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‘Alternative pathway’ in Preston for traditionalist ordinands

17 December 2021

Diocese of Blackburn

The Revd David Craven SSC

The Revd David Craven SSC

A NEW house of formation in Preston has been established to create a pipeline of Anglo-Catholic priests who can re-engage with the tradition’s charism of pioneering mission, its Warden has said.

Ladyewell House, an initiative of St George’s, Preston, will offer an “alternative pathway” for Anglo-Catholic male ordinands from next year. They will train with Emmanuel Theological College (News, 15 October) and live in a shared property in the city, observing a common rule of life in an “authentically traditional Anglo-Catholic” environment, the Warden of Ladyewell and the parish priest of St George’s, the Revd David Craven SSC, said this week.

Asked about the origins of the House, he spoke of a lack of Anglo-Catholic priests able to take on mission-pioneer appointments. St George’s had been “really struggling to find people that were willing and able . . . to take on a pioneering role as a curate”, he said. “That is not to say that there weren’t good people out there, but they just weren’t sort of clued up as to how to go about doing some of this more pioneering stuff in a Catholic, sacramental context.”

The Church needed people who could “really get out there and re-engage with what Anglo-Catholics have lost, which was there at the very beginning in our charism, which was church-planting, church revitalisation, missional priests really”, he said.

“In many of our parishes, there will be young men who will be feeling a sense of call to priesthood, but . . . maybe a monastic setting or an Oxbridge setting doesn’t really connect with them, and to do something that’s more contextual-based, much more mission-minded and practical, that is really where we are going.”

He sought to emphasise that Ladyewell was “not in competition within any other theological college”. It was hoped that Ladyewell would “bring back some of the charisms” of St Aidan’s in Birkenhead and Kelham in Nottinghamshire, two Anglo-Catholic colleges that closed in the early 1970s.

Writing in the July edition of New Directions, Fr Craven noted that “seismic changes” were coming to the TEI landscape: “We can try to ignore facts or else we can look to get on the front foot and seek to shape the future for the next generation of priests within our tradition . . . Contextual pathways which have re-emerged within the Church of England appear to be having a stronger track record for enabling newly ordained priests to lead and form mission-focused communities, reaching new people with the gospel.”

The Ladyewell House property will be bought by the Anglo-Catholic Ordination Candidate Fund. Ordinands will spend time at St George’s, part of a “resourcing parish” in Preston, alongside Preston Minster, part of the Holy Trinity, Brompton, network. The diocese of Blackburn received a £1.5-million strategic development fund grant to “reinvigorate” the two churches in 2019 (News, 25 January 2019).

While Anglo-Catholic colleges such as St Stephen’s House, Oxford, are open to both sexes, Ladyewell House will be open to only men. In New Directions, Fr Craven described this as “a courageous step given the immense pressure in society and the Church for mixed-gender groupings . . . Single-gender formation, done with generosity, can engender confidence rather than cliques.”

This week, he noted the support of the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, who had been “quite proactive in saying that Ladeywell needed to be male-only, authentically traditional Anglo-Catholic . . . This isn’t us trying to torpedo the Five Guiding Principles. Quite the opposite, actually: we want to play a full and positive role within the wider C of E.”

It is hoped that the first cohort of two or three men will move into Ladyewell House and start their training next September. Support has also been received from the Additional Curates Society and the bishops of The Society. An Open Day is planned for February.


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