Parish Magazine Article - March 2019

    6 Feb. 2019


    When you read this letter, I expect to be away from Hereford on a period of study leave.

    Part of my time will be spent in Rome.I’ll be looking at some of the churches there, noting how their own approach to prayers at the shrines of the saints compares with our own intercession ministry, back in Hereford. Do the saints in the Eternal City provide that focus of intercession that we so encourage in English cathedrals? For some of the time, I’ll be staying at the Anglican Centre - set up during the 1960s after the historic meeting of Archbishop Ramsey and Pope Paul VI.The Centre provides a focus in Rome for dialogue between our two Communions.

    I’ll also be staying just down the road at the Venerable English College.This is the historic Roman Catholic Seminary for priests in training from England and Wales. Set up in the second half of the 16th century, during penal times, priests trained there often returned to England to minister amidst great danger and many were martyred for what they believed.

    Since the mid 1970s, the College has invited two Anglican ordinands to stay at the college for four months of their training.I did this 1981-2 and Neil Patterson did the same ‘exchange’ a few years later.It was a hugely influential part of my formation – helping me to see how Roman Catholics were trained for priesthood and ingraining in me a real passion for Ecumenism, which has never left me.Indeed, quite of few of those I met almost 40 years ago, have remained friends.When I return this Spring to stay at the College, I’ll be speaking to current staff and students and generally trying to get an understanding of how the ecumenical scene has changed in those years.We know that aspirations for corporate unity between churches has taken something of a back seat, as Christians have focused more on united social action – with arguably less doctrinal division.Nevertheless, discussions at all levels of our churches continue and I shall be particularly interested in the extent to which training for ministry contains ecumenical elements today.

    When I was at the College in 1981, I was present at the great ceremony when the relics of the College’s martyred saints were solemnly placed in a great bronze reliquary beneath the newly-consecrated altar.Such an event might have proved an occasion for disunity and blame – but on the contrary it proved to be a great ecumenical event – all united in the sense that the saints of all denominations lead us to God and give us a glimpse of his powerful working in human lives.Meanwhile, we all work in our own parishes and ministries to carry forward that great and loving command of Christ himself:

    Ut omnes unum sint – That they may all be one