What is Posada?
Posada is an old Mexican tradition where young people dressed as Mary and Joseph travelled from house to house asking for a room for the night and telling people about the imminent arrival of Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve they, and the whole community, would gather at the local church to re-enact the nativity and place figures of Mary and Joseph in a crib.
Modern day Posada uses nativity figures of Mary and Joseph who travel from home to home, during the season of Advent. We are asked to give a ‘home’ to Mary & Joseph for a night, symbolising making room for Jesus in our hearts, homes and communities.
St. Peter’s Church has chosen to be involved again with Posada this year. Will you be a host to Mary and Joseph for a night?
What is involved?
All you need to do is add your name to the Journey Rota, which you will find in church, for a night that will suit you to ‘host’ Mary & Joseph. Another person from our community will make arrangements to bring the figures to your home at a time to suit both of you.
As a host, you can prepare a place for Mary & Joseph, with a candle nearby, to be lit when the ‘travellers’ arrive.
The next day you need to arrange to take Mary & Joseph to the next host on the Journey Rota, at a time to suit you both.
It’s as simple as that.
Mary & Joseph will arrive at church in time for the 4.30pm Christingle Service on Christmas Eve.
Please make sure you have added your details on the Journey Rota by Sunday November 22nd. Please consider your involvement. We hope you will enjoy taking part.
'The Way of the Monk - I'
In my study I have John Darch (Blackburn Diocese Director of Ordinands and IME) and Stuart Burns' book, ' Saints on Earth' opened-up as it reveals daily which 'Saint on Earth' died - not through morbidity, but celebration. Two fascinating characters, whose anniversaries of their deaths are celebrated on the same day - the 17th January - are Antony of Egypt and Charles Gore. Whilst they lived many hundreds of years apart their lives were in many ways very similar. What makes them important to the Church and to our lives today, is the way they lived their lives following monastic principles - principles which are as relevant today, perhaps more so, as when they lived.
They lived lives of prayer, service and order. They knew how busy life was and of the temptations, trials and tribulations that life throws at us all, but their 'balance' was to seek out silence and solitude in order to pray, finding that as they did, their lives and work, whilst not becoming easy, found an order and a meaning to it.
In my January letter to the parish I suggested that perhaps now is as good a time as any to be resolved to do something different this year and spend more time being still and silent with God. We too, like Antony and Gore can do this by adopting a simple rule of life to make such a meaningful change and at the same time deepen our Christian faith.
Here is abrief extract from 'Saints on Earth' describing these two holy men;
... life as a continual battle in which the believer is aided by the Holy Spirit, who guides him and opens the eyes of his soul.
Charles Gore, Bishop, Founder of the Community of the Resurrection, 1932 ... was born in
... In 1892 Gore founded the Society (later the Community) of the Resurrection with the aim of adapting the religious life for men to the changed circumstances of the modern world. In 1898 the community moved from
... Gore was the author of numerous books, though perhaps the most influential and best remembered was Lux Mundi ... His achievement was to unite Anglo-Catholicism with a critical approach to the Scriptures and to give it a wider social conscience.
I have visited Mirfield on many occasions and the experience of taking part in the daily offices alongside the community really do help to emphasise that we are as Antony said '... aided by the Holy Spirit'.
The Community of the Resurrection can boast such luminaries as the present Archbishop of Canterbury who was a Lecturer there, Trevor Huddlestone was a member of the Community and if that's not enough, our own Diocesan Bishop trained for the ministry there - ambition precludes me from saying what year! I am convinced that never more so do we need to follow the example, even in our own small and inadeqaute ways, of Antony and Charles Gore.
Previously I have quoted the words, ‘Peace is born of silence, because silence is the threshold where the soul meets God’. In the year to come which will undoubtedly be challenging, let us find the time to be peaceful, silent and still - to be, rather than do - and find out what it is that God has in store for us.
The Cowley Fathers
My previous article - 'The Way of the Monk I' mentioned Charles Gore who was the founder of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield - many don't know that Gore was heavily influenced by SSJE as were many others. I am a member of the Fellowship of Saint John and a Trustee of SSJE the oldest male Anglican monastic order in the country and the first monastic order to be founded at the time since the reformation. SSJE has had an enormous impact on Church life in England and in fact throughout the world. Their founder Father Richard Meux (pronounced 'Muse') Benson, was born on
July 6, 1824into a very wealthy family. His mother seems to have been the main influence in his life and she had been brought up in Clapham and her family's church life was centred on the Rector of Clapham, John Venn, and his circle. This circle, known as the Clapham Sect, included William Wilberforce. This radical group were to set the way for what was to become known as the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism in this country.
In 1844 Benson entered
at Christ Church College and came under the influence of the Oxford Movement and its leader Pusey. Benson received a Bachelor degree in 1847 and his MA in 1848. He was ordained deacon in 1848 and priested in 1849. He then took an assistant curacy at Surbiton, and in 1850 accepted the curacy of St James's Church, Cowley, a suburb of Oxford . Fr Benson's parish of Cowley grew steadily and along with this church growth, a vocation had been growing within him to go out to Oxford as a missionary. He had obtained two years leave from his Bishop and was ready. But it was not to be. Early in 1860, a plan was announced to convert Cowley Common, an open space in his parish, into an extensive town. His Bishop then asked him not to leave in the face of this new work, and he India
relinquished his plan.
Father Richard Meux Benson
In the early 1860's Fr Benson became a preacher of missions and retreats, and had published several books of devotion. He had been a student of Pusey at
and was very much a man of the Oxford Movement. Now he was becoming well known in Tractarian circles. He seems to have been a sober and moderate figure. He was never to be a Ritualist, indeed, until the end of his life, he opposed Ritualism. What he had was the integration of Evangelical fervour with the Catholic sense of sacraments and the Church, which was the essence of the Oxford movement. Christ Church
Benson was deeply involved in the movement of preaching missions to the un-churched in urban areas. In fact, he led one of the first of these in Lent of 1862. This mission was the model of those to come, especially the great London Missions of the 1870's. The call for this first mission had come from Pusey, who also asked for ‘organised bodies of clergy living among (the poor) to grapple with our manufacturing system as the Apostles did with the slave system of the ancient world.’ Benson must have heard in this call an echo of his earlier great desire to go to
, which had been dashed. In 1863 John Keble also spoke of the need for communities to be formed to extend the India . Drawn by this, Father Benson offered a house which he owned in Kingdomof God , and he and one Simeon Wilberforce O'Neill and an American priest, Charles C Grafton started living together in the late summer of 1866. On Oxford December 27th 1866the three took vows to each other for life. This was the official foundation of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE), the first Anglican Monastic religious order for men in the and the forerunner of the Community of the Resurrection and the Society of the Scared Mission. UK
I have the privilege of access to their archives which trace the history of the order. They are all housed at St Edwards House, the home of SSJE at
, Westminster . London
St. Edward's House, Westminster, London
To give an idea of the vast quantity of this material, there are approximately sixty shelves which hold the material which consists of the following: Over thirty large box folders which contain the handwritten notes about sermons, retreats and theological thinking of Benson. There are over thirty handwritten and bound books which contain his sermons and tracts and over thirty printed books. There are also at least seventy other boxed folders containing the writings of the other monks of the order over the years. There are in excess of 300 printed and bound books and magazines such as;
- The Cowley Magazine
- The Cowley Parish Magazine
- The Cowley Evangelist
- The Star in the East (Produced to report on the mission work in India etc)
- Cowley (The Society Magazine produced by the Society in
- New Fire
- The Society and Fellowship News sheet
Contained in these are some really interesting historical facts. In the first Cowley St John Parish magazine in February 1867, the Bishop of Oxford on
the 22nd January 1867said on observing some misbehaviour on the part of a confirmation candidate;
My dear boy, take care: God might strike you. I have known such a thing to happen. I have known a person come to the confirmation and after speaking to her three times I had to send her from the church. In three days time she took a fever and in less than a fortnight she was a corpse. Her father caught the fever and died, and her mother caught it and died too. The disease spread in the village and people said of her that she had mocked God.
A sign of the way things were around the time that Benson founded SSJE!
Another interesting find in the archives is the minutes of a meeting of the monks inthe 1970’s which states;
‘Milk consumption to be reduced to ¾ of a pint a day’
‘Jam or lettuce at supper’
‘Not to supply clothing made of expensive materials such as Jaeger’
‘Dispense with the Daily Telegraph’
What of the society today;
Members of SSJE since conception
- The total number of SSJE brothers worldwide who have made life vows since 1866 who
have died is 133
- 3 were bishops, 11 were lay brothers and the rest were priests
- There are 4 priests and 2 lay brothers currently alive in the
Their work today
The Fellowship of Saint John (FSJ) Trust Association of which I am a Trustee is in place as a limited company to manage the assets of the order and has as a simple objective, ‘to engage in missionary and educational works for the advancement of the
’. Today SSJE has only one monastery in Kingdomof Christ but the work in communities still continues. They used to send monks as missionaries to London , India Africa, , Japan and the Canada . Today the work continues through prayer and financial support to USA Africa, , India Eastern Europeand plans are to engage with other parts of the globe in the future.
As well as this they offer accommodation and a quiet place to stay within the heart of the City of London for a retreat or just simply some 'peace and quiet'.
The main chapel looking from the altar
The entrance hall of the monastery
The lounge at St. Edward's House
The view from one of the rooms at the monastery
There are few candidates for a religious life but SSJE is responding today as it always has done - mission in action.
If you would like more information about SSJE then do not hesitate to contact me
THE WAY OF THE MONK II
The Cowley Fathers
As regular readers of the site will know I was ordained to the Priesthood on June the 27th and the following morning celebrated my first Eucharist at Church. At this service our guest preacher was my very good friend Father Peter Huckle the present Superior of SSJE.
Father Peter is now one of only two monks who are resident in the house, the other being Brother James Simon. There are only two others still alive, one of their number Father Alan Bean having just died in a Nursing Home. He was just short of his 96th birthday, had been a priest for alomst 72 years and in vows for 62 years and had the unique distinction of having a species of tropical butterfly named after him!
Father Peter Huckle
The house at London is more often than not full of guests and the monks there are engaged in a ministry of hospitality, teaching, preaching and pastoral care. As I mentioned above, as a Trustee of the Society our work is very active globally as we look to support many varied projects focussing on Education and Health.
Stained glass images of the Society commissioned for their Centenary celebrations
At some stage in the future we will look to invite Fr. Peter to the Parish to spend a weekend with us preaching and teaching. If there is enough interest I would happily look at the prospect of taking a group to the monastery where we could spend time in London as well as receiving the benefits of all that comes from spending time in such a holy place as St. Edward's House - a place where the Mass, Morning prayer, Terce, Sext and Evening prayer as well as Compline have been conducted daily, virtually unbroken since the monastery first opened over a hundred years ago - a wonderful witness.