Saint Augustine’s, since 1979, has been serving the Church of England in the Catholic tradition. While serving our people, we are committed to the ethos of a shared sacramental and spiritual fellowship with the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Saint Augustine’s sees its role as being a bridge. Through this sharing, we would like to be a theological locus by developing fresh pastoral and missional approaches from our dialogue with post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. This commitment, we believe, is a crucial resource for maintaining a healthy Catholic spirituality in our community. We also believe that this theological orientation is an important resource for renewing the Anglo-Catholic heritage. Our church building reflects the spirit of Vatican II (active participation in the liturgy; an inclusive semi-circular liturgical space).
Saint Augustine's, though being a mixed community, can be best characterised as a genuinely welcoming community. Our African and Caribbean people have felt at home at St Augustine's and have formed their own distinctive ethos: a genuine fellowship of sharing and joy. We are very proud that our people found a thriving spiritual home in our parish. Our pastoral team and our volunteers pay special attention to the spiritual and cultural needs of our people with African and Caribbean heritage.
We see ourselves as a praying family at the heart of Grahame Park. This is an important prayer support to the local community. The ethos of prayer also contributes to keeping alive the desire for the unity of our churches. This is our conviction that in the Church of England, we need parishes which speak the language of the so called ’sacramental tradition’. Living a genuine sacramenal life is an important manifestation of Christ's Catholic Church (Article XIX, Articles of Religion). The divisions and tensions between our churches (pastoral governance, doctrinal, gender, and sacramental policies) seem to remain a lasting challenge. That is why it is important to have communities which can articulate a shared ethos with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. From this can stem an ecclesiology (image of the church) which is genuinely committed to healing the wounds of the 'Catholica' (the sense of unity), also referred to in Article XIX. We aim at a shared understanding of Catholicism where 'the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's ordinance'.
We are a so called ‘Fulham parish’ under the pastoral care of The Right Reverend Bishop Jonathan Baker. As his parish, in the Diocese of London, we would like to give him the support of theology and prayer in his service of 'the holy and Catholick Church'. We believe that this emphasis on the 'labora Catholica' (Catholic works) of St Augustine’s successfully reconfigures the divisive issues of ordaining women priests and women bishops. On the one hand, we wish to cultivate an open-minded Catholicism, which offers full participation to men and women. On the other hand, we retain our position of being a ‘bridge’ to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions which ordain only men to be deacons, priests and bishops. St Augustine’s would like to serve the unity of our churches by remaining in dialogue with the theological position of our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters. There might be people in our congregation for whom this is a sacrificial position. We do not want to have any division or emotional heated debate in our community, regarding these positions. Neither do we wish our communal life to be derailed by ideological or political debates on the issue. We also respect the conviction of our founders, that of the previous generations, which faithfully served our parish and worshipped at Saint Augustine's. That is why, we believe, that St Augustine’s commitment to being a bridge is a healthy, non-ideological context for our conservative position. St Augustine’s Catholic stance, as a Fulham parish, is primarily grounded in, and motivated by, the call to mutually retain the desire for a shared sacramental ethos with our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. We believe that this vocation of keeping the sense of unity of the Church intended by our Lord alive can integrate differing personal convictions.
We firmly believe that as a ‘Fulham community’, our prayer life and theological reflections are a valuable ‘Catholic’ service to the internal life of the Church of England, and also to the Edmonton episcopal area where we serve. Our commitment to Tradition, through faithfully studying and living it, aims at cultivating a sensus ecclesiae and sensus fidei (a sense of the Catholick nature of the church, and a sense of the faith). By this we understand a sense of the church, when ‘Catholic community cohesion’ is not merely a value, or one of the values, but an imperative. We firmly believe that the sense of unity, the ‘Catholica’, is the guiding principle to which individual ambitions or political agendas should be humbly submitted. As an expression of this sense of unity, in the Eucharistic prayers, we pray for Francis, the chief bishop (the Pope), Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglical Communion, Bishop Rob the area bishop of Edmonton episcopal area, and Jonathan, our bishop. Their joint portraits are on display in the church and our chapel.
For us, ‘the Catholick’ also means an honest facing of reality. The ‘Catholica’, through its intention to embrace and serve all of God’s Creation, always cries for a genuine analysis of the human condition and the conditions of faith. We firmly believe that Saint Augustine’s has a call to explore a ‘healing Catholicism’. To heal: this is the nature of Christ’s sacraments. This honesty, deeply underlying the sense of the 'Catholick', does not allow us to celebrate uncritically phenomena and agendas resulted in by rapid changes in our culture. (See the issues of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and liturgy for same sex union, gender, etc.) Instead of rushed evaluations, and celebrating ‘what is’, without proper reflection, we ask for an honest analysis of situations - just as the Articles of Religion 'checked' and evaluated carefully the conditions of faith when it was formulated.
We are aware that the Anglo-Catholic sacramental model of mission is in need of renewal and re-contextualisation. Without proper resourcing (theological, social and cultural), this renewal is hardly possible. That is why Saint Augustine’s wishes to draw on those patterns of Catholicism which are proven resources in overcoming insularism and isolation. While we firmly believe that the Eucharist makes the church, we go a step further by saying, it is the sense of the Catholica that creates the church. This is our conviction and working hypothesis that we need to see beyond the particular agendas the Church of England is wrestling with at the moment. Recovering a fuller Catholic horizon can help us to see the wider picture, and perhaps, to give better responses to our present debates. Dr John McDade’s reflection on the ‘The Roots of Catholicism’ (2014 Bonaventure Lecture, University of Durham), with the five features of Catholicism he outlines, is our cherished theological guidance. Also, this is the ground of the ‘healing Catholicism’ of which Saint Augustine’s would like to be a pioneering workshop. We share the insight that a healthy Catholicism requires a genuine sense of history. That is why we aim at drawing on the Judeo-Christian heritage in a conscious way.
Based on this recognition, Saint Augustine’s is committed to offer an in-depth spirituality for its members and visitors. This is our conviction: that a confident, compassionate, and creative urban mission, following the directions of Capital Vision 2020, requires quality prayer life. The sacramental tradition, we believe, is a vital resource for grounding such a dynamic in-depth spirituality. That is why, through its distinctive Catholic ethos, Saint Augustine’s consciously draws on the Lectio-Divina tradition. Through this, the proclamation of the Word of God and the sacramental spirituality get a healthy balance. In administering the needs of the human soul, when the modern psyche is deeply endangered by the forces of our consumerist culture, we deliberately revisit the treasures of the monastic tradition. By drawing on the practical wisdom of the Rule of Saint Benedict, we would like to cultivate a spirituality of good stewardship. By caring for the beauty of our inner and external environment, we would like to be committed disciples of the Lord. Our spiritual practices and other communal activities show this ‘reflected life’.
We consciously draw on Saint Benedict’s programme of ora et labora (pray and work), contemplation and action. These two aspects are inseparable twins and as such they form a blueprint for our mission. Saint Augustine’s, as an Anglican Catholic community, is privileged to take up our Lord’s call to become a visible – sacramental - sign of the life of the Kingdom of God.
We have a further reason for applying the wisdom of Saint Benedict to the life our congregation. The patron saint of our community is Saint Augustine of Canterbury (died 26 May, 605). He is considered as ‘the apostle of the English’, a founder of the English church. He was a Benedictine monk. He was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission to Britain to Christianise King Æthelberht and his Kingdom of Kent from Anglo-Saxon paganism. Owing to Augustine’s perseverance with the mission, King Æthelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a monastery outside the city walls. Augustine was consecrated as a bishop and converted many of the king's subjects. With this began the establishment of Roman bishops in the island. Augustine established the see of Canterbury, becoming its first Archbishop. In honour of the patron saint of our church, we engage with his formative Benedictine tradition. We would like to return to the foundational charisma of the early missionaries of this country. That is why our kerygma intensely draws on the Rule of Saint Benedict, which Augustine followed. We regard the Rule as a treasure in building up the sense of belonging to the Christian community. Creating communities is Benedict's heritage. We would like to offer healing experiences of communal life over against the forces of social fragmentation.
Soon, Saint Augustine's will be redeveloped. In the time preceding the building of the new church, our primary focus is strengthening our existing worshiping community. We consciously prepare for the upcoming ‘two year Exodus’. While there will be no church, we would like to stay together as a praying family of God at Grahame Park. We firmly believe that with the sacramental spirituality we consciously cultivate, the building of the new Saint Augustine’s has already begun! May God bless our journey ‘in faith and truth’! (John 4:23)
A theological resource. Dr John McDade’s reflection on the ‘The Roots of Catholicism’ (2014 Bonaventure Lecture, University of Durham) is an important resource in offering a 'Healing Catholicism' which we are aiming at.