UK trip 14 May 2005: cathedral & monastery
We spent the night with Father Michael and Jeanne Harper at Harston, near Cambridge. Over breakfast we talked to Fr Michael about theological education, and he told us about the Institute for Orthodox Studies affiliated to Cambridge University. I mentioned my long-held vision of a cooperative English-speaking distance education institute, which could draw on people from all over the world, and produce lectures on DVD or videotape, and he seemed to think it was a good idea.
Michael Harper had been an Anglican priest and was Director of the Fountain Trust, a group set up to promote charismatic renewal in the Church of England. When I was an Anglican in Zululand one of the other clergy lent me one of Michael Harper’s books, Let my people grow. In the book he advocated the abolition of the diaconate in the church, and I took issue with him on that and wrote to him about it. At the time (December 1977) I had just been appointed Director of Training for Ministries in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and had inherited six newly-ordained self-supporting deacons who had been trained by my predecessor. I soon discovered that none of these deacons had any idea of what a deacon was supposed to do, and neither did the priests in the parishes where they were serving. In fact the Anglican Church generally had no idea about what do do with deacons, and Michael Harper was simply reflectingt this when he wrote in his book that he thought the diaconate should be abolished. On the contrary, I thought the diaconate needed to be restored, and this led to some correspondence back and forth.
A few months later we had a burglary at our house, and Michael Harper sent us a cheque for £25, which seemed remarkably generous. I met him face to face in 1983, when he came to speak at a Spring School run by the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria, and and we continued to correspond after we had both joined the Orthodox Church. Jeanne Harper had a music pupil after breakfast, and so we left, as they were very busy. We went to Ely, and had a look at the cathedral there, and changed some money.
We then went to see my cousin Michael Hayes at Manea, a little village out in the fens. The countryside was dead flat round about, and looked like parts of Holland — all that was missing was the windmills, and again there were many fields of yellow rape seed. I did not recall seeing that particular crop when I had been in the UK before but now it seemed to be all over the south of England.
Michael Hayes and his wife Karen were living in a house they were doing up, and their two children were Julia aged 3, and Jonathan, aged 10 months. Michael was the first of the relations we had met who spoke with a real Bristol accent, or indeed any local accent accent at all. It seemed strange that we had spent some time in and around Bristol, but had to come to Cambridgeshire to hear a Bristol accent. We had lunch with them — ham and tomato rolls — and then went on our way again, heading south to the monastery of St John the Baptist at Tolleshunt Knights near Tiptree in Essex.
At first the monastery seemed deserted, and we could find no one around the place, but then one of the sisters came out, and showed us where we could get tea, and Brother Basil, a young monk, showed me where my room was. I just had time to put my bags in the room before we went to Vespers, or rather the vigil, in the church, and they got me to read the Six Psalms at the beginning of Matins. Then we went for supper at the refectory, which was a converted chicken shed, and had won an architectural award for the most imaginative conversion of a building to a different use.
One of the priests who had served at Vespers was sitting next to me, and asked if the great English dish of baked beans was also to be found in South Africa. I think he was French.
To be continued
Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005