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International Formators’ Programme 2011

The third and final part of our three year International Formators’ Programme saw sisters and brothers from all the provinces gather this year in the UK, following our previous meetings in New York and Boston and the Solomon Islands. The focus this time was on the foundation and early history of our communities and on our Anglican identity and we began in Plaistow, East London where the first Anglican Franciscan Order, the Society of the Divine Compassion, had its origins, and where SSF brothers still live and work. Based in Southwark for a few days we were able also to make pilgrimage to other sites of significance such as the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer Clerkenwell where CSF had its origins, the Chapel of St Edward’s House, Westminster (Society of St John the Evangelist) where the first SSF novice was admitted, the Lambeth Palace archive where we viewed some fascinating early SSF documents and even Parliament Square where we were reminded of Br Douglas’ important political lobbying and campaigning on behalf of wayfarers. In each place our community historian, Dr Petà Dunstan, brought the story alive for us, not least by posing a question to consider for our contemporary Franciscan life.

The historic pilgrimage continued with a visit to the historic Bartlemas Chapel in Oxford, in medieval times a place of welcome and refuge for lepers and the place that Brother Giles chose to begin his work with wayfarers before moving to Hilfield. We followed in turn to Dorset where Brother Anselm welcomed us in the names of Brother Douglas and Father Algy, and Petà enlightened us further.

We stayed at Hilfield for the second week of our conference, this time with stimulating input from Dr John Cator from California who helped us think in depth about what it means to be Anglican Christians. We also enjoyed sharing in the contemporary life of the community at Hilfield, with haymaking, home grown entertainment and even the baptism of Richard and Chantal’s daughter Felice all part of our time there