Here's a delightful account of the inaugural Mass of the Blessed John Henry Newman Fellowship, written by Carol Sargeant, formerly a long-time member of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
No one knew what to expect on Sunday morning at the Inaugural Mass of the Blessed John Henry Newman Fellowship. What would it be like to worship in an intimate Main Line living room? Who among all our friends and loved ones would be there? Would we have enough seats? Would we have enough prayer books? Would we sense the presence of the Lord?
Driving to Devon, parishioners looked up from their Mapquest directions to see an enthusiastic Seth Moyer jumping up and down, directing traffic to the lovely and welcoming home of Mary Ann McCluney. Stephen Oberdorf professionally waved cars into the improvised parking lot, while Grace Oberdorf graciously directed parishioners (carrying folding chairs) into the house. These children, with their beautiful smiles and exuberance, filled our perhaps weary souls with hope, and helped prepare our hearts for the joy that awaited us in worship.
Through the kitchen we entered. This was no gothic 14th century church – but, nevertheless, when we walked into Mary Ann’s beautiful kitchen and saw the many familiar and smiling faces, it felt like OUR church! Sweet delight! There were so many loved ones there to welcome us and share in this new adventure in worship. It felt like a home-coming!
Elbow to elbow, we squeezed ourselves and our chairs into Mary Ann’s living room, graciously asking pardon as we bumped and jostled each other in our eagerness to enter in. We heard Bill Gatens coaxing beautiful music from a keyboard, and voices raised in unison and in freedom. God had called us to this place, and we worshipped Him with joy and enthusiasm.
Father Moyer, in borrowed vestments, stood at the front of a packed living room and spoke briefly of the beautifully providential nature of the day’s lectionary readings. We have been appointed “watchmen for the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 33) St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminded us to “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another . . . Love does no evil to the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” And finally, Father Moyer reiterated to us Jesus’ promise that, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mathew 18:20
Father Moyer spoke of how certain scripture passages came to him during his early morning meditation: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,” and the words of Jesus in Revelation, “I have come to make all things new.” Father Moyer also reminded us that Jesus promised “fresh wine for new wineskins.” God is doing something new in our midst! Father Moyer then expressed his excitement to be entering a new season where he, our priest, will be able to concentrate on using his gifts as a pastor and a teacher – free from all the stresses and distractions of the past several years.
Father Moyer reminded us about the life of Blessed John Henry Newman, the patron saint of our new Fellowship, who himself journeyed from evangelical Protestantism to Anglicanism to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. As one scholar wrote in reference to Blessed John Henry Newman: “—if ever a man loved and sought the truth it was John Henry Newman. His whole life had been a struggle for truth.” (John Henry Newman: His Inner Life, Fr. Zeno, Capuchin).
Father Moyer asked us to ruminate on the poem, Lead Kindly Light, in which Blessed John Henry Newman states that the Christian pilgrimage is all about taking one single step at a time. “One step enough for me . . .” And as we take each single step, God gently and faithfully leads us onward.
Of course, the climax of the morning came in the celebration of the Mass. All the sorrow, discomfort, and sadness of the last few years were forgotten as Father Moyer lifted up the bread and the wine – Christ’s body broken for us. Christ’s blood shed for us. Christ living triumphantly in our midst, sharing His life with us, and leading us on.
Sweaty and exultant hands lifted hymnals as we sang our closing hymn, bringing our service to an end – and marking the beginning of our new life together.
With much laughter, we adjourned to a crowded kitchen where we enjoyed coffee and delicacies graciously provided by Wendy Ewing, Maggie Oberdorf, and Donna Wells. The atmosphere was celebratory and fun. The shadows of yesterday were forgotten as the joy of a new season rose before us. Christ in His great mercy has freed us from the burdens of our past and filled us with hope as we prepare our hearts and minds for unity with the Holy See.
“This is the day that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!” Halleluiah! Halleluiah!!