A parish in my own diocese has…advertised a Mass for ‘the maintenance of Catholic Faith and Order in the Church of England’ complete with a ‘procession to the crowned statue of our Lady Queen of Heaven’ and ‘veneration of the relic of Saint Pius V, wrote the Archbishop of York, John Habgood in 1988. He continued I do not wish to carp at what is doubtless a sincere intention but it is plain that the Catholic future cannot possibly lie in that direction.
The Church of England, and many churches of the Anglican Communion have accommodated congregations which take pride in having an exotic or baroque approach to devotion to Mary. Many dioceses in England have or have had a church which takes a lead in forms of devotion similar to what was perhaps common in some parts of the Roman Catholic Church of the 1930s. The inspiration for this approach often seems to come from Spain or parts of Italy, and is frequently rather undiscriminating.
While this distinctive and colourful style is in decline it does form a definite tradition and approach to the veneration of Mary in some parish settings in Anglicanism. Undoubtedly the May Devotions in some Anglican churches have engaged a broad range of adults and children have been inspired by them. They have drawn together people from different churches in a united act of worship which has been inspiring and glorious.
Such events share some characteristics (processions, distinctive insignia, children dressing in white or bright colours …) with the more secular May Queen ceremonies still found in some communities.
Of course all this supports the view that there are many understandings and interpretations of Mary in the Anglican Tradition.
During May, on our church blog, we are posting a variety of blog posts reflecting on Mary in the Anglican tradition. We will look at different interpretations of Mary in word and image, as found in the Anglican church. A print version of these and other articles is being prepared and will be for sale at our special evening ‘Mary in the Anglican Tradition’ on Sunday June 16th at 5pm at St Chrysostom’s.