Action! A Cleric off the Leash: An autobiography
*available from Amazon
COLIN HODGETTS is explicit that his intention in his autobiography is to put the record straight, and this makes for a pacey and gloriously indiscreet offering. It also depicts a time when the Church provided an unequalled platform from which to be creative and compassionate.
Born in Guernsey in 1940, Hodgetts in his early chapters provides a noteworthy depiction of life on the island during Nazi occupation. He partakes of the opportunities presented by the swinging Sixties, living in a commune and quietly rebelling against some of the formulas for living promoted at Ripon College, where he trained for ordination. He also demonstrates his lifelong skill in harnessing contacts made in passing on behalf of his enterprise of the moment.
His description of curacy in a Hackney parish is a reminder of how in the 1960s the local church could be both bold and energetic. His commitment to peace, an element that has run through his life, brings glimpses of Austen Williams and Canon John Collins. Then follows work with Vietnamese refugees, leading to the foundation of Refugee Action; the development of a small school in partnership with Satish Kumar, and initiating a network of small schools — surely forerunners of today’s Free Schools.
Add to this countless musical compositions, concerts, and theatrical ventures for TV, as well in the great South Bank venues, and you begin to get an idea of Hodgetts’s life. Today he chairs the trustees of the Othona Community.
His commitment to social action is refreshingly uncomplicated. Drawing on Thich Nhat Hanh (in Living Buddha, Living Christ), he writes that for him “the life of Jesus is his most basic teaching, more important than even faith in the resurrection or faith in eternity.” Perhaps it is unsurprising that Hodgetts makes much of the fact that as a cleric he has been off the leash.
I had never heard about Hodgetts’s work, shame on me; and shame on the forces that give recognition to some and not to others, because, a polymath as well as a man of fervour, he deserves appreciation. His “can do” approach to life and ministry make him a social entrepreneur on a par with Michael Young or Andrew Mawson. Respect, Colin Hodgetts, respect!
Dr Ann Morisy is a freelance community theologian and lecturer.