Until yesterday Revd. Alastair Ferguson was active as the vicar of St. Michael and all Angels in Withyham, East Sussex. An Anglican parish in the Diocese of Chichester. But that changed at the end of Mattins when he announced to his congregation, that with immediate effect, he was stepping down to follow his conscience and join the Catholic church, via the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with his wife, Denise. At the request of the diocese he now begins a period of extended leave that is owing to him.
Once the announcement was made Cardinal Newman’s beautiful prayer –‘support us all the day long’ -was read out and the final hymn was the Eastertide favourite, ‘the strife is o’er the battle done!’ Members of the congregation were then invited back for drinks in the rectory garden, a magnificent old property, and as you can see the party was gatecrashed by cassocked riff-raff from nearby Pembury in Kent…
Father Alistair, a former GP, and Denise will be worshipping with us at Saint Anselm’s over the coming weeks as they discern where God is calling them next. This represents great charity on my part- I want readers to understand- given that he is a graduate of Oxford (like Fr. Nicholas) whilst I am a light blue!
What courage Fr. Alastair and Denise are showing to leave behind so much with no clear answers for the future, save this strong desire to walk the path of unity and a genuine belief that God is calling them to it! We must pray for them and make them truly welcome!
Like Fr. Jack, who joined us only a few months ago from Robertsbridge, Fr Alastair surprised the Anglican authorities when he announced to them his intentions. Being typical country parsons- prayerbook catholics from a rural setting- these are not the unashamed Romanists you once found in town centres, those people assumed were the obvious candidates for Ordinariate life. No, it is not the lovers of exotic liturgy who seem drawn to Rome today but those, who with gentle but firm resolve, simply wish to stand by the faith of the ages and delight in that authentic Anglican patrimony which the Ordinariate upholds.
This does not surprise me. ‘Being catholic’ for many Anglicans today is an aesthetic choice. A love of dressing up and enjoying the trappings of ceremonial. But that isn’t what Catholicism itself is about. So little wonder- in these days when the Catholic claims of Anglicanism have fallen- it is orthodox hearts and missionary minds, not the gin and lace set, who are finding their way home. Because if you claim to be Catholic, as these men came to realise, the game is up on Canterbury’s shore. Only protestants and liberals can survive with intellectual credibility. A fact to threaten belief not liturgical proclivity.
Perhaps God himself is not particularly interested in preserving ‘the Anglo-Catholic sect’ in any case. But that he used Anglo-Catholicism in the last two centuries to soften protestant hearts ahead of the true work of unity that is now unfolding within the Ordinariate. The calling home of those separated from Rome at the reformation who are now in danger of being led even further from Catholic truth as the C of E abandons its self proclaimed via media to promote its current liberal creed.
Alastair and Denise- we delight in welcoming you into the life of the Ordinariate. May your witness inspire many others to follow, indeed my prayer is that the whole Church of England might one day wake up and see the unbelievable potential and gift that the Ordinariate presents it. That we might all be one. The abandonment of the experiment of liberal modernity and the schismatic tendency of protestantism to reclaim the authentic truth and unity of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith.