IS THERE AN ANGLO-CATHOLIC ON BOARD?
Mark 16:15? ? “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news”.
I want to begin by saying thank you to Bishop Pickard, the locum of St Paul’s, for the invitation to? ? preach today, and thank you to Father Ross for organising it. More especially, I want to thank Fr Ross for playing no small part in reviving this parish, particularly now that it has a Sunday Mass and a growing congregation. Far away in the United States I have been delighted at the news of the growth of St Paul’s as a separate parish.
I am honoured that many of you have made a special effort to be here.? ? There are people from all the parishes I have served in: St. Margaret’s, Woodville; St. Martin’s Campbelltown; St. Catherine’s Elizabeth Downs; and St Mark’s, Fitzroy. Thank you for making the effort. I see before me the whole panoply of my ministry, and I am grateful for the friendships made in my parishes.
I had forgotten how beautiful St. Paul’s is. It is a great joy to be here.? ? In my life of almost 60 years I have fulfilled many dreams, and preached in famous churches in England and America – but it goes without saying that it is very good to be here today. To be back home. Although I left St Paul’s 30 years ago this church and the Port will always be my home. Thanks to the Internet, I can still keep track of a certain football team playing under that name.? ?
It is over 40 years since I was an enthusiastic young man here in Port Adelaide, and there have been many changes.? ? As I left my hotel this morning, I saw a booklet advertising Port Adelaide as a tourist destination. In this booklet you can read about hotels, restaurants, coffee lounges.? ? My goodness – in my time people from Norwood never went past Alberton oval!
On Friday night I was at the football watching Port Adelaide play magnificently in the wet. It is fascinating that just a week before I was sitting in my lounge room in San Diego watching on American television a direct telecast of Port Adelaide playing Collingwood on the MCG.? ? Who would have thought 40 years ago that there would be a live telecast in the USA of Port Adelaide playing on the MCG in a national Australian Football League?? ? Times have changed. Indeed, who would have thought that a boy from Ethelton Primary School would end up living and working in America?? ? I would like to think that I am the only paid-up member of the Port Adelaide Football Club with a seat at the AMMI stadium who lives in America.? ? My new friends in Bay 120, Row K think it is all rather amazing!
I have done a lot of reflecting on coming here and I have been thinking of important moments in my life. By coincidence, it was exactly 4 years ago this week that I was sitting in my study at St., Mark’s, Fitzroy in Melbourne when a telephone call came from the committee of All Saints’, San Diego, asking if I would be interested in being their Rector. Exactly two weeks later I flew off to the United States to be interviewed by them.? ? San Diego is 100 miles south of Los Angeles, and I caught the train from Los Angeles to San Diego. It is about 3 hours travel along the coast and you pass such wonderful places as San Clemente and, San Juan Capistrano, with wonderful views of the coastline.? ?
As I took my seat in Union Station in LA I found myself sitting opposite a Protestant clergyman. I knew that because he was wearing a grey suit and he had a grey expression.? ? I was not dressed as a priest, so I looked up, acknowledged him, and continued reading the football results from Melbourne.? ? A short time after that a young man came through the carriage in great anxiety saying: “Is there a Roman Catholic priest on board?”? ? “Is there a Roman Catholic priest on board?”.? ? I looked up, wondering if I should say something, but thought better of it.? ? The Protestant clergyman looked up disapprovingly.
Shortly afterwards, the young man came back from the end of the train saying: “Is there an Anglo-Catholic priest on board?”? ? “Is there an Anglo-Catholic priest on board?”. I thought perhaps I should identify myself – but before I could do so, the Protestant clergyman said, “Excuse me, I am a Protestant minister, can I be of any help?”? ? The young man looked at him and said, “No help whatsoever – I am looking for a corkscrew!”
40 years ago this church taught me what being an Anglo-Catholic is about. Taught me how to be a Christian in the context of the Catholic faith and worship, within the Anglican Church. For that experience I will always be eternally grateful.? ? It has had a profound influence on my life as a priest.? ? When I told my congregation in San Diego I was going back to the church where I learned the faith, they thought it must be a wonderful church indeed!
As a young man here at St Paul’s, my spiritual life revolved around the daily Mass – 7 am every morning in the Lady Chapel – a long tradition of this parish, going back over 80 years. And, of course, the excitement of the solemn High Mass on festivals and the weekly solemn Mass on Sundays – where the beauty of the worship inspired me.? ? It didn’t just inspire me – it taught me that life is to be lived to the full, both in worship and in daily life.? ?
Living life to the full.? ? In St John’s gospel Our Lord says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”? ? I think of the many occasions when there was laughter and celebration in this parish, where I learned to live life to the full.? ? Of course, as time went on, I learned that Jesus said a lot in St. John chapter 6 about the centrality of the Mass in the life of the Christian.
In this church the solemn Mass, with all its ceremony, trimmings and tradition, taught me the beauty of the Eucharist, and its centrality in the life of the church.? ? But I didn’t just learn about ceremonial or incense or vestments or processions – all of them important parts of my life, Sunday by Sunday.? ? Here I learned what it is to believe the Catholic faith as an Anglican.? ? Here I learned to receive the forgiveness of sins.? ? Here I learned that the Church is meant to be a living, loving and accepting community.? ? Here I learned that life and the Church are never separate and that what we believe reflects everything in our life.? ? So, for what I am today I give thanks for the part that this Church, its worship and its people have played.
There is more to it than the things that happen in Church.? ? There is always a concern for the world because of what we believe.? ? We should be concerned about the injustices and the inequalities of our world, and for those who are less well-off than we are.? ? I learned that here, and I learned it as a natural response to worshipping God and offering beautiful Masses.
Here I also learned that Mary is to be honoured in the Church.? ? This church has always stood for the full faith. Mary reminds us of our friends in Heaven, the saints. And also she reminds us that what we teach and believe is no other than what has always been believed and taught by the Church, beginning with the apostles. Believed by the Church in every age and in every place.eHea\\\
? ? That indeed is the definition of what being Catholic is.? ? This church has always stood for that – and it has made it different to other churches. That is why you will always have a future.
As I said, tradition is not ultimately about what we do in church – it is about what we believe. What we do in church just expresses what we believe. The word “tradition” comes from the Latin “traditio”, meaning to hand on.? ? What has been handed on to us in the faith of the Church goes back to the apostles.? ? Our communion as a Church and as individuals is not only with one another here at the altar rails, it’s also with the saints.? ?
So it is rather appropriate that today, within the context of Eastertide, we are celebrating St Mark’s day. I must admit, Fr Ross, that when David told me we were keeping St Mark’s day, I groaned!? ? Having been the vicar of St Mark’s, Fitzroy for 18 years I have heard every possible sermon about St Mark. But when I looked at the gospel reading, I saw a reflection in that reading of this church, and of our lives.? ?
This gospel reading is the ending of St Mark’s gospel. It is about Easter. The women come to the tomb, they find it empty, and they are scared and amazed.? ? An angel says, “Go to His disciples and tell them that He is going ahead of you to Galilee”. Then in verses 9-15 we hear about the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, the appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the appearance to all the disciples, then finally the Ascension, with Our Lord’s great commission: “Go into all the world and preach the good news”.
It’s a nice happy ending.? ? Actually it is not.? ?
If you look at the gospel you will note that verses 9-15 are quite different in style. Tat is because they are not written by the same person. Mark was the first gospel to be written, the earliest record of Jesus – but verses 9-15 were added after St Mark wrote his gospel. Written by a well-meaning person, I am sure, to give Mark’s gospel a happy ending. But that’s not how St Mark finished his gospel.? ?
I know all of us like happy endings – who doesn’t?? ? But life is not always happy endings.? ? Sickness, death, misfortune, disaster, bad relationships, human error, sin: these all make life not so happy, and often difficult. We ought not to be surprised that St Mark does not finish his story of the good news of Jesus with a happy ending. The first witnesses come to the empty tomb and flee in terror.? ? There is no appearance of the risen Saviour.? ? They say nothing to anyone because they are afraid.? ? Imagine that – the first witnesses didn’t even want to tell anyone.? ?
For St Mark there is no joyful appearing to Mary Magdalene in the garden; no road to Emmaus where Our Lord is made known in the breaking of the bread; no breakfast on the lakeside with the apostles; and certainly no outpouring of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter. No – just these words: “Go, tell His disciples that He is going ahead of you to Galilee”.? ?
To Galilee! How strange is that?? ? Not to the temple in Jerusalem to appear before the whole of the people as the risen Saviour. Not even to the walls of the parapet to throw Himself down, knowing that He will not fall. But to the wastelands of Galilee. The place where no one ever goes to, they only come from it.
For St Mark Alleluia is not always our song.? ? And who among us does not know the reality of the wastelands of Galilee?? ? We may not all been into the depths of sickness or depression, but we all know that life has its disappointments: if not for us, for those we know and love.? ? We have all been there, when Kyrie Eleison is on our lips, and not Alleluia.? ?
This church has endured the wastelands of Galilee for some years. But the good news is that when Jesus says, “See you in Galilee”, it’s about hope -t’s not the end of the story.? ? In their terror and amazement, the women who see the empty tomb are told to look ahead, to have faith, to have hope – which brings us to today.
This is not about Tony Noble – this is about St Paul’s, Port Adelaide. The risen Lord bids this church look to Galilee – look in hope, and to have hope.? ? Hope that this church will once again take its rightful place in this community as a strong and vibrant church. And the key to that will be reclaiming what excited me all those years ago: the great Anglo-Catholic tradition and the expressing of that in your worship and your parish life.
This church and its people stand on the threshold of a wonderful new chapter in the life of St Paul’s Port Adelaide.
At the end of the gospel Jesus upbraided them for their lack of faith.? ? Let that not be the case here. But may you heed Our Blessed Lord’s command: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news”.
Is there an Anglo-Catholic on board?? ? Hopefully, a church full!? ?