Posts Tagged ‘Church of England’

Battleship Crew

Monday, May 1st, 2017

The Church Times of London often carries stories of “church planting”–the establishing of new congregations, often in existing churches whose congregations have dwindled.

Critics of these efforts say they merely draw people from other congregations who like the enthusiastic style of worship. One planter, the Rev. Dr. Tim Matthew responded: “I’ve always tried to maintain a very high bar on existing Christians joining. We say here that we’re a battleship not a cruise ship–we don’t take passengers–so it you’re on view, you’re on the crew, and there’s a job for you to do.”

Now Dr. Matthew would probably admit seekers who weren’t church members as “passengers” on the ship of the Church because these folks need time to figure out what it means to be a committed Christian. But I think the image is appropriate for long-time parishioners. They shouldn’t just see themselves as along for the ride, looking to get spiritual comforts without giving anything back. The parish isn’t a cruise ship, it’s a battleship–fighting the good fight for Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley

A Week in the C of E

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I just returned from a week in London, attending various services and meetings in connection to the Link Program between the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of London, which I chair.

The highlight of my stay was the farewell Eucharist for the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres KCVO. The service was prefaced by Christian rock music and social media in the square in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The 20 or so bishops and 400+ priests then processed into St. Paul’s for a majestic Candlemas celebration attended by several thousand laypeople.

I was touched that I was mentioned in the service leaflet, and the Bishop made a special effort to greet me during the service and send his best wishes to the Bishop of New York.

Other highlights included taking the Sunday Eucharist at our link parish of St. Vedast-alias-Foster and then participating in the patronal feast of the parish on February 6. I met the soon-to-be priest-in-charge, the Rev. Paul Kennedy and enjoyed a festive reception in the nave of St. Vedast.

All in all, I am happy to report that the our Mother Church remains alive and well. —J. Douglas Ousley

A Rock Star

Monday, October 17th, 2016

My favorite picture from my recent trip to Rome is a photo I took of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury as they processed right by me on the way to the altar of the church where they were to make their historic declaration. (See last post.) In the picture, the Archbishop has just begun to clap his hands, as applause breaks out in the congregation as a whole.

Applause in church? Very rare, I know–but this pope is a religious rock star. When he’s around, people get inspired and the rules are bent. (Photos in church? I disapprove in principle–but everyone around me was snapping away, so I joined in.)



From Canterbury to Rome

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

I’m just back from an extraordinary visit to Rome.

My wife and I were in Italy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome–an ecumenical outpost representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion in relations with the Roman Catholic Church. There was to be a grand dinner at the art gallery in a private Roman palazzo, with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance.

As it turned out, we were also witnesses to what may prove to be an historic encounter between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. At a stately private service of vespers, each gave a forward-looking, hopeful homily to inspire their respective churches to work together for evangelism and service to the poor. They exchanged personal gifts: the Archbishop received a replica of the staff or crozier given to the first Archbishop of Canterbury, while he he gave the pope his own, very simple pectoral cross.

The service concluded with the commissioning of 19 pairs of Anglican/Roman Catholic bishops or archbishops from all over the world. Their duty now is to carry out ecumenical work in their respective countries.

All in all, it was an impressive demonstration that the Holy Spirit is breathing new life into the ecumenical movement. —J. Douglas Ousley

The View from Madison Avenue

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Since Incarnation has been located on the legendary street of advertisers since 1852, we naturally think in terms of how we as a church are perceived by potential “customers.”

What does the Episcopal Church brand say to people who pass by our churches? In the eyes of the average American, what do we stand for? How does our organization differ in values and purpose from, say, the Girl Scouts or the YMCA? And what can we as individuals do to promote our brand?

I have no easy answers to these questions. But I do think that promoting the brand has to begin at the top. In the Church of England, there are many new initiatives intended to promote the growth of parishes: Fresh Expressions, Messy Church, and leadership training, for example.

Granted, the C of E is much more centrally governed than the Episcopal Church. Still, it would be nice to see some new programs from the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council that put our name out to the public and make people want to come through our doors. —J. Douglas Ousley

Death on the Azure Coast

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal published a picture of employees of the Hotel Le Negresco in Nice, France. They were standing on the Promenade des Anglais, where 84 people died last week, run over by a mad lone terrorist.

Two years ago, my wife and I stayed at the Negresco when we visited Nice; we often walked along the Promenade “of the English,” which is a block from the English church I have assisted various times over the years.

An additional reason to be upset by such suffering is the way such tragedies are mounting up. The official French mourning period of three days was hardly over when three police were assassinated in Baton Rouge, and the media raced off to cover another horrible event. Last week, a network news producer told me how she and a colleague were looking at “raw” news feeds last week and found themselves depressed.

It is with slight but significant relief that we can at least offer prayers for the victims of violence. That’s one thing we can do. God help us. —J. Douglas Ousley

Spring Planting

Monday, April 4th, 2016

I recently had lunch with a senior church leader who was concerned about the number of Episcopal churches with declining memberships. Not the least of the problems of these parishes is their unwillingness to change. It’s no wonder that they have trouble growing.

The leader and I agreed that one way out of this dilemma was to try to “plant” new congregations either in closed churches or within existing small churches. This is proving very successful in London and some other dioceses in the Church of England. There is even a new bishop in London with special responsibility for starting new congregations.

I like the idea of planting within buildings we already have, since this strategy avoids the problem of finding a new space for worship and ministry. We may hope and pray that this idea catches on in the American Episcopal church. —J. Douglas Ousley

What’s A Moderate to Do?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Church of England and its Anglican offshoots traditionally have been held to present a via media. That is, a “middle way” between the extremes of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other.

One hears this phrase less often today, when some branches of our Anglican Communion are now decidedly liberal-Protestant and others are conservative-Anglo-Catholic, with very little room for compromise. As in American politics, there seem to be few old-fashioned “moderates” left in the field.

What then is the role for those of us who consider ourselves less extreme to play? Well, we can try to moderate between the factions, when we can get them to speak to each other. Or in our own thoughts and speech, we can try to lower the temperature of the debate.

I know–easier said than done. But what’s a moderate to do? —J. Douglas Ousley

50 Days

Monday, January 4th, 2016

There are some Church of England parishes that keep their Christmas decorations and creche in place until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. The thinking behind this custom is that just as we celebrate Easter with the Great Fifty Days between that feast and Pentecost, so Christmas merits its own 50-day observance.

That’s a nice thought this week as most of us return to the work grind after the holidays. At Incarnation, we will start taking the decorations down this week and will finish following the Sunday after the Epiphany (January 10), when we remember the Baptism of Jesus.

But whatever we do to observe the Incarnation of Christ, we can hardly be too grateful that God has come among us, full of grace and truth. —J. Douglas Ousley

Adam Gopnick at Incarnation

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Last night, one of New York’s most prominent intellectuals, the New Yorker writer Adam Gopnick spoke at Incarnation.

Mr. Gopnick was addressing the Trollope Society; I am myself a Trollope fan and I occasionally rent the Assembly Hall to the Society for their meetings. The speaker spoke of the value of reading the nineteenth century novelist, who always tells things as they are, and who uses fiction to illuminate–as the title of one of his books says–“the way we live now.” Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series of novels portrays the backstage political world not only of Victorian London but of modern day America.

And his even more famous Barchester novels give great insight into the Church of England. I often advise people who want to know how Anglicanism functions to read these books, especially Barchester Towers. Trollope’s satire can be biting and it is always funny. And it reminds those of us who are churchgoers not to take our institution too seriously! —J. Douglas Ousley