Canterbury Cathedral. Here taverns soon flowed with ale, horses found sanctuary in stables to rent and market stalls clamoured with life as pedlars noisily touted their goods.

Ever since this my time in Brentwood, and with renewed vigour since joining the Ordinariate with its own emphasis on English spirituality, I have been fascinated by the authentic story of Catholic England, much of which became obscured as an invented history was crafted in post-reformation days. I therefore welcome the latest DVD from St. Antony Communications which focuses on England’s historic pilgrim way. It will be shown in the parish within the new year.

The DVD follows on of the ancient pilgrimage trails which runs through south-east England; a pathway along which so much of English identity converges. And St Thomas Becket figures large, the martyr who stood up to a King and inspired Christendom. It is a route that drew countless pilgrims in ages past, captured the imagination of Chaucer and is reviving in our own time.

This film follows Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Nicholas Schofield as they journey from London to Canterbury. Along the way they discover the story of St Thomas and some fascinating traditions: the Rood of Boxley, the splendour of Rochester, the ‘second Carmel’ at Aylesford and many more. By retracing these steps of the medieval pilgrims, this film draws out the rich Christian heritage of England and reflects on what it means ‘To Be A Pilgrim.’

I commend it to you. You can order your own copy here.

Another special moment for the Ordinariate


Those of us who are members of the Ordinariate are extremely fortunate. For we find ourselves at the heart of a new and exciting chapter in the life of the Universal church. Our mission; to live out the ecumenical vision as we breathe life into an Anglican Patrimony; that which is drawn from pre-reformation Sarum rites and all that is good within English spirituality.

To that end we now have our own Customary. This allows the recitation of daily offices with special emphasis given to the story of Catholic England. Much is made of the great English saints. This morning, as now happens every month, I was joined for this fine office by friends from the Anglican church in Pembury. Next month I visit them. And so it is that friendship, trust and reconciliation is building up between us.

This Advent another rich liturgical gift falls into our lap. We now have our own official Ordinariate missal approved and crafted by the Congregation for Divine Worship on behalf of the Vatican. This liturgy is to be known as “Divine Worship”.

As can be seen in the photograph above, at yesterday’s General Audience the Holy Father was presented with a copy of “Divine Worship: The Missal”. The presentation was made by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia and Monsignor Steven Lopes from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Pierpaolo Finaldi from The Catholic Truth Society in London. Another key moment in the life of the Ordinariate for which I give thanks with all my heart.

God is at work in all of this, of that I am sure, and I remind all who may be watching with interest from Canterbury’s shore that the door is now always open to those who wish to retain an Anglican patrimony whilst living out the Catholic life in unity with Peter. Perhaps one day, please God, this could path the way for complete unity and a healing of ancient reformation wounds in this land.

Church inspection anyone?


The local Catholic primary school, where I serve as  vice-chair of governors, recently went through an Ofsted inspection. As ever it proved a gruelling process for the staff but a healthy one for the school as a whole. Nobody delights in big brother breathing down their necks yet standards rise when people are challenged and held to account.

Ofsted, to my mind, is a curate’s egg. From my viewpoint the following strengths and weaknesses are easily observed:


+ National standards are maintained and monitored

+ Parents get a sense of a school’s strengths and weakness

+ Good practice is recognised/good teaching is acknowledged

+ Lazy and incompetent teachers have nowhere to hide

+ Schools are challenged which stops them coasting

+ Standards have risen since Ofsted was introduced


– The process can be very stressful for staff

– A bad report can unfairly and negatively effect intake etc..

– The teaching profession is becoming overly bureaucratic and rigid

– Political interference often leads to shifting goal posts

– Children’s individuality gets lost amidst the number crunching

– Teacher’s creativity can suffer due to over emphasis on monitoring

So to my question. What effect would a similar standard of consistent national inspections have on our nation’s parishes? Would it be a healthy or unhealthy process for dioceses to engage in?

Presumably a church inspector would look for good practice liturgically. A faithfulness to the teaching of the church and consistent, engaging preaching. Evidence that the sick and needy get visited would be important as would some evidence that a congregation is actually growing in faith and not just standing still. Clergy could be asked to demonstrate that they themselves were developing theologically through reading and keeping abreast of church teaching. And so on and so forth. I am sure you can think of some good inspection questions yourself.

To my mind, so long as the process involved trust, it could prove a healthy exercise. It would encourage professionalism and challenge poor practice whilst fostering a more meaningful relationship between diocese and parish. Struggling clerics would be identified and could then be supported. Good practice could also be acknowledged and shared. Whereas at present clergy often feel that, so long as bills are paid and scandal avoided, nobody much cares what is going on!

And the laity would benefit from consistent practice across parishes and from reports giving the faithful a good sense of what to expect when visiting on holiday etc…

What do you think? Would church inspections encourage a more professional life for priest and faithful alike? Or would it prove a pointless draconian experience in which the most important aspects of faith cannot be measured in any case?


The goose is getting fat…

A flock of 150 geese is about to cross a street in Duisburg, Germany, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 17, 2013. The geese enjoy an outdoor enclosure during the day to feed on fresh grass and move back to their night accommodation in the evening. The young geese, hatched out in May, will be slaughtered for the traditional Christmas dinner.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

It hardly seems possible but next Sunday is Christ the King and the following week the beginning of Advent. So the Advent and Christmas programme is very nearly upon us.

Parishioners are asked to note the following dates; that you might preserve the necessary space in the diary and give your full support. That way, once again, Advent and Christmas at St. Anselm’s will be a grace filled time for all the family. Our first Christmas in the new church!

The day we really need hands on deck is Saturday 12th December. Not only do we host a lunch for the over 60’s*, and therefore require cooks, bottle washers et al, but we then head straight on to the churches together carol singing at Tesco, followed by our own carol singing at Hazeldean nursing home.

Advent Sunday: 28th November

Solemn Mass  (with asperges)         9:15am & 11am (+ farewell to the Pitts)


Saturday 12th December

Over 60’s Xmas dinner                   1.00pm (help from early morning!)

Carol Singing at Tesco                    5pm

Carol singing at nursing home    6pm (followed by visit to the pub)

Sunday 20th December

9 LESSONS & CAROLS                   6:30pm

Christmas Eve

Children’s crib service                  3pm

Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve        5pm

MIDNIGHT MASS                          11:30pm

Christmas Day

Sung Mass                                      10am  (children bring a present to open)

*Because our church kitchen is still out of operation and awaiting refurbishment the over 60’s dinner will be held at the Guide and Scout hall this year. We are grateful to them for hosting us at late notice.

Leave the cards in place


There is much anxiety in the Catholic world at present as we await the response of the Holy Father to the Synod on the family. The key question is admission of the divorced and re-married (who have no annulment) to communion. Will the Pope break with Catholic tradition and scriptural teaching and allow for this innovation as the modernist demands? Or will he back the orthodox and stand by the historic teaching of the church?

Nobody can answer with clarity though many attempt to. So until he responds we must wait and pray; that he may be guided by the Holy Spirit. But we do need to understand amidst our prayers that this is a most significant decision with far reaching consequence. Because what is really under consideration is not the presenting issue, how the church deals with divorce, but rather the method by which decisions are made.

To understand how significant changes in methodology can be, we do well to consider Anglicanism. For in the early years of the 20th Century its moral theology was broadly in line with Catholic teaching. Anglicanism was opposed to artificial contraception, re-marriage after divorce, active same sex partnerships and more besides. The change only arrived in the 1950’s when General Synod voted to altar its methodology in regard to just one small issue…

Citing a need to conform to the modern world (sound familiar?) official teaching was changed to allow artificial contraception. On the surface a small decision; a pastoral concession respecting modern couples. But in reality an epic moment- for it was here that the ship of faith, in that particular communion, defintively pulled away from its scriptural and doctrinal moorings. With sex now divorced from its procreative purpose all teaching on marriage and the family was thrown into question. The moral theology of the Anglican communion was set afloat on the sea of modernity and the heart and soul of traditional Anglicanism collapsed.

Thus today the very things Anglicanism once stood against, it now stands for; in practice if not official doctrine. Gay partnered clergy serve it’s synod, second and third marriages are common and so on and so forth. Once the toothpaste was out of the tube changes came hard and fast- there could only be one conclusion! A victory of the modernist sexual revolution over the traditional teaching of the faith in matters of morality.

And don’t underestimate the pain involved. It led to division, disunity and even schism. What else could happen as the entire moral framework of an ecclesial community collapsed in less than half a century? When the card of artificial contraception was pulled from the foundations the entire house fell to the ground. Those who had warned it would prove the beginning of a slippery slope as early as 1908 were mocked and derided. But the warning they issued proved prophetic. What appeared to be just a small change in pastoral practice, the acceptance of artificial contraception, became the key to unlocking Pandora’s box.

Today the Catholic church arrives at the crossroad. The card which the modernists are encouraging the Holy Father to pull may be different, instead of artificial contraception it’s communion for those in adulterous relationships, but the point of departure from scriptural and doctrinal moorings will be the same. The consequences guaranteed.

For once you elect to follow the decision of Synods, or even the personal desires of Pope’s, in preference to the clear voice of scripture and tradition, the very fabric of the church changes. No longer is it a divine institution guarding a fixed deposit of faith; it becomes a political institution in which that faith is ever up for grabs. One must simply lobby those with influence.

See then that it matters not one jot which particular card is pulled- choose your favourite- what matters, for the modernists, is only that one of them is pulled. For once you abandon the teaching of Christ on one moral issue then logic dictates all others can follow….

Pray hard my friends because it is not fundamentalism or rigidity or conservatism that strike me as the gravest threats to the church at present. Those these can indeed suck the life from the church as the Holy Father warns. No, the gravest threat is an abandonment of the faith which the Saints held dear. The storm of modernity is hammering at the walls of the church, please Jesus hold it together.