Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, here we are. God willing, this will be my last pastoral letter to you all. After almost sixteen months without being able to worship publicly, by God's good Providence, we shall resume the public celebration of the Divine Liturgy next Sunday, the 1st August. During our time away from public worship, we did the best we could with the resources we had been given. And since for us Holy Communion is the central feature of our liturgical life, we tried to create a virtual liturgy by providing the Propers for each Sunday and principal Holy-day when we would have been at Church, and the Form of Spiritual Communion which not only would unite the faithful believer to the Real Presence of Our Lord wherever the Holy Eucharist was being celebrated throughout the world, but especially to the secret Mass which we were celebrating privately in an undisclosed location with a handful of our own people representing our Congregation. And together with this, in the place of a Sermon, our people were provided with some seventy-six pastoral letters.
This Sunday is the Feast of Saint James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr. For us in this Diocese, Saint James is important because he is our Patron Saint, and today is our Diocesan Patronal Festival. Sadly, not only are we not able to come together in our congregations to honour our Diocesan Patron, but we also do not have the Propers attached to this letter; so, you will have to rely on your Prayer Books this Sunday. The reason is, that my one-month subscription for Microsoft 365 expired before I remembered to renew it. However, it will be good for us to return to using our Prayer Books again as we move back to some sort of normality.
Saint James is also important to me personally. Many years ago, I adopted him for a number of reasons as my own personal Patron. One of those reasons was, that when I was born, my parents had named me "David James". However, our family naming pattern is the old English pattern that is traditional in East Anglia where my father's family come from, which is that the first-born son takes the first name of his father as his second name. And it seems that there was some sort of objection to having "James" as my first name. And so, I was named "Robert" in memory of Robert the Bruce and the Stewart Kings of that name in honour of my mother's Scottish ancestry which also occasioned the naming of my brother "Donald Scott". In any event, I think I may have felt Saint James to have been slighted, and so I sought to honour him. It also happened that it was on Saint James's Day in 2002 that my appointment as Bishop Co-adjutor of Richmond was ratified by the Electoral Synod, and I was duly elected Co-adjutor to Archbishop Davies, our first Diocesan Bishop, and my Principal Consecrator the following September.
Be that as it may, I suppose the real great impact of my friendship with Saint James in my life was, that by an act of loving Providence, the Lord directed my grandparents to take me to Saint James's Church in downtown Vancouver where we became parishioners for several years. Saint James's Church had been where my grandmother's family had attended for many years, and where my grandparents and my uncle were confirmed by the Fourth Lord Bishop of New Westminster, Sir Francis Heathcote, the Ninth Baronet Heathcote of Hursley, and cousin to my grandfather. And it was there, that I learned the Catholic and Apostolic Religion and the authentic Anglican Tradition. And it was my great privilege to meet, and even come to know, some of the last great luminaries of the Anglican Tradition in Canada, amongst whom was Father Roland Ford Palmer, the principal editor of the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer.
As a family, we had attended smaller parochial Churches: Saint Martin's Church and Saint John's Church, North Vancouver; and Saint Augustine's Church, Marpole, and Saint Mary's Church, Kerrisdale, in Vancouver. And though we were a devoutly "High Church" family, both here in Canada and back in England, we were somewhat unfamiliar with what was sometimes referred to as "advanced ritual". And "advanced ritual" was what Saint James's Church was all about. It was a flag-ship of Canadian Anglo-Catholicism. It was extraordinarily well attended, with a Low Mass at eight o'clock, a Family Mass at nine-thirty, and the Solemn High Mass at eleven-fifteen. It had a magnificent choir, and an even more magnificent pipe-organ. The Church building itself has been designed by Sir Adrian Gilbert Scott, and was the prototype for the Anglican Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. It was a huge byzantine-style edifice, with great round arches, and a huge squat tower with a full peal of bells. It's dedication in 1935 was an important enough event for the Governor-General, Lord Tweedsmuir, to attend, whereat that august gentleman addressed the assembled congregation, saying, "I stand here before you today as the Representative of the Sovereign of a Christian Empire." Truly wonderful words from a truly wonderful man!
And the worship at Saint James's was as impressive as the architecture. The Eucharist of the Prayer Book was sung not only to Merbecke, but to Byrd, and Palestrina, and Willan. Glorious vestments from England, France, and Germany clothed the Priest, Deacon, and Subdeacon. Clouds of incense wafted up to the heights of the great ceiling. Six tall candles flickered on the retable behind the great stone high altar, and seven silver lamps burned continually before and above it representing the Seven Spirits of God. And the faithful would kneel in humble reverence with bowed heads as the Priest elevated the Sacred Host, and the bells of the sanctuary rang, and the great bell in the tower tolled to announce to all the sad and worn Downtown Eastside that Jesus Christ the Son of God was now Really Present with His people. God was truly in His Temple, and for at least that holy hour and a half, all was right with our world.
And then, suddenly, it was right no more. Change swept through the Church. Clergy turned away from Scripture, and turned instead to popular psychology and cultural deconstruction, and preached social justice and Marxism instead of the Gospel. Synods and conferences became consciousness-raising sessions, and the committees were taken over by social-justice advocates and political agitators. And as the shepherds were stricken, the sheep were scattered. Some, like our family, remained faithful and adhered to the "Continuing Anglican" movement. Some sought refuge with the Greek and Russian Orthodox. Most of the faithful fled to Rome; a few to strict evangelical Protestantism. And the vacuum was filled up by sceptics, doubters, experimenters, heterodox, and heretics. It is written in the Scriptures, "My House shall be called a House for all peoples," and that is very true. But when the House is filled with those who have turned away from the truth, those who search for the truth will not find it there. One had might as well paint "Ichabod" over the door in goat's blood, for most surely the "glory has departed" and the blind and deaf are left for dead in their trespass and sin.
I have had the great privilege of being able to travel since I was very young. I have seen much of Canada and the United States, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Holland, and Italy. And I have visited countless numbers of Cathedrals and Churches along the way, from Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, to Westminster Abbey in London, to the old Russian Orthodox Church at Sitka in Alaska. And what I have found during these visitations, that one can always tell where the faith is believed, and where it is not. I had the pleasure to attend a Solem High Mass in Latin at the Brompton Oratory in London, and worshipped with hundreds of devout Christians full of faith and hope. I had the distinct unpleasure to attend an Evensong at the Abbey the very same day where the very professional choir sang to a small gathering of perhaps thirty people scattered throughout the Chancel, and where almost no one answered the Minister with responses. It was like a beautiful, but cold sepulchre, where the memories of the dead buried there was more alive than the faith of the living.
I remember, both as a boy in our parish Church, and as a young man at Saint James's, the great conviction of the members of the congregation when they made their responses. "O God, make clean our hearts within us," "And take not Thy Holy Spirit from us." I remember the preacher in his surplice and stole, closing his eyes, and beseeching God to give him the right words to speak to us. I remember the Priest turning to us, and holding up the Host and Chalice, and saying those most extraordinary words, "Behold the Lamb of God!" which to the unbeliever is a shocking absurdity, but to the believer the most profound and mysterious reality. I also remember being in Wells Cathedral, and seeing a massive interactive display in consideration of a "consideration of atheism". I certainly did not feel the Holy Spirit there. I rather think He was hiding away and watching in silence.
There is a vast difference between Christianity and Churchianity. In fact, between them there is a great gulf fixed. Choirs, incense, candles, vestments, bells, churches, synods, and canons. None it has any meaning or spiritual purpose if it is not the expression of a living faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ. It may be old, it may be venerable, it may be beautiful, it may be culturally significant, it make even bring to some a certain satisfaction and feeling of peace; but it is all as useless and vain as a pagan ritual or wiccan sacrifice, and maybe just as spiritually deadly, if it is done without faith. There is nothing so grievous to the soul than the sound of a spiritually dead congregation muttering prayers which they do not really believe. And, in the end, they have a form of godliness, but they deny the power of it, just as Saint Paul warned Timothy it would be in the last days.
All throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites fell away, lost trust, committed sin, and broke faith with their Lord. The holy circumcised people whom God Himself chose as His own, they worshipped the Golden Calf, challenged Moses, and were many of them destroyed in the desert. Time and time again, Israel turned against the Law and the Prophets, and all the rites and provisions of the Covenant could not save them. Even though they were circumcised in the flesh, their spirits were far from God. They honoured Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from them.
And so it is with Christians, the people of the New Testament, the Covenant made and sealed with Blood of the Son of God. One can have been baptised and confirmed, and regularly receive Holy Communion, and not be saved, not be a Christian. One can attend public worship, and participate in parochial events and even join Church-related organisations, but still not be a real Christian. Our Lord Himself said, that "not every one that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord!' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." And the reason for this is that there are two Churches: the Visible Church and the Invisible Church. The Visible Church is the whole outward manifestation of the Body of Christ which is necessary for it to function: the Ministry, the Sacraments, the Government, the buildings. The Invisible Church is the true Body of Christ, known only to God alone, who are His own, who truly believe, are converted sinners, and who strive to do the works of God, live as God would have them live, and long and hope for the coming of the Kingdom. These are the inward part of the Body for whom the outward manifestation exists. This is why there is never any perfection within the Church, because not all that say, "Lord, Lord!" are truly His children.
And when the Lord comes to judge the quick and the dead, and we all rise to stand before our Judge, some of us will already have risen as partakers of the First Resurrection, the resurrection of the true believers who are justified and have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb. For them, theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, theirs is the inheritance, theirs is the fulfillment of the promise. For the others, there is the Great White Throne Judgement, and men will be judged by their law and according to their works. Lord God, have mercy upon them!
So, the question we must all ask ourselves is, "Am I a Christian?" Am I truly a saved, believing, born-again Christian? And if you cannot say truthfully that you are, then you need to take time, right now if necessary, and accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your Lord and personal Saviour. And by personal Saviour, we mean that Jesus Christ died personally for you, taking your sins upon Himself, and offering Himself as the Perfect Atonement for you. And make the choice not only to believe in Him, but to follow Him faithfully. Confess your sins to Him. Pray for full forgiveness and absolution. And give your whole self over to Him, your body, your soul, your spirit, your life, your possessions, your hopes, your fears, your entire future. Make Him the Lord of your entire life, and chose to live and die only for and in Him. And if you were already baptised and confirmed, accept what was done for you, and go to the Priest and be reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Penance. Or, if you have not been baptised, seek out a congregation of orthodox Christian faithful, and ask immediately for Baptism and Confirmation.
This is a matter truly of life and death. If we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, and confess Him with our mouths and in our lives, then we are saved, and numbered amongst God's faithful and elect children if, with faith, we persevere unto the end. If we do not believe and accept Him, and we reject Him as the Jews rejected Him at Calvary twenty centuries ago, then we have no place in the Kingdom, we are all under wrath, and stand before our Creator dead in sin and trespass. And the choice is yours and yours alone to make. And if I were you, I would chose Life, and I would make Jesus Christ Who is the Life and Light of God in the world the Life and Light of my life, and to live and die in Him.
And so, with these words, I bid you all Farwell! Most of you, I hope I shall see in Church next week. Some of you, I may meet again someday; and some, I may even meet for the first time. Even so, we have been together Sunday by Sunday throughout this long, unhappy, and trying ordeal. However, the Lord has seen us through it safely, and now it is time to draw this particular ministry to its close. May the good Lord bless you all, and keep you always in His love and care.
And in the Faith of Jesus Christ our Lord, I shall sign myself for this last Pastoral Letter as being,
Yours sincerely in Him Who is our Life and Light,
+ Robert David: Richmond.