Now refitted and ready for your prayers. The blessed sacrament is reserved and we have a beautiful new altar and some new chairs, do if you are nearby, please do come and pass some time here. To reach the Upper Chapel, go through the door by the High Altar of the main chapel, through the vestry, and up the spiral stairs.
Month: November 2011
Whitworth House is a home for vulnerable, homeless young women aged 16-25, which used to be part of the Young Women’s Christian Association but is now run by a housing association. The Friends of the House organise charitable events to support this vital work here in Cambridge. Get your kilts on!
The first giveaway is his use of quotation marks around the word ‘priest,’ the word that has been used without exception in all Anglican ordinals. This was despite the Puritans’ insistence on the term ‘presbyter,’ which went hand-in-hand with their desire to abolish episcopacy. If he wishes to belong to a presbyterian church, then so be it: but the Church of England is not and never should be so.
The Church maintains that, according to biblical witness, the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are essential to salvation. We might note that Jesus wrote nothing Himself, but made Himself known in the breaking of the bread and ordered his disciples to go out and baptise. Regardless of one’s eucharistic theology, Laudians and Puritans alike insisted on frequent reception of Holy Communion, with proper preparation and reverence. The sacraments are at the very least as important as the ministry of the Word, and arguably more so.
Baptism is the precursor to Communion, and not the other way around, and according to the Exhortation in the Book of Common Prayer, it is the Communion ‘whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the Kingdom of heaven.’ Indeed, from the earliest days of the Church, one was baptised in order to be allowed to receive Communion. Surely the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the central event of Christian history, and its sacrament therefore the most important in Christian worship?
Half of its essence, at least, as the ordinal by which Atherstone himself was ordained made clear when he was explicitly ordained a ‘priest’ as ‘minister of Word and Sacrament.’ As all candidates for ordination to the priesthood, he was asked by his bishop: ‘will you faithfully minister the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them?’ From his article, it seems that he intends to do no such thing. If his understanding of Christian ministry does not involve the ministry of a priest as defined by the Church of England, particularly in its rubrics on the celebration of Holy Communion, then one might ask him how he justified himself being ordained to that Order. Like it or not, and dress it up in what language he may, Atherstone was ordained a priest, and a priest he remains.
Of course, as is the Reader, the Deacon, the lay youth worker, the organist, the schoolteacher, the shopkeep, the nurse or the bishop. The people of Christ have diverse callings. The priest’s is defined particularly by the celebration of the Holy Communion. As Atherstone points out, that is the only thing distinguishing a priest from the deacon. Remove the distinction, and we remove the orders of priest and deacon altogether. If the abolition of threefold Catholic orders from the English Church is the subtext of Atherstone’s argument, he might have the honestly to declare so openly. Or perhaps he would retain the orders of deacon and presbyter as distinctions of ‘managerial’ rank, though quite how this would escape the allegations of clericalism that he assumes, I do not know.
On the contrary, it depends upon God’s Holy Spirit acting through the order of the Church, which in the Church of England follows the historical threefold ministry. It is not at all dependent on who the priest happens to be, but on the fact that he or she is a priest, ordained by an apostolically descended bishop to that specific ministry. A personality cult is far more likely to emerge in a more flexible, congregationalist model of ministry where authority is accorded by little more than popular acclaim. Again, this is a wholesale rejection of the church order in which Atherstone was ordained, and requires far more than a paragraph to defend, just as it surely requires far more than a bullet-point for him to demolish.
This point is hard to argue, since its sense is so vague. But if it means that it is an activity proper to the minister of a flock, i.e. to a pastor, then again, the ordinal makes it clear that this is so. The duty of the priest there stated is indeed to ‘to preside at the Lord’s table and lead his people in worship, offering with them a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’ By the early AD 100s, it is clear that only the bishop presided at Communion, and there is no reason to suppose that such was not the case even earlier. This duty was later delegated by the bishop to the presbyter. But never in the history of the Christian church do we find any record of its celebration by lay persons, except by certain gnostic sects repudiated by the Fathers. Our only evidence shows that leadership at the table or altar was connected to leadership of the congregation.
If he and his kind do get their way, we will be back to the age when candles, crosses, vestments and even organs were illegal, and the beauty, order and ecclesiological integrity of the Church of England will be lost forever. No more grand royal weddings in Westminster Abbey: the few who remain in our newly narrow church will be treated to some sort of worship band-driven pop gig-cum-Bible study instead.
I can only ask: if Atherstone objects so much to Anglican church order, then why does he not follow his conscience and leave? Oh, for a Church without Puritans.
“Not particularly religious? Interested? Spiritual? You’ve thought about eternity for twenty-five minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions?”
If only I didn’t agree with him.