The Roman Catholic Cathedral Parish of St Mary & St Helen, Brentwood
The Anglican Parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood
A very moving and well-attended service was held in St Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood, on Friday 25th January 2008, The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle.
Here we joined with our brothers and sisters at our neighbouring Anglican parish
of St Thomas of Canterbury in a service of thanksgiving, during which
the Covenant between our two parishes was signed.
Monsignor Bill Nix and Canon Bob White signed the Covenant first, followed by the Chairmen of the two Parochial Parish Councils.
Fr Paul Keane, Fr Matthew Bemand, Fr Bob, Fr Bill, Deacon Paul Conrad and Fr Ossie Trellis were joined by the Combined Girls' Choirs of the two parishes, directed by Sarah Stonehouse (Assistant Organist and Director of the Girls' Choir at St Thomas') and Emma Gibbons (Organ Scholar and Director of the Girls' Choir at the Cathedral). Andrew Wright (Director of Music at the Cathedral) and David Rooke (Director of Music at St Thomas') were also present.
A dramatic reading by the Youth Group from St Thomas' portrayed the conversion of St Paul, as the scales fell from his eyes and he saw the true path.
An Act of Commitment was also read by representatives from the two parishes in which amongst other things we promised to pray for one another, for unity in the Church and for peace in the world.
After the service a very joyful meeting with refreshments took place in the Cathedral Parish Hall.
Historical Context of the Covenant
This Covenant between our two parishes is part of an ongoing tradition of ecumenical dialogue and of reconciliation through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We rejoice that our parishes have much in common, in our beliefs and in our liturgy. In particular, both parishes recognise the eucharist as the source and summit of Church life, in which Christians of every time and place are united and the Church on earth is joined to the Church in heaven. It is therefore a cause of deep sadness that Christ’s body, the Church, has become divided so that we are not able to share the eucharist with one another.
Since the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Communions have been in constant dialogue. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission has published a number of documents vital to our common life and union. These theological studies, along with the discussions that led to them and which flow from them are bringing a growing agreement in faith and support our pilgrimage toward full Church unity, which is Christ’s will. This journey has been marked by several meetings between successive Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury, beginning with the meeting between Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI in 1966.
Sadly, developments within the Anglican Communion over recent decades have introduced obstacles to unity both within the Anglican Communion and between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Whilst such developments have made dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole more difficult, that should not prevent us from taking the opportunity to continue dialogue at a more local level.
We hope and pray that this covenant between the Anglican Parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral Parish of St Mary and St Helen, Brentwood, will become part of a wider journey towards unity and full communion between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and that one day Christ will bring all Christians into that final union which he alone can give.
+ In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
With gratitude to God, we publicly proclaim our faith in the Holy Trinity and our belief in the will of the Lord Jesus Christ who prayed for us and for all who are His Church, “that all may be one.” Baptized into the mystery of God’s holy life, we, Monsignor William Nix and Canon Robert White, in the name of our Churches do solemnly enter into this covenant.
We affirm our common beliefs:
- that God has revealed himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, and that sacred scripture and the apostolic tradition, inspired by the Holy Spirit, bear witness to this perfect revelation.
- that the unity of the Church is God’s will; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that manifests the mystery of the Triune God, and one we seek to bring into rightful expression in our communions.
- that Christ Jesus, Saviour of the World, is present to us in His Church through the sacraments and that they make present His victory over sin and death; moreover in the sacrament of the eucharist we believe Christ to be truly and substantially present under the forms of bread and wine, and that sharing in this sacrament would be the fullest expression of Christian unity.
- that Christ has given to His Church order and authority, expressed chiefly through the ministry of the bishops, as successors to the apostles.
- that Christ draws all people to himself from every nation and tongue, every race and people, and bestows a special dignity upon all men and women, who are created in the image of God.
- that our hearts and minds will continue to be nourished by the Word of God in Scripture and the action of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s Church.
- that prayer is an essential part of the work of the Church and the life of the individual believer, and that through prayer we can express our desire for unity.
- that Mary as Mother of God and Mother of the Church is a model of holiness, faith and obedience, and that her prayers, together with those of all the saints, aid us in our pilgrimage.
- that the diversity of gifts and graces in the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions will enrich the celebrations we share and the dialogues we pursue.
- that with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we pray that we will be enabled to overcome the separations which currently keep us apart.
We commit ourselves:
- to pray for each other and with each other and to ask the faithful of our communions to pray for one another especially at Mass.
- to seek to remove any obstacle to union whilst maintaining the traditions of our communions.
- to pray for unity in the Church, with the special intention that one day we will both be able to share the Eucharistic Communion at the same altar.
- to pray together for peace, justice, dignity and solidarity for our society and for the resolution of hostilities in other parts of the world.
- to pray for the leadership of our Churches; for wisdom and prudence in response to the needs in our dioceses, the nation and the world.
- to support those who live an Anglican-Roman Catholic covenant in their families. to collaborate in planning liturgical, educational, and social programmes and sharing physical and human resources whenever possible.
- to seek unity in teaching the Christian moral life.
- to support the proclamation, the living out and the annual renewal of this covenant.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation
in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20, 21
The Right Reverend Monsignor William Nix,
Administrator, Cathedral Parish of St Mary and St Helen, Brentwood
The Reverend Canon Robert White, Vicar, Parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood
Together with the lay chairs of the respective parish councils
Explanatory notes (not part of the text)
This covenant is not intended to replace the ecumencial work that takes place through Churches Together in Brentwood, involving all of the Christian denominations in the town centre, nor is it intended to bring about the unity which can only be achieved through dialogue at a 'whole Church' level; rather, it is an expression of the desire of members of our two congregations to work together and pray together in whatever ways we can, building on exisiting goodwill and areas such as music where we collaborate already. A steering group made up of clergy and laity from both congregations has met and will continue to meet from time to time to explore practical implications of this covenant.
It has already been suggested that we share in the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and so this year we shall follow the stations together each Friday evening, alternating between our two Churches. It is also hoped that we might be able to celebrate part of our Palm Sunday liturgy together by having a joint procession from the Chapel Ruins.