Walsingham: an alternative solution

My comment on the Guardian’s statement is here.

I have thought long and hard, and had many conversations, about a solution for the shrine at Walsingham that would allow those of us who receive (and rejoice in) the ordination of women to all orders of ministry, and ordained women themselves, to share this place with those who cannot.

There are no ecumenical models for this. The closest, I suppose, is Taizé, where an early ‘reformed’ eucharist precedes the Roman Mass each weekday, but where really the Office is key not the daily Mass. I happily concelebrate the early ‘reformed’ Mass and sit in the congregation for the Roman Mass.

So what would an equivalent solution be at Walsingham?

What I appreciate at Taizé is that the community accept and welcome my desire to celebrate Mass every day and find a way of accommodating that. Even if it has meant a 4am Mass in the parish church before I make my way home.

I suspect that at Walsingham there are other ways of accommodating all those who wish to celebrate Mass without compromising the legitimate (in the Church of England) reservations that some hold about the ordination of women.

The simplest solution I can think of is that every Mass be accompanied by a stand/flag containing the simple message, either:

“This Mass is celebrated by a priest of The Society of St Wilfrid and Saint Hilda”


“This Mass is celebrated by a priest who is not a member of the Society of St Hilda and St Wilfrid”

Male and female priests could celebrate Mass. Concelebration would not be possible but attendance in choir would not be a problem.

The simpler the solution the more likely it is to succeed. Why not?

Posted on May 28, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. But there are plenty of male Priests who are not members of the Society so that wouldn’t help very much!

  2. Andrew Moughtin-Mumby

    It is a shame that many of us would love to go to Walsingham but cannot do so in good conscience under the current set-up. Yes, a flag system would be a step forward! It would need to convince those who hold a theology of taint, though…

    • I don’t think anyone holds a theology of taint, it is a slander.
      I have never heard or met anyone who takes this view and I know a lot of ‘traditionalists’!
      It is a myth.

      • Mother Elizabeth Burke

        Tainting is not a myth in Plymouth. I guess they could always keep one of the side chapels taint free? Another first step would be to allow female transitional deacons to deacon at the Mass. I had heard there were discussions about the Barn Chapel becoming a female priest friendly altar?

      • Andrew Moughtin-Mumby

        Lex credendi, lex orandi. So if there’s no taint, it’s simple: let them open the altars as you suggest. 🙂

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful and irenic post on this issue. I have appreciated your work both as priest and head teacher ever since I first encountered it online.
    I write as a priest whose early formation was evangelical but whose journey has been increasingly catholic in theology, spirituality and ecclesiology in the last 15 or 20 years or so. I have found it increasingly difficult to feel a part of anything that looks like a party in the church. I was at Trinity College in Bristol when George Carey was principal and far too often my experience has been that evangelicals treat me as a compromiser, largely because I do not believe strong committed relationships exclude gay men and women from a profound participation in the life of God. I believe that we are in a time in which we are learning much about the nature of our humanity in terms of all our relationships with each other and I see possibilities of full aliveness that I have not always grasped and that, of course, means a deepening understanding of the glory of God.
    Sadly my experience has also been far too often that when I have told Anglican catholics what college I attended I have hardly been made to feel welcome. I dislike all kinds of secret codes of language, dress and behaviour that exclude people. In that respect Taize seems to me to be a sign of great hope for the future of Christian faith in the west and also of human thriving. The two, of course must be one and the same or else Christian faith is simply one of many exclusive religious clubs competing for influence in the world. Can Walsingham be such a sign? I do hope so, not least because I see pilgrimage as a spiritual practice that seems to make sense to many right now and our places of pilgrimage must practice a radical hospitality if they are to help spiritual seekers find something truly transformational.
    In the meantime I offer you my prayers as you make this contribution to the life of the shrine. I think that what you say matters greatly.

  1. Pingback: Walsingham: An Open Door? | Company of Voices

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