It is probably a character defect, but I cannot find myself roused by sectarian passion. When I ceased to be an Anglican there was no sense of anger present. Indeed, as it was a lengthy process, it is almost impossible to mark the point at which I ceased to be one; perhaps, in temperament, it is impossible for me to cease to be one. From time to time here – and elsewhere (so my fellow commentators are not in any way being too harsh) I find myself charged with a certain lack of vigour in criticising what I persist in calling other churches. I am perfectly aware of the teaching of my own church on this issue, but as it does not, in everyday usage, call most of them ‘ecclesial communities’, and as it does, in everyday practice, work with them and treat their leaders as Christians worthy of respect, I feel I am, at the least, in good company. I was taught that politeness costs one nothing and that courtesy is a great virtue, and I persist in not unlearning such things.
These thoughts were prompted in part by working with the Anglican bishop of the diocese and his staff recently on a project of mutual interest – that of encouraging religious literacy. Catholics and Anglicans face the same problem as most Christians do in our society – it does not understand them, what they stand for or even, for the most part, much of what they are saying. What society does tend to pick up on are the divisions between us, and the language some religious people use about each other and about others who are not religious. Nothing they hear does much to make them change their prejudices about Christianity – quite the opposite. So we were talking, Catholics and Anglicans, about whether there was anything to be done.
That discussion was put into perspective by another meeting at which we were discussing ‘communications strategy’ in our parish. What was it people ‘wanted’? seemed to be the question – with the suggestion that if we could find it, then we could offer them. Off the pace as usual, I was not, and still am not, sure why offering Catholic content might not be the answer – although the experts seem to think it could be part of the problem. One of them posed the perfectly reasonable question of what it meant to say that we were aiming at a ‘Catholic community’. It prompted the thought in my head as to whether it was actually either – in any meaningful sense. I am not sure I came up with anything which reassured me that it was. Does going to Church on a Sunday and having coffee afterwards make you a Catholic? Does it make you a community?
Much the same problems were evident in our discussions with the Anglicans. It struck me that dealing with the wider societal problem was, actually, part of dealing with the more local one. I did ask what was meant by ‘Evangelisation’ – in practice. We all seemed to have ‘strategies’ and ‘initiatives’ – but when I asked what we were actually doing, the answer appeared to be that we were constructing strategies which would deal with these things.