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Anglo-Catholics boost evangelism

This year's Anglo-Catholic Hui meeting in Wellington has recharged Anglicans to go out and share the Good News of Jesus through the beauty and wonder of God and the best of 'high church' traditions.

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  20 Aug 2019  |

Anglicans from across Aotearoa have been inspired to build disciples for Christ and respond to human need at the second national Anglo-Catholic Hui at St Peter’s on Willis in Wellington.  

Around 140 people responded to the call of Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth and Bishop Eleanor Sanderson to join the Anglo-Catholic Hui between 15-17 August, and to focus on ‘high church’ resources for building up the church's mission.

“The Wellington team is hoping this hui will “evangelise” the Anglo-Catholic tradition...” they said.

“...and to consider how ‘worshipping God in the beauty of holiness’ has given us Anglicans a heart for social justice and action, community life and the renewal of the church.” 

Two capital city churches stepped up to run the hui last week: with St Peter’s on Willis as the main hosts, and St Barnabas Roseneath as worship planners and leaders.

To resource Anglo-Catholic mission here, the bishops invited the Church of England’s champion of Catholic evangelism, Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell to be principal speaker for the event.

Attending Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s opening session, Bishop of Christchurch Peter Carrell was impressed with what he saw,

“Bishop Stephen is a superb communicator of the gospel, contextualising God’s mission to transform the world into language and symbolism familiar to Anglo-Catholics.” he said.

“Bishop Stephen used the symbol of the sacred heart of Jesus – an image familiar to Catholics – to underscore God’s mission to save… and to affirm that the saved are those who receive the heart of Jesus: that is healing, wholeness and justice.”

“Bishop Stephen put it even more simply – The world is in need of a heart transplant!”

Alongside his broad ministry career, Bishop Stephen Cottrell has served on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘Springboard’ UK-wide evangelism team, and is a prolific writer on all things Anglican, including the popular ‘Pilgrim Course’ discipleship programme.

Bishop Stephen recalled Anglo-Catholics’ deep roots in social service and social justice, and lauded the beauty of their worship, but acknowledged the high end of the church has seldom ranked top of evangelism tables.  

“The Anglo-Catholic theology of evangelism has often been that evangelism is what other people do.” said Bishop Stephen.

That made sense to Raewyn Stedman from All Saints’ Dunedin, who was taken aback to hear this year’s theme. “For me as a child of Brethren missionaries in India, the word evangelism meant a forced and judgemental thing.” she said.

But later, when Bishop Stephen challenged the hui to write poetry, Raewyn expressed her change of heart in a poem on the truth of the good news.

Rev Mele Prescott who is Acting Regional Dean for Southern Taranaki came along to learn more about the Anglo-Catholic way of being Anglican, and was excited by what she heard,

“I loved Bishop Stephen’s fresh way of evangelising in the world today, based on his shift of biblical paradigm. He moved us towards meeting people where they are at, and the emphasis on being invitational and not forceful.” she said.

That paradigm shift in how Christians can go about sharing the faith comes from choosing a different biblical road.

“The controlling image of evangelism for the last hundred years, or more, has been the Damascus Road story – of Paul’s sudden spectacular conversion.” said Bishop Stephen. 

“Now in the increasingly secular world we live in, we need to follow Jesus’ example on the Emmaus Road.”

That shift lines up with the evidence on how people come to faith. In recent surveys from the UK and North America, the time between ‘first contact’ – with a personal experience of God – to making a Christian commitment, takes usually about four years. Only the Billy Graham Institute differs, they put that conversion time at five years.

Bishop Stephen issued a long list of questions to help the hui decipher how Jesus had opened the disciples’ eyes on the Road to Emmaus.

They found that Jesus, in the role of evangelist, had walked alongside his listeners and helped them to interpret what they already knew – instead of pressing a package deal onto them,

“Only God converts the human heart,” said Stephen. “That means we don’t have to be anxious, we can relax.”

But while the task is not all ours, Christians can act as a companion, or a midwife for God’s work that’s underway in another, he said, helping guide the person towards God.

Rev Nyasha Gumbeze from St Michael and All Angels Henderson in Auckland saw a massive shift in attitude in Jesus’ Emmaus way,

“When Jesus was walking with the disciples, he could have just said ‘Shut up and listen, – here’s the whole story,’” she said.

“But he didn’t. He wanted to hear what the disciples understood first. In evangelism we have often talked a lot, now it’s time to listen to what others are saying.”

Bishop Stephen developed the details through six characteristics of Anglican life and ministry that can lead others to faith through contemplative, catechumenal, ecclesial, sacramental, prophetic and beautiful means.

As he summed up, Bishop Stephen Cottrell asked every hui member to remember,

“If you take away nothing from this hui but this, please understand that every church must offer a space for people to be nurtured in their faith – a space where they can find out more about God, discern God’s action in their lives and get to know God through prayer.”

Local spaces of nurture came through workshops on the second day of the hui.

Helen Peters shared ideas on involving children in the mass, Janet Hughes demonstrated the riches of Godly Play, and Rev Scottie Reeve unpacked how Pentecostal millennials in Blueprint Church had come to embrace Anglican liturgy and sacraments in forms that made sense to them.

Rev Bosco Peters looked at the challenges of simplifying worship, Fr Ron Bennett offered insights on interfaith relations, and Mark Dorrell – musical director for the hui worship – shared his ideas on music as an expression of the human spirit.

Many were moved by the Anglo-Catholic worship at the hui, and the outstanding music,

“The three masses were a highlight,” said Rev Michael Brantley from St Luke’s Wadestown in Wellington.

“...the elegant first night was celebrated in full grandeur, expressing worship to God in all that one would expect of a high feast day celebration…,

“…the mass at the Home of Compassion was beautiful as we celebrated Mother Suzanne Aubert and her example of giving herself away, working to bring the fragrance of heaven to others, and with Bishop Justin’s message to follow that example in our ordinary lives.”

“And the eloquent simpler last mass was moving again, more contemporary, yet with the same deference and adoration …as Bishop Steven Cottrell chanted much of the Eucharistic prayer.”

Archdeacon of Manawatu Canon Wendy Scott appreciated learning more about Anglo-Catholic liturgy through experiencing it first hand,

“There was so much learning to do around the Eucharist, high mass, and the mix of beautiful music and liturgy,” she said.

“Bishop Stephen showed us how ‘mass’ and ‘mission’ are actually the same word. The worship is there to send us out into the world so that we ‘get out of there,’ to where people are hurting and serve them,” she said.

Archdeacon Wendy appreciated the way social justice was woven into the event by input from local work shared throughout the hui.

Hui members heard from the ‘Freestore’ food redistribution scheme that collects café leftovers to share with people going hungry in downtown Wellington, (run by Blueprint Church and on St Peter’s on Willis’ land), then at the Home of Compassion on Mother Suzanne Aubert’s work with the poor, and finally in the story of a young Colombian former refugee and her family on their journey to Aotearoa New Zealand.

The next Anglo-Catholic Hui is scheduled to be hosted in Christchurch in 2020.

Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s Anglo-Catholic Hui Booklist

Bishop Stephen Cottrell published his book on Catholic Evangelism in 2006. It is

From the Abundance of the Heart: Catholic Evangelism for All Christians

 Bishop Stephen’s Church House Publishing books on How to pray, servant leadership and evangelism in the Emmaus Way are listed here.

Also connected to the teaching at the Anglo-Catholic Hui are Bishop Stephen’s SPCK Publishing books on  ‘Christ in the Wilderness’ and ‘The Things He Did’: both available here.

Some of the poems Bishop Stephen used at the Hui are in his book of poems from the Camino:

Striking Out: Poems and stories from the Camino

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