You must believe in the one he has sent.

I believe that if you don’t know your own history you don’t know who you are and your decisions may well be deeply flawed.In a simple, quick outline let us examine the history of our branch of the Church of England: traditionalist Catholic Anglicans.

The story begins at least half a century before Anglo-Catholics emerged. In the 18th century, the Church of England was in a lamentable state with untrained and often absentee clergy, Holy Communion a rare event, teaching sketchy and pastoral care sparse or non-existent. John Wesley, who never ceased to be an Anglican Priest to the day he died, saw it was wrong and tried to reform it. He failed, and was thrown out of the churches to preach on the hillside. But he sparked the consciences of many serious, thinking people. The awful truth he exposed, simmered for many decades. Jane Austen, for instance, discusses in detail what a priest should be in Mansfield Park.

Eventually, on July 14th 1833 in a sermon to judges in Oxford, John Keble said that the Church of England was in apostasy. It is this date 182 years ago which is used as the beginning of Anglo-Catholicism. Keble could not imagine where his sermon would lead, but it started a movement which began residential vocational training for priests who were to say the daily office and celebrating Holy Communion frequently, give pastoral care of those in their charge and renew the religious life,

This pastoral care led the movement to build their churches mainly in the slums of the big cities, giving spiritual and physical succour to the poor. They gave the disadvantaged the beauty, music and colour of the Mass but they also touched their lives by educating the children, caring for the sick, assisting the unemployed, the bereaved and the dying. In return they were loyally loved.

The Mass they celebrated was far more exotic than the rest of the Church of England offered. Many would say it was ‘un-Church of England’. Right many in the Church of England despised the movement and wanted rid of it.  In the late 19th century priests were imprisoned for liturgical practices we now do all the time.

In our own era, this great movement which had grown and grown, is now severely diminished and endangered. The tide is out. But has God finished with Anglo Catholicism? Will it regroup and reform and find new ways to communicate the truths it holds? Or will it die out completely? The answers to these questions are in the hands of God, but it is also in our hands to preserve the tradition for the time when it can be rediscovered if that is God’s will.

By taking together the Gospels last week and this, we can see one of the principles which underpinned the Catholic movement in the Church of England. Last week the Gospel was the feeding by Jesus, of a great crowd with the five barley loaves and two fish. Like the Israelites in the desert at the time of Moses, the raw physical hunger of the people is satiated. This week, in a second instalment of the story, he warns the people not to follow him simply because he had provided them with all the bread they wanted to eat. The peace that comes from a full stomach is not a lasting peace. Though we all need food, there is more to life, more to being human, than our material needs. Jesus teaches them that they should work for food that will last. What is this food? Where can they find it?

Jesus offers himself as the bread of God, come down from heaven. He is the one who is able to give life, able to answer the deepest longings and needs of the human heart: our hunger for love, our desire for freedom, our longing for security and to live without fear.

It would have been no good if the Anglo Catholics had just taken beautiful liturgy into the slums. People who are physically hungry cannot think about spirituality. So in helping the poor to improve their lives they were also able to draw people closer to God. The worshipper was then able to find salvation in the Holy Sacrament of the altar. In the bread that was the body of their Lord.

And so it is for us. We are fortunate not to be as deprived as the 19th century slum dweller, but we still have material needs. Knowing that we have a need for food, for health, for shelter, we have a duty as human beings to ensure that all our brothers and sisters have access to these basic needs, not just ourselves.

We can buy into the lie of our materialist society, which tells us that having more things will make us happy. Or we can refuse to be driven by selfishness, greed, sin. We can seek the freedom that comes from love and service in the spirit of the 19th century Anglo-Catholics – however, that inner struggle has its own cost.

But we can be upheld if we turn our thoughts to a greater hunger for the eternal bread. Christ invites us: come to me, believe in me, and I will make you whole. Only I can give you the bread of freedom. Come, sit and eat.