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.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Church sharing and the Ordinariate

In my recent post about the reluctance of some to enter the Ordinariate I did not touch upon the very real and sensitive issue of attempting to take one's church building with one or of sharing it afterwards with those who stayed behind. For not a few this may indeed be an obstacle.

When I left St Thomas the Martyr here in Oxford the future of the church as a place of worship weighed on my mind and conscience. Fortunately for my hubris, and more importantly for it as a church, it has manged very well without me. But I would rather have liked to take it with me, in its case back, into the Roman obedience.

William Oddie was an advocate of congregations which had divided into Anglican and Catholic communities sharing church buildings in his book The Roman Option, but I think it might prove difficult - one can imagine disputes over who used the other group's incense, or who left the sacristy in a mess, let alone whose pyx was which in the tabernacle. That said I do think that with good will such problems could be avoided and need not be insuperable. However how much good will is there around at the moment?

Such arrangements would depend upon the attitude of the Church of England, and that does not look promising - there seems clear hostility to shared use in various dioceses. The phrase "dog in a manger" has been used to describe the attitude, or potential attitude, of some Anglican administrators. What I wonder would be the attitude if an Ordinariate group wanted to purchase a redundant church? In Manchester some time ago the Anglican diocese backed away from a sale to SSPX of a disused church. How would they react to customers from much closer to home?

St Barnabas Church - Interior (Post Card) - Collection: Katharina Mahler, Tunbridge Wells

St Barnabas in Royal Tonbridge Wells

This was highlighted by a report in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph about St Barnabas in Tonbridge Wells where the Vicar and 54 of the congregation want to enter the Ordinariate, but 18 in the congregation wish to remain in the Church of England, and the views expressed suggested that the split ran quite deep. The Archdeacon had made it clear that the Ordinariate group would not be able to continue to use the church. Looking on the internet I found their "Community blog", and it is clearly now a community that appears deeply and painfully divided. Incidentally the Vicar, Fr Tomlinson, has a blog which you can find here.

That said I wonder if we might not see some interesting legal disputes as to who does actually own the fabric and the site of at least some churches. Quite apart from proprietary chapels there could be some interesting instances. Could we even witness situations like that around S. Nicolas de Chardonnay in Paris? We shall, no doubt, see.


Anonymous said...

Boozing and blogging rarely mix. It's "Chardonnet", not "chardonnay"!

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

Mea culpa, not mea gulpa.

Anonymous said...

Surely the problem is less about consumables like incense, than about the fact that most churches want to hold their services and other events at the same time - my (non Anglican or Roman Catholic) church recently looked at building sharing, but sadly concluded that in practice it was very difficult even with good will.