My dear folk,

The other day I was looking at the web page of an Anglo-Catholic parish in the UK. Their tradition is long established and they proudly proclaim their Anglo-Catholic bona fides. They are in the process of a campaign to allow them to address some issues for the present and future ministry in that parish as they relate to the building. There was a well-produced video encouraging support of the effort. As it unfolded, there was a screen which proclaimed in white letters on a stark black background, "Anglo-Catholicism was, above all, about social transformation."

Sometimes I just don't know what to do with such preposterous nonsense proclaimed as the simple truth.

Now don't get me wrong: we Anglo-Catholics are justly proud of that part of our tradition which has sought the transformation of society. Many of our great heros served in the slums of the cities of England and Scotland. They worked tirelessly amongst those who lived in their parishes and were renowned for what they accomplished, both spiritually and temporally. There were parishes such as St. Peter's (London Docks), St. Alban's (Holborn), St. George's in the East (London), St. Saviour's (Leeds), St. Peter's (Plymouth), Old St. Paul's (Edinburgh) – priests such as Charles Louder, Alexander Heriot Mackonochie, Canon Scott Holland, Arthur Stanton, and George Rundel Prynne. Fr. Robert Dolling (known for his book, Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum) said, 'I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation.'

We have nothing to be ashamed of in regard to our tradition's understanding of the need for our faith to have a concrete outworking in the societal realm. Indeed, even with governments now having assumed responsibility for many of these matters, we still might well recover more of this emphasis in our day.

No, the problem lies in two little words: above all. Anglo-Catholicism was, above all, about social transformation. Are we seriously being told that social transformation was the essence of Anglo-Catholicism? That what we fundamentally sought was to be social workers in fancy dress? That the ideal of such social transformation was what motivated – indeed, provoked – a movement which was so contrary to the ethos of its day? Really?

I could see someone claiming that Anglo-Catholicism was primarily about ritual. I would vehemently disagree, but at least I could understand that criticism being made. While it is true that we Anglo-Catholics are deeply concerned about matters of ritual, it is because we understand them to be important as a means of communicating a deeper reality: God's reconciling of the world to himself in Christ Jesus. We may think of elaborate vestments and baroque liturgies when we imagine typical "Anglo-Catholic" worship. However, it is worth remembering that while an Anglican John Henry Newman celebrated the Holy Eucharist simply in surplice and stole. Edward Bouverie Pusey never placed great emphasis on matters of vestments and appointments. When I was in England this past February, the Master General's Council for the SSC met at Ascott Priory. It was there that Pusey lived his last years and there that he died in 1882. He was recognized as the leader of the movement after Newman went to Rome; critics of the movement derisively called us "Puseyites." Some of his vestments remain at the Priory. At the Mass installing our new Master General, he wore Pusey's white chasuble. It was made of a very simple white silk with goldish-yellow orphries. No embroidery; no metallic thread. It was nothing special: one wouldn't have given it a second look in our sacristy. No, much as we enjoy ritual matters, they are not the essence of our what we are about as Catholic churchmen in the Anglican Communion.

I fear that what is to be found in that assertion that Anglo-Catholicism was "above all" about social transformation is an example of something which C.S. Lewis vividly described in The Screwtape Letters. That book is a series of letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to a neophite devil on his first assignment to shepherd and tempt a soul, bringing him at last into hell. Screwtape, advises his young protégé whose charge has regrettably (to their way of thinking) turned to Christianity to get him thinking of his faith in terms of its relationship with some other issue. That would be the way to undo the damage from his conversion. Specifically what issue doesn't really matter – as long as its 'Christianity and' something else. That something else in its own right may be perfectly fine and of great importance. But the insidious worm will soon work it way deep into how he thinks about his faith. Christianity becomes important to the extent that it advances that other agenda. And eventually, Christianity will be important only if it advances that other agenda. World peace, social justice, right to life ... the list is almost limitless. And, of course, the emphases vary from generation to generation – we human beings do love fashions and fads.

If we are to steer aright, we need to keep ourselves oriented. That is especially the case in tempestuous seas. Lose sight of the North Star, have your compass fail, lose you bearings in whatever way, and you no longer can stay the course you want. The fundamental problem with this "Christianity and..." way of thinking is that something in addition to God takes center stage, and ever so gently – perhaps imperceptibly – our point of focus changes, our orientation shifts. The North Star slips out of our sight. That added thing becomes the guiding principle. Our Anglo-Catholic tradition, our way of understanding the Christian mystery, is fundamentally and essentially focused on God. We certainly had and still do have a number of secondary emphases: amongst them music, liturgy, ritual, education, spirituality, and – yes – social transformation. But the center was, and must, remain clear. We heard it from Fr. Dolling's own lips: 'I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation.' It was his faith which drove his activism. So must it be for us.




Yours, in his service,

Michael J. Godderz+

 

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(Ruth Godderz)

Service Times

Sundays

7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m. Low Mass
9:00 a.m. Adult Christian Education*
10:00 a.m. Solemn Mass
11:30 a.m. Coffee Hour

* during the academic year

Weekdays

Low Mass
Wednesday 10 a.m. *
Friday 7 a.m.
Saturday 9 a.m.

* followed by coffee hour

 

Location and Parking

209 Ashmont Street
Dorchester MA 02124
(617) 436-6370

Map

All Saints is located in the south Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, just off Peabody Square, at 209 Ashmont St. and is a very short walk from the Ashmont T station on the Red Line. (Click icon for map.)

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The five principal levels of our buildings are handicap accessible, served by a five-stop elevator. Handicap access into both buildings is by a walkway and ADA-compliant ramp from the parking lot to the Ashmont Street door of the church.  There are handicap accessible bathrooms on four levels of the church and parish house.

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There is a private parking lot for 47 cars and on-street parking on both Ashmont Street and on the other streets surrounding the church.

Four of these spaces are reserved for Zipcars.

Parish of All Saints, Ashmont

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Our emphasis at the Parish of All Saints is on sacramental worship (the Mass or Holy Eucharist) celebrated in a traditional Anglo-Catholic style, with strong orthodox teaching and preaching, supportive pastoral care, a caring parish family, and responsibility to our community and the greater world.

 
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