Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

More thoughts on Canon Thomas Chamberlain

After I had posted my piece about my article on Canon Chamberlain yesterday it occurred to me that I really ought to say a little more about my sense of obligation to him and his ilk amongst the pioneers and sustainers of Anglo-Catholicism. When doing research on him I realised the extent of my admiration for this tough and determined man who set out to do what he believed to be right in his parish and achieved so much. In a sense I wanted to be battling alongside him in those far-off episodes of nineteenth century church history.

It was thanks to what he and others achieved up and down the country that I was able as an Anglican to grow into the Catholic faith. I owe a great deal not only to the likes of Chamberlain, and their successors, but also to faithful clergy who ministered in my own time and home area. The journey beginning at St Giles Pontefract and taking in en route St Thomas at Purston, St Mary at South Elmsall, St Cecilia Parson Cross and the Bilham group of parishes, and the shrine at Walsingham and the Glastonbury Pilgrimage, drew me on to Pusey House and St Thomas in Oxford. Without them I would not have so well placed to make the final transition to the fullness of that faith in full peace and communion with Rome. For all that I am immensely grateful.

Many other Anglo-Catholics have followed similar paths, and would, I am sure, agree as to the debts they too owe.

This is not just a personal matter, it has a wider significance. At the present time there is the real possibility and hope of other Anglo-Catholics making that final move. I appreciate their apprehension - above all perhaps over possibly losing their churches, as Valle Adurni highlighted last week - but as Ancient Richborough and others have indicated the risks of staying are ultimately worse. I am tempted to say that if I could do it, so can they.

Chamberlain may not have been a 'Romaniser', but then he was not faced with the threats to the integrity of orthodox belief and practice within Anglicanism which confront people today. The choices made by Chamberlain and others, led by Pusey were, in their own way, as difficult as those made by Newman and his companions. The former group chose to stay, in the hope of better things. For a while that hope seemed justified. It looks much less so now than a century or seventy odd years ago.

To cradle Catholics, who so often appear to know or understand little of the Anglo-Catholic expereince, I would say that beyond the charity of welcoming converts there is the deeper charity of making welcome people who think almost exactly as they do, and who have often been through journeys in faith that can augment the whole Church. There is a need to learn more about what Anglo-Catholics believe, and that it is not just 'dressing up' and 'playing at Church'. Those of us who have completed the crossing of the Tiber, and those paddling, wading or swimming across now, and those still tentatively putting a toe in the water have brought and can bring much to the life of the entire Body. It may be the 'Anglican Patrimony', it may just be ourselves, but it is something, and something that ultimately is called forth by God.

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