United Not Absorbed: An English Perspective

In 1925 Dom Lambert Beaduin wrote of L'Eglise Anglicane Unie non Absorbee. It is a marvellous concept, Unity without Absorption, but it is not easily achieved. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is attempting it, but it is still a work in formation. Some Groups are forging ahead, with good numbers of former Anglicans mostly from single parishes making a coherent body. One of these Groups has even been given the care of a Catholic mass-centre, and is effectively running it as a joint parish for both Ordinarians and Cradle-Catholics (I wish we had better terms than these to describe there two versions of Catholics).

In other places — and Bournemouth where I minister is one such — our numbers are small, gathered from half a dozen different Anglican parishes. My care for this group in my retirement can only be a temporary measure until other former Anglican priests are ordained for the Ordinariate. This does not mean, though, that we are being 'swallowed up' by some imagined ogre-ish Catholic Church of England and Wales. Instead we and the parish whose church building we share are gradually learning to trust each other, working together as and when it is appropriate, working in parallel at other times. With only a couple of dozen members in our Group, we could not sustain a daily Ordinariate Mass. Instead we have settled for one mid-week Mass and one Sunday Morning Mass. At other times we can go to our local catholic parishes.

This week for instance that means I have celebrated the two Ordinariate Masses in Bournemouth, but on other days I have either celebrated or concelebrated in the Catholic Church down the road in Lymington — much nearer for me than the one we share as the Ordinariate. On Thursday I helped with five other priests in the Pastoral Area hearing confessions during a liturgy of Reconciliation. On Christmas day, we are joining with the Bournemouth Parish at Mass, since long before being asked to take on our Group I had arranged to spend a few days with family in South Wales. Our Servers have been invited to help at the Midnight Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace. I hope to be celebrating at the hour in the Catholic Church in Llantwit Major.

The following Sunday, January 1st, our Group will again join the Parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Bournemouth, and this time Fr Gerry, the Parish Priest, has kindly asked me to preach at that 10am Mass.

So in small ways we begin to work together, while keeping a distinctive Anglican ethos at most of our celebrations. What does this mean?  Well, we sing rather more of the Mass that the Parish usually does, and use incense more frequently than they do. Many of our Hymns are from English Hymnal. I am given to understand, too, that our preaching is a bit more substantial than general in Catholic parishes. In time it might also involve our celebrating according to an Ordinariate Use, though no distinctive Missal is yet available — except the "Book of Divine Worship" from America, which we in Bournemouth feel does not answer our need. Other Groups will have found a different balance between parish and Ordinariate worship. No two situations are identical yet we are all involved in finding an appropriate level of cooperation. The Catholic Bishops and their Parish Priests have, in my experience, been unfailingly helpful. We are all trying to be faithful to the Holy Father's vision for an Anglicanism 'united but not absorbed'. We value the prayers of everyone who is encouraging us in this great venture.

Author: Fr. Edwin Barnes

Bishop Barnes read theology for three years at Oxford before finishing his studies at Cuddesdon College (at the time a theological college with a rather monastic character). He subsequently served two urban curacies in Portsmouth and Woking. During his first curacy, and after the statutory three years of celibacy, he married his wife Jane (with whom he has two children, Nicola and Matthew). In 1967, Bishop Barnes received his first incumbency as Rector of Farncombe in the Diocese of Guildford. After eleven years, the family moved to Hessle, in the Diocese of York, for another nine years as vicar. In 1987, he became Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford. In 1995, he was asked by then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to become the second PEV for the Province. He was based in St. Alban’s and charged with ministering to faithful Anglo-Catholics spread over the length of Southern England, from the Humber Estuary to the Channel Islands. After six years of service as a PEV, Bishop Barnes retired to Lymington on the south coast where he holds the Bishop of Winchester’s license as an honorary assistant bishop. On the retirement of the late and much lamented Bishop Eric Kemp, he was honored to be asked to succeed him as President of the Church Union. Both these appointments he resigned on becoming a Catholic in 2010. Fr. Barnes is now a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, caring for an Ordinariate Group in Southbourne, Bournemouth.

3 thoughts on “United Not Absorbed: An English Perspective”

  1. Fr. Barnes,

    This is very good news to hear from one who is actually involved with the English Ordinariate. There are rumors all over the web that the OLW Ordinariate is being absorbed into local Catholic parishes and that the offer from Pope Benedict was just a ploy to get unhappy Anglicans into the Church. Also that the Anglican Patrimony, including the liturgy will not continue and all will be another Latin Rite parish with no distinctive Anglican Patrimony.

    These comments are being made, however, there are never any sources mentioned.

    Thank you for clarifying what is actually happening within the English Ordinariate for those who might be having doubts that what Rome has promised to Anglicans is being kept.

  2. Good news Father. May God bless those courageous members of the ordinariate. May God give them the strength to carry on.

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