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.
Be sure to follow our Moderator at Eccentric Bliss, his personal blog!