What’s the alternative?

At a time of competing narratives about faithfulness and orthodoxy and the loss of credibility of religious institutions, Bridie Stringer, formerly a lecturer in pastoral theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham explores her own recent experience of inclusion in other church settings.

Alternative churches
During the blizzard conditions in February, I was unable to drive out of my village in order to go to Mass, so instead decided to attend the local Anglican church for the Sunday Morning Family Communion service. I knew many members of the congregation and also the vicar and, without making a great fuss, they welcomed me into their midst. When it came to Communion time, in accordance with common liturgical practice, I understood that if I approached the altar and kept my hands below the rail, then I would not be offered the communion bread and wine but would instead receive a blessing. However, I was grateful to receive both the Eucharistic bread and wine, and neither the vicar nor my neighbours disapproved. The prayers recited during the service reminded me of the pre-2011 Mass translation, and I was painfully aware of what we Roman Catholics had lost by way of accessible liturgy and that this might well intensify with the arrival of the new Lectionary. Certainly, the unwillingness of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) to explore the possible adoption of the beautiful 1998 Mass texts (mainly on the grounds that new books would be too expensive) seems poor justification to maintain what is now a very dispiriting status quo. Despite Pope Francis’ affirmation of Bishops’ Conferences in determining the Mass translations for their territories in Magnum principium, his apostolic letter issued moto proprio in September 2017, some bishops have instead chosen to support Tridentine Rites presided over by traditionalist presbyters. Some parishioners now languish in the Eucharistic celebration with only the back of the celebrant and his moving elbows to indicate the liturgical ceremonial actions which are taking place in their name at the altar.

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