It is still the Octave of Christmas. So if you were planning avoiding meat, this being a Friday, think again. It is very much time for feasting in fullness as we continue to rejoice at our Saviour’s birth. Hold the diet off until the season is over!

In our house Hayley is the better baker and I the enthusiastic cook. And being a rather portly cleric some people wonder if, besides cooking, I ‘ate all the pies?’ Not quite but I do enjoy a good one. So let me share a recipe, taken from Lisa Faulkner’s ‘Recipes from my mother’. I highly recommend both her book (which is strongly family focused) and this ingenious use of left over Turkey. It makes a feast out of the leftovers.

Serves 6: Ingredients

150g pancetta (or bacon), 3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, 1.5kg leeks (trimmed and sliced), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, knob of butter, 800g of cooked turkey, 50g flour, 2 pints chicken stock, 50ml double cream, 375g pack of ready made puff pastry (or make your own!) 1 egg (beaten) Salt and pepper.


Heat a large frying pan and cook the pancetta and thyme for 3-4 mins on a med/high heat.

Add the leaks with the olive oil and butter. Reduce the heat to low and soften for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure leeks dont stick or burn!

Add the turkey and stir well. Mix in the flour and then pour over stock. Add the cream and season to taste. Bring all to the boil and then take the pan off the heat.

Using a slotted spoon place mixture into a large pie dish. If gravy seems nice and thick pour it over. If still too runny- boil a little longer to reduce.

Grease the rim of the dish and roll the pastry out to cover. Pinch the edges to seal and brush with the beaten egg to produce a lovely golden brown.

Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. Delicious!

Wonderful numbers at Mass this Christmas, especially for the Midnight, which was standing room only, and the Mass of Christmas morning. Indeed the only Mass  down on previous years was the vigil at 5pm – and that was almostly certainly due to having had a morning Mass of Advent IV with its own obligation! All in all then a wonderful Christmas for the parish.

Today a very quiet Mass for the feast of St. Stephen at 9am. Attending servers were blessed and thanked for their work at the altar. We sang Good King Wenceslas at the offertory; singing one carol at each low Mass in the days after Christmas having become something of a tradition now.

Happy Christmastide to one and all. Make the most of these wonderful days and this wonderful season. Mass at 9am every morning this week except for Thursday.

The church is decorated. The children’s crib service has finished and soon the Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve will be under way. A very happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. May you make room for his grace in your hearts on this most holy night.

Still to come in the parish….


Vigil Mass  – 5pm

MIDNIGHT MASS  – 11:30pm


Sung Mass – 1oam

And well done to Janet who has knit a lovely little crib scene for the parish hall Christmas tree. It is here, following the midnight Mass, that the bubbly will be opened later and toasts made to the Saviour’s birth. O Come let us adore him!

Christmas Eve

9am – Said Mass of Advent IV

9:45am – 11:30am – Confession available in church & church decorating

2pm – rehearsal for children wanting a part in Christmas nativity

3pm – Crib Service with children’s nativity



Christmas Day

10am- Sung Mass – children bring a present to open!

Social media was buzzing yesterday with news that the new Anglican Bishop of London, who replaces the colourful and charismatic Richard Chartres, is Sarah Mullally;  notably the first woman to hold this ancient see.

The Church of England is ever political so the news was predictably greeted with cheers and groans… depending on one’s beliefs regarding the suitability of women to holy orders. This led to the unsavoury sight of her first words being reconciliatory ones to those with whom she is in disagreement. That was a shame, I felt, primarily because she deserves better. Both sides in this dispute need to recognise that airing dirty laundry in public is not winning souls for Christ. It was no way to introduce anyone as bishop to a watching nation.

Yet appeasement was necessary because this was a manifestly political appointment. Bishop Mullally is able and compassionate, I warm to her, yet the third most important see in the Church of England should demand more than ‘being nice’ or ‘being a good manager’ in terms of ecclesial credentials! One might have expected a proven biblical scholar or one skilled at running a diocese. What we witness, instead, is a late vocation to the church whose residentiary training was in nursing not theology. Does this not speak volumes? And does it make it a triumph for women’s ministry if she is being promoted not on merit but gender?

Maybe this fact is what convinced her to begin her Anglican episcopal ministry with a call to appeasement? If so I believe it was misguided; because when assurances to mutual flourishing have to be given with the opening breath it rings hollow. Let us not forget the last traditionalist candidate chosen for a diocese was hounded out within weeks by the intolerance of the supporters of women’s ordination! The time when nice words alone might heal these deep wounds is long past I fear.

Hence behind establishment smiles of late one senses fear of further fracture. The Anglican communion can no longer hold the Lambeth conference due to irreconcilable differences. And at home, eons after the vote to ordain women, Anglicanism still struggles to move on; relationships have broken down. The C of E is not in communion with itself anymore. So the new bishop’s task will not be easy. A house divided cannot stand. And the pressing task for all Anglican prelates, male or female, is to end this dispute. Holding together people of opposing beliefs is good in theory but it is not proving remotely possible in practice.

Might it be time for opponents to admit defeat and move on? We in the Ordinariate could help by welcoming them into an authentic Catholic community. After all there is only so long you can rumble along against the grain with impossible division before it hampers evangelistic capability. Even principled stands begin to look myopic and curmudgeonly after time and from the outside it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what the remaining Anglo-Catholics think an achievable end game is for them?

Bottom line? If you worship in a synodical church embrace the consequences of losing synodical votes. Those votes have not been easy on traditionalist Anglicans, and many sympathise, but the implications cannot be dodged forever. The situation will only get worse for traditionalists moving forwards given that the modernist project is well underway and shows no sign of abating. So again what are they remaining for exactly given that all credible Catholic claim is long gone?

It really is time to accept then that the Anglican ‘via media’ was abandoned in pursuit of liberal modernism. Hence it isn’t only the admission of women to holy orders (a matter of faith) which challenges Anglo-Catholic claims. It is also the position on numerous moral issues which have changed beyond recognition. Consider the acceptance of divorce and re-marriage without recourse to annulment, contraception, abortion and homosexual marriage (pensions are now paid to the civil partners of clergy).

The historic Anglo-Catholic claim, to be a part of some mythical authentic Catholic body, is made farcical. Only the most stubborn could pretend that is even remotely true in 2017. Whatever it may be, however right or wrong its thinking, the modern Church of England just is no longer home for those who hunger for historic Christianity as understood by the Universal Catholic world and the church in all ages. So make your choice….Remain and accept what synod delivers and embrace a liberal protestant and congregational reality. Or find a Catholic home where conventional belief can thrive.

The Catholic church was my choice. You can enter via a diocesan route, if you can cope with cultural change and less English spirituality, or, if you love the Anglican patrimony, via the Ordinariate. Both doors open into the one united home of course. But any hope for an orthodox future within the C of E is gone. So I say with compassion… Come in Anglo-Catholics; your time is up! It is time to make a decision about where it is you are heading.

Monsignor Burnham made a remark on social media last week to the effect that serving as priest to a small community can be more pleasurable than serving the more impressive and sought after positions within the ecclesial realm. He should know, I guess, having formerly served as a bishop within the Church of England.

What then are the advantages and joys for clergy serving smaller congregations? Here are my top five gleaned from personal experience.

1. A sense of community. When you have hundreds through the door on a Sunday morning it is impossible for people to bond effectively. But in smaller congregations people know one another well and that feeling of family grows strong.

2. Liberation from worldly temptation. When I read of dire corruption in the Vatican or overly ambitious clergy playing political games I am grateful fate led me to a little place. Perhaps it saved me from myself? In small churches there is no money worth compromising a vocation for, no serious political games to win. With personal ambition thus frustrated, as it is within a fledgling Ordinariate, focus turns solely to Christ. A manifestly good thing for the soul.

3. Liberation from reprisal of bullies. It is sad to say but many priests today fear speaking out for the Gospel for fear of being hounded out by belligerent laity or vengeful prelates. Others fear loss of that little brown envelope. Not those already on the fringes. Again we can focus on Christ in a way that is good for the conscience.

4. Scripture teaches us that God likes little places. Jesus did not choose the palace for his birth but a stable. Goliath did not fight for God it was David. Throughout scripture it is in the quiet corners that the Holy Spirit seems most active, the people most receptive to grace. Ours too is a small but sacred place where I detect the quiet presence of God within the sanctuary. It is, therefore, a good place to be.

5. One can plan for the long term. Wherever clergy are ambitious you tend to find a rotating door policy. A priest comes and goes and it can lead to the same short-termism that blights the political realm. Parishes become stepping stones and clergy don’t get time to confront mistakes and learn from them. But for those of us building the first congregations within the Ordinariate setting- we have nowhere to go. This is healthy because it makes us consider the long term consequences of all that we do. We can truly dedicate our lives to the people we serve.

So there you have it. Five reasons to be jolly thankful for village ministry. Let others get embroiled in the power games of this world. I look forward to another delightful Christmas in this little place.

A reminder that the St. Anselm’s pre-Christmas Carol concert takes place this evening at 6:30pm. Come and sing all the well known Christmas carols and hear again the readings about our Saviour’s birth. After the service we will enjoy mulled wine, minced pies and a delicious fruit cake in the Hine Room. Everyone is welcome – bring friends and family.

This time of year sees our university students returning home. It is always lovely to have them back in the congregation and boosting our choir and serving team. We would also love to see you tonight – so come along and support the carol service!

Congratulations to former St. Anselm’s chorister Luke Pitts, whose father Antony was Director of Music here before taking up a fantastic job opportunity in Sydney Australia. Luke, who is enhancing his musical gifts singing in the choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral,  has appeared as cover boy of the North Shore Times and you can read the article via this link. Just click on the cover and it takes you to the article.

This evening I am attending the annual Carol Service at East Sutton Park Prison where I serve as Catholic Chaplain one day a week. This year it is going to be a particularly special celebration because one of the ladies is being received into full communion with the Catholic church and receiving the sacrament of confirmation. This comes after a course of small group catechesis each week over many months when we followed the Evangelium course together. The other members of the group will be acting as sponsors.

I cannot give further details for reasons of confidentiality but please pray for this lady who has found hope and comfort in the Christian Gospel and in the promises of the Catholic faith. We have chosen the carol service because it is the one time that we enter into a proper church (not a multi-faith room) and the whole community are gathered. It is days like this that make priesthood such a joy.

The difference between life outside the church and life within it never differs more radically than in the run up to Christmas. Outside the weeks before the 25th December are a whirl of frenzied activity; a time for parties, excess, consumerism and frivolity. So that, by the end of December, most people are partied out, broke and ready for the detox in January! Christmas, in other words, comes early which makes the season of Advent utterly redundant. Perversely the early celebration also makes redundant the actual 12 days of Christmas which is really when the office should be holding the party, etc, etc…

Meanwhile in church we are asked to prepare by readying ourselves spiritually for a coming encounter with the divine. Advent is a time for reflection and confessing sins. A time for surveying the darkness of this world that we might recognise our need for the light- for that gift of grace. We ponder end times, the four last things; death, judgment, heaven and hell. We pray and hold off the celebration until the feast arrives…only THEN do we launch into the turkey, fizz and fun. Enjoying that long season of Christmastide which runs into Epiphany.

At least that is the theory. In practice it is difficult. We do not live in a vacuum and  compromise has become necessity. We can try to hold off celebrations but often recognise a need also not to be curmudgeonly. If you wait until Christmas Eve to buy the tree… chances are they sold out! If you want a good carol service in the week after Christmas- good luck with that! Unless you live in a bubble, in other words, or voluntarily miss out on the fun,  it becomes important to cultivate an ability to mix and match. Go to the office party and enjoy it- but find time also to kneel before the sacrament in prayer. By all means take the children to see Father Christmas. But also talk to them about Advent and help them have a sense of anticipation that the really good thing is yet to happen.

However you juggle it what is imperative is that you do not do away with Advent. The world may have commercialised a Christian feast and moved it to the 100 days before Christmas rather than 12 after…but we who are Christian cannot afford to give up on Advent so easily. Which is to suggest the world CAN afford to party because all it is doing is marking a date. Big deal. In church we cannot be so flippant, for if we truly believe, we have more to do. We must prepare souls for genuine encounter. Ready ourselves for a God who transcends with grace. A grace that can only be received, and this is the crucial point, if we are ready to embrace it. Not if we are spiritually lazy and bloated with all the excess.

God is waiting to embrace you this Christmas. But it is all too easy to lose sight of him entirely amidst all the tinsel and turkey.