11 March 2010

St Mary of the Virgin?

Here in the Church of England, a very large percentage of our churches is dedicated to our Lady under the simple and gracious title of St Mary the Virgin. Post-Irish-immigration RC churches tend to prefer to be our Lady of something-or-other or the something-or-other of our Lady. Which is why, Fr Allan Hawkins tells me, his Anglican Usage Catholic parish in Arlington, Texas, is sometimes misdescribed as "St Mary of the Virgin". The elegant Englishness of "St Mary the Virgin" was deliberately chosen by his congregation when, in the 1980s, they entered into full communion with the Holy See (they were previously St Bartholomew's). This process was equally simple and elegant: on Pentecost Sunday they celebrated their last Mass together as Anglicans; a fortnight later Father became a priest in good standing with the RC diocese of Fort Worth and St Mary's resumed its communal life of witness to the Catholic faith as that has been received by Catholic Anglicans.

It seems quite English and very Anglican in a pleasantly old-fashioned sort of way ... the Angelus after the Sunday Parish Mass sung in our traditional melodies; more of Mass at the High Altar than at the Seat; use of the biretta ... and of course the use of the Prayer Book (the 1979 American Prayer Book, with the Roman Eucharistic Prayers, called The Book of Divine Worship). Any Anglican of a "Catholic" inclination - but not too "extreme" - would find himself completely at home here. The only thing that might slightly surprise her would be the size of the congregations; these have become very much larger since St Mary's swapped Canterbury for Rome; a hundred or so at both 8.00 and 6.00; a couple of hundred at 10.30. These people are not all former Anglicans; not unnaturally, quite a few Roman Catholics have found the worship, traditions, and style of St Mary's to their taste. Church life is vibrant, forward-looking, and immensely friendly and welcoming. Fr Hawkins (formerly of Stevenage and Swindon) maintains very warm relationships with his Bishop (a fairly new and 'traditionalist' appointment who has massively increased the number of seminarians under his wing and is very fond of the 'Anglican' parish he inherited) and with neighbouring clergy, both Anglican and RC.

It is difficult not to hope that this experiment ... no, it has been going for a generation; this highly successful adventure will prove transplantable to an English context. An Anglicanism reconciled to a greater Christendom - and showing how it can be a true ecumenical bridge - is just, surely, what the Holy Spirit is calling for. Go and look at Arlington if you aren't sure it's possible. What in the last resort is so impressive is that it has bedded down to look so natural and, in the best sense of the word, so ordinary.

6 comments:

John F H H said...

According to Frances Arnold-Forster's inestimable Studies in Church Dedications [3 vols.Skeffingtons, 1899]

One in six churches in England & Wales include St.Mary in their dedication, one in five of pre-Reformation dedications, one in eoghteen of post-Reformation dedications.
These dedications break down as follows:

St.Mary "The Blessed Virgin" - 2162 + 152 with another name [Double Decication], + 155 as an alternate name, + 37 demolished

The Mother of God 1 [Postling,Kent]
Our Lady - 3 + 2 Double Dedications
Our Lady of Pity - 2 [Petworth, Dover-alternative for St.Mary de Castro]
Our Lady of Sorrows - 1 [New Shoreham]
St.Mary of Grace -1 [Gloucester, demolished, S.Michael's becomes S.Michael w. St.Mary de Grace]

Of the Double Dedications, these are the more remarkable:
Christ & St.Mary, [Armathwaite, Cumbs.]
The Blessed Virgin & Child [Beaulieu, Hants]
St.Mary & the Holy Cross [Milstead]
St.Mary & the Holy Rood [Donington]
S.Mary & Corpus Christi [Hatherley Down]
S.Mary & the Holy Host [Chieveley]

The Annunciation - 4
The Asssumption - 13
The Nativity - 12
The Conception - 1 [Wraxall]
The Purification -1 [Blidworth -"St.Mary the Purification"]

Sadly, dear Father, I can find no trace in this work of a dedication to the Five Wounds

Second most popular after St.Mary was All Saints, with 1300 odd, the only other to reach four figures.

Regards
John U.K.

Edwin said...

Glad you've met my old chum Allan Hawkins - we were together many years ago in what was then a theological college in Cuddesdon.
It was a great help to Fr Allan that the ECUSA Bishop of Fort Worth, Clarence Pope, smoothed the way for the transition and allowed the parish to buy the church building. That is the very sort of generous spirit to which we look forward in England - and which Ms Schori, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, is determined to prevent in the States today.

Dominicanus3 said...

I am a roman Catholic raised in the Latin rite, I go once or twice a month to mass at St Mary the Virgin, and I can tell you that I feel joyful to be able to participate in such a reverent and sacred rite as the anglican rite. I feel so at home and at first it amazed me how strangely familiar it felt even though I had know more than anything novus ordo masses. I thank God for this parish and for the anglican tradition enriching the Church. Is amazing. I kinda feel like something precious we once had is returning to us, and the sense of the sacred will be recovered greatly thanks to the infuse of anglican tradition. I thank God also for the recovery of the Tridentine rite, which by the way I learned to appreciate greatly, and thanks to the masses at St mary the Virgin in english, i maddew the jump easier to the tridentine rite. I feel bless that I can assist to mass in three different rite. Awesome.

Jacob Hicks said...

The only problem with not calling the parish Our Lady, Arlington is that, when trying to look it up on the work computer the 'Virgin' means that it's prohibited!

frfiddle said...

Actually the change of title at St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, was well in advance of the parish's pleasant swim across the Tiber. In fact I never was at St. Mary's when it was St. Bart's. Like so many Anglo-Catholic places there had been a Churchmanship battle and the change in title marked both Fr. Hawkins arrival in the parish and the triumph of the Anglo-Catholic tradition there.

gmlhawkins said...

As a simple point of order, the parish had been associated with Anglo-Catholicsm long (that being relative, as the parish was founded in 1960) before Fr. Hawkins' arrival in the parish. Indeed, he was called as rector, specifically because he was an Anglo-Catholic and would maintain the orthodoxy of the parish.

The dedication of the parish changed in 1986, six years after Fr. Hawkins' appointment, in order to begin a new chapter in the life of the parish that had up till that point been tumultuous in terms of priest turnover and other unfortunate circumstances.

The parish left the Episcopal Church in 1991 and was erected as a parish of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth in 1994.