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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 12

23 June, 2013

"Catholic Evangelism" was the primary agenda item at this week's Vestry meeting, and the topic of the Vicar's report. There is not room to include my whole report in today's pew sheet, but it will be published in full next week in the St Peter's Day edition of our parish magazine "Apostrophe." I include here a preliminary reflection, by way of an introduction to this exciting new direction for St Peter's.

Catholic Evangelism, for some, is an oxymoron; we are Catholic not Evangelical. The brutal reality, however, is that unless we Anglican Catholics take the task of evangelism seriously many of our fragile church communities will cease to exist in the not too distant future. Business as usual is quite simply not an option in today's increasingly secular society. Evangelism is not just for Evangelicals.

In July 2015 the parish will be hosting The Rt Rev'd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford in England. The word is already out amongst St Peterites, and this is one very encouraging response from a parishioner living overseas that came to me via e-mail: "I've heard the Bishop of Chelmsford speak and he's good — and pulls no punches, so I'd say it's well worth the while of everyone at the Hill to begin working and praying hard for the success of what will be outlined on the Feast of the Assumption and the Bishop's mission to St Peter's two years later. The Bishop of Chelmsford is also very lively - a good personality; the antithesis of the old-style staid Anglo-Catholic. Also greatly interested in the arts and something of an expert on the British artist, Stanley Spencer. Pencil in a free day at the Vic. Gallery for him! He's a short man so he'll need his mitre much of the time! Married with three sons and a dog."

So, what's the plan? Well, I have asked Bishop Graeme to chair a "Catholic Evangelism" committee, that will oversee the nuts and bolts of preparing well for Bishop Cottrell's visit. We want to make the most of our esteemed episcopal visitor. But this will be much more than a one-off event. We plan to develop an extensive programme over the next two years, leading up to July 2015. This will include the creation of new a Mission Statement for the parish, regional study groups, a sermon series, a number of outreach events aimed at reaching those who live within walking distance of the parish, and a substantial review of how welcoming and inclusive we are as a faith community. It will be an opportunity for us as a parish to move beyond the comfortable familiarity of the Anglo-Catholicism we know, and to connect more deeply with the unsettling and reforming spirit of the Tractarian movement that so profoundly shaped the early mission of St Peter's to the infant city of Melbourne.

We will launch the St Peter's Catholic Evangelism programme at the 6.15pm High Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, Thursday 15th August. Fr Samuel has been working hard on the launch, and it is shaping up to be a most worthwhile evening. Our guest preacher will be The Rev'd Canon Dr Scott Cowdell from St Mark's National Theological Centre in Canberra, and his topic "Evangelical Catholicism." After Mass there will be a dinner, at which a panel of leading theologians and practitioners will respond to Dr Cowdell's address: Mr Brad Chapman, Education Missioner with the Anglican Board of Mission; The Rev'd Dr Dorothy Lee, Dean of Trinity College Theological School; and Dr Muriel Porter, journalist and author. So, please put this date in your diary and see if you can get it into a friend's diary too. There is already interest in the event from other Anglican Catholic parishes in Melbourne and we are extending an invitation also to our friends in the Ballarat, Gippsland and Wangaratta Dioceses.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for OS 12 Musings

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