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Br Reginald SSF – Funeral Mass

The Funeral Mass of our Brother Reginald will be Celebrated in the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Alnmouth on Wednesday 13th March at 11.30am at which the minister will preside and Br Philip Bartholomew SSF will preach. Reg’s body will be received into Church the night before (on Tuesday 12th March) and Compline will be sung there at 9.30pm. Refreshments will follow the service.

Br Angelo SSF RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of our Brother Angelo (Donald Deacon) who died in Brighton Hospital on the 21st of February. Please remember him, his family and his friends at this time.

May he Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory!

Br Angelo SSF

Br Reginald SSF RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of our Brother Reginald who died yesterday night (Wednesday 20th February) in Alnwick Infirmary with two of his Brothers at his side. Please remember him, his family, his many friends and the Alnmouth Brothers in your prayers.

May he Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory!

Br Reginald SSF after preaching in St John the Baptist, Alnmouth for the Patronal Festival

I can only say ‘Thank you’ to God. But while I’m here there’s something missing – questions to be answered, gaps to be filled. There’s a longing which only the vision of God can satisfy, and that when God is ready…”    

Sr Gina’s Golden Anniversary

Sr Gina celebrated her Golden Anniversary of Profession in Vows on Saturday. The Bishop of Southwark (Christopher Chessun) Presided at the Eucharist which was held in St Hugh’s Bermondsey and Lister Tonge (Dean of Monmouth) Preached. Sr Gina was joined by members of her family, Franciscan Sisters and Brothers and members of other Religious Communities.

Life Profession at Hilfield.

Having been elected at the Francistide Chapter, Br Christian Michael made his Life Profession on Tuesday 15th January in Hilfield Friary. The Bishop Protector (Bishop Stephen Cottrell) received his Vows on behalf of the Church, Br Samuel SSF Preached and Br Christian Micael was joined by Brothers, by friends and by his sister who travelled from the Lebanon to represent his family. Ad Multos Annos!

Br Christian Michael SSF with Bishop Stephen and Br Christian’s sister Helen.

Life as a Franciscan Sister… could this be for me?

On Saturday 16th March the Sisters will be holding an event for women who might wish to explore life as a Franciscan Sister. It will take place in St Alphege’s Clergy House, Pocock Street, London, SE1 0BJ from 10.00am – 4.00pm.

Please book by 11th March if you are interested. Contact: suecsf@franciscans.org.uk or telephone (0207) 928 7121

  • Franciscan Sisters share their stories of God’s call and their live in community
  • DVD’s on St Francis and Franciscans today help us to reflect, with opportunities for discussion
  • Time for your questions….
  • Lunch, tea and coffee etc provided.

A New Novice for SSF!

Ethan Scott was admitted to the Novitiate by Br Benedict taking the name Ethan Gabriel. At the service, which was held on the 23rd of December, Br Ethan Gabriel was joined by members of his family and friends of the Friary. He will remain in Alnmouth for the time being. Please pray for him and for our other Novices.

Alnmouth Guests Email

Br David SSF

The Guestbrother in Alnmouth (Br David) now has a ‘dedicated’ email address which is alnmouthguests@franciscans.org.uk People wishing to enquire about booking a Retreat at the Friary should use this address and not alnmouthssf@franciscans.org.uk

New Secretary of the Companions

Br Jason Robert SSF has taken over as Secretary to the Companions. He may be contacted at the Secretary’s email address (companions@franciscans.org.uk) His postal address is:

Br Jason Robert SSF, The Friary of St Francis, Alnmouth, Northumberland, NE66 3NJ, 01665 830213.

 

Alnmouth Friary

Life as a Franciscan Sister…could this be for me?

life as a Franciscan Sister …..could this be for me….?

a day to explore Franciscan community life in the Church of England

Sr Gina CSF addressing a Conference

Franciscan sisters share their stories of God’s call and their life in community

DVDs on St Francis and Franciscans today to help us reflect, with opportunities for discussion

time for your questions …….

Lunch, tea/coffee etc provided

Sr Liz Baptising

 

Date:Saturday 20thOctober 2018:  10am – 4pm

Central London venue:  The Community of St Francis, St Alphege Clergy House, Pocock Street, London SE1 0BJ

Booking essential(by 15thOctober please)

To book:   Contact suecsf@franciscans.org.uk/ 020 7928 7121  with your name and contact details.

 

“The world is my cloister” St Francis of Assisi

 

Brother Giles SSF – Rest in Peace

Br Giles with Hilfield Community members.

Br Giles SSF died early on August 19th, after a short illness. His years of service in SSF included many in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The brothers in the Solomons have sent this touching tribute on behalf of both Provinces.

“TO GOD BE THE GLORY GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE THROUGH BR. GILES.SSF. IN THE PACIFIC PROVINCE BOTH IN PNG AND SOLOMON ISLANDS IN THE EIGHTIES AND NINETIES. It was a great shock to the brothers in Patteson house on the 19.August at night prayer when it was announced that Br. Giles died. As Pacific island provinces, we will greatly miss him. He cares very much on Pacific Islanders arriving in UK. He was a great brother, his hospitality and tour guide programs for visiting brothers from Pacific provinces is a history to those who been to UK. We greatly miss him and we pray that his soul may rest in Eternal peace and rise in glory.”

Br Giles’s funeral will take place at Hilfield Friary on Thursday August 30th 2018 at 12.15 pm.

If you are attending please let the friary know. There will be lunch provided afterwards. Responses to hilfieldssf@franciscans.org.uk

Rob Evans was admitted to the Novitiate by Br Benedict at Evening Prayer on Sunday 5th August. Rob, who has taken the Religious name of Br Tobias, was joined by members of his family and other friends at the service. Tobias will remain in Alnmouth until he moves to Glasshampton in the new year.

Br Tobias nSSF with Br Benedict SSF

 

Life Profession at Alnmouth

Br Micael Christoffer (Brother in Charge at Alnmouth) made his Life Profession today. Bishop Stephen Cottrell (Bishop Protector) received Micael’s vows on behalf of the Church. The Rev’d Madeleine Dahl (a member of the Companions of Christ and Associate Priest of the Parishes of St Paul with All Saints and St Mary and St John Chatham) preached. A long standing friend of Micael’s, Madeleine’s Sermon, based on the five wounds of Christ (shown in the Cross of St Bridget of Sweden), charted five significant points in Micael’s journey. For more information about the Companions of Christ please click here.

The Rev’d Madeleine Dahl.

Micael prostrates himself before the Altar

Br Micael makes his Vows

AUDIO FRANCISCAN MAY 2017

Contents

Minister’s Letter

Community Routes

Articles

God, Caesar and money – Symon Hill

Socialism’s Christian heritage – Tobias Phibbs

Franciscan Socialism – Robert SSF

Small Socialism – Miriam Skinner

A revolution of the heart – Nora Ziegler

L’Arche, Canterbury – Micael Christoffer SSF

‘What’s love got to do with it?’ – Clark Berge SSF

GRACED LIFE – THE WRITINGS OF JOHN HUGHES MATTHEW BULLIMORE (ED.)

Attending a lecture on ‘Economic Responses to Poverty’ would not, normally, be at the top of my ‘To do’ list, but the lecture in question was in Alnmouth (where I live) and there was no real excuse

Br John introduces John Hughes

for me not attending it. The lecturer was a priest from Cambridge – the Dean of Jesus College to be precise – and seemed, from chatting over coffee, to be a nice and rather unassuming chap; the lecture would probably be a bit boring I thought (not having the least interest in economics) but at least I was showing support for the initiative and anyway, there wasn’t anything else to do… How wrong I was. I remember sitting utterly transfixed in the library (all thoughts of dozing forgotten) as John Hughes effortlessly surveyed the landscape of Catholic and Anglican responses to poverty suggesting, essentially, that what is usually termed ‘Catholic Social Teaching’ (i.e. the response of the Church to poverty, work, labor and economics) was more accurately understood as ‘Christian Social Teaching’ in which the Church of England could rightly claim to have a part (see Hughes’ 2014 essay ‘After Temple? The Recent Renewal of Anglican Social Thought’). On leaving the lecture everyone who was fortunate to attend was very much of the opinion that here was someone who would do great things over the next few years and someone who had important things to say. Unfortunately we were wrong in at least one regard because, just a few months after John Hughes came to talk to us, he died in a tragic car accident.

The book is, as its title suggests, a collection of essays by John Hughes and contains riches ‘too numerous to mention.’ The first essay ‘The Politics of Forgiveness: A Theological exploration of King Lear’of 2001 is of note not only because of its sheer brilliance but because it introduces certain Leitmotifsthat continue to appear throughout the collection. Hughes takes two apparently disparate secular notions of forgiveness, points out the shortcomings in both, and then argues for a better third way, a theological way predicated on Grace and Resurrection. This wish to gently draw the reader toward the Gospel and to see that same Gospel as something rational and helpful is seen in the essay ‘Proofs and arguments’ of 2011 (which first appeared in Andrew Davison’s collection Imaginative Apologetics). In this essay Hughes critiques the stridency of both modernist foundationalist and postmodern relativist apologetic arguing (yet again) for a different approach; a more gentle ‘modest Christian rationalism’ in which the questions directed towards people of faith are listened to, respected and answered.

There is much, much more to say about this brilliant and poignant book and a short review will never do it justice. One other thing of note, however, is the introductory essay by Matthew Bullimore. In this essay Bullimore (a longstanding friend) identifies many of the themes that run through the body of work as well as providing an affectionate portrayal of John Hughes ‘the man’. May his memory be a blessing!

 

Joseph Emmanuel SSF

HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE? CHRISTIAN ENGAGEMENT WITH CONTEMPORARY ISSUES – SAMUEL WELLS

This collection of essays on a wide range of contemporary topics certainly lives up to its subtitle. The first section, ‘Engaging with the World’ covers a wide spectrum from Islam and Islamist extremism to ecumenism and social media. Sam Wells has an arresting style, which owes a great deal to his experience as a regular contributor to Thought for the Day, but as with that programme, just at the point when one is ready for further exposition of the topic, the time is up. There is an interesting take on the story of Ruth in the essay on migration. ‘There is no need to be sentimental about Ruth’s story. She faces a terrible crisis as the story begins. It’s not necessary to portray her simply as a pious, devoted daughter in law who discovers an influential kinsman and patron and makes him her husband. She uses guile and seduction to achieve what her lowly social status would never have given her.’

The second and third sections are as arresting, but in a more personal way. ‘Being Human’ deals with a variety of human conditions, from obesity and domestic violence, to disability, childhood and LGBT. Sam Wells’ direct style and compassionate approach provide plenty of food for thought. Much of the book lends itself to lively group discussions, particularly the essay on international development, where the writer promotes the idea that we should be more humble in our approach rather than adopting a superior attitude of ‘doing good’!

Sam Wells’ experience as a pastor provides the background to the final section, ‘Mortality’. His compassion is evident in these final essays, where he does not flinch or mince his words. In all, this is a stimulating and thought provoking read, not to be swallowed whole, but rather to be taken slowly.

Averil Swanton TSSF

 

LAST TESTAMENT – IN HIS OWN WORDS – POPE BENEDICT XVI WITH PETER SEEWALD

This book is really the collection of a series of interviews with the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. One begins to feel from the beginning of this book a fierce burning intelligence and a love of God that is all encompassing and the driving force of his life. I cannot confess to being a huge fan of Pope Benedict, far from it in fact, but what I discovered in this memoir was a human being working out his pilgrimage like the rest of us, trying to remain faithful and grow into the fullness of his humanity.

The book is set out in a question and answer format, from his early life in Germany, his studies and ordination and rise through the ranks of the church to become the right hand man of John Paul II, earning the title ‘God’s Rottweiler’ and his eventual election as Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The book is deeply interesting and challenging, yet very easy to read and is enjoyable in the way that only autobiographical sketches can be, about a man of faith, who caused controversy and also inspires many. Do read this with an open mind and an open heart. It’s worth it!

 

Michael Jacob SSF

DETHRONING MAMMON: MAKING MONEY SERVE GRACE – JUSTIN WELBY

Justin Welby’s first book, Dethroning Mammon, is a delightful consideration of the spirituality associated with wealth. Designed as a Lent book, it is split into six chapters that develop his ideas about the relationship between God, money and sin. Drawing on lots of examples from his own experiences and of people he knows, he has created a very readable book about a very personal and difficult topic. Personally, I do not see this as a Lent book, but rather as a book that all Christians should read to help raise awareness and create discussions about finance. The book is gentle and guiding, which makes it feel more usable with a group, where embarrassment about discussing personal finances would naturally occur.

Each of the six chapters focusses on a different New Testament passage and it struck me how the chapters follow the same pattern as Clare’s guidance for prayer (gaze, consider, contemplate, imitate) with one notable difference towards the end. Welby begins by helping us to see that Mammon exists, not as money, but as the love of money. He then considers it, how is it measured, in chapter 2. Chapters 3 and 4 contemplate the links between Mammon and power, looking at the structures of possession and greed. The twist then begins in Chapter 5 where we are looking at how we are already imitating Mammon but then utilise the knowledge we have gained to dethrone it and raise Christ through generosity and joy.

I have often moaned to the brothers that books about the vow of poverty tend to consider spiritual poverty, but are reluctant to get into the murky world of material poverty and how it relates to the vow. This book is brilliant at addressing this concern, focussing on the spiritual aspects of material poverty in order to make concrete suggestions.

 

Christopher Martin SSF

 

SEEKING SURRENDER; HOW MY FRIENDSHIP WITHA TRAPPIST MONKS TAUGHT ME TO TRUST AND EMBRACE LIFE – COLETTE LAFIA

‘A beautiful and honest book,’ says Richard Rohr on the cover page of this book, and he is right to say so.  It is a record of a friendship between the author and Brother René, a monk of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, a monastery made famous by an earlier monk by the name of Thomas Merton.   The author includes letters exchanged between herself and the elderly Brother René, together with her own reflections on her life and spiritual path.  Infertility, cancer, insomnia and business challenges had been the background to her daily struggle with loss and grief.  Through visits and times of retreat, and the ongoing relationship of spiritual direction with Brother René, Lafia manages to find not a solution to her problems but a way forward through her distress.  She describes this as an ever-deepening ‘living surrender’: not a capitulation but an acceptance of the situation in which she finds herself, while still looking for how God is with her and beckoning her forward in her pain. Gradually she is able to come to a sense of greater resolution, and herself embarks on a course of training in spiritual direction, evidence of which is seen in the text boxes directly addressed to the reader that intersperse the book.  As a relatively short book this is not the last word on spiritual discernment, but is a deeply felt and encouraging essay into a monastic wisdom for everyday life.

 

Nicholas Alan SSF

 

ON AUGUSTINE – ROWAN WILLIAMS

If you want a systematic introduction to the life and theology of the great Latin Doctor St Augustine (of Hippo) then this is not the book for you. I say this not, in any way wishing to demean the author. He, in fact, writes very much the same thing in his introduction, in which he explains that the book is a collection of essays and sermons written by him over the course of twenty-five years in which he has reflected upon certain aspects of the massive Augustinian corpus.

From the first essay (‘A question to myself’ Time and self-awareness in the Confessions) it becomes clear that this is a book of great wisdom; the product of painstaking and prayerful reflection.  In this essay Williams ponders the Augustinian notion of distension, explaining that perhaps the most famous Augustinian prayer (in which Augustine says the Soul achieves no rest until she finds her rest in God) is underpinned by this rather complicated notion in which memory and expectation infuse the present. There are also essays that deal with political questions (‘Politics and the Soul: Reading the City of God’), Christian ecology (‘Good for Nothing?’ Augustine on creation), Theology and Christology. These are, for the most part, written with theologians in mind and therefore one should expect to expend some thought and effort before they surrender their riches. One small criticism I would make is that there is an expectation that the reader will understand Latin, an expectation which, as any teacher of theology or history will tell you, is an increasingly forlorn one. A few extra footnotes in a future addition might well be of use!

Overall the book is of great and lasting worth and firmly part of the revisionist movement of the past twenty five years in which Augustine, unfairly accused for many years as the architect of many of the Church’s ills, has received a most welcome rehabilitation. For his part in this Dr Williams is to be thanked.

Joseph Emmanuel SSF

 

THE WAY OF CHRIST-LIKENESS: BEING TRANSFORMED BY THE LITURGIES OF LENT, HOLY WEEK AND EASTER – MICHAEL PERHAM

This excellent companion and commentary embraces the period from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, focussing particularly on Holy Week and Easter.  The author, formerly a member of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, writes principally for those who celebrate the liturgy and preach in local churches. His accessible exposition of key liturgical concepts provides excellent teaching material. Explanation of the differences between the calendar and the approach adopted by Common Worship to this period of the Church’s year, and that in the Book of Common Prayer, which still provides a mental framework for some older worshippers, is particularly helpful.

Each chapter considers the significance of the events being enacted, commemorated or celebrated, tracing their observance in Christian tradition and history.  Bishop Michael reflects on the narratives theologically and in terms of their power to transform individuals and the church community. His aim is to enable people to ‘make connections’ between liturgy and life, between the story of Jesus and our own story, and so to be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s transforming work. He enthusiastically commends the commemoration of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection not simply as a reminder of the essentials of our faith, but as a means of entering the stories and discovering their power to make us more like Christ, even and perhaps especially in the face of painful harrowing life experience.

The author’s scholarship and passion is grounded in pastoral wisdom. While underlining the essential character of each liturgy, he offers a range of imaginative and practical suggestions for selecting and, when necessary, sensitively adapting the authorised material to suit a broad spectrum of church situations.

Sue CSF

 

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

At the June 2016, Annual Brothers Chapter at Hilfield, Hugh showed pictures of his visit to the Jungle in Calais, and Benedict read a letter from Brother Johannes Maertens asking for volunteers to come for several weeks, if possible. After quickly consulting my diary, I told Benedict I would be happy to go to Calais for the month of January. So it was arranged; in the interim the so-called Jungle was closed, but Johannes promised there would still be plenty to do, so I travelled to Calais on 5thJanuary, 2017.

Arriving in Calais, I was confronted by two powerful challenges. The first was a pair of armed gendarmes standing in the lobby of the train station. They were there, I later learned, to stop migrants from coming back to Calais. Over 400 migrants have been documented in Calais, with more arriving every day. The ones I encountered were mostly Eritreans, many of them minors fleeing forced conscription in their country. People who helped migrants were under surveillance. Johannes and Veronique, a supporter and volunteer who collected me at the train station, were nervously talking about the police vehicle parked at the corner near the house. ‘Don’t open the door unless I am there,’ Johannes told me. It was a daunting caution.

The other challenge as I shuffled into the Calais-Fréthun train station was the voice of Tina Turner singing her 1984 torch song ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ Just about everything, I decided. At that point I had no idea what I was facing, I felt intimidated by language barriers, the armed gendarmes, and wondering what in the world I could do to help in this situation. But I knew one thing I could offer was my love.

It was love that bade me welcome. The Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House was founded just over a year ago by Br. Johannes Maertens, a monk of the Servants of the Good Shepherd Benedictine Community of the Old Catholic Church; he is supported and helped by many, among them Baptist colleagues from England, the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis, other Anglican, Catholic and Protestant Churches, Roman Catholic Sisters of the Auxilaires and a host of wonderful, committed people in Calais, many of them also associated with Secours Catholique (Caritas France). The house hosts many young migrants—sixteen of us in a three-bedroom house. I was lucky having only two roommates. One extremely cold night we had 21 young people in the house. With one toilet and one shower it made for a highly-negotiated life. But it was luxury compared with the Jungle and the camps where many stay. Fortunately, food was brought in already cooked from L’Auberge, an establishment that not only prepared nearly 1000 meals a day for migrants at Dunkirk camp and individuals living under bridges and in dark corners, but shipped food, clothing and other essentials to migrants and refugees across Europe. We wedged around our dining table and after grace in English, Arabic or Tigrinya the food was served out. We ate voraciously—nothing ever tasted as good to me as those hot meals once a day: beans, rice, pasta or potatoes.

Within days it became clear to me what I could do among these young migrants: I listened to their stories of their families, their travels across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea watching acquaintances die and be ejected from truck or boat like refuse. I supervised the use of the washing machine, chided them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, a difficult task as any parent or guardian knows. We celebrated their favourite football teams’ victories and consoled each other at the losses. They never once had to be asked to wash the dishes or sweep the floor, muscling me and Johannes out of the way after dinner.

Every evening the household gathers for prayer. For a while we were blessed with the presence of two fifteen-year-old boys who were called, I think, ‘diakonos’ in the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Not what Anglicans think of as a deacon, but exceptionally gifted leaders of prayer and song. They sang, we said ‘Amen,’ and knelt and bowed our heads to the floor as incense swirled in the candlelight. Using Taizé chants, prayers from the SSF Office Book, and long passionate prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Amharic, we took stock of our days and offered them to God. We contemplated the enormity of what is happening to them: what’s happening in our world in an up-close and personal way.

Then, late at night many would don heavy clothing and go out into the night to try their luck at crossing over to England. They had to navigate dangerous trucks, snarling dogs, guards with cattle prods and hostile politics. These children wanted only to be with their families again and to have the hope of peaceable futures. f

 

Br Clark Berge SSF was Minister General of the First Order Brothers when he wrote this article.

 

 

 

L’ARCHE, CANTERBURY

 I did not know much about L’Arche when I first came to England. I was asked once by a guest in Alnmouth if I knew about this community and I only had a vague idea that it was about people with disabilities. When I was told about my move to Canterbury, one thing I knew about the house was its involvement with the local L’Arche community and that was something I wanted to know more about.

After my conversation at Alnmouth, I remembered also some of the work that was done with and for people with learning disabilities in the parish I worked for in Sweden. I am very happy that today I know much more about L’Arche and the richness this community offers to people from all over the world and with all kinds of abilities.

L ’Arche was founded in 1964 in Trosly-Breuil, a small village north of Paris. Encouraged by Father Thomas, a Dominican priest, Jean Vanier invited two people with intellectual disabilities – Philippe Seux and Raphael Simi – to leave their institution and come and live with him in a small house in Trosly-Breuil, which he named ‘L’Arche.’

The small community grew fast, soon welcoming new people with intellectual disabilities and inviting young people from around the world to share their lives. Unforeseen by Vanier, it did not take long for people to decide to create new L’Arche communities in their own countries; 1969 saw the creation of the first home near Toronto, Canada, called Daybreak, the first of many later communities in North America. In the 1970s, the vision of L’Arche also inspired people to found L’Arche in India, Ivory Coast and Honduras.

This expansion meant that L’Arche needed to open up to a wide variety of cultures, languages, and social backgrounds. Although founded in the Catholic tradition, L’Arche communities rapidly became ecumenical or inter-religious, finding their point of unity in a common set of human values. Open and engaged in the world, they seek to be a sign of hope and solidarity.

The unexpected expansion of L’Arche on five continents revealed the need for proper structures in order to maintain the unity of L’Arche, and accordingly an International Board was established. In 2017, L’Arche consists of 149 communities and 14 projects in 37 countries worldwide. Although grounded in the Christian tradition, L’Arche Communities welcome people of all faiths and none and its vision is a world where all belong.

The first L’Arche community in the UK opened here in Kent in 1974. One of the founding members was Jean Vanier’s sister, Thérèse. The house where she lived is no longer a L’Arche community house, but at All Souls-tide, there is an annual visit to the churchyard where she and some other members are buried. Today’s Kent community comprises three L’Arche houses where people with learning disabilities and assistants live and share life together, two in Canterbury and one close to where the first house was, not far from Canterbury.  In addition, the community supports about twelve people with learning disabilities to live the life they choose in either their own homes or in shared housing.

I have learned to know this community more and more since my move to Canterbury. At our friary, we meet people from L’Arche Kent twice a week as they use our front yard for their stall to sell craft, candles, plants and other things they make. The plants are grown close to St. Mildred’s Church with their gardening project called ‘The Glebe’. During Advent, a group of people enjoyed singing carols on the High Street and collected money for L’Arche, and at other times songs have been sung to collect money for the L’Arche community in Damascus. One of the former assistants living in that community and now working here in Kent lived with us for half a year while she was successfully applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Her cooking was always something to look forward to.

Food and sharing is an important part of community life in L’Arche. I join one of the main houses, Faith House, most Tuesdays to cook with them and share the evening meal and a community evening. We go through the past and coming week, learn Makaton, signs that support people with no or poor verbal communication, and have prayer time together. Often we celebrate something special, such as someone being welcomed into the community, someone leaving, birthdays, someone who has died, or other aspects of life. I really enjoy what I learn from being part of this community; we all have much to offer. We are all vulnerable, and to embrace that is something good, and the sharing of a meal is such a good way of building community. I have often compared our sharing on Tuesdays with the sharing in the Eucharist.f

At the time of writing Br Michael Christoffer SSF was resident in the Canterbury House.

A REVOLUTION OF THE HEART

In his critique of capitalism, Marx’s concern was the dignity of the human being, rooted in nature, and as a free, spiritual and social being. He argued that capitalism alienates humans from their own being, from nature, and from others. Whereas revolutionary Marxism seeks to abolish capitalism and create a classless society, the aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to restore and protect human dignity by building communities that practice compassion, non-violence, and solidarity with victims of injustice. Dorothy Day called this a ‘revolution of the heart’ that ‘has to start with each one of us’.

The Catholic Worker is a Catholic, ecumenical and pacifist movement that was started in 1933 in New York by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. They first published a newspaper and soon after opened the first house of hospitality for the poor and the homeless. There are now over 200 such communities around the world.

Our house of hospitality, called Giuseppe Conlon House, in North London, is run by a small community of volunteers who live together with destitute asylum seekers. We also publish a newsletter, help run a weekly soup kitchen, organise public events and take non-violent action against war, arms trade, and in solidarity with migrants and refugees. We live in a former church building leased to us rent-free by our Catholic diocese. Most of our food, toiletries and other household items are donated by local shops, schools, churches and members of the local community. We mainly rely on donations to pay our bills and do not receive any public funding.

Marx argued that work under capitalist conditions is alienating because it is not an activity that has value in itself and belongs to the worker, but only provides the means for the worker’s physical survival. As human beings we have the capacity to creatively shape the world around us, both the natural world and our society, through physical, intellectual and emotional work. Through our work we feel connected to nature and to the people around us. By taking away ownership of work from the worker, capitalism undermines this capacity and therefore isolates and oppresses the individual.

By living in community and offering hospitality at Giuseppe Conlon House, we try to overcome this alienation. The homeless men who live with us are, in most cases, refused asylum seekers and have no recourse to public funds. This means that they are not allowed to work for an income and cannot claim benefits. As a result, some say they feel that they are not really living life, they can’t contribute to society, they cannot support a family and they feel unvalued and lonely.

Living in community not only means living alongside each other, but creating something together. We all look after our shared living space and everyone contributes in different ways to building a sense of community. These activities are not governed by capitalist relations, but they do constitute work and therefore allow each of us to feel empowered, skilled and valuable.

For those of us who could work for an income, giving our work for free as a gift to our community and living in voluntary poverty is an act of faith. Fear of poverty makes us dependent on the capitalist system that promises security but also divides, isolates and dehumanises us. We try to overcome this fear by putting our faith in God who loves the poor and promises to provide for us.f

Nora Ziegler is a member of the London Catholic Worker and lives at Giuseppe Conlon House.

SMALL SOCIALISM

As a society we are increasingly concerned with scale and efficiency. Mega farms with herds of thousands of cattle replace small local dairy herds, a handful of large conglomerates own many of the brands on our shelves and thousands pack out auditoriums to attend mega churches.

But what does this mean for the way we love people? It can mean that we increasingly see our call to ‘do good’ as a duty held primarily by soup kitchens, global charities, big hostels and training centres, which we can volunteer with and give to; we share on-line campaigns and run marathons for development charities. We seek to love people effectively and efficiently.

This can be fantastic, life changing and engaging, but the mistake comes when we paint this capitalist altruism as the only way to engage with our communities. When we say, ‘You want to bring good news to the poor? to bind up the broken hearted? Then what you’ll need to do is set up a Just Giving page and run to Lands’ End. Leave the gritty stuff to the professionals’.

The culture of the professional do-gooder is dis-empowering to the individual.

I live in a community house. We got together because several years ago a few of us shared, at an open-mic night for dreams and visions, that we wanted to look a bit more like the early church. We share rooms and possessions. We share meals and morning prayers. We have an open door and invite people who need a bed to stay in our spare room. We aim to create a make-shift family for the poorly, run-down and homeless. Mostly just one at a time. Around our lives and jobs. As best we can.

It often doesn’t look like a success story. It looks inefficient, messy, costly and inconvenient. I spend around 30% of my waking time washing up. We raid supermarket bins for banquets. It took me three months to complete my tax return because visitors would knock on the door with more pressing needs. My bedroom door has a lock.

I work full-time in the prison system and help to run a community church group with some people who have left prison. Thanks to a wonderful array of residents the house also hosts a would-be-wasted food café, various political campaigns and multiple church projects.

In the last months I have also given a ukulele lesson to two homeless friends, conducted a funeral for a magpie we co-parented with a guest (who also came to live in the spare room) and twice I have been the object of police contact. Last week I cried my eyes out at the baptism of our current guest and this morning found the route to the washing machine blocked by an anonymous food donation.

We get it wrong more times than I can tell you. I’ve learnt more about my flaws this year than my strengths, but I have rarely found such life.  I’ve just had to scratch the surface to find that we are no pioneers. The Church’s history is full of stories of this beautiful messy small-scale socialism. People all around the world today are giving their lives over the gospel’s cause of love.

I’ve learnt that when we make our love-giving clean, efficient financially-focussed and large-scale we can easily miss the point, which is that we are called to be sacrificial and our care-giving is supposed to be risky. What people need, more often than not, cannot be provided wholesale. It’s being known, accepted and being believed in. It’s very small-scale socialism. It’s family.

Luckily, that’s what we, in the Church, have buckets of. f

 

Miriam Skinner lives in a work-in-progress community house in Durham, which she started with some friends four years ago.

FRANCISCAN SOCIALISM: THE FORGOTTEN DIMENSION OF OUR MOVEMENT

St Francis, a socialist? Really? Well, not quite. Socialism was a generic term created in the nineteenth century, responding to social issues of the time. However, I would like to argue that Francis in his outlook shared a great deal of concern with that much later movement. His solutions were surprisingly similar, too.

Europe in the Late Middle Ages saw the beginning of a flourishing long-distance trade that had its epicentre in the towns of Italy. Merchants were the pioneers of a new economic approach that was to sweep the world in centuries to come: Capitalism, whose lifeblood was money. It is in that Italy that we find the cradle of the man who was to become the saintly Francis. For us, who were born and bred in Capitalism, it is hard to imagine what a rare substance money was in an economy based on subsistence farming. Francis’ well attested contempt for this idol-in-the-making spoke volumes about his appreciation for the new age.

Merchants like his father Pietro Bernadone did not produce anything themselves; they exchanged what others had produced. Trade potentially benefits the entire economy, by encouraging greater efficiency through inter-regional division of labour. However, Bernadone and his colleagues made most of their profits in luxury items, like fine cloth, if only because the costs of transport were prohibitive. Now, as then, however, there is little economic benefit in the luxury industry. Thus merchants did not enlarge the cake by adding value, they only took a large slice for themselves, at the expense of others. This rise in trade fuelled the growing inequality of society.

We might not sympathise with the nobility fighting against social decline, but the growing army of beggars in the streets of Assisi were a much more disturbing sight for the young Francis. Although his conversion was a multi-layered process, the early sources leave us in no doubt that the abhorrence about the plight of the poor was a major driving force for his change of life. When Francis left his father’s house, he also rejected the inhumane society of Assisi where some grew rich, not caring about the sorry state of those they left impoverished.

There are surprising parallels to our time. We, too, have witnessed a group of people, who through the last few decades have grown surprisingly rich: investment bankers and their clientele. Western economies saw a rapid growth of the financial sector after the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1973. Britain is the prime example of this process that economists came to call ‘Financialisation’. The City of London has reached an overbearing position, both in the economy and in politics. Just like international trade, the financial sector has two faces. According to textbook economics, banking is very useful: it facilitates an exchange between savers and entrepreneurs, who need loans for new business opportunities. However, this amounts to only 15% of financial business today. Most of the turnover in the City deals with highly speculative structured investment products, which are of virtually no benefit to the economy at all (while causing massive crashes, and requiring tax payer funded bail-outs).

Finance has been twisted into a powerful instrument for some people to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Most people usually say that they do not understand Finance. It is important to realize that this is no coincidence! The financial system is consciously designed to be notoriously difficult, because difficulty is an admirable defence shield against unwanted public scrutiny. Although the vast majority of us cannot see through it, we feel in our guts that something is not quite right here. And indeed: the flip side of bankers’ affluence is the growing destitution at the bottom, whilst the middle class is stagnating, at best. Financialisation has produced growing poverty and inequality in our time; just as the rise of trade did in the 1200s.

Now, back to Francis: After he broke with his Father, he started to live in a radically different way that appeared mad to most of his contemporaries (at first). He became a little Brother to the poor and despised in town. As long as they were treated without dignity or respect, he would not accept any privilege either. He put into practice a foundational, yet often forgotten teaching of Jesus: that the whole human race is essentially one big family, and that we should be brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers to each other. This involves sharing our material possessions, especially with the most unfortunate. Jesus explicitly said that he would accept such deeds as done to himself. Following in the footprints of Jesus, Francis had no time for the self-centred greed that shaped his father’s business, and just as much rules the 24/7 trading floors from Wall Street to Shanghai.

Francis called people to a life of penance, which meant nothing else than a complete turn around: away from accepted, yet heartless ways of treating fellow human beings, to gospel values. His vision for society, and indeed for the whole of God’s creation, was that of a Brotherhood (note: the Italian word fraternitàis gender neutral). A good practical example for this philosophy is how Francis approached the wolf in Gubbio. A conflict had arisen out of exclusion that put the two sides into fierce confrontation. The solution that Francis brokered was the inclusion of both into one community of love, where they would look after each other’s needs. It is easy to romanticise this story, when its simple wisdom is so desperately needed.

Nobody has put the vision of Francis into words for our time better than Pope Benedict XVI, when he tried to summarise the lessons from the Financial Crisis. In his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, he concluded:

‘One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. If we look closely at other kinds of poverty, including material forms, we see that they are born from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love. Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God’s love, by man’s basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient. The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace.’

We live in a world where the profiteers of Financialisation lock themselves into the isolation of their golden ghettos, just like Pietro Bernadone would have done. Many a Lazarus lies at their doorstep; but with hearts of stone they refuse to share, perhaps except for a tiny fraction of their affluence that they might give to charity. The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to the rich man’s end! As Franciscans in this ‘age of austerity’, how are we going to respond to the question of the former pope? How can we help to bring about the real development of humanity, into one family based on justice and peace? f

Br Robert SSF lives in St Anthony’s Friary, Newcastle upon Tyne.

 

 

SOCIALISM’S CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

While there have always been Christian socialists, the left has often been associated with either a tub-thumping anti-clericalism that denounces religiosity as the opium of the masses, or with an aggressive progressivism that understands religion only as an arbitrary and prejudiced cosmological belief system. This is a shame. The ethical life of the civilisation that gave birth to socialism was distinctively Christian. Socialism is a product of certain ethical tenets, Christian in origin, which we now take for granted. It is all the better for this. Across the West the left is on the retreat; its Christian origins may provide the basis for its renewal.

Secular modernity claims a rationality and a neutrality that it does not possess. The leaders of what Catholic philosopher Pierre Manent calls ‘radical secularism’ – in particular, the more zealous European Union leaders – believe that the Europe of nations and churches can be and is being replaced by a belief in human universality in which the nations and churches that were once at the heart of European culture no longer command the loyalty of European citizens. One could argue that the result of the UK referendum on staying in the EU represented a rejection of this secular, progressive view.  It was, furthermore, revealed not to be neutral at all. The EU’s belief in the four freedoms – of goods, services, capital and the movement of people – advancing towards a universally understood form of human progress, is a perspective with a distinctly religious hue.

There is a paradox here: on the one hand we declare ourselves secular and humanity universal; on the other, the belief in universal humanity and egalitarianism, reflected in the altruism and self-sacrifice of much of Europe’s approach to the refugee crisis, is an almost uniquely Christian proposition. Angela Merkel grasped this paradox when she said that the problem in Europe was not too much Islam, but too little Christianity.

In the crucifixion of Christ, the story of which serves as the basis of Western morality, centuries of ethics were turned on their head. As Tom Holland put it in a recent New Statesman article:

‘Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves[…] Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value.

It is paradoxically our particular Christian heritage that gives rise to our belief in universalism. Recent books by Larry Siedentop and Nick Spencer argue convincingly that it is the Christian conception of the human soul, which all possess, that creates the conditions for egalitarianism – as Saint Paul articulated 2,000 years ago. Every individual, regardless of their social role, is equal in the eyes of God. Today, this seems a commonplace concept but it was a revolutionary moral transformation from the belief system of the pagan, tribal and partisan gods that preceded it. This aspect of our Christian inheritance undermined the old moral justifications for the heritability of hierarchy and even the ultimate subjugation of slavery that defined antiquity.

Beyond our shared Christian history, Christians of all traditions have played an important role in socialist and labour movements. Non-conformist Methodists in particular played a substantial role in the formation of the Labour party and provided the party – outside of London – with a bedrock of support and activity. The party’s relationship with Catholics has been more strained but they, too, formed a reliable block of support and activity, particularly in Scotland and Merseyside. Often standing in contrast to Marxist, economistic and utilitarian tendencies on the left, Christians have tended to value the importance of civility and virtue, meaningful relationships and community feeling. What’s more, despite the materialism of other tendencies within the Labour movement, Christians have seldom fallen for the dangerous delusion that tragedy, suffering and human imperfection can be eradicated altogether in some future utopia – a vision whose easy appeal has led so many socialists astray.

Some of the overlaps between Christianity and socialism are clear – a respect for the dignity of the poor and the belief in ecological stewardship, which Saint Francis above all cherished, for example. But most of all, our Christian heritage offers us a way of tying together collectivism and individualism in a way that satisfies the human need to be part of a meaningful community, without trampling on the dignity of the individual. In the parts of the world that used to be called Christendom, nativism is rising as people who have lost the sense of collective identity that nationhood, religiosity, reliable patterns of labour and tightly bound families and communities once brought, search for new forms of collective identity and meaning. Christianity invented the individual, as Siedentop puts it, but it also understood the individual as embedded in relationships and shaped by history, rather than as a solitary atom moving frictionless across the surface of the earth. A politics rooted in such a conception neither ignores our tribal impulses, as do many contemporary liberals, nor weaponises them, as does the nativist right wing.

Amidst the tumult of today’s political world, the concerns that the Christian pioneers of the Labour movement expressed, seem more important than ever. By stressing the common good over sectional interests; the spiritual and ethical dimension of the good life over the narrowly economic; and the importance of virtue and relationships over moral libertarianism, Christianity offers the left an opportunity to once again speak to the common good of the country, and relate to people in the full richness of who they are.

Globalisation and secularism have unmoored people from a common sense of belonging, and mean-spirited nativist identity politics is filling the gap. An acknowledgment of our Christian heritage could provide the basis for the renewal of a Labour politics that speaks to humans as the relational creatures, fallen and imperfect but capable of love and redemption, which we are. f

Tobias Phibbs is a researcher at the Fabian Society and assistant editor of the Fabian Review.

GOD, CAESAR AND MONEY

 In 2013, the Christian Socialist Movement voted to change its name to ‘Christians on the Left’. Some argued that people were put off by the word ‘socialist’. The Guardian journalist Peter Ormerod – an active Anglican – wrote half-jokingly that it wasn’t the word ‘socialist’ that put people off, but the word ‘Christian’. 

Paradoxically, the name change is an opportunity to revive the language of Christian Socialism. The Christian Socialist Movement effectively served as a group for Christians in the Labour Party. Under its new name, they still operate in this way, though I’m pleased to say that they are happy to campaign alongside others on the left who are not Labour supporters.

However, Christian Socialism is older than the Labour Party. As early as 1848, Anglican priest Frederick Denison Maurice argued that ‘Christianity is the only foundation of socialism… a true socialism is the necessary result of a sound Christianity’.

Christian Socialists welcome debate and do not all share an identical understanding of socialism. Nonetheless, I suggest that socialism must involve radical change. As Christians caught up in the mind-bendingly transformative work of Jesus, we should be especially equipped to support alternatives to the sort of ‘accountancy politics’ that sees politicians argue about which of them could best manage the economy. Let’s transform the economy, not manage it.

The term ‘Christian Socialism’ developed in the mid-nineteenth century, but the movement drew on a range of Christian and other traditions going back to the Bible. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Christian Socialism has overlapped with other movements, including Liberation Theology, Christian Pacifism and Christian Feminism.

Common ownership is at the heart of socialism. I am conscious that readers of the franciscando not need me to tell them that monastic movements provide numerous manifestations of communities holding possessions in common. While the Reformation is often associated with a rejection of monasticism, the practice of common ownership proliferated among groups linked to the ‘Radical Reformation’. In the sixteenth century, Anabaptists shared goods in common, citing the New Testament to justify their practice.

In 1649, a group of radicals began to dig up common land in Surrey and to share their produce together. They are commonly known as the ‘Diggers’. Their inspiration was explicitly Christian. They wrote that God ‘made the earth to be a common treasury… not one word was spoken in the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another’.

The Diggers were not saying only that common ownership was right for themselves. They argued that it was right for the whole world. For the Diggers, those who regard the earth as belonging to ‘lords and landlords’ are sinning and holding ‘the creation under bondage’.

Socialism involves a conviction that the world’s resources must be shared. Those who mock this idea suggest that it would mean not having your own bed or your own underpants, as someone else would be able to use them. This is to confuse availability with property. While something may be allocated to me, or chosen by me, or used by me, no part of God’s creation can ever truly belongto me.

Many socialists, including Karl Marx, have been dismissive of attempts to set up communities of common ownership within capitalist systems. Their criticisms are at least partially unfair. Of course, it is wrong to imagine that any such community could be uninvolved in the injustices of capitalism. To think this would be to underestimate the reality of sin. Some communities, however, are meant not as an opt-out from the world but a signpost to the future. Syndicalists (who advocate a bottom-up socialism based on workers’ control of workplaces) talk of ‘building the new world in the shell of the old’. The aim, however, is to extend common ownership to the whole of society. For Christian Socialists, this is a religious imperative.

‘The Christian Church exists for the sole purpose of saving the human race,’ wrote the US Christian Socialist (and Episcopalian bishop) Franklin Spencer Spalding in 1914. ‘Therefore, the Church must destroy a system of society which inevitably creates and perpetuates unequal and unfair conditions of life’.

There are many reasons for Christians to reject capitalism – the perpetuation of poverty, the wastefulness of over-production, the maldistribution of wealth, the idolatry inherent in making human needs subservient to markets and money. For me, the strongest reason to reject private property is the example of Jesus.

It is widely recognised by New Testament scholars that Jesus and his followers lived in some sort of common-purse community as they travelled around proclaiming the Kingdom of God. This radically subversive act, which saw them reject social norms by leaving their families, was a lived commitment to a different set of values. The rich man invited to sell his goods was not being asked to make himself destitute but to join the community. The Jerusalem Christians who shared possessions in common were not starting something new but continuing Jesus’ practice. Opponents of Christian Socialism like to point out that this was voluntary. They maintain that Jesus did not want to change society. Yet Jesus was inspired by the Hebrew prophets, whose condemnations of exploitation are unavoidably political.

Centuries of establishment teaching have made us familiar with interpretations of Jesus that favour the status quo. Thus the ‘parable of the talents’ is presented as a story about using our gifts wisely. I found a very different response when I was researching my last book, and showed Jesus’ teachings to non-Christians who were unfamiliar with them. Without exception, they all read the parable as an attack on the rich man. By this reading the servant who refuses to co-operate is the hero of the story.

Some of my first-time readers saw the famous ‘Render unto Caesar’ passage as an encouragement to pay tax, but just as many read it the opposite way. They picked up on the context: Jesus was threatened with arrest so needed to give an indirect answer. It seems to me that Jesus was inviting his listeners to think about what really belongs to Caesar, and what to God.

It should not be thought that any Christian Socialist regards socialism as sinless. Socialism is not the kingdom of God. It is a step on the way. Yet I suggest it is a vital step, because common ownership of the world’s resources is unavoidable if we are to give the answer that nothing can truly belong to Caesar. It can only belong to God. f

Symon Hill is a Christian activist and author. His latest book is The Upside-Down Bible: What Jesus really said about money, sex and violence (DLT, 2015). 

COMMUNITY ROUTES

Community Routes

Church of the Poor?

On 19thNovember, 2016, 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. As a matter of fact, Helen Hood TSSF is serving as one of the trustees of CAP. It was also a nice surprise to bump into Brother Fabian CR. 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.’ The day started by listening to poetry that was created in a local Creative Writing Project, where poor people could articulate the joys and frustrations of their lives. Then various different groups and people were given a chance to present themselves: ranging from a church that opened its door to the homeless, a Baptist Minister who founded an alternative church in a poor area, to an evangelical Pastor who presented his research on the ‘Myth of the undeserving poor’. At that point, 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, a panel discussion deepened our conversation, followed by more round table discussions and a final plenary. At that point, it was time for the AGM and about half of the audience discreetly 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.

Hope, not fear

Brothers and sisters throughout the Province have prayed, stood, walked, or sat, in various demonstrations in solidarity with others against discrimination or in the cause of peace.

Stand up to Racism

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 8thOctober, 2016, 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 other immigrants, activists and campaigners, Trades Unionists, teachers, politicians and other people who are simply concerned. As part of this great assembly there were three Franciscans representing the Society of St Francis and specifically the First Order Brothers’ 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.

21stJanuary London march

In the same vein, Christine James and Beverley went to London on 21st January, 2017, the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency, as women-led marches were held in  cities all over the world ‘for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events. We unite and stand together for the dignity and equality of all peoples, for the safety and health of our planet and for the strength of our vibrant and diverse communities.’

Celebrating diversity through immigration

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, (27thJanuary), 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 that provoked condemnation on a worldwide scale. On the 30thJanuary, 2017, 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!

Canterbury

On 20thFebruary, 2017, 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 as some of the Brothers were celebrating the Eucharist). On the same day in 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 in 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.

Korea

Frances and Jemma joined a demonstration against THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence), an anti-missile system due to be installed somewhere near Gumi, the city less than a couple of miles from where the sisters live. It is to protect the South from North Korean missile strikes, but many Koreans oppose it as an unnecessary militarization of the Korean peninsula, as well as making the area more of a target for the North.

Robes

Members of the community at St Alphege’s House in Southwark were again involved with the ‘Robes Project’. This aims to provide overnight accomm-odation with an evening meal and breakfast, in church halls in the Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Southwark areas (and you thought it was something to do with clothes!) over the winter months and until mid-April. Sue helped most Sunday evenings, Gina did the breakfast shift on Mondays and Matthew periodically cooked the evening meal, catering for about 20 people.

Triangles and Numbers

Maureen writes: We were a select group of brothers and sisters who gathered with the brothers at Alnmouth friary for three days of learning more about the enneagram, and applying it to living in community, in the second week of January. Josephine Seccombe was our tutor and we benefitted from the many years in which she has been immersed in the enneagram as a way of under-standing one’s personality: our ‘default’ methods of doing things, the things that ‘drive’ us, our desires, and our gifts.

Although the origins of the enneagram are lost in the mists of time, it has long been connected with the journey of faith, and addit-ional prayer reflections made this link clearer regarding our Christian faith. It was also good to join with the daily prayer of the friary, and to help with clearing up after meals. A friend of the brothers kindly came and cooked for us, freeing up the resident brothers to attend the sessions.

Round up

James Douglas has moved to Canterbury, and Finnian to Glasshampton.

At the Candlemas Chapter, James Douglas was elected to Profession; Christopher Martin and Joseph Emmanuel were elected to Life Profession. At the time of printing, the date for Christopher Martin’s service had been fixed for 22ndApril, in Cambridge, and James Douglas’s service for 8th July at Hilfield.

Donald celebrated the 60thanniversary of his profession in vows, at  the care home where he is now resident, on 18thMarch.

In separate elections, Sue and Benedicthave been re-elected as Minister Provincial CSF and Minister Provincial SSF, respectively, in the European Province.

In the Third Order in the European Province, Jamie Hacker Hughes has been elected to be the next Minister Provincial. He will take up office on 17thJune, 2017. f

 

 

EDITORIAL

Christian Socialism

For most people, Socialism in itself is scary enough, and we are not accustomed to think of Christianity and Socialism together. However, in this issue of franciscan, Symon Hill from Ekklesia gives an outline of Christian socialism; Tobias Phibbs from the Fabian Society reflects on the distinction between Christian and secular Socialism and Brother Robert highlights a Franciscan approach to Socialism. We’ve given the last word to the real heroes: those who put theory into practice and live Christian Socialism.