We'll get to JH Newman in a paragraph or two but first a note on a few perambulations recently.
The weekend before the one just past we were in Hokitika for a prayer mission. It was very cool to arrive (a first day after the first events had taken place) to enter into All Saints church to find this:
Yes, pews removed to a corner of the building, fairy lights added, and worship band in the centre of the gathering. We had a lovely weekend, praying for Hokitika and South Westland, singing the Lord's songs, aided by a dynamic group of younger and older adults who had travelled from the other side of the Southern Alps. Very encouraging.
Then this weekend just past. A quick trip to Wellington on Saturday to join the last event in that Diocese's Ministry Conference, shared with NZCMS and the Anglican Mission Board: the ordination of Rosie Fyfe, new National Director of NZCMS, to the diaconate. Many young adult ministry leaders were present, representing the journey in renewal that Diocese is experiencing.
Yesterday, a service at St John's Woolston, celebrating their 162nd year as a parish with acknowledgement that it is nearly one year since a significant disaffiliation from that parish took place. A small group of dedicated lay leaders have worked hard with clergy leaders to continue the life of this parish. It was a joy yesterday to see new people in the congregation - signs of hope.
I enjoy very much these signs of hope, and they may or may not in the future be recognised as a turning point against the tide of secularization (per last week's post). But whatever they betoken against the larger narrative of declining allegiance to Christianity, they remind us that there are things of value within our parishes here Down Under.
Thus the shape of Anglicanism Down Under is developing, pressed by tectonic forces into new shapes and sizes. Always raising, I suggest, the question, What does it mean to be an Anglican Christian?
That question sits with other news from this weekend, news of the canonization of John Henry Newman.
I am not much of a man for canonizations and what have you - mark me down as Protestantly Protestant on that score. But whatever you or I think about such a canonization, it does reflect the simple fact that many people around the globe to this day admire, revere and respect the Catholic prelate and theologian who was once an Anglican priest, not least because his ideas about many theological matters through to "the idea of a university" remain extraordinarily influential.
A couple of articles I have come across in the past 24 hours underscore the mana of the man: here and here.
Clearly, in the end, being an Anglican Christian was not a situation Newman valued. He disaffiliated from us!
By implication the many friends and colleagues who did not cross the Tiber with Newman thought he was wrong; as do we today who keep our swimming togs in our lockers.
But what is right about remaining Anglican? I think I might explore that for a bit in succeeding weeks.