CHRIST OUR FUTURE
The Forward in Faith Celebration of the 3rd Christian Millennium
Saturday 10th June, 2000
Docklands Stadium, London
REPORT BY NIGEL ZIMMERMANN
Nigel Zimmermann, a parishioner of All Saints', visited the U.K. following a semester of study at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.A.
CHRIST OUR FUTURE has been described as the greatest Anglican celebration of the Jubilee year; as a demonstration of orthodox catholicism within the Anglican Communion; and as THE Forward in Faith event of the year. All of these descriptions were correct.
Ten thousand people crammed into the London Arena for a magnificent Solemn High Mass concelebrated by the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, and more than 750 priests, including our own Father David, (representing Forward-In-Faith Australia), who was one of twelve priests flanking the Archbishop around the Altar.
37 bishops from around the Anglican Communion (including Bishop Farrer of Wangaratta, and Bishop Silk of Ballarat) took their seats in an arc around the Archbishop's throne.
The huge indoor stadium became a temporary shrine, when the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was carried in before Mass began. Her presence brought an extra sense of prestige and importance to the day.
The crowd gave her a standing ovation. The Archbishop of York then led the Regina Caeli ("Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven").
The sermon was preached by the Right Rev'd and Right Hon Richard Chartres, Lord Bishop of London. Brilliantly and with wit he proclaimed the gospel, emphasising the transforming nature of Incarnational truth. He pleaded for a real vision of Catholic renewal within Anglicanism.
This Mass was first and foremost an act of worship. But it also demonstrated the strength of Anglican Catholic orthodoxy. I felt it was an immense honour to come all the way from All Saints' and to join in this celebration with so many thousands of faithful Anglicans.
The other powerful thing about the Mass was its venue. It was held in the Docklands area of London, where the slum priests, the great heroes of the Catholic Revival, had developed their parishes in the 19th and early 20th centuries surrounded by poverty, iniquity, depression and despair. We were there only because those who went before us had chosen suffering over comfort, and conviction over disbelief. We were there because the priests and lay people who had gone before us kept the faith and passed the baton on.
In his announcements at the end of Mass, the Rt. Rev'd John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, emphasised that we are not some small, irrelevant sideshow. Christ our Future demonstrated our strength and our intention to be faithful to the truths we have received.
Indeed, 'Christ Our Future' affirmed for all of us - bishops, priests, deacons and lay people - that we can look to Christ in the future with optimism and faith.
The care to detail and to organisation that had gone into this day was evident in the exactness of the liturgy, the glorious image of so many priests clothed in white albs and stoles, the beauty of the music and the robustness of the singing.
People clearly loved being there. Looking around the crowds, peering through the clouds of incense, one could see children, families, parish groups, religious, young and old, clergy and all types of Anglican worshippers.
A new Mass setting was used along with a massive Jubilee icon especially made for the event. The New London Orchestra played a blistering performance that together with the large adult and children's choirs ensured that ". . . the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own".
The London Times proclaimed 'Christ Our Future' the largest Jubilee gathering of Anglicans in the year 2000, and it was an historic event that I, along with ten thousand others, were proud and humbled to attend.
Not only was "Christ Our Future" bigger than any of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses of the 1930s, but it reminded everybody present (and many who weren't) that today is only the beginning of a future that needs to be focused on the historic, incarnate God.
(All the photographs above, except the first one, were taken by Mrs Joann Ackerman, and used with her permission.)
REPORT BY FATHER ROBBIE LOWE
Father Robbie Lowe is Parish Priest of S. Peter's, Bushey Heath, in the Diocese of St Alban's. This article originally appeared in The Church of England Newspaper, 16th June, 2000.
"Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright, The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light"
The words of the famous Victorian hymn danced through my mind on Pentecost Eve as the great celebration of "Christ our Future" unfolded in the Docklands Arena in the heart of the capital city. As in that scene from the Book of the Revelation we felt privileged to be part of the worship of heaven.
How did the largest Christian millennium gathering in England come about? In 1996 senior members of Forward in Faith discussed the millennium. This was a time, you will recall, that many reckoned there would be few if any traditional Catholics left in the Church of England by then.
Fr Geoffrey Kirk said simply: "We must, as an act of faith, commit ourselves to put worship at the heart of the nation. A major London venue - a celebration of Holy Communion on the church's birthday." So "Christ our Future" began.
The Docklands Arena was chosen - an amazing modern facility more used to pop concerts than worship but in the heart of that, now transformed, area where many of the great slum priests lived and worked and inspired the Catholic revival.
A three-year programme of preaching and teaching began in our parishes and for our clergy. One by one the Catholic societies came to share the vision and give their invaluable support. The Archbishop of York accepted the invitation to be the chief celebrant, the Bishop of London to preach. The Archbishop of Canterbury publicly and warmly expressed his encouragement. Patiently, slowly, ceaselessly working, an extraordinary event was put together by the unsung back-room boys and girls of the Catholic societies co-ordinated by Stephen Parkinson (Director of Forward in Faith).
A beautiful summer Saturday saw 120 coaches rumble through the Docklands - thousands more pouring out of the Tube into the great concert arena, in the round, now set for worship. The huge altar, the Christ icon, the Archbishop's throne, the vast orchestra for Father Ronald Corp's specially commissioned musical setting, the choir gathered from countless parishes, the children's chorale.
So dense was the sell-out crowd, bigger than the Anglo-Catholic Congresses of the 1930s, that the start had to be put back 15 minutes, like a major football match, to allow everyone to be seated. And then to "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem" the procession of priests began - 800 of them, wave upon wave of white robes, 40 bishops - many from overseas - representatives of the great communions and sister churches.
Friends from Reform, from Continuing churches, the leader of the Evangelical Alliance, Graham Kendrick and many friends from the evangelical world all were welcomed as we joined together to thank God for Jesus. And then came Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester, grand old man of the Catholic movement and a spontaneous standing ovation of affection poured over him and over the Archbishop and Bishop to whom he now passes the standard.
The worship was glorious, Christ centred, beautiful - it lasted nearly three hours and even at 5pm the last departing stragglers were still wandering the Arena trying to hold on to that sense of reverence and wonder and awe and joy that marks out the encounter with the Risen One and the glorious solidarity of fellowship in the Body of Christ.
The music ranged from Palestrina to Stanford, from Mozart to a Michael Saward hymn. The Gospel was the Great Commission and Bishop Chartres preached the Cross. The Archbishop's spirit-filled and gentle celebration of the communion drew the vast throng to the presence of Christ and led us to the courts of heaven.
Later that night a journalist, who had been there, said to me: "My editor sent me to get a story about rebel priests having a demo - but that was all about Jesus. I don't think he'll print that."
He didn't. But I'll settle for that as a summary of a wonderful, wonderful day!