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Diary: Glyn Paflin

16 February 2024


Fr Kelly’s doorstep

YOU would need to be older than I am to have followed the kerfuffle over the closure of Kelham Theological College as the story unfolded in the Church Times during 1972-73.

As Bishop Christopher Morgan reminded us in a recent feature (Faith, 19 January), the college was run by the Society of the Sacred Mision — the SSM (for how could its found, Fr Herbert Kelly, know that his religious community’s initials would ultimately be nicked for use by secular clergy of other than stipendiary means?).

The closure was a big deal, as closures usually are — and Kelham was unique in its vision and concept. But, as I write, another moderately big deal occurs to me: that considerably less time elapsed between that lamented event and my visit to St Antony’s Priory, Durham, in 1994, to update our readers on the SSM’s educational work, than separates 1994 from now.

On that visit, I first met Fr Jonathan Ewer SSM, then the Prior (and now a retired Church Times reviewer), who in Advent celebrated his diamond jubilee in the priesthood with a mass in the Lady chapel of St Albans Cathedral. I hear that it was a wonderful do, and that one of the priory’s alumni from those days even came over from Norway for it.


New Institute

SO, IT is time for another catch-up. The current Director of St Antony’s, the Revd Dr Nicholas Buxton, tells me that it is still going, but SSM’s only remaining operation.

“I have developed a vision for our work that remains true to Kelly’s foundational aims, but is also appropriate to our present context and circumstances. Those aims are as relevant today as they were 130 years ago: namely, to increase the number of those giving their lives to the divine service, to labour for the conversion and perfection of souls, and to have regard for the cultivation of divine science.

“We may not train clergy, but we do train spiritual directors. We may not be a monastery, but we are are a retreat centre, with a regular timetable of services in our (much smaller but very beautiful) chapel. And we may not teach degree courses in theology, but we are in the process of establishing an Institute for Anglican religious life, which aims both to preserve the legacy of Anglican religious life, and also to be a resource for its future development. Kelly’s ‘idea’ is still working.”

Dr Buxton has a personal connection with Kelham, though he and I were born in the same year. “A great-uncle — possibly the only relative of mine even to go to church, never mind be ordained — was trained at Kelham in the 1930s. He was an enthusiastic collector, and, amongst other items, I have inherited a silver incense boat, which we use alongside the silver thurible from Kelham.”

One or two other Kelham artefacts remain at the Priory, he reports, and include the bust of Kelly himself, and the dinner gong. The SSM can no longer accept new novices, but Dr Buxton hopes that its spirit is being kept alive for years to come.


Chelmsford tabernacle

AND then there are tin tabernacles (Feature, 2 February). Any mention is as sure as tin is corrugated iron to bring in a letter, and this one is of particular interest to me; for its author, Ann Jolly, of Rayleigh, in Essex, writes about St Peter’s, Chelmsford, which was in Primrose Hill, in the ecclesiastical district of the Ascension. She was first taken there by schoolfriends more than 70 years ago.

St Peter’s, Chelmsford

“The green corrugated-iron exterior gave no hint of the beauty within. The walls were lined with wood panelling, with, I think, the Stations of the Cross. There was a pipe organ, the altar with side curtains, choir stalls. The clergy and servers wore white albs. I learnt about English Use and, I think, the Alcuin Club. The liturgy was beautiful, with plainsong and incense. For me, it was love at first encounter. I wanted to go there every day.

“Sadly, I expect that there are very few people who still remember St Peter’s; but, for the rest of my life, I am grateful to this tin tabernacle for my first encounter with church, which changed my life.”

As a child, I used to hear about St Peter’s from older churchgoers — its sister church, All Saints’, served the Boarded Barns Estate — and I recall reading about its strong musical tradition under William Bush, who was one of the owners of James Dace’s music shop. I even saw it suggested that the choir made it on to the BBC’s Choral Evensong when the cathedral choir itself wasn’t yet good enough — but that may be an Essex urban myth.



MANY in the Church of England know, as did Ivor Novello and Cicely Courtneidge, which quality they value most: “Vitality!” And, though others may prefer more objective ecclesiological criteria when they decide which church to favour, it is clearly a winning card for the Church Society’s management.

The Revd George Crowder is the author of the society’s little book Reforming Church: How God is at work in revitalisation ministry; and, in a final chapter, he takes his cue from Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 2017).

Every Moment Holy had “liturgies” for occasions such as “Feasting with Friends”, “Laundering”, or “the First Hearthfire of the Season”. They inspired Mr Crowder, Vicar of St John’s, Over (Winsford), in Cheshire, to speculate about liturgies to aid “revitalisation”. “We must stay on our knees,” he writes (a Prayer Book man at heart, no doubt).

So, here are some of his suggestions: “A prayer before learning a modern hymn”; “A prayer for starting a new Bible study”; “A liturgy for starting a parent and toddler group”. Not enough fun? He also comes up with “A liturgy for stopping a treasured tradition” and my two personal favourites: “A liturgy for a difficult conversation with an organist” and “A liturgy for removing a theologically problematic item from the church building”.

Be ye well assured: none of these jewels has yet been composed (so far as I know), and there is a twinkle in his Protestant eye; but they have the makings of a literary competition that could be thrown open to a wider audience. His book passed across my desk on the way to a better place. Those who can’t wait to see it reviewed can get it from: www.churchsociety.org

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Thu 20 Apr @ 16:08
The Archbishop of Canterbury has received the specially commissioned King James Bible that will be presented to Kin… https://t.co/u8LMnSFcfV

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