THE site of a medieval Cistercian abbey demolished by Henry VIII is to become the home of a new monastic community, it is hoped.
The plan is to establish it later this year at Whalley Abbey, near Blackburn. In 1537, the abbey was suppressed, and its abbot was executed. Subsequently, the site was sold to a royal supporter, who built a new house in the grounds. Early in the 20th century, the house became a centre of religious education, and is now used by the diocese of Blackburn as a retreat house.
The re-establishment of monastic life there is part of the diocese’s plans to create a centre for Christian discipleship and prayer at Whalley. In a statement, the diocese said: “As well as launching an engaging programme to help people grow in their relationship with God, activities at the abbey will all be underpinned through the development of a new monastic community of prayer: lay and ordained, resident and non-resident.”
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said: “The centre will be an oasis of refreshment, where visitors can meet with the risen Jesus Christ, and where he can form them into disciples, witnesses, and leaders, inspiring children and young people for the next generation.”
Depending on coronavirus restrictions, it should begin operations in September, and the monastic settlement should follow soon after. Bookings for the centre will start being taken at Easter.
DIOCESE OF BLACKBURNThe Great Hall in the Abbey House
The centre’s director will be the Revd Adam Thomas, currently the Assistant Curate of St Cuthbert’s, Lytham, Lancashire. Before ordination to the diaconate in 2018, he was a programme- and project-management consultant, and has worked as development-programme director and head of commercial services for the Lake District National Park. He was also community-development manager for Salford City Reds Rugby League club.
He said: “I am so excited at this opportunity to ensure that Whalley Abbey is a place where all are welcome; where people can come for respite, rest and restoration.”
The monastic community would, he said, be in the spirit of the new monastic movement, on similar lines to the Iona and St Anselm Communities, and drawing on the Benedictine rule of life with a seven-day pattern of prayer.
As well as residential members, 35 people outside the abbey, both lay and ordained, have offered to become supporters.
“This is needed even more after what we have all been through in the past nine months,” he said. “People are searching for a safe place to make sense of what has happened, to have time to reflect on what matters most in their lives, and to dig deeper into a relationship with God.”