The Parish of Burchetts Green
© The Parish of Burchetts Green 2017
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Last month we enjoyed the celebration of the foundation of Stubbings church in 1849. There was The Flower Festival held the weekend before the patronal festival for James the Less on May 1 (shared with Philip). The interior of the Stubbings church was particularly lovely, decorated with imaginative and fragrant floral displays. A special choral evensong was held on Sunday evening.
Other churches in the area were also established in 19th century - Saint John's Littlewick Green(1893) and All Saints, Boyn Hill (1857). The century also saw a revival of interest in religious community life.
The Community of St John Baptist, formerly at Clewer in Windsor, was founded in 1852 by Harriet Monsell, (remembered on March 24 in the Common Worship calendar).
A group of Anglican priests in Oxford had a vision for a religious community. It should be bound together by 'charity rather than rules' (1) and inspired by the pattern of life of the early church as detailed in Acts 2:42,44(2).
It's a society of hope and was finally called the Community of the Resurrection (CR) - for resurrection is the Christian hope. The disciplined life of devotion was outward-looking with a commitment to the worldwide church, overseas missionary work and social action (3)
If you look at the Common Worship calendar for January 17,you will find Charles Gore (1853-1932) commemorated on that day. He was a liberal catholic priest, at one time vice-chancellor of Cuddesdon theological college(opened 1854), later a bishop of Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford (though not all at once!), and the founder of the Community of the Resurrection. This came into being on St James' day, July 251892, when six brethren made their commitment at Pusey House Oxford. From the beginning it was concerned for community/society; 'a religious community should be a paradigm for the right ordering of society' (4).
With the increasing industrialisation and growth of urban developments, the Community felt drawn to the north of England and finally settled in the busy town of Mirfield, Yorkshire. Here woollen and com mills, quarries, brickworks and barge-building provided employment (5). I'm certain not likely to be the only one who has thought the location's name has a poetic aptness! Religious community life was not an escape from a society in the grips of industrialisation, but seen as the only way in which 'the urban masses could be cared for and evangelised'.
The Community is still based at Mirfield. There is currently work to restore and modernise facilities, for which an appeal was launched. In 2012, the Community celebrated 120 years since its foundation. In that time, it has been a considerable influence in the church,having a theological college, training for the priests, an offer of retreats and mission outreach. There at one time three branch houses at home and five overseas, in South Africa and Zimbabwe. There were 83 brethren world wide at its diamond jubilee in 1952-35 at Mirfield and seven novices. (6)
The oldest theological college in the Anglican communion, Codrington in Barbados was the responsibility of CRin the 1950s until 1970. CR's influence in Africa is perhaps best known through the work of Trevor Huddleston CR. author of Naught for your Comfort' Students from all over Africa trained at St Peter's College, Johannesburg, including one Archbishop Desmond Tutu!
I was ignorant of the Community until the 1990s when I attended a mission led by CR brethren. Faith for me took on another dimension. Later, 1 was admitted as a CR Companion. So it was that I became aware of this community of communities. There is the community of tine brethren at Mirfield, the communities of the oblates and of the companions and the community of the theological college. There is also the community of those who work alongside and also links with communities around the country and overseas.
Perhaps we need to heed the call of these words from a lecture by Charles Gore, in 1892: '...we try too much to get people to come to church.' The call that the time has come for the church to put social morality and Christian living in the forefront of its effort (4) are still finding a response.
In writing this, I had the help of 1(1,2,3,4,5) The Community of the Resurrection. A Centenary History (1992) Alan Wilkinson (who trained at Mirfield) SCM Press, London pp 17,41, 20, 37, 71. (6) CR Review No 439 pp 8,9