I am unashamedly Anglican Catholic, and in that there will be no surprises for you, dear readers. It isn't that I was raised in a particularly Anglo-Catholic environment either, because I wasn't. My church life, before ordination, ranged from membership of a modern church in an 'urban priority' area, through what could be construed or labelled as middle-of-the-road, all the way to Roman Anglo-Catholic (as distinct from the English Anglo-Catholicism of Percy Dearmer). Only the latter of these was my personal adult choice, the others being as a result of where we lived as a family in my formative years.
I know what I like, and what enlivens and nourishes my encounter with God. By choice I seek it out when I am not the 'one at the front', but I have also experienced a quantum shift in what I believe the wider world wants. What I want and what the world wants are, I am fast learning, very distinct - even if there are some overlaps.
Part of the 'problem' of Anglo-Catholic worship (which I will reiterate - I love with my whole heart) is that is it stuck in about 1845 if they are of the 'Romanising' style, or c1900 if they are of the Dearmerite 'English' style. In a digital on-demand age, such liturgical expressions are become much loved, revered and but sacred museum pieces. In my heart I crave a way in which the Sacraments can meet the world in which they are given by God, and at the point in time where we meet God in this age.
You can cast your eyes around church websites or articles and find labels such as 'modern-catholic' or 'liberal catholic', 'traditional Anglo-Catholic', or a mix of them all and then you will quickly see the tell-tale markers of where that community is rooted in the context of the debate concerning women in ministry. They will display Resolutions or not, and the priest will be be suffixed 'SSC' or not. In short, the labels are contextual and in a fairly limiting way. My issue with 'modern' is that the rest of world will claim a 'post-modern' existence, with 'traditional' that it is regarded as the anti-women camp, and with 'liberal' that it is a little bit and pink and wishy-washy. None of these is the case, but they bring their problems as all labels do, including the one I am about to speak about (and may possibly be of my own invention, who knows): Contemporary Catholic.
This is fast becoming the label that I apply to myself. The failing of present Anglo-Catholicism is that it is often received as the celebration of a former glory, as old, as out of date, arcane, fussy, strange, 'not for beginners' - and in many ways this is all true to a certain degree. I seek an Anglo-Catholicism that speaks of the moment, of now. This is not to suggest that I am proposing a poor mish-mash of incense and Matt Redman, because that would lack integrity in the hands of most of us. Our experience of God is found in the sensory, in beautiful music, visual feasts, the counterpoint of silence and and exuberance, and in the adoration of God through the Sacraments. In that, it is the best of things, in my opinion - a position lost in political hang-ups and historical battle-lines. There must be a way that we can return to our Sacramental roots and still be children of digital 2011. The two are not, and cannot, be mutually exclusive. If they are, we are dead already.
I am not positing any answers or a new church order. I just express a developing and deepening sense in me that Anglo-Catholics need to find a new relevancy of the order achieved by Newman and Pusey in their day. It might even be a 'back to the drawing board' thing, I don't know - but something needs to happen. I know that I am not any breed of evangelical because I wasn't made that way or called to be. I am what I am, and so are many others, which is to say that a modern catholicism shouldn't be a slightly spiced-up evangelicalism. The world needs both to be done well in partnership.
As I move towards incumbency and a whole world of fresh opportunity and potential, I place these thoughts here as I grow in new directions. If you saw me in action, you would already sense that I am unlike any Anglo-Catholic you have ever seen, liturgically - but change and development doesn't and shouldn't mean that the quality and integrity of the encounter with God be lost.
* If you were wondering what the practical out-workings of the distinctive Anglo-Catholicisms were, be they Roman or English, it is to do with simplicity in the case of the English. English Anglo-Catholics, in being guided in some part by the Parson's Handbook will not favour the Roman taste cottas, myriad buttons on cassocks, umpteen candles on altars etc and will cherish a hymnody that is closely allied to that of Methodism, in the favouring of Vaughn Williams's versions of Wesley's hymns, for example. English catholics regard Romanisers as fussy and as a breed of lace-wearers!!