Crossing the Tiber
This is the term traditionally used for Anglicans who become Roman Catholics, of whom down the years there has been a steady trickle, because of individual choice and conviction. At certain times the flow has been greater. One such time was in our parish in the 1860s, when the mission churches that became St Peter's were established in Wellclose Square and  Wapping.  A number of the priests who were drawn to serve here, and for whom the issue of authority in the church was acute, became Roman Catholics, some of them rather suddenly (in one case, just a few days after preaching on Sunday that the Anglican church was a true and safe place to be). I don't believe, however, that many lay people followed them. There are more details on our website HERE.

The normal pattern for those who choose to 'convert' - as for example, with Tony Blair, or Anne Widdecombe, but also many less high-profile figures - is to undergo a period of instruction and preparation, and then to be re-confirmed (for while Rome accepts our common Christian baptism, they do not accept Anglican confirmation). Priests who wish to continue in ministry must submit to selection, training and re-ordination; those who are married are not normally put in charge of parishes.

We hear less about those who have 'crossed the Tiber' in the opposite direction, but there are plenty of these too: Roman Catholics who, for a variety of reasons (often to do with a desire for greater democracy in the church, as well as those who wish to marry) have become Anglicans. Indeed, of those clergy who became RCs when women were ordained priests (leaving with a compensation package), ten per cent subsequently returned to the C of E. (There was no such compensation for lay people!)

The Pope has recently announced - without formally consulting the Archbishop of Canterbury, it seems - a means whereby groups, rather than individuals (a priest and his congregation, for example, or even a whole diocese), could be received into communion with the Roman Catholic church, and retain some aspects of their former Anglican identity. They could worship together using Anglican forms of service, subject to approval (though most to whom this might appeal already use the Roman rite). They could have a degree of self-regulation, led by a bishop (who must be single) or a priest (who could be married) under what is termed a 'Personal Ordinariate'. Apart from these special arrangements, they would become Roman Catholics just like any others.

There is some precedent for this with 'Uniate' churches in Eastern Europe, which use Greek Orthodox rites and have married clergy but are in full  communion with Rome. However, these tend not to exist side-by-side with 'normal' Roman Catholic churches, and one of the puzzles of what has now been proposed is how these 'ordinariates' would co-exist with existing parishes. Would they be welcomed by their Catholic neighbours? Where will they worship? In this country at least, they will almost certainly not be able to take their church buildings with them - and we must continue to provide for parishioners who want nothing to do with this. How will the clergy be paid? There are many other details about how it would work 'at ground level' that are unclear - not least, the impact on church schools.

One target of this initiative - which the Roman authorities insist is not 'poaching', but a generous offer - is the Episcopal Church (Anglicans in the USA), where congregations have broken away from their dioceses because of liberal teaching, especially on the issue of same-sex relationships, as well as because they have women bishops. They have linked themselves to other Anglican provinces, or to various small 'continuing church' networks. One could say (as the Archbishop of Canterbury has done, trying to make the best of it) that their becoming Roman Catholics would be better than setting up breakaway churches of their own. 

In this country, the prospect of women bishops is the main spur, though the other issues of the 'liberal agenda' are also said to be driving people towards the firm, top-down doctrinal stance of Rome where there is 'no messing'. Of course, Rome is not the answer for evangelicals who cannot accept aspects of her teaching - on the eucharist, or on Mary, for example. Nor, I suspect, will it prove to be congenial to those anglo-catholics who are used to sitting lightly to the authority of their bishops!

The announcement has come at a difficult time, when the General Synod has been thrown into disarray by an apparent about-turn on the shape of the legislation to allow women bishops. It complicates our ecumenical relationships with Rome. But I suggest that, however awkwardly it has been presented by a Pope who has limited contact with the grass roots, we should not see it as hostile or threatening, but as an attempt to be helpful. However, the potential ramifications for a diocese like ours, with significant numbers of clergy, and who knows how many lay people, feeling themselves to be 'on the edge', are huge.

The response of St Paul's School and of members of our congregation to this year's harvest celebrations was very generous. Children brought many packaged goods to church on Friday 2 October, added to on Sunday by the congregation, and these have been gratefully received by the Whitechapel Mission. In addition, £304 was contributed for the work of Christian Aid - considerably more than in previous years, thanks to some large individual donations.

Ritualism Riots
Last month's Calendar announced an event in our programme to mark the notorious 1859-60 riots at St George's. Following violent interruptions in September 1859, which prevented the Litany from being sung, the bishop ordered the closure of the church until further notice; it re-opened on 6 November. We had planned to sing the Litany on that date (hopefully without further interruptions...), and to have a question and answer session with a panel commenting on the theological, social, political and legal issues of the Riots, and the way it was handled by the media of the time. However, for various reasons, including the availability of some panel members, we have had to postpone this until next year.

We are hoping to create some display materials about the riots in the next few months. Meanwhile, you can look at the updated website page on this extraordinary episode in our history HERE.

The highlight of the programme will be the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to preside and preach at a service on the evening of Wednesday 20 January 2010.  He is looking forward to coming, and has an enthusiasm for the theme. We can certainly rely on him to offer wisdom from the past and inspiration for the future. Put the date in your diary now; make it an absolute priority, and bring as many of your family and friends as possible. We might not be able to match the number of the rioters who gathered here at the height of the disturbances in January 1860 - and we certainly don't wish to emulate their behaviour! - but we certainly want the church to be packed out for the occasion.
Worship, Mission and Nurture Committee
We have been thinking about what we offer our children and young people, and adult members of the congregation, by way of nurture and support. We are committed to continuing the present pattern children's group on most Sundays in term-time (ably led by Alex with a skilled team of helpers), and will be introducing a few features to help parents who attend with younger children. We want to encourage adults to participate in some of the many excellent talks, seminars and other events that already take place locally and a bit further afield (for instance, at St Paul's Cathedral) and will try to publicise these better. Alongside this, we need our own programme of events that combine study and fellowship, and aim to have an awayday, and maybe a residential event, next year.

Is our musical repertoire wide and rich enough? How much of what we sing is in fact familiar across our very varied age range and church backgrounds? We do not want to become a 'worship song and chorus' congregation, but we do supplement our hymnbook with a variety of other material from a range of sources. To test out how the current mix is perceived, we have a simple suggestion: if you wish, you may mark your service sheet, anonymously, with ticks or crosses or comments against each of the hymns, to indicate whether you know and like them, and leave it on the coffee table after service. Not a scientific survey, but maybe a useful indicator..... 


On 18 October Evgenia Startseva presented a wonderful and varied programme of piano music on our Blüthner instrument which has been lovingly restored by Christopher White. In particular, she is an expert interpreter of Shostakovich, and her performance of his 24 Preludes was quite breathtaking.

Christopher's own piano trio, Opus 3, will be presenting the next in the series, on Sunday 15 November at 5pm, with music by Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, and we can guarantee that this too will be a performance of the highest quality.

On Sunday 13 December, our own director of music Elspeth Wilkes, with vocalist Elizabeth Powell, will present a first half of popular cabaret songs, and a second half with a Christmas flavour.

Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions) including refreshments, with special arrangements for those who book for both concerts in advance. 

Lally Britton
Last month Lally left the flat in Solander Gardens which had been her home for many years, to move into sheltered accommodation in Clayhall, Essex nearer her family. She has lived in the East End all her life, and has been linked to St George-in-the-East for nearly all of it (serving on the PCC for a time, and latterly being on our home communion list), so until recently she resisted the urgings of her children to move away from the area where she was proud to belong. But increasing infirmity finally convinced her, and she has settled very happily in her new home.  We wish her well, and will keep in touch. The Rector has her address and phone number, if anyone wishes to contact her.

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