There was a Jewish community in mediaeval Canterbury, and again in the first half of the XIX Century. Their Synagogue was purchased and demolished in 1846 to give the South Eastern Railway access across St Dunstan’s Street to the West Station and a junction with the older Canterbury and Whitstable line. The congregation, with help from other synagogues in London, and from local business people, built a new meeting place in King Street within the city walls.
This building served as a place of worship for only 50 years, for as Jewish families left the city for life in London or other big cities, there were not enough families for a recognised congregation. Before that, however, the Jewish community made significant contributions to city life.
Henry Hart in particular served on the city council being chosen three times as Mayor of Canterbury; he was also a member of the School Board that channelled government grants to elementary schools, including Saint Thomas’s Catholic School. His support extended to providing cloth and thread for the schoolgirls to make themselves cloaks for the winter.
Also on the Board were representatives of the Anglican and Methodist churches, which had their own schools. In Canterbury at least they seem to have supported each other through the grant making process. There were times when St Thomas’s needed all the help it could get. Let us celebrate our predecessors who co-operated for the good of the children and gave generously for them.
The Old Synagogue was bought by the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral and now serves as a music room for the King’s School. It was designed in Egyptian style, remembering, perhaps, the captivity of God’s people in Egypt. Let us pray for peace and co-operation in the Middle East.
Once again we gladly share some wise reflections from Canon Anthony Charlton, parish priest of Saint Thomas, Canterbury. Thank you Father Anthony! Something to think about on our Lenten Pilgrimage.
At the end of his teaching on the beatitudes, Raniero Cantalamessa OFM CAP says, “The best way to take the Gospel beatitudes seriously is to use them as a mirror for an examination of conscience that is truly ‘evangelical’”.
Here are some questions that can help;
Is my deepest desire for God or for passing things that only bring temporary comfort? Do I depend on good feelings, or do I accept that doing God’s will sometimes involves the acceptance of enormous pain? Am I seduced by power, or am I prepared to allow God’s power to reign in me? Do I strive for holiness, or am I, at times, satisfied with mediocrity and lukewarmness? When a brother, a sister, or a co-worker demonstrates a fault, do I react with judgement or mercy? Are my intentions pure? Do I say yes and no as Jesus did? The clearest opposite of purity of heart is hypocrisy. Whom do I seek to please by my actions: God or other people? Am I addicted to the approval of others? Am I a peacemaker? Do I bring peace to different sides? How do I behave when there are conflicts of opinion or conflicts of interest? Is the peace of God in my heart, and if not, why not? Am I ready to suffer in silence for the gospel? How do I react when facing a wrong or an injury I received?
When we read or listen to the Beatitudes, we have a portrait of Jesus himself. He gives us these beatitudes as a way of true happiness that will lead us to the fullness of life.
The Good Shepherd, the one who leads us: Saint Mildred’s, Canterbury.
The following paragraphs are from a pastoral letter by Bishop Rose of Dover in response to statements on diverse sexuality and marriage, which generated much ‘noise’, within and outside the Church of England. We are not seeking to add to the volume of noise nor to prolong it, but we did want to share with you Bishop Rose’s concluding reflections which apply to each one of us as we follow the Good Shepherd on our Lenten Pilgrimage.
We have a rich diversity of culture, knowledge and experience. At the best of times, our diversity is one of our great strengths, enabling us to more fully to reflect the beauty and complexity of our world and our Creator. However challenging we may find life together, it is unChristlike for us to use our diversity as an excuse for separation and withdrawal from one another. Our Lord’s command is to love and serve one another. As your Bishop, I will always seek to follow that command and I ask the same of you.
We are all children of God, who created each of us in his image, and we are the followers of Jesus Christ, who reaches out and draws all people to himself. In him our hope is found. In him, our messy offerings may become a blessing to one another and to our world. Let us never lose sight of the one who leads us. Let us never fail to sing with joy for what he has done for us. Let us never fail to share the good news that gladdens our heart, even though the challenges of this world surround us. Let’s do this all with kindness and care, for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
A few years ago L’Arche celebrated fifty years of life on this earth and forty years in the UK. The big celebration in Britain was a pilgrimage to Canterbury, home to the first British community, L’Arche Kent. Hundreds of people gathered at the University of Kent, before an invigorating walk down to the Cathedral for refreshment as well as prayer. Transporting hundreds of people to this corner of Britain, finding accommodation to suit everyone’s needs – we had a few wheelchair users – and learning prayers and songs, all required tight organisation.
Even so, I managed to raise an eyebrow when I led my small group off piste. I was spotted by the chief organiser who wondered what I was up to. He was relieved when we showed up in good time. Quite simply, one of us was a wheelchair user who needed the bathroom, and my family had a new wet room which suited her fine; it was pronounced ‘an excellent bathroom’ and was right beside the back door.
There will always be the unexpected, and often enough the solution to the problem will be at hand:
Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. (Luke 9:3)
We could not get away with that in XXI Century Kent, and with so many people with so many special needs, we had to plan and the plan did its job. And the staves came in useful when we reached the Cathedral, for banging on the floor and raising the roof with their percussion! This part of the percussion procession had hand drums and tambourines.
We wish you a joyful and companionable Lenten Pilgrimage!
They came slowly along the hospital corridor; she leaning on his arm and balancing the rest of her tiny weight on a sturdy surgical walking stick. At the door to the treatment room they said goodbye and he sat opposite us in the waiting room. A conversation sprang up, helped, perhaps, by our being in a quiet corner.
As he talked to us with the gentle old local accent, he was arranging the things his wife of fifty years would need on her return: shoes, a sip of water, coat and scarf. Ever alert, he went to meet her as the treatment room door opened, and brought her to her seat, helping her to sit down, bending to change her slipper socks for outdoor shoes, making sure she was comfortable. It was her turn to join the conversation.
‘Just chit chat,’ said Mrs T later, ‘but chit chat can be important.’
Indeed. We did not consciously avoid discussing cancer, but talk of the journey home, of the imminent end of her treatment and her husband’s long daily walks took us out of the windowless, plastic-walled waiting room to the world outside. And beyond.
‘Someone above is looking after us through all this’, she said.
Someone down below was the means of that happening for her, and it was beautiful to see. Only later did I realise it was Epiphany, God made manifest. And someone down below was there in that sunless spot for me, as she ever is, in sickness and in health.
Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness: Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes; Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless. Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night; To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight: I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine. Christina Rossetti.
Who watches whom this vigil night?
It used to be possible to visit Greyfriars’ chapel without paying an entrance fee for the gardens around it, but most hours in the daytime Saint Thomas’, Saint Dunstan’s and the Cathedral are open for prayer. We locals have free entry to the Cathedral with a resident’s pass. The Lord needs no such thing! He is there with his crook and his staff, with these he gives us comfort.
The New Year of 1999 to 2000 was well celebrated at Saint Thomas’, candles, prayers and hymns, then food and drink in the new century, but how many could not get to such events and so felt lonely? How many felt lonely and so did not dare to join fellow parishioners? How many people feel cold-shouldered and hesitate to join a group of nodding acquaintances talking together? What can we do about it this year? Let us stop what we are doing sometimes and bless our nodding acquaintances of neighbours by inviting them into our group?
They like bikes in Belgium! Not that they are always the most appropriate means of transport. This is the story of an overloaded bike in Canterbury and what happened next.
We begin with Will parking his bike against a rack where there was already a red lady’s Dutch style bike, not unlike the one outside the shop above. When Will had finished his shopping, the Dutch bike had gone, but there was a red purse on the ground. It had an address in it, a few minutes’ ride away, so off he went. It was shortly before Christmas.
The door was opened by an older lady, dressed in red, pleased to have her purse back: ‘My basket was too full, I am silly!’ now she was ready to press me to take tea in her winter-wonderland front room. A red settee and armchair, flashing lights and a glorious fake tree, a few copies of the Watchtower. The Watchtower magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The same.
Yes, Mrs S was a Witness. Will had always believed that Jehovah’s Witnesses stood at a distance from Christmas and all things Yule. There had been the time when our regular witness missioner, Joe, had knocked on our door at 1.00 p.m. on December 25th with a personal delivery of the magazine. Obviously Christmas day was nothing to him. There had been more than one year when Witnesses expected a Christmas tree, given by a family, to be removed from a shared bay of the hospice where Mrs Turnstone worked. No surrender to other people’s sensibilities there, even when the other people were dying.
‘I came late to the Witnesses through my late husband,’ she explained. ‘But I like to put up something for Christmas to welcome my friends and neighbours. And the lights are a lovely, comforting sight at this time.’
‘What does Joe have to say about it?’ I asked. ‘He knows I take round my share of leaflets. He doesn’t have to know that I have a Christmas tree!’
And perhaps her Christmas tree and hospitality were as powerful a witness as her magazine.
This little star is hidden away in a locked cemetery chapel, all that remains of a French Jesuit community that decamped to Kent when religious persecution was raging at home. Among its members was a young Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was to become a stretcher-bearer during the Great War.
He was attached to a North African regiment and stayed with the men, refusing promotion that would have afforded him greater personal safety. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur as ‘an outstanding stretcher-bearer who, during four years of active service, was in every battle and engagement the regiment took part in, applying to remain in the ranks in order that he might be with the men whose dangers and hardships he constantly shared.’ The example of many priest stretcher-bearers helped bring about a reconciliation between state and Church after the war.
He wrote to his cousin Marguerite on Christmas Eve 1915, “I must tell myself, and I think I’ll come to feel it, that no Christmas night will ever have meant more to me than this one I am about to spend on the straw this evening, by the side of men.”
Far from our commercial Christmas, closer to the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Lord, help us to see the star of wonder that will lead us through this Advent to the straw and hay of Bethlehem.
From Canon Anthony Charlton’s blog, exploring ways to welcome pilgrims to the shrine of Saints Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero in Canterbury.
It was a delight for me one afternoon recently to have eleven groups of students from the School of Architecture of the University of the Creative arts present to us their projects. They were asked to create in our Martyrs Chapel a space that should contain the relics of St Thomas More and St Oscar Romero. As one submission said the “space is without focus, having collected so many relics and icons over the years there is no order to how they are placed, creating a dissonant space which lacks a clear focal point for prayer and worship.”
I was very moved to see how each group presented their designs. There was much inspiration and it was great to see the different ways they found to create a space for prayer and reflection for pilgrims and those who wished to come and pray. Many of the submissions recognised there was a need for more light. One darkened the chapel and explored the relationship between the dark and the light of the relics. Another submission was bold in creating an outside entrance with an antechamber.
The challenge now is for parishioners to meet and decide the next step in creating a beautiful space for the relics of these two great Martyrs.
We look forward to that meeting and to developing the shrine as an accessible, welcoming space in the heart of Canterbury. Thank you, Canon Anthony! And let’s not sacrifice this window in the present shrine.
The Sisters of Minster Abbey are holding a Concert of Hope, an evening of celebration with local choirs and musicians. You are very warmly welcome to join us at St Mary the Virgin Church, Minster on 27th November at 7pm. Entrance is free and there will be a retiring collection for the work of “Canterbury for Ukraine”, an Incorporated Association of volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees to settle in Canterbury and East Kent.
Canterbury for Ukraine have been vital in providing support to enable the Sisters to welcome a Ukrainian family to Minster. We now want to support them so that they can continue to offer assistance to those welcoming our brothers and sisters from Ukraine.
We realise that not all of our friends are local enough to attend the concert on the night but some would like to make a donation. We have set up a Go Fund Me page to make this easy- just click below
DonatePlease pray for the success of this Concert of Hope! We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the night!
Love and prayers Mother Nikola and the Sisters of Minster Abbey