“The Anglo-Catholic Church in the Heart of Bristol”

From material in the June and December issues of the “All Hallows Quarterly”

All Hallows is often referred to as an “Anglo-Catholic” Church. What exactly does that mean? The “Anglo” bit just means that we are a parish in the Church of England, and our customs (in worship and church organisation) follow those developed over five centuries in this land.

The “Catholic” bit means that we see ourselves as following the faith and usages, not just of this country, but of the whole Christian Church, in every century and every land. “Catholic” means “belonging to the whole” Church, the Universal Church and not just a National body.

When controversial topics arise in the Church (for instance, regarding priesthood or marriage), we do not ask ourselves, “What is in tune with the modern world?” We ask, “What is in line with the teaching of Jesus Christ, as it has always been understood by the Church?”

To be Catholic, then, means having a great regard for Tradition, the “handing on” of the Gospel Truth, the Good News of Jesus Christ. One of the greatest treasures of Tradition is, of course, the Bible, the written record of God’s activity that has been handed down to us from ancient times. But because the Bible is a written document, it is in a sense “dead”; it only comes alive in the preaching and in the praying of the Church, the People who believe.

We believe that God is present among us, in his Word and also in his Sacraments: above all in the Holy Mass, where Christ himself becomes present here and now, in his eternal self-offering to God for the salvation of the world.

Forty years ago there were several churches in the heart of Bristol which would have self-identified as “Anglo-Catholic”. Sadly, some have since been demolished, and others have been given over to other uses or other denominations. All Hallows alone remains to give witness to this particular strand in the Church of England. That is why we believe we have a special responsibility to maintain this tradition.

“In the Heart of Bristol” refers not just to our geographical position, here in Easton. It refers also to our spiritual position in this City. When St Therese of Lisieux was pondering her vocation as a Carmelite nun, she read in St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12) that the Church is a Body with many parts and organs. There are apostles, missionaries, administrators and so on. She could not see where she fitted in to all this. Then she turned to chapter 13, where St Paul says, “I will show you a better way,” and gives us the marvellous praise of Christian love. Therese wrote: “I realised that if the Church is a Body, it cannot lack a heart. My vocation was simply to love, in the heart of the Church.”

I believe that in the same way our vocation at All Hallows is to offer our love and praise to God in the heart of our City. There are so many of our fellow citizens who do not know God, who do not know Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us. We cannot all be apostles and evangelists in the sense of public speakers and charismatic leaders: but we can all pray, and we can all love. In our ordinary lives we can make sure that Bristol does not lack a “heart”.