“They shall see God”

Pierre Whalon

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In May 2010, Geoffrey Rowell, sometime Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, suggested that the annual meeting of the Old Catholic bishops and the Anglican bishops in Europe be held in his native land, the Hampshires, as a (mostly) walking retreat.

We began at Winchester Cathedral, warmly welcomed by then-Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt and his wife Louise, and we wandered from there, visiting churches and abbeys, all under the expert tutelage of Bishop Geoffrey. He was a rather singular fellow, confirmed bachelor, inveterate traveler, brilliant historian especially of John Henry Newman, professor at Keble College, Oxford, and had first been Bishop of Basingstoke, Suffragan of Chichester Diocese, before translating to the Diocese in Europe. We met on the first day of our respective episcopates, All Saints Day, 2001, and resolved “come hell or high water” — that’s what we said — to become friends. And so we did until his untimely death in 2017.

Geoffrey had carefully and knowingly constructed our retreat, not telling us where we were going until we got there. And so, to the great pleasure of my fellow bishops and me, we ended at John Keble’s grave, in the little town of Hursley. We spent the day wandering around his parish church with a young and knowledgeable guide. I was struck by how humble the church is, how low the pulpit. And yet from this obscure place a great light shone, and in some ways it shines still.

Pure…

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In some respects, Keble’s life reminds me a little of the effect of the ministry of Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, who was sent to a remote village “where he could do no harm”, and yet had a tremendous effect well beyond the little town of Ars-sur-Forman.

John Keble is considered the initiator of the Oxford Movement, a revival of the ancient catholic roots of the Church of England. The first seeds had already been sown by John Henry Hobart, third Bishop of New York, whose sermons preached in England in 1823 had made a great impression, especially coming from a suspect bishop of the former colonies. On July 14, 1833, in the annual sermon preached for the opening of the Assizes, the law courts in Oxford, Keble launched into an indictment of the Church of England as apostate, sold out to being nothing more than a…

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Pierre Whalon

Bishop in charge, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, 2001–2019. French-American. Musician, composer, author, happily married. www.pierrewhalon.info