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Focus on 85 Crofton Road

Focus on 85 Crofton Road

page 12 Crofton Rd group

Franciscan life in the East End has many faces. Maybe one of the most unusual ones is to be found in 85 Crofton Road. It is a meeting point of generations (from 33 to 88), backgrounds (from former business man to ex-sailor) and nationalities (three staunch Englishmen with a little Welsh mixture meet a German). And so we muddle along together with the people around us, who, if anything, are even more diverse. More than half of the population in Newham was born outside the UK and the religious map of the Borough is as colourful as can be.

It all began in a remarkable act of generosity, when in the early 70s, Margaret Duncan, a member of the Third Order, left her home to the Society of St Francis. She had long worshipped at St Philip’s, then the Brothers’ Mission Church, and she was a close friend of the Community. A friend of Margaret’s, May Groves, the seamstress at Westminster Abbey, continued to live in the house, and soon Brother Donald moved in too, his prison chaplaincy work bringing him back from Portsmouth to London. Various Brothers lived here for a time over the years – Julian, Oliver, Thomas Anthony and others. Eight years ago Edmund came here after doing a time of house for duty with other Brothers in the parish. Eric Michael stayed here for a while, on his way back to the States. Most happily, Vaughan moved here just two years ago. Then, last September – one of us, squeezing himself into the old Office! – Robert arrived, making a foursome, (The Four Apocalyptic Riders, as Julian describes us). This gave us a fresh dynamic and prayer-life of our own, for which we are grateful.

page 12 Robert at soup kitchenThe House of the Divine Compassion in Balaam Street – Helping Hands to the whole neighbourhood – remains an inspiration for our life. Three of us are there most days; Vaughan has developed a tremendous ministry with marginalised people at Praxis in Bethnal Green, a charity whose founder had been inspired by Brother Thaddaeus SSF. It is an organization serving migrant communities, particularly people (men, women and children) who are homeless, have immigration issues and/or are escaping domestic violence. Vaughan also serves as a trustee for a local charity called Just Homes, which has strong links to Praxis. He says: ‘Although a lot of my work is providing practical assistance, the most important part is listening’. Besides the social justice work, Vaughan is also on the Anglican Religious Communities committee ARC, where he has a special interest in promoting the Anglican Religious Life.

Because we don’t have a Chapel as such, we pray together in the living-room – our multi-purpose computer, TV, library, eating and prayer space! (No cat or dog – yet!) We share Morning Prayer at ten to eight and try to fit in our Quiet Time of prayer before. Most of us usually gather for Mass at Balaam Street with Julian and some members of our wider family, at midday. And even in the midst of busy city-life, we are trying hard to be together at home for Evening Prayer and to eat together afterwards. Our day ends quietly with Night Prayer, between nine and ten (as indeed is true for all our houses).page 12 Edmund sewing

page 12 Donald with friendDonald and Robert usually go over to Balaam Street in the mornings, where they spend most of their time with Julian and the others welcoming people and listening to them. Donald and Edmund take turns presiding at the shared Mass. For more than 25 years, Donald has also been rooted in the congregation of St Alban’s in Ilford. He takes an active role in the ministry of the church, con-celebrating each Sunday, preaching at times and caring for the people. He goes there now by electric buggy and bus – in all weathers. His presence is very much valued and appreciated. Edmund is concerned pastorally with quite a few people and sometimes is let loose on Churches in Chelmsford Diocese (= Essex) and in London. He tries to do his bit as a very ex-physicist for Climate Change awareness – and would like to do lots more. Robert has spent his first months with us trying to be attentive to the place and the people (and succeeding, most happily!). Wednesdays find him at the soup kitchen run by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, in Canning Town – following on from Brothers Vaughan and Peter’s good work there. He considers it a privilege to listen to people’s stories and he is grateful for their trust in him. f