'REMEMBRANCE'

 ‘I remember, I remember,’ the house where I was born,

The little window where the sun came peeping in at morn’

Thomas Hood 1799-1845

I never cease to be amazed at the stuff one’s brain stores up and regurgitates at a moment’s notice, such as the piece of poetry above! So it was that when I came to put pen to paper, the words of that poem immediately came back to me. One particular remembrance of mine is of Bishop Mervyn Alexander and the Anglican-Catholic experiences that I shared with him.

It was way back in the early 1970s when, as an Anglican layman living in Yeovil, I attended a series of Lenten talks organised by the local churches and first came across Fr. Mervyn. What I never forgot was the input he gave to the series, which was remarkable for its sincerity, holiness and commonsense; that is what has remained with me ever since.

 Fast forward to the year 2001 and both our roles had changed. He, a retired Catholic bishop continuing his priestly ministry at St. Joseph’s, Weston-super-Mare, while I, the Anglican vicar of ‘All Saints,’ in the same town, and actually living in Mervyn’s parish of St. Joseph!

 We often met and decided that both our churches should have the opportunity of worshipping together, so far as was possible. So, my Anglican folk and I came on several occasions to Stations of the Cross and Benediction at St. Joseph’s, and vice versa. It all seemed totally proper we should do this, within, of course, certain limitations. There was no doubt that we were pilgrims on a spiritual journey, and it was exciting to enjoy a distinct rapport.

One of the earliest memories of my ‘Weston’ days (1994-2006) was that Mervyn wanted no fuss, either about status or position. All he wanted was to be a good parish priest, serving God’s people in his own inimitable and humble way. As an Anglican Bishops’s Examining Chaplin, one of the questions I always asked those aspiring to become priests was, ‘Is there any one lay person or priest whom you feel has helped in the vocation you are seeking?’ For myself, if asked the same question today, I would, without any hesitation, say that it was Fr. Mervyn.

When I retired in 2006 I received a lovely letter from Fr. Mervyn wishing me well inthe life that lay ahead and expressing his warm thanks for all that we had done together. Little did I dream that, five years later, not only would I be a Catholic priest but my first Mass, as such, would take place at the same altar where Fr. Mervyn had stood, celebrating his Masses.

 ‘God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform,’ is a beautiful truism from the Bible. All that has happened to me in the past and certainly since 2001, with the friendship I enjoyed with Fr. Mervyn, brings to mind the happiest of remembrances. How fortunate I have been to know him as a friend, and to see the hand of God in the relationships we have with people who come to play such an important part in our lives!