Tag Archives: Church of England

The Society of Saint John the Evangelist archive now catalogued

Fr. Benson SSJE

Fr. Benson SSJE

The end of November marked the completion of an 11-month project to catalogue the records of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). The Cowley Fathers, as SSJE were more popularly known, were founded by Richard Meux Benson in Oxford in 1866, when Benson and two other Fathers took vows of silence, poverty and obedience and began the first Anglican male monastic order since the Reformation. The brotherhood would last almost 150 years before, sadly, coming to a close in England in 2011 (although a thriving community still exists in America).

The Society expanded from its Oxford base and established houses in London, India, South Africa, America, Canada and Japan. From each of these houses the Fathers ventured out into the community, ministering wherever asked, as well as welcoming people into their midst – providing safety and education for children and places of retreat and contemplation for clergy and lay people alike.

It is from India and South Africa that perhaps some of the most fascinating material in the collection emanates, with letters sent back from the ‘missionary frontier’ by pioneering Fathers in the 1870s and 1880s providing a vivid recollection and glorious image of the early work of the missions of the Society. Under particularly harsh conditions – cholera was just one ever present threat – the Fathers would cover large swathes of land carrying out the work of God wherever and whenever the opportunity arose.

A SSJE mission poster

A SSJE mission poster

That is not to say the activities of SSJE were well received in all quarters, with letters revealing confrontations with the Indian establishment arising when Fathers took to the streets to distribute ‘religious material’. Further challenges came from within the life as a monk living under Rule, with Fathers tasked to undertake ‘active evangelicalization’ whilst at the same time adhering to their vow of silence. Nevertheless, the legacy left by SSJE is clear across several continents, with many of the schools and churches built by the Fathers still fulfilling the same functions as they had so many years ago.

In addition to the wonderful correspondence, the collection also features a comprehensive set of the Society’s Rule and Statue books and minute books which combine to explain the governance of the Society, a large number of photographs and slides showing the Fathers at work at the missions, and a large volume of religious texts, particularly from its renowned leader Fr. Benson, in the form of sermons, addresses and meditations.

The project was jointly funded by the charitable trust administering SSJE funds, the Fellowship of St. John, and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library, and the collection is housed at the Church of England Record Centre, South Bermondsey.  To access the material, please consult the Lambeth Palace Library archives and manuscripts catalogue.

The papers of Reverend Joseph McCulloch

The Reverend Joseph McCulloch

The Reverend Joseph McCulloch

Margaret Thatcher, Yehudi Menuhin, Joan Bakewell, Diana Rigg, Bernard Levin, Denis Norden, Lord Longford…the list reads like the guest-list for a very important event, or the personal contacts of a prominent politician – not a working class clergyman from Liverpool. In fact, these are just a few of the famous names that crop up in the recently catalogued archive of the Reverend Joseph McCulloch.

Perhaps best-known for the Bow Dialogues,  a series of public debates featuring well-known personalities that were recorded weekly at the St Mary-le-Bow, London, between 1964-1979, McCulloch was also a prolific writer, broadcaster and passionate campaigner for Church reform. From the beginning of his career McCulloch was a controversial figure, and was once  described as the enfant terrible of the Church of England.

Born in Liverpool in 1908, McCulloch read Theology at Exeter College, Oxford, before being ordained in 1933. Early on in his career he ran into difficulty due to his outspoken nature. As a young curate he was obliged to leave one parish when his parishioners recognised themselves in a pseudonymous novel that he had written and he had to leave another curacy when the Rector, returning from abroad, was upset by some of McCulloch’s initiatives in his absence. Later, he was dismissed as an army chaplain in World War Two for sending the Chaplain General a critical report on religion in the armed forces.

McCulloch’s published work, broadcasts and opinions on Church reform were spirited and compassionate, and did much to establish him as a household name. He was a regular columnist for She magazine, several local newspapers and was often commissioned by the BBC. McCulloch wanted the church to become more open and accessible and was an early supporter of women’s ministry. He published an abridged version of the Bible and many other works, seventeen of which are held in the Library’s printed book sequence, and the manuscripts and drafts of several other works can be found in his papers.

McCulloch’s later positions were very successful. As Rector of Chatham, Kent, a very large parish, McCulloch was challenged to increase the tiny congregation. He did this in a typically exuberant manner, setting up drop-in sessions in the local pub and putting on plays and recitals which he had written. In 1959 he became Rector of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, which was still derelict after World War Two bomb damage. McCulloch campaigned tirelessly to raise funds to restore the church and the iconic Bow Bells. He was successful and the church was re-consecrated in 1964. Part of the renovations included two pulpits which McCulloch put to great use as a platform for topical debate that came to be known as The Bow Dialogues.

Material relating to the Bow Dialogues accounts for a substantial part of the newly catalogued collection. It contains extensive correspondence, both personal and more formal, with an array of very well-known names from the sixties and seventies, including  Germaine Greer, Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Judi Dench, Lawrence Olivier and Tom Stoppard.

McCulloch was a character who often pushed the boundaries with his opinions but was genuinely motivated by a passion for the Church and above all great love for humanity. The archive is a fascinating and unique insight into the world of a man who is woefully under-researched.

The Society of St John the Evangelist and nineteenth-century foreign missions

A guest post by Steven S. Maughan, Professor and Chair. Department of History, The College of Idaho.

My current research focuses on the impact of nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholicism on British Christian foreign missions and the British empire. Anglo-Catholics formed a party within the Church of England that from the 1840s advocated a revival of medieval and Catholic styles of religiosity and from the 1860s also supported foreign missions, most notably the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa and Melanesian Mission, but also missions in dozens of overseas dioceses. Their missionary program included reliance on newly formed monastic religious communities for women and men—sisterhoods and brotherhoods. The pioneering use of independent women in the mission field and reliance on university-educated missionaries acted as formative influences on a series of new initiatives that transformed late-Victorian Protestant missions. Among the most important of these new religious communities was the Society of St John the Evangelist (known more popularly as the Cowley Fathers) inaugurated in 1866 by Father R. M. Benson which ultimately established missionary houses in South Africa, India, Japan, and Canada. The SSJE archive, including the early correspondence of Father Benson, has recently been deposited at Lambeth Palace Library where it is being catalogued (see earlier post -Society of Saint John the Evangelist records go ‘live’), and with which, by the generous accommodation of the Library staff, I was able to work over the past few months.

Anglican religious communities, which evoked fierce opposition from evangelicals for their alleged “Popish” excesses, were extremely controversial, and the missions associated with them challenged dominant evangelical emphases on individual conversion and westernization, instead advocating communal religious institutions and syncretized indigenization leading to independent “native” community-based churches. The SSJE was particularly important in this process: first, because it inaugurated the use of English Anglican brothers as missionaries abroad; second, because overseas the Cowley Fathers provided legitimization, support and collaboration with several Anglican sisterhoods, including the Wantage Sisters, which sent even larger numbers of Anglican religious abroad.

This project has developed out of my recent scholarly work—with its focus on Anglicanism, imperial history and British religious cultures—which will culminate in the publication of a more general study of the foreign missions of the Church of England, coming out in February 2014, entitled Mighty England Do Good: Culture, Faith, Empire and World in the Missionary Projects of the Church of England, 1850-1915 (Eerdmans). It is from this more comprehensive foundation that the current project emerges; while I deal in outline in the forthcoming book with the impact of high church Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics on Christian missionary methods and initiatives, it is treated as but one aspect of Anglican missionary religion within the larger context of evangelical missions and their relationship to empire and missionary internationalism.

The papers of John Stott

Portrait of John Stott

John Stott at the 1973 Urbana Student Missions Conference sponsored by the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowships and held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The project to catalogue the personal papers of the renowned evangelical clergyman John Stott has reached a significant milestone, as the first batch of papers is now being made available to researchers via the National Church Institutions’ Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue. To find these records on the catalogue type STOTT in the Order No. field and click on search and you will be presented with a list of relevant records.

John Stott (1921-2011), served at one church throughout his career, as assistant curate at All Souls, Langham Place from 1945, as rector from 1950, and finally rector emeritus from 1975. It was both his dedication to his central London parish and his efforts on the international evangelical scene which garnered Stott such acclaim. His role as honorary chaplain to the Queen from 1959 to 1991, his multiple honorary degrees, including a Doctorate of Divinity from Lambeth Palace, and his selection as one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ in 2005, attest to the extent of his influence.

Records now available include Stott’s travel diaries (1958-2007), which describe his extensive international travels, featuring busy schedules of University missions, preaching engagements, evangelical conferences, seminars and a multitude of other events. This first release of material also contains the records of notable organisations and societies with which Stott was involved as a founder or significant supporter. The diverse range includes the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, and the Langham Partnership International. The last of these, originally founded in the UK as the Langham Trust, now operates three complimentary programmes, designed to assist in training preachers, educating scholars and providing evangelical literature to the developing world.

Further material includes a series of files amassed in relation to a variety of subjects, ranging from contentious social issues such as divorce and abortion, to debates concerning matters such as annihilation, fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy.

This first release of this material is aimed at enhancing access to a collection which is being catalogued as part of a project due for completion in March 2014. The next release of material will include records relating to evangelical conferences, including the notable 1974 International Conference of World Evangelism in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Recently Catalogued Archives

Lambeth Palace Library staff have catalogued a range of archive material in recent months. Descriptions of this material are now available in the online archives catalogue. They include:

  • Over 1,100 speeches and addresses of Archbishop Carey, 1991-2002
  • Files of the Council on Foreign Relations relating to the Religious Affairs Branch of the British Army of the Rhine, 1946-1950
  • Letters of H E J Bevan, Archdeacon of Middlesex, 1900-1928, on subjects including the Round Table Conference on ritual of 1900
  • Notes by Andrew Coltée Ducarel (Lambeth Librarian from 1757) relating to marriage licensing, 1754
  • Letters of the clergyman Roger Dalison from his tour round the world in 1902-3, which included Australia, New Zealand and the USA
  • A humorous volume compiled by E F Benson (son of the Archbishop) and his friend Philip Burne-Jones supposedly pertaining to the activities of Lord Desborough, c.1908

Our colleagues at at the Church of England Record Centre (CERC) have recently catalogued the archive of the Church of England Advisory Board for Moral Welfare Work and its predecessor bodies.  The archive comprises the papers of the variously named advisory boards concerned with questions of moral welfare, specifically those affecting Christian standards of sexual morality, 1915-1948.

You can search for all the archives mentioned here on our online archives catalogue http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/archives/
For details on accessing the Library, see our website: http://lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/access and for access to CERC please see http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/cerc

Recent Acquisitions

Lambeth Palace Library’s collection of printed books, relating to the history and administration of the Church of England as well as supporting or stemming from the Library’s collection of archives, manuscripts and early printed books, continues to grow. Recently acquired items include:

God and war: the Church of England and armed conflict in the twentieth century. Edited by Stephen G. Parker and Tom Lawson. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012)
The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 edited by Keith A. Francis and William Gibson (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012)
The late medieval English church: vitality and vulnerability before the break with Rome. G. W. Bernard. (London: Yale University Press, 2012)
Politics and the Paul’s Cross sermons, 1558-1642, Mary Morrissey (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible , Michael D. Coogan ed. (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011)
Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, Thomas Herron and Brendan Kane (Washington, DC : Folger Shakespeare Library, 2013)

The catalogues of printed books and periodicals can be found at: http://bookscat.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/. For details on accessing the Library, see our website: http://lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/access

In principio …

The Great Hall, Lambeth Palace Library

The Great Hall, Lambeth Palace Library

Welcome to the blog of Lambeth Palace Library. Founded in 1610, Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal repository of the documentary history of the Church of England. James I described it as ‘a monument of fame’ in his kingdom – hence the name of the blog. We will use this blog to announce any special events happening within the Library, to alert our readers to changes in service and to share information about our collections. We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy reading our blog.