Looking Back and Looking Ahead

In 1990, I visited a nearby Baptist Church.  I told Pastor Doug Ward that I was a maverick and a heretic and had never been able to sign on the dotted line to join any church. "Maybe this church is big enough for you," the pastor said.  And thank God, he did.  Because if anyone had tackled my various Gnostic heresies head on, I would have left.

I spent ten years or so at Kanata Baptist Church, a parish with a seeker-friendly mission. Upon entering, I had had problems with the notion of three Persons in the Trinity, though none with the Divinity of Jesus.  Through the love and care of this wonderful community, many of my heresies fell away.  It was during my time with them that I realized I could no longer be a cafeteria Christian, picking and choosing what to believe.  I hungered for an Apostolic faith.  But where would I find that in its fulness?

It was then I came across the little Anglican Catholic Church of Canada's then Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa.  It is now the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as we were received into the Roman Catholic Church by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast on April 15.

Here I am with some of our parishioners during the Liturgy of the Word (photo by Jake Wright).

When I left Kanata Baptist Church, I left with the pastor's blessing.  I told him that I hungered for a more liturgical and sacramental form of worship but that I was thankful for all the good teaching and loving fellowship I had experienced there.

Had I not experienced the ten years of gradual growth in the Christian faith, I might have experienced the spiritual bends on encountering the little Ottawa cathedral, but I was ready for its teachings about the male priesthood, about the Sacrifice of the Mass, and yes, its hopes of unity with the Catholic Church.  Had I come in there in 1990, I would have been appalled at the repetitive prayers, the unwillingness to even entertain the notion of women priests.

But I was ready for it.  Hungry for it.

Hearing then Bishop Robert Mercer pray the Mass gave me an intuitive grasp of the Real Presence and being lifted to heaven in the liturgy.  I had such good catechesis there over the last ten years.  Yet had the little cathedral been a stickler about rules and had a closed Communion table, I probably would not have stuck around.

Now we have closed Communion.  All those of us who had marriage irregularities have been vetted by the Archdiocesan marriage tribunal.  All of us have said our General Confession.  It will be interesting to see who our new body attracts and whether we will still be a place — like we used to be — where evangelicals who were prepared to believe in Real Presence would receive Holy Communion and then went on to become members of the Catholic Church because of our teaching.  Would they have left upon being told, sorry, but unless you are in good standing with the Catholic Church you cannnot receive?   Perhaps not.

I'm not arguing for Open Communion mind you, I am just pondering how graciously God has guided me and how gradually, line upon line, precept upon precept, I have been led to the point of desiring to be in full communion with the Catholic Church, thankfully with a good portion of our original parish community and those of groups and fellowships across Canada who entered in Victoria, B.C. on the same day, or will enter April 22, or soon.

So, just as I am still thankful for the Baptist Church, I am thankful for the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and the ministry I received there.  I wish those who have remained behind well.  I wish more of them had found they were able to join us.  Maybe some will in the future.

The other day, while helping a journalist-friend, I went back and took a look at the Traditional  Anglican Communion's Portsmouth Petition of 2007.  What an inspiring document it still is.  I am proud of that letter.  I am also proud that two of the former ACCC bishops, Peter Wilkinson and now Fr. Robert Mercer, who accompanied Archbishop John Hepworth to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) with the letter signed by the TAC's college of bishops, have humbly entered the Catholic Church with no conditions.  I am proud that my own former bishop, Carl Reid, has done the same and led his flock into the Catholic Church.  Other ACCC clergy across Canada will do the same and the decision to ask to come in was made with no guarantees any would be ordained as Catholic priests.

Here is a group shot taken after our Rite of Reception by Robert Du Broy, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Ottawa.  (Lots more of his great photos at the Archdiocesan website!)

I want to thank Archbishop John Hepworth because of how much he inspired me and how much he taught me.  I wish him all the best as he discerns his future and a reconciliation with the Catholic Church he loves and that I trust will take place in time.

In his sermon April 15,  Archbishop Prendergast said:

I commend the courage and fortitude of our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada; your journey has not been easy. I commend your humility and your sacrifice; you have suffered much. I commend your tradition and your zeal; you will bless and strengthen the Roman Catholic Church by your presence.

You are not just favoured guests. This is your home. We love you. I love you. May our public witness of unity draw many from the edges of faith into God’s Kingdom, no longer subject to judgement but to Divine Mercy.

There has been a lot of suffering over the past couple of years, some of it from divisions within our own ranks, some of it from outside forces.  But now is the time to be thankful for gifts received and to look foward to being pioneers in this new venture offered by the Holy Father.  What kindness we have experienced from Catholic bishops across Canada.  What a welcome we received in Ottawa and in Victoria last Sunday.

Just a few days before we were received, a Ukrainian Catholic priest said to me something along these lines: "Stand up for yourselves," he said.  "We have hundreds of years of experience with this.  Always continue to be yourselves."

A friend from the Anglican Church of Canada, part of the Canterbury Communion, said he will be watching to see whether the Ordinariates truly do become a place where we can unpack the treasures of our Anglican patrimony as if we are truly at home.

I think we will.

So now, what is ahead for The Anglo-Catholic?  It began as a blog that gathered in many of the various people interested the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, whether from the Church of England, from the Traditional  Anglican Communion, the Anglican Use community and interested Catholics, especially those who were former Anglicans.

Now we have an Ordinaries and Ordinariates in England and Wales and in the United States with Canada to form a Deanery therein.  We're hoping every day for news from Australia.  The blog has been relatively quiet.  What do we talk about now?

Please do not use this post as an opportunity to re-hash old grievances or disparage any individuals.  Let's all move on.  We are experiencing great joy in Ottawa and in Victoria as will former ACCC parishes in Oshawa and Tynendinaga Mohawk Territory (coming in April 22), and groups in Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal and Sydney.

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.annunciationofthebvm.org) in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

11 thoughts on “Looking Back and Looking Ahead”

  1. I think that the ordinariate parishes will need to practice the kind of hospitality and seeker-friendly graciousness that Deborah has noted here. So the questions of How? given some non-negotiables like closed communion should be raised in our minds.

    One important point, I think, is to not adopt what I regard as an false piety that sees "guarding the Eucharist" as an all-important badge of orthodoxy. If a newcomer is moved to take communion who is in a canonically irregular situation, someone with the authorization to do so should speak to the person, but in a gentle manner that is characterized by a discipling attitude. Jesus doesn't need us to protect him; he does require we teach the nations!

    Second, I think that one of the most important parts of the Anglican Patrimony is the Daily Office. The ideal for every parish should be daily Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. (The Catholic Church has long (since before Trent and many times since) urged its pastors to celebrate Vespers in the churches on Sundays and holy days, so the ideal is a shared one.) Evensong, perhaps with Benediction and that "eighth sacrament" of Anglicanism a coffee hour provides a perfect opportunity for seekers to experience "being lifted to heaven in the liturgy…", "good catechesis" and fellowship.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and the pictures as well. I live in Nazareth where Anglicans still have male clergy who believe in things like the Trinity and the virginal conception and so on and don't make up their own goofy liturgies every Sunday, so I guess it's easy to be an Anglican here. Plus, there are so few Christians left that an ordinariate is impossible. But I would like to hear more about developments in Australia. I also recall reading some great remarks about mission and outreach from Fr Christopher in San Antonio and I would love to hear about how ordinariate parishes, once things stabilize, engage their local communities in the new evangelism.

    1. Remember that Canada does not have an ordinariate either. Canada is outside the U.S. Catholic Conference, and therefore outside the area that the American Ordinariate resides, so to speak. That does not matter. Canadians can join the American Ordinariate.

      Scotland is in a similar position. The Personal Ordinariate there was set up within the Catholic conference of England and Wales. Scotland is a different Catholic conference and has no ordinariate of its own. So Scots have joined the English/Welsh ordinariate.

  3. Deborah thanks for your story.

    You must like that hat. It is very becoming… becoming what I don't know, HE!HE!HE!

    "Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary"? Are you not keeping the property? Won't it be consecrated a Catholic Church?

    Many blessings and I am sure the congregation will grow with former Anglicans who went before you to Rome, with Catholic Anglicans in the ACCC who are waiting and seeing before pilgriming across the bridge, other Anglican Catholics in the ACCC who have been hesitant may take a while longer but they all will come. All in GOD's time.

  4. Deborah:

    Hearty congrats from all of us here in Ottawa.

    We were sadly in the States on the big day.

    However, we were there in spirit and we send our love and prayers "ut unum sint!"

    Hope to visit the your lovely parish again and see you all soon.

    In Christ,

    John and Nat

  5. Speaking as a cradle Catholic, I can say that things have not turned out as we hoped – but often God ends up giving us better than we hoped. I leave for Toronto to-morrow, and will witness the reception of the Oshawa parish. For all of you coming into the Ordinariate, it means that you are now Anglican in the sense that St. Edward the Confessor, Alfred the Great, Julian of Norwich, Henry VI and yes, Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher were. For the rest of us Catholics, it means we can take another, better look at Charles I and the Caroline Divines, Lewis and Williams, Eliot and Sayer and so on. The blessings of your arrival all round will go on for years after we are all gone from this Earth. I do believe that history will see this as a key part of the "Benedictine Reform."

  6. Deborah: It was very good to see so many members of the ACCC pro-diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham welcomed on board the barque of St Peter in such a gracious way. Special thanks to you, because your blogging and reporting has been so informative.

    As you probably well know, the OLW Ordinariate now counts Father Robert Mercer CR among its clergy and the transition from Anglican Bishop to Catholic priest took a very short period of time. It is to be hoped that the same approach will enable the former Canadian Anglican Bishops to exercise their Catholic priestly ministry in very short order so that the Canadian Ordiariate Deanery can be up and running very soon.

    I am so glad you have rejoined this blog. The official Ordinariate web sites are all very well (the OLW Ordinariate site has greatly improved) but I think there is a great need for blogs outside the official structures.

  7. I attended Mass this morning and afterwards chatted with a rather conservative young man (he doesn't even accept Baptisms outside of the RC or Orthodox Church (unless in SSPX of course)) who has found the whole process of the Ordinariates deeply moving – as he is serving life in prison, it is fascinating to see how he has managed to keep in touch with it all and he promised his prayers. So, there you go…even in the most unfortunate of circumstances, you are being prayed for.

    P.S. Are there any photos from the Reception of Bishop Wilkinson and his community in Victoria?

  8. Thank you, Deborah, for your story. I am a convert of many years from the Episcopal Church in the US and rejoice as the Ordinariate continues its steady growth. Your insights have also allowed me to see how God calls people along diverse paths to arrive at their goal. To each is own journey. Thank you.

Leave a Reply