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Monk in the Market Place: And the Simpsons, by Ray Simpson

09 July 2021

Dominic Walker reads a founder’s life story

MY ONLY contact with the Community of Aidan and Hilda (CAH) was memorable. I had been asked to lead a short retreat for some of its members at the Cistercian Abbey on Caldey Island. But the sea was too rough; so we had the retreat addresses in churches on the mainland. This book is the autobiography of CAH’s founder (Interview, 16 April).

Ray Simpson trained for ministry at the London College of Divinity and served two curacies before moving to East Anglia to work with the Bible Society and then pioneer a local ecumenical project in the newly developed community at Bowthorpe. Building a “Village of God” at Bowthorpe comes across as a formative experience in working with Christians of different traditions, and facing the social problems that new communities encounter, while also embracing Celtic spirituality and Charismatic renewal. Simpson visited Lindisfarne and explored his calling to live the monastic life; and so the seeds were sown to form a “new dispersed monastic community” named after two northern saints.

New monastic communities have sprung up in recent years, such as the Northumbria Community and Iona, and more recently the Community of St Anselm. Membership is usually open to men and women, married and single, and from different Christian affiliations. Members follow a Rule of Life, drawing on the ancient monastic traditions of regular prayer, retreats, spiritual direction, and simplicity of life.

CAH is international and ecumenical. As its founding Guardian, the author has written prolifically and travelled worldwide to nurture the growing community, to make others aware of the Celtic spiritual tradition, and to promote the consecrated life as a sign of the renewal of God’s Church.

This book is self-effacing and honest. I detected something in it of the loneliness and restlessness felt by many religious founders who have put their hearts and souls, dreams and sufferings into what they have brought to birth, and, like a loving parent, must now let go and hand on.

The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.


Monk in the Market Place: And the Simpsons
Ray Simpson
DLT £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

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