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Community Routes

Community Routes

Radical then, radical now

On 9 November 2013, Hilfield Friary celebrated the centenary of the Little Commonwealth, a school which was housed at Hilfield from 1913 – 18. It was founded by Homer Lane, a charismatic leader with educational ideas almost more radical today than 100 years ago. 35 visitors came for the centenary, including three teachers from the Kinokuni Children’s village in Japan. The participants were all leading practitioners, academics, writers and thinkers reflecting on the future of residential therapeutic child care and education, organised by Craig Fees of The Child Care History Network.

Speakers for the day included Michael Fielding, author of Radical Education and the Common School – a democratic alternative (2012) and Albert Lamb, who spoke on ‘The Rescue of Childhood: Homer Lane and A.S. Neill’. Neill was heavily influenced by Lane and founded Summerhill School, at which Albert Lamb was both a pupil and teacher. Brother Philip Bartholomew SSF told how the small school Fr Owen started at Hilfield in WWII, using some of Lane’s ideas, led to the founding of St. Francis School, Hooke.

Emily Charkin, a PhD student in the history and philosophy of radical education, contended that children building their own schools can learn more than being in an expensive purpose built flagship school. John Diamond, CEO of the Mulberry Bush organisation, explored the value of communal living with emotionally troubled children as a model of authentic shared responsibility.

David Gribble of the International Democratic Education Network and founder of the Sands School in Devon, spoke about democratic schools in Japan and India.

Some delegates not only wanted to see and learn about the Little Commonwealth and the community at Hilfield today, but also spent the night before the conference in the buildings that Lane, helped by the child citizens, built: Veronica (now Juniper House) and Bracken (now Bernard House). The conference was held in the newly refurbished recreation room, formerly the Little Commonwealth schoolroom. The Little Commonwealth Court Book was on display, thanks to the Earl of Sandwich and the Dorset History Centre, in which the citizens listed their misdemeanours and the discipline they imposed upon themselves.

After lunch, Brother Vincent led the group in dedicating a centenary celebration oak tree.

Hilfield Families Camp

Each year families from all over Britain converge on Hilfield Friary for the much loved Families Camp. Dating back to the early 70s, this is now a venerable institution and some of the original campers are still very much part of the camp. The Camp, for families of at least two generations, begins and ends with Chapel worship on the Sundays. In between, the adult campers take part in discussions in the mornings led by a visiting speaker, while children and teens go off for their own activities. Afternoons are devoted to holiday activities such as trips to the seaside or a walk over the hills to Cerne Abbas. Towards the end of the camp a large bonfire is lit and everyone sings as it burns down, there is an imaginative Camp Eucharist, and finally there is an entertainment – a sort of camp revue of acting, music and comedy.

Conditions can be tough, with tents and some caravans occupying land that is vaguely flat with a long walk to the loos and facilities at the Friary. On the other hand, the grounds and views are a heavenly place of great beauty and peace. Families make their own breakfasts but lunch and supper are prepared and eaten together in the marquee allowing the whole camp to come together. Those who come value the way the camp brings together opposites: peace and exuberance, prayer and play, work and leisure, conversation and contemplation

The camp is what it is partly because of its strong links to the Friary and the sharing that takes place between camp and community, and partly because families have opportunities both to be together on holiday, but also to be a part of something bigger with responsibilities and joys from sharing time with others. If you have a family and are interested in joining the camp this year then do please contact us for more details. We warmly welcome new families and our aim is to ensure the delights of the camp and its beautiful setting can be shared with new generations.

This year’s camp runs from Saturday 26 July to Sunday 3 August. If you would like to know more then please contact Helen and Kelvin Inglis on 01256 893644 or hinglis733@btinternet.com.

Novices’ pilgrimage to Assisi 10 – 19 October 2013.

Joseph Emmanuel writes:

Given the importance of the city of Assisi to the mother and father of our Franciscan movement it is not surprising that a pilgrimage to Assisi is one of the ‘learning outcomes’ in the programme for the Formation of Novices. Three years’ worth of Novices (two in their third year awaiting First Profession in vows; four in their second year and one in his first year) set out for Assisi on 10 October 2013 accompanied by Sr Beverley CSF, Br Desmond Alban SSF (our Novice Guardians) and Sr Damien OSC (the newly elected Abbess of Freeland). Over the next nine days (the last courtesy of Italian industrial action!) we saw many of the places of major importance to Francis and Clare in Assisi, in the stunning Umbrian countryside and even further afield in Tuscany (La Verna). For each of us a particular place struck a particular resonance; many commented on the silent stillness of Greccio; others on the numinous atmosphere of the Basilicas of San Francesco and Santa Chiara and still others on the impact of the Carceri and Fonte Columbo. What a privilege it was to go to these places; to have one’s prayer time before the great gentle Christ on the cross of San Damiano (housed in the Basilica of Santa Chiara), before the tomb of St Francis and to participate in a service with OFM Brothers in La Verna! Huge thanks must be expressed to Beverley and Damien for their support and enthusiasm, to Bruce-Paul (who was Chaplain in Assisi at the time) and in particular to Desmond Alban who not only continues to transmit something of his passion for St Francis to the Novitiate but who also masterminded the whole operation – including the unforeseen extra day with its financial and logistical implications – with military precision.

Learning about global economics

On Monday, 13 January First Order sisters and brothers began to arrive in Alnmouth for the ‘Franciscan Responses to Poverty’ Conference (organised as part of the ‘ongoing formation’ initiative). Tuesday saw us being joined by Steve Forster and Liz Chadwick of ‘Together Newcastle’ who described some of the ways the current situation affects our near neighbours. As part of the day we were challenged to budget effectively for a family of four on a reduced income; a very difficult if not impossible task. On Wednesday, Dr John Hughes, Chaplain of Jesus College Cambridge, gave a wonderful presentation on the response of Church leaders (and in particular Archbishops Justin and Rowan and Popes Francis and Benedict) to the global economic crisis. During the presentation he suggested that there is a great need for those responsible for eco-nomic praxis to give due regard to the effect it has on the poorest members of our society. Economics needs to be ‘grounded’ in the reality of life. On Thursday Averil Swanton TSSF joined us to talk about the work of Franciscans International who are already challenging poverty and injustice throughout the world.

Fair and sustainable?

Gina reflects on prison ministry

It is with some relief but also with a heavy heart that I am about to retire at the age of 70 after nearly fourteen years of ministry as a part time prison chaplain, mostly at Wormwood Scrubs Prison. It has proved to be the most challenging but rewarding role I have taken on in forty-seven years in religious life.

Until the last few years there has been time to seek out those who are self harming or at risk of suicide and continue regular support until the worst of the crisis is over. I have also been able to offer pastoral care to the bereaved and those struggling with relationship or other personal issues, irrespective of whether they profess the Christian faith or not. Sadly, however, this vital aspect of chaplaincy care has become much more difficult to maintain in a consistent fashion for a number of reasons, all of them at bottom to do with financial cut-backs.

First, the chaplaincy team, like other departments of the prison, has been slowly whittled away to a level at which it is all we can do to cover the statutory duties. The prison service is in the midst of a bench-marking exercise to determine the minimum level of staffing that is, to use the current jargon, ‘fair and sustainable.’ In my opinion it is already proving to be unfair and unsustainable. The chaplaincy team at Wormwood Scrubs, serving over 1,200 prisoners, now boasts only two full timers and both of them fulfil a number of other non-chaplaincy roles. I sincerely hope my replacement will be found and appointed soon but if the experience of other London prisons is anything to go by, that may prove to be very difficult. Meanwhile there will be an Anglican chaplain in the prison only two days a week and the pressure on the remaining chaplains will be notched up yet another turn with my departure.

As the number of prison officers has also been substantially reduced it has become much more difficult to access prisoners to give one-to-one pastoral care. If there is only one officer patrolling a landing he or she cannot unlock a cell. All anyone visiting the prisoner can do is talk through the crack in the cell door. It has also become more problematic running chaplaincy groups because reductions in the numbers of discipline staff has led to only half the landings being unlocked at any one time. This means only half as many men get to our classes as used to.

I think the prison service is moving towards a time when chaplains will have few directly pastoral or liturgical duties but will be responsible for recruiting, training and co-ordinating a team of volunteers to do the work of chaplaincy. While I am full of admiration for the wonderful volunteers I have worked alongside, I think the task of prison chaplaincy is too big to be dependent on high levels of volunteers. Prisoners will suffer. They are suffering already.

 

Round up

James Race was admitted to the noviciate on 16 January, taking the name James Douglas.

In Korea, Frances and Jemma moved into their new convent at Il-Seon-Ri, near Gumi, at the beginning of March, when the internal work had been completed. The dedication of the building is to take place in May, when Sue, the Minister Provincial CSF, will be