Br Micael Christoffer writes:
On the 20th of February (the UN World day of Social Justice) people from all over the UK celebrated the continuing contribution of migrants to this country. The Brothers in Canterbury joined others in marking this by attending a march and holding it in prayer at the Eucharist (the march passed by the Chapel in which some of the Brothers were Celebrating the Eucharist). On the same day the Westminster Parliament held a debate about the proposed visit of Donald Trump to the United Kingdom. This, coupled with the ongoing Brexit debate was also noted by those participating on the march. Speaker after speaker proposed that we focus on hope and not fear. The march was attended by several hundred people representing the Church, Universities and others.
Br Robert writes:
On Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January), President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting people from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) from entering the USA, an act which provoked condemnation on a worldwide scale.On the 30th of January, there were protests all over the UK, calling on Prime Minister Theresa May – who appeared ambivalent when interviewed on the policy – to condemn the ban. The Brothers in Newcastle decided to register their opposition to the ban and all it stands for and joined in one such protest. It was wonderfully inspiring to be part of a huge assembly, which had gathered at 24 hours notice around the Earl Grey Monument in the City Centre. The organisers used the occasion to send a clear message against hatred. Many signs stated ‘Refugees are welcome here’. It gave us a great sense of hope, that civil society is still so alive and well in the UK: And willing to stand up!
On Saturday 17th December our Postulant Michael Kenny was admitted to the Novitiate taking the name of Finnian (after the 5th Century St Finnian of Clonard who is accredited with being one of the founders of Irish Monasticism). He will remain in Alnmouth Friary for the present before moving to Glasshampton in the New Year. We hope that two men will come in the early New Year to begin the process of discernment within SSF.
On the 8th of December the Community celebrated Br Anselm’s 60th Anniversary of Profession. Br Anselm (who was Headmaster at Hooke School and then Minister Provincial) has served in many different places including Cambridge (where he was Vicar of St Benet’s), on a council estate in Birmingham and in the East end of London. He now exercises a much valued Ministry of Spiritual Direction and is resident in the Monastery at Glasshampton.
The Eucharist was Celebrated by the Bishop of Worcester (Dr John Inge) and attended by many of Br Anselm’s friends after which there was a Feast in the Refectory.
Br Robert writes:
On the 19th of November, Church Action on Poverty (CAP) gathered its supporters for its annual conference at the Unitarian Cross Street Chapel in Manchester. Among them were two First Order Brothers and two Tertiaries one of whom, Helen Hood TSSF, serves as one of the Trustees. It was also a nice surprise to bump into Brother Fabian nCR. As it turns out, we are not the only Anglican religious community supporting CAP!
CAP felt inspired by Pope Francis, who recently said: ‘How I wish, that there was a church of the poor.’ We started by listening to poetry, which was created in a local Creative Writing Project, where people could articulate the joys and frustrations of their lives. Then various different groups and people were given a chance, to give presentations: contributions ranged from a congregation who had opened their door to the homeless, a Baptist Minister who founded an alternative church in an area of deprivation and an Evangelical Pastor who presented his research on the ‘Myth of the undeserving Poor.’ Following this we broke into round table groups discussing how we could transform our churches into places of and for the poor.
Lunch was a good opportunity to meet and catch up with people. In the afternoon, we saw a panel discussion deepening our conversation, followed by more round table discussions and a final plenum. At that point, it was time for the AGM and about half of the audience discretely sneaked away. It felt like an enriching day, at which the Franciscan presence was well appreciated. We are looking forward to a growing partnership between SSF and CAP.
Neil Baird included a paragraph written by Br Hugh SSF in his photoessay on Carbon Footprints which may be found on the Maptia website (click here)
Brother Hugh lives in a Franciscan community in the Dorset Countryside.
“What everyone knows about St. Francis is the ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ stuff. The idea is that we do not have dominion over things, but that we are all equal creatures with the things God has given us. Climate change is by far the biggest issue. It’s not the end of the world — we’ve had six mass extinctions, and we’re now going through the seventh — the biggest extinction since the end of the dinosaurs.
Maybe for the Earth that’s good, there are some greens who might say that human beings are a scourge, and that we should go and that the Earth would be better off without us and start all over again. As a Christian I think human beings are rather important, and I think while we are fellow creatures we have a responsibility. We are the first creatures who have knowingly almost destroyed themselves. Climate science can overwhelm us, or make us cynical, but there’s Christian hope.
We have to be offering, not condemning people for what they’re doing but actually showing people that there is a different way, empowering people to live a different way. If you present everything in purely scientific ways people turn off with the figures, people know what we have to do, but actually there needs to be poetry, sport, music, worship. It needs to be culture that changes people’s lifestyles.
Science is never going to do that. We know the science and we’re not doing anything. Unless living more simply makes us happy we’re never going to do it.”
Br Robert writes:
At a time when there is a deeply worrying increase in the number of racist incidents being reported in the UK 1,500 people gathered together in London on the 8th of October to attend the annual ‘Stand up to Racism’ conference. The great number of people, as well as the obvious diversity within the audience was an encouraging sight. There were Refugees and Immigrants; Activists; Campaigners; Trades Unionists; Teachers; Politicians and people who are simply concerned. As part of this great assembly there were three Franciscans representing the Society of St Francis and specifically the SSF Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Working Group. It was a day full of input and networking opportunities. The most useful meeting organised support for the refugees in Calais. We were reminded by speaker after speaker how harmful racism is to its victims, and, sadly, how widespread it is in this country. Towards the end of the day, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbot were enthusiastically welcomed although their speeches were, perhaps, rather more political and rather less practical than those which preceded them.
Hilfield Friary will be open to visitors as part of the West Dorset EcoHomes weekend on Saturday 10th September and Sunday 11th September from 2.00pm – 4.30pm. Other buildings in the area will also be open. For more information please follow the link.
Franciscans once again at Greenbelt, a Festival of Faith, Arts and Justice, 26 – 29 Aug 2016
‘The Franciscans from Hilfield Friary (and other places) have been coming to Greenbelt for many years, laying on the four offices (times of prayer) in their own campsite chapel space, and often leading worship in the main programme.
‘Last year they helped us devise our main festival communion service. Their commitments to sustainable and peaceable living – being friends with God, one another and the good earth, make them welcome guests in the midst of the festival hubbub.’ (www.greenbelt.org.uk/artists/franciscans/)
At the end of August the Franciscan team will be off to yet another Greenbelt and we look forward to our camp chapel being full of people once again. This year Sisters of the Church and the Order of the Holy Paraclete will join Franciscans of the 1st and 3rd Orders. As well as praying our offices, we plan to show the film Finding St Francis, and to lead 3 meditations in the Grove, in the beautiful parkland of Boughton House near Kettering.
But we ourselves play a tiny part in the festival and there is a vast amount going on to enjoy and be challenged by. I myself look forward to a feast of wonderfully thought provoking talks, and drama, music, art and culture. In the crowds of thousands who will be there, I look forward to meeting some who are reading this. If you have never been, it’s an amazing experience and very well worth buying a ticket. Do please come. All details are on http://www.greenbelt.org.uk
Southwark CSF Vocations Event
The Community of St Francis are holding a day at their house in central London (St Alphege Clergy House, Pocock Street, SE1 0BJ) on Saturday the 17th September for anyone interested in finding out more about the possibility of becoming a Franciscan Sister. Booking (by the 10th of September) is essential. The latest programme details and other info are available here.
Further news from Korea:
Sunday May 8th was Parents’ Day in Korea, and according to custom parents and elders are presented with red carnations as a token of respect and gratitude. Sue was given carnations over breakfast at Il-Seon-Ri!
Later in the morning Srs Sue, Frances and Jemma took part in the service at Grace Church West Daegu, at the invitation of Bishop Onesimus. Frances played the organ and led the singing, which was special as the church doesn’t normally have anyone to lead the music, and Sue preached with Jemma interpreting. As well as celebrating Parents’ Day the church received 2 new members, one man formerly a Presbyterian, the other a Roman Catholic.
Sister Sue is in South Korea with Srs Frances and Jemma until May 11th. On May 1st the sisters were glad to accept an invitation to attend the 100th Anniversary celebrations of Won Buddhism (Won means Circle), at Seoul Stadium.
On May 2nd the CSF Korean Regional Chapter was held at Holy Cross convent with Sr Catherine SHC interpreting, and Brother Laurence representing SSF.
On Wednesday evening Sr Sue and Sr Jemma joined the Dean, Sr Frances and the other Seminarians for Franciscan Evening Prayer in the Anglican Seminary Chapel, and Sister Sue was gave a homily. It was the students’ first experience of a Franciscan Office, and they were very appreciative. Afterwards the Sisters shared with the students over a sandwich supper,
On Ascension Day, which this year was also Childrens’ Day, a national holiday in Korea, the sisters worshipped at Cheonan Church in Daejeon Diocese at a Eucharist led by Bishop Moses, Bishop of Daejeon, and Sr Sue was asked to speak briefly to the congregation.
Br Reginald celebrated his birthday in style over the weekend. On Saturday Brothers from the Friary were taken for a lovely meal by good friends and then, on Sunday, the Celebrations continued with a lovely meal and a glass of ‘something’ before lunch.
Br Robert writes:
On the 16th of April the SSF Working Group for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation joined about 100,000 people in London to march for ‘Health, Homes, Jobs and Education’. In a very good and positive atmosphere a wide ranging group of people came together: teachers, nurses, junior doctors, a wide range of community groups (like the Kurdish-Turkish Community Centre), firemen and women, students, postmen and women, women’s rights campaigners, Trades Unionists, various party activists, peace campaigners and many more. Sadly Christian groups who share such concerns were lacking. This aside, we had many good conversations with people (usually starting with ‘Are you real monks?’), whilst we imagined that our prayers kept the rainy clouds at bay and made the sun come out reluctantly from time to time. We even had an unexpected re-union with the former Brother Matthew and some Tertiaries. It felt a worthwhile thing to do and people seemed to appreciate our Franciscan presence at the march.
Richard Fryer was received into the Novitiate of the Society of St Francis today (the 29th of March). During the service (which took place in the Chapel of Alnmouth Friary) Richard promised to abide by the Rule of the Society whilst in the Novitiate, received the Manual of the Society (the collection of documents which governs SSF) and also received a Franciscan habit and rope with one knot in it to symbolise his promise. Please pray for Richard as he continues his journey as Br Richard nSSF and for more men and women to hear the call to Religious Life.
Jonathan Herbert and Br Hugh SSF visited Br Johannes Maertens at his Catholic Worker house in Calais for 3 nights from 15 – 18 Feb 2016. We spent 2 days visiting refugees, reaching them by walking 4km through the Calais suburbs, over a canal, past a huge chemical plant to the edge of the city where, through a motorway bridge (above), lay sandy wasteland, the Jungle, named after the Afghan word for woodland.
The Police never came into the Jungle in the daytime, but there were stories of teargas at night. Similarly ambulances would only come to the edge, even in extremis.
On both days we enjoyed bright sunshine which made the mud and rubbish filled frozen puddles slightly less grim. Refugees get though lots of shoes here as they rarely get dry. Most refugees looked in their teens and 20s and overwhelmingly male. Some young women around were British volunteers. We found shops just as you’d expect in a south Asian village. At the entrance of the camp was the Hamid Karzai Restaurant, quite smart of wood and plastic, with glass or Perspex windows, a generator powering a few lights and phone chargers inside, and hot food on display. We later had a very nice meal of rice, dhal and nan bread for about 4 euros each. Johannes and Tom, a British Buddhist, in blue overalls, listened at length to an older Afghan who had things to get off his chest. Tom has lived in a caravan here for some months. Christian and Buddhist, both have the same task of listening and presence, largely to Muslims, and peace-making between the various groups and nationalities, and between the many NGOs who work with varying degree of cooperation. I saw the library with ESOL and French lessons offered, though I saw no class in progress. I saw the dome where the National Theatre in London had put on Hamlet a few weeks ago, and met a journalist/ artist from the National Theatre.
These photos very deliberately show almost no refugees at all close; few were happy with cameras.
I believe the portaloos had been installed by NGOs, not the French authorities. However French and British money had gone to a section of the camp, sterile and lifeless, filled with gleaming containers, with 3 windows each, where the most desperate resigned to signing into by giving their finger prints, with the strong belief that they would never be allowed to claim asylum in the UK. Everyone seemed think the UK was a much better place to go than France. I longed to tell them about the Verne Immigration Removal Centre which I visit.
We shook hands with many people, among others with Eritrean Orthodox at the now famous church and with a Sudanese young men who served us supper of bread and veg stew which we ate with our fingers lying on a mattress in his hut. Few told us their stories in any detail. It would no doubt take time to build up trust. But the overwhelming impression is that no one would choose to live in this place rather than claim asylum in France – but choose they do. It is extraordinary that this is Western Europe. It is extraordinary that no social services do anything about the unaccompanied teenage boys. It is extraordinary that Calais town so close by shows almost no sign that this is there – almost the only French I heard in 3 days was in the little baker’s shop near Johannes’ house.
A message from the community at Hilfield:
The internment of Damian’s ashes at Hilfield will take place on Friday 11th March at noon, following the Eucharist. You are asked to contact the Friary at Hilfield and notify them of your intention to come.
The Friary, Hilfield, Dorchester,
Dorset, DT2 7BE, 01300 342314
Letter from Mavis Fielder, Bro. Damian’s Sister
My brother Roger, or Brother Damian as most of you will have known him, would have been very humbled, by the Requiem Mass held in his honour on Wednesday 3rd February in St. Michael’s Church, Alnwick.
I thank all of those who attended the service, I am sorry that I was unable to meet you afterwards. I also want to thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. You all meant so much to Roger.
My sincere thanks to the Franciscan Brethren in Alnmouth for the love and support given to Roger and myself over the past twelve months. In addition, I thank the Brethren for organising a truly wonderful and memorable farewell for my brother and to Br Benedict who presided at the Mass.
The moving Homily given by Brother Samuel was both inspiring and humorous. It painted a picture of Bro. Damian that many will have recognised. It came from the heart.
I give my thanks to the Parish Church of St. Michael’s, Alnwick, for its kind co-operation in the arrangements for the Requiem Mass and in particular, the Vicar, the Reverend Paul Scott. It was a remarkable occasion, fitting for a remarkable man.
My warmest thoughts to you all.
Homily preached by Br Samuel SSF at the funeral of Br Damian at St Michael’s, Alnwick, Wednesday, 3rd February, 2016
‘Jesus the Master speaks, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit”. John 12.24.
So begin the Principles of the Society of St Francis which are read by us day by day through each month.
The place where Damian and I first met was in a field near Bamburgh, at Budle Bay overlooking Holy Island. The occasion was the Franciscan Northern Camp, begun at Wooler in the 1920s by Fr Algy for young people from the North East, continued at Budle Bay after World War 2 by Br Edward, and then taken on in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s by Br Damian and others. At the time of that first meeting in 1972 I was neither a brother nor a member of the camp but a curate on pilgrimage with others from Liverpool to Lindisfarne. Our last stop before our destination was at Budle Bay and it coincided with the final Eucharist of the Northern Camp. The marquee was full of young people and Franciscan brothers and sisters; Br Michael, then Minister Provincial, presided and preached, and Damian accompanied the songs on his ukulele. As he played he bounced – from the beginning I’ve remembered Damian’s bounce!
What a host of memories of Damian have come together for his funeral and requiem Mass here today. Memories of brothers and sisters of the First Order, we who have lived and worked with him, who have laughed and cried with him; memories of Third Order brothers and sisters, and those of that fellowship of former brothers and sisters which we sometimes refer to as the ‘4th Order’; memories also from beyond our Franciscan family – from Scotland and Northern Ireland, from Birmingham and London, from Hilfield and the Channnel Islands and elsewhere; memories from parish visits and missions, from retreats and conferences which Damian has led, and from other religious communities; from his time as an accountant with USPG before he joined SSF. And before that, of course there are memories of home and family in East Grinstead and Hertfordshire. Mavis, we are very conscious of your own memories of your beloved brother, known to you by his baptismal name of Roger, and we hold you very much in our thoughts and prayers this day.
What a remarkable person we have known in Damian. I’ve worked out that, since joining SSF just short of fifty years ago, he has lived in seventeen different SSF houses around the country, and one might add, all stops between as he travelled, or rather swung like a trapeze artist between them. When I succeeded him as Minister Provincial in 2002 I inherited his car. It was a good car. It needed to be for there were nearly a quarter of a million miles on the clock. He was a man of great energy and ability. Over the years he held all the major offices of the Society of St Francis: Provincial Secretary, Provincial Bursar, House Guardian (a number of times), Assistant Minister and Provincial Minister – at one point managing three of them at the same time. I think that the only office he didn’t hold was that of Computer Advisor – and I can’t quite imagine him doing that! And that was just within SSF. In his wider ministry he was at various times hospital chaplain, parish priest, chair of school governors, trustee and often treasurer of a number of charities, a key member of the Bishops’ Advisory Council for Religious Communities, and an ecumenist between different churches and religious congregations – all this besides being a prodigious letter writer, a friend and spiritual guide to seemingly countless people, and let us not forget, a fan of Doris Day! No wonder that he often arrived at meetings and engagements close to the deadline and rather out of breath – or that he managed over the years to collect an embarrassing number of speeding tickets. I remember, when I was a novice, going to see Damian (he was then my Novice Guardian) to tell him that I felt under pressure from being overworked – the perennial cry of novices in every age – to be told by him that we both shared a vocation to burn-out by the age of forty five. It wasn’t totally consoling, but I’m glad that he lasted and flourished a good many more years than that.
However, it wasn’t what or how much Damian did that is most significant; it’s how he did it; for within all the energy and bounce, in harness with it, there was huge warmth and compassion. He had the gift of reaching out to people in their vulnerability and loneliness, in their weakness and brokenness, and in their sorrow and desolation, with kindness, sympathy and understanding. Like, Jesus, his Master, he touched people at their point of deepest need. I expect that most of us here have been recipients, beneficiaries, of that gift of kindness at some point of our lives. We have experienced his generous, patient, compassionate friendship. Nowhere was that ministry of compassion exercised more intently than during his time as chaplain at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast during the 1980s. Out of that ministry Damian wrote a short book, ‘Windows into Caring’, a collection of stories of encounter which, as a handbook of pastoral care, can hardly be bettered. I’m not going to read from that here, but I do want to share a letter sent by someone whose life was touched by Damian and who is unable to be present at his funeral. She asked me to read this: ‘During the last 30 years the companionship of Brother Damian on my faith journey has been what I can only describe as a priceless and very precious gift. During one dark and difficult time he wrote the words, “This comes with a longing to share God’s love with you and to assure you of our union with Him through the tough times and the joys, sometimes so incredibly intertwined”. I have called these words to mind at various times since.’
There was nothing shallow or fleeting in such companionship for it was always sustained and followed through with great faithfulness. One person, in prison on a life sentence, Damian visited once or twice a year for 39 years, zig- zagging across the country in his car to whichever category A prison the man had been transferred. He was hugely loyal, not just to individuals but also to institutions, to SSF and to the Church in particular. Nor was there any false condescension in him for he had a humble courtesy towards all people. Did you ever notice how he followed what these days might be considered the rather quaint custom of addressing men older than himself as ‘sir’?
In all this there went a joyful simplicity, a delight in God’s providence, and a sense of fun. His car, when he was Novice Guardian had the number plate NRO, which he said stood for ‘Not Really Ours’. As Provincial Bursar he was never tight with the community’s funds, he just didn’t believe in us spending much money on ourselves. He preferred to give it away to someone else. The readings for this service, from the prophet Micah about doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God, and from Luke’s gospel about putting aside anxiety, considering the lilies, and seeking the Kingdom, are those set for the feast of St Francis, and a more truly Franciscan brother it would be hard to meet.
Having said all this, I’m aware that the half has not been told, and I’m sure that our sharing of memories and reflections will continue long after this service. But at the heart of it all, at the heart of this deeply Franciscan life, was Damian’s relationship with his Lord. He came from a Scottish Presbyterian background and an evangelical understanding and commitment stayed with him throughout his days. Every time he received the sacrament he would whisper, ‘Thank you Jesus’. This was no pious affectation for it arose out of a deep sense of gratitude to God in Jesus Christ which formed and shaped his life. He wanted, quite simply, to live the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in and for the world – to lose his life with Jesus in order to find it in the heart of God.
‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit’. That was what it was all about for Damian – practicing/rehearsing the ‘secret of fruit-bearing’ for fifty and more years – so much so that when the diagnosis of a brain tumour was given him at the beginning of last year he didn’t have very much more ‘practicing’ to do in order to hand his life calmly and gratefully back to God. Those who have cared for him over the past year, both at Alnmouth and at St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle, have remarked on the peace and joy of his last days. It’s appropriate that the 17th January, the day Damian died, was the anniversary of his profession in life vows forty three years before, the day when he gave away his life to God as a Franciscan brother. Now that ‘giving away’, that self-offering of his life, is complete.
Thank you Damian, dear brother, for showing us the way; and thank you, Jesus, that we now have another brother where it counts, close to the Father’s loving, compassionate and joyful heart.
Monday 25 January saw an Internovitiate study week held at The Convent Of The Incarnation in Oxford on the subject of Early Monasticism. Novices from a wide variety of Anglican Religious Communities attended. Br Thomas from Mucknell Abbey led all the sessions. Initially, we looked at desert hermits. We discussed how largely illiterate people operating at a time when Christian monasticism was amorphous, armed with as many psalms and new testament passages as they could memorise set out to seek God in the wilderness. Renouncing everything and having little sleep and little food they sought to imitate Ezekiel, John the Baptist and especially Jesus. They forced themselves to do battle with a variety of temptations describing them as demons. These were later called passions or impure thoughts that needed driving out through prayer and hurling scripture at them.
We then looked at how these hermits formed small communities of around ten growing into larger more organised cenobiums of up to five thousand. We looked at the rules of Pachomius, Cassian, Basil, Augustine, The Master and Benedict. We discussed how these rules, and the communities they governed developed over time until they had all of the basic features of modern monastic life. Focus was directed at their food and drink, novice formation, authority and rules governing excursions. John Cassians’ edict that postulants should lie outside the monastery for ten days before entering was, thankfully, omitted from later rules! Time was given for participants to get to know each other and share experiences. I was struck by how madly, deeply in love with God these early monastics were that they would go to such extreme lengths to purify their hearts and obtain the peaceful mind of the full knowledge of his love when all other distractions (demons) have been removed. Richard Fryar
Richard is currently a Postulant resident in Alnmouth Friary.
Br Damian’s Funeral will be at St Michael’s Parish Church, Alnwick on Wednesday 3rd February at 1.00pm and will be followed by a private cremation.
No flowers by request.
Brother Damian died peacefully at St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne at 7am on Sunday 17th January, a year after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. The Brothers of the Society of St Francis are grateful for your prayers but would respectfully ask that you do not contact either Alnmouth or St Anthony’s Friary. Details of Damian’s funeral arrangements will be posted on the website once they have been finalised.
May Damian Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory!
Br Michael Jacob made his Profession in First Vows at a Eucharist held in Alnmouth Friary today. Br Benedict (the Minister Provincial) Celebrated the Eucharist and received Michael Jacob’s vows and Br John (the Guardian of Alnmouth) preached. To mark Br Michael Jacob’s Profession the Novice Rope with its one knot was replaced with the Traditional three knotted rope.
The Eucharist was attended by over seventy people many of whom had travelled a considerable distance to be with Michael Jacob. We were particularly pleased to welcome members of his family from Wales.
On Saturday 29th November four Brothers (Edmund, Hugh Micael Christoffer and Robert) marched from Hyde Park Corner to Westminster with over 50,000 others on the London Climate march on the even of the UN Paris Climate conference. We met many fellow Christians especially from CAFOD and Tear Fund. The CAFOD website says:
‘On the eve of the Paris climate talks, 570,000 people took to the streets in 175 countries to show world leaders that reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change is urgent.
‘For the love of future generations to a passion for people living in poverty, our supporters were united in faith and solidarity, holding placards with quotes from Pope Francis’ message on climate change.
‘The march kicked off with an interfaith service at Westminster Synagogue where over 200 campaigners from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist traditions reflected on the issues which unite them, and re-committed themselves to caring for creation, for our neighbours and to tackling climate change.
‘It ended with a rally outside the Houses of Parliament, with Charlotte Church and other celebrities expressing their support for the climate movement.’
On St Francis’ day (Sunday 4th October) nearly 85,000 people met in Manchester to protest against the Government’s ‘austerity policies,’ among them Br Robert who sees at first hand the effects of these policies in the course of his ministry. He joined a group of students from the University Chaplaincy and commended – with them – the demonstration to the Intercession of St Francis. Br Robert writes “…it was really inspiring to see such a broad range of people and to enjoy the good atmosphere which existed… [but it was also] extremely unfortunate that a handful of people thought it right to throw eggs at delegates; very counterproductive…”
Br Robert writes:
One Saturday in mid-September, whilst the heavens were pouring down with rain, 500 hardy people came out to show that Refugees are welcome in the North East. Among the crowd marching to Newcastle City Council who met to discuss the issue, were two Franciscan Brothers. As usual, it was a great opportunity to connect with all sorts of people most of whom knew nothing about Franciscan life or had ever heard about Anglican Franciscans but there were also great conversations with the odd Theological student and with friends from the Quakers. After the speeches we followed several people to pack boxes for the Refugees in Calais, which were collected in the area to show solidarity with the Refugees in Calais. It was inspiring to see the incredible generosity of the people which manifested itself in a store house full of huge piles with food and clothing.
From Monday 7th September until Friday 11th September the majority of Sisters and Brothers from the First Order of the Society of St Francis met in the King’s Park Conference Centre (Northampton) for the General Chapter. The theme for this General Chapter was engaging with people of non-Christian Faiths and we had the great privilege of meeting people from the Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim Faiths. On Tuesday morning Fr Damian Howard SJ delivered a most interesting lecture on Islam suggesting that we should not be afraid to engage our Muslim friends and neighbours in conversation about our Faiths. In the afternoon we heard a thought provoking lecture on Buddhism given by Ajahn Amaro who is the Abbot of the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. On Wednesday morning Dr Jane Williams gave two sessions on two meditations on passages of Scripture which suggest a possible framework for co-operation with people of other faiths and then on Wednesday afternoon two expeditions were organised, one to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery and the other to the Benedictine Monastery in Turvey. On Thursday morning we were introduced by Professor David Ford to the practice of ‘Scriptural Reasoning‘ (a way of discussing comparable passages of Scripture with people of other Faiths) and were then able to observe a Scriptural Reasoning session being conducted by Christians, Jews and Muslims. On Thursday evening we were fortunate to be joined by our Bishop Protector (Bishop Stephen Cottrell of the Diocese of Chelmsford) who celebrated Mass with us an delivered an entertaining and challenging sermon.
Br David writes:
In the beginning of July I had the privilege of representing SSF at the Ecumenical Community in Taizé, France. Since this is the Year of Consecrated Life in the Roman Catholic Church, the brothers at Taizé had organised a weeklong conference about the relevance of a Religious vocation. The Community at Taizé is an ecumenical community where the brothers come from different church traditions: Catholic, Protestant and Anglican.
There were about 350 Religious from all part of the world attending the conference. Each day we joined with the brothers and the other visitors (about 2000 of them!) for prayers three times and we also listened to several talks each day as well as having time to gather in small groups to talk about our experiences of living out a Religious vocation in very different circumstances.
The talks were given by several interesting speakers: a Coptic Orthodox bishop from Egypt, a former General Prior of the Carthusians, the Superior General of the Jesuits, several Orthodox monks and nuns, the Master of the Dominican Order, the Minister General of OFM, Sister Annaliese from the Community of the Sisters of the Church and many others.