Worship the Lord!

Home of Blessed John Henry Newman Fellowship... for now.

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!!

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

11 thoughts on “Worship the Lord!”

  1. As one who is also starting a parish for the Ordinariate dedicated to Bl. John Henry Newman, I am pleased and encouraged by this optimistic approach by Bishop Moyer and the former Good Shepherd congregation! Where one door closes, God always opens another, and this group clearly was looking for God's will for their future and is faithfully following it.

    "What is the end of all this turmoil? the grave. What is the measure? the Cross." ~ Bl. John Henry Newman

  2. Keep your sights on the Lord walking in your direction and not on the gusty winds and stormy waters around you. Remember, we are coming Home. God bless and keep you daily.

  3. What a wonderful, heartwarming account of a dedicated Christian community. It has been said that adversity bonds kindred souls together and here is a prime example of this axiom. One can see nothing in the future here but growth and prosperity for the community of Blessed John Henry Newman. May God in his infinite love continue to bless your endeavors as you move forward in this most positive direction? We look forward to join with you as we collectively move across the Tiber towards home.

  4. Thanks be to God for Fr. Moyer and his faithful witness. May God bless this group in a new beginning.

    I have just finished reading some truly awful things written to discredit him, and I cannot imagine what motivates people to do such things. This whole process of entering the Ordinariate has really opened my eyes to a deep and abiding anti-Catholicism that I did not know or understand existed among civilized people.

  5. Having just spent the last couple of months establishing an "Ordinariate bound" mission in a parishioner's home in Ocala, FL (Church of the Holy Cross, about an hour and a half north of Orlando), we can fully relate to the circumstances and emotions described so beautifully in this article. Although our entire congregation at this time totals eight of us, we did have five visitors this past Sunday, so we can appreciate how the group felt as they "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."

    I have no doubt that many more missions/parishes will established prior to and after the erection of the U.S. Ordinariate, and it is heart warming and a great source of motivation to read of such a joyous new community that is on its way "Home to Rome."

    Let us all pray that the Lord will continue to empower us with the patience, strength, and courage we need to stay the course, and that one day very soon those of us who are of one mind and one heart will have the opportunity to truly enter into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

  6. A great piece of news: an ordinariate group in Ireland! http://exploringanirishordinariate.blogspot.com/
    It seems that Anglo-Catholics in the little tiny "satellite" Churches of the CofE (Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales, Church of Ireland) where there is no particular episcopal oversight for traditionnalists and so no structure for them, are starting to awake to Anglicanorum Coetibus. Indeed, there is already a Scottish Ordinariate Group, Welsh groups in formation, and now an Irish group in formation…
    Deo Gratias.

  7. Welcome Fr. Moyer and your congregation. Your struggle has been long and hard. Now a modicum of peace and joy. How fortunate we feel here at Christ our Saviour Parish in Denison, Texas to own our church building, and hopefully in a week or two a parish house as well. It is a hard struggle at times, but you will make it. We all wait patiently for the announcement of the American Ordinariate and prayerfully, our acceptance. When I left the Episcopal Church on Easter Day, 1988, I never looked back but always ahead. I pray you will do the same. God bless you all and take good care of yourselves. Fr. Clayton T. Holland, Retired Pastor of the Denison congregation.

  8. Thanks be to God for your brave witness and steadfast faith. We are sailing with you.

    The Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
    Currently assigned to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish; Bath, PA
    Diocese of Allentown

  9. The ASB is the best; one might wish that it had the/a lectionary included in it, but perhaps the omission is an advantage…I hope and trust that Bishop Moyer and Frs. Bartus and Siegel will know that the courage and perseverance of them, their families and parishioners is so very edifying to those of us who, more or less at our ease, can take advantage of the AU foundations so painstakingly prepared by those who have gone before us.

    Konowing that the CDF has a lot on its plate, including the upcoming meeting on September 14, among Cardinal Levada, Bishop Fellay and their assistants, one trusts that other CDF staff are diligently working to get the North American ordinariates erected soon.

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