On Thursday 12th September, the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP) celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation, and we were kindly hosted by Southwark Cathedral. There were over 200 priest members and at least eight bishops in attendance from all over the UK and Ireland; there were those who were there 25 years ago and those who, like me, have recently joined the Society. We were all there because we value the Catholic tradition and believe in inclusion, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age and ethnicity, all with a desire to serve God and God’s church.
We began with a beautiful concelebrated mass with Bishop Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth as principal celebrant. Over two hundred priests concelebrated with him. Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford challenged us in his sermon: “Servant, Shepherd, Sentinel, Messenger, Steward. ” He asked which of these 5 words from the ordinal we most identify with?
This was followed by an informal picnic lunch in the cathedral garden, providing great opportunities to greet friends, old and new and to enjoy the glorious sunshine.
After lunch SCP had their annual meeting. Fr Ian is the Provincial Rector of SCP and so chaired the meeting, – in a typically ‘Fr Ian fashion’ – friendly, jolly, but BRISK! A relief to us all! The afternoon finished with Benediction and anointing, with guest preacher Revd Dr Jennifer Cooper, Director of Initial Ministerial Education in Durham and Newcastle Dioceses.
It truly was a joyful occasion and a superbly appropriate venue that reflects being ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’; Southwark Cathedral is in the heart of the vibrant bustle of Borough Market and yet providing a peaceful oasis of calm and sanctuary, which spoke to me something about what it means to be church in the world.
The celebrations were full of fun, joy and laughter, yet resolute in the commitment to inclusion and service of God and our wider community. Looking forward to our 50th Anniversary in 2044!