Amazing Grace Report :

40th Anniversary Celebration of Catholic Charismatic Renewal

On Saturday 01 September 2007 approximately 90 people from across the south west came together at St. Boniface Roman Catholic Comprehensive College and St Peter’s Church, Crownhill, Plymouth to celebrate and give thanks for 40 years of charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church. Participants from all corners of the Plymouth Diocese were joined by a small number from the Clifton Diocese together with a number of ecumenical guests.

After an initial time of prayer and praise Charles Whitehead, former chairman of the National Service Committee for England and Wales and the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Committee spoke about the origins of charismatic renewal from the early 20
th century, its growth into the traditional ‘main stream’ churches during subsequent years and eventually in 1967 the beginning of charismatic renewal in the Catholic church. He also highlighted the journey of renewal within the Church, the role of Pope John xiii, the Second Vatican Council and the guidance of Cardinal Suenens on behalf of the Vatican during the early years of renewal.

Following Charles extremely enlightening portrait of the charismatic renewal journey, Dr. Jan and Patrick Knight from Taunton who have been involved in renewal in the south west over many years shared their testimonies and the ways in which charismatic renewal and the Holy Spirit had influence their lives, not only in the good, but also in the difficult times.

At noon participants moved to St Peters Church for a joyous Mass of celebration and thanksgiving. Bishop Christopher was the principal celebrant with Fr Terry Fleming ( a former chaplain to CCR in the diocese) and Fr Trevor Jordan ( a current chaplain to CCR in the diocese concelebrating). The Gospel and Bishop Christopher’s homily were appropriately about the ‘talents’ which we all receive in varying degrees and are required to use for the benefit of ‘the Master’. The ‘bidding prayers’ recognised and gave thanks for the many blessings received by individuals and the diocese through CCR and also acknowledged the work of the many people, living and dead, who have served the diocese and CCR through the years.

Bishop Christopher joined participants for lunch and was involved in the afternoon prayer and praise which was followed by a talk by Jenny Baker who worked with Catholic Evangelisation Services who produce the CaFE programmes and other resources for use in faith formation.

Jenny shared her story of how, having attended a Celebrate Conference at Ilfracombe, she felt called to give up her job. Two weeks after resigning she received an invitation to work with Catholic Evangelisation Services and has subsequently travelled through out the UK and overseas as part of her role presenting and promoting the ‘Good News’. She was able to provide first hand experience of how initiatives which came from CCR beginnings have permeated into many aspects of the Church throughout the world and how many people through ‘Life in the Spirit’ and similar programmes have responded to the call to serve their parishes in a wide range of ministries.

During her session Jenny invited Tom Bonard who is with the Pathways Community in Plymouth and Rev. Peter Nixson, a retired Anglican clergyman to share parts of their stories and the ways in which they had been affected by the Holy Spirit through involvement in charismatic renewal.

After a short break and a power point presentation reflecting upon charismatic renewal in the diocese David Wells spoke briefly about the power of the annual Celebrate Conference and it’s impact and thanked Charles and Sue Whitehead for bringing the event to Ilfracombe.

Charles Whitehead then returned to speak about the future of CCR in the UK and worldwide. He observed that the most rapidly growing churches ecumenically were those with a charismatic or evangelical background both in the west and in developing countries. Charles also spoke about the authenticity of CCR and the charisms and the recognition that had taken place within church documents and papal encyclicals.

In concluding the event Tony Harris, chairman of the Diocesan Service Team, invited Monica Beck to say a few words about the ‘flame’ symbol she had designed many years ago and which has continually been incorporated into all CCR publicity in the south west. Participants were given specially produce prayer cards as a souvenir of the day and the day concluded with a time of general prayer ministry.

Thanks are due to the members of the Diocesan Service Team and helpers who organised the event and to Keith Taylor, Tom Bonard and Sarah Harding who provided the music ministry.