St. John Henry Newman is patron Saint of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. A great intellect he famously converted from Anglicanism into the Catholic Church. Part of this journey saw him wrestle with his conscience at Littlemore in Oxford. And as of today a little bit of Littlemore is housed at St. Anselm’s. Read on to discover more…its unbelievably exciting! No, it is more than that, it is miraculous and providential.

When, in 1828, Newman, as an Anglican, became Vicar of the University Church he accepted pastoral care of Littlemore, a poor hamlet some three miles from Oxford city centre. In the next few years he built there the Anglican church of St Mary and St Nicholas as well as a school.

In 1841, starting to feel a pull towards Rome, Newman withdrew from public life to live at Littlemore as he discerned God’s call. He leased an old coach house and settled into a semi-monastic life. After an intense period of interior struggle, in 1845, Newman was finally received into the Catholic Church, at Littlemore, by Blessed Dominic Barberi, whose relic is now housed in our Lady Chapel at St. Anselm’s. See how Littlemore was crucial to Newman’s journey to sainthood.

Rewind one year, and in a letter written on his 43rd birthday, Newman informed his friend John Bowden ‘We have got our new oak benches into the chapel (at Littlemore) and you cannot fancy what a great improvement it is’, he enthused. This ‘reseating’, as he called it, was the last in a series of internal changes made by Newman which raised eyebrows because they were designed in deliberate Catholic style. Unlike Protestant box pews, which mask the church, these pews were low allowing one to see the high altar at all times. They were designed by hand, commissioned, purchased and installed at Littlemore by Newman himself.

Beautifying churches, as we have done at Pembury, was important to Newman. ‘What  I shall say’, Littlemore’s congregation were told in one of his first sermons, ‘will help ‘turn this church into a living book, a holy book, which you may look at and read, and which suggest to you many good thoughts of God and heaven’. The pews were important to Newman then and they stayed in that church until this very year when they were removed as part of a modernisation project. So what happens to them next?

Well those pews, the very ones Newman designed, commissioned and placed in his Church in Littlemore, the year before he converted to Catholicism, have been given a new home. Thanks to the generosity of the Anglican parish of Littlemore, 14 of them have been given to our parish in Pembury. I can’t quite believe it; a little bit of Littlemore now resides at St. Anselm’s. God be praised! How fitting that these pews have found their way into the Ordinariate. It is providential.

Today Fr. Nicholas and I unloaded them from a lorry. They are coated in dust and debris and require restoration and cleaning. Because they were buttressed to a wall, and one end was raised up on a step, they will need the love of a carpenter to make them fit for purpose.

If you want to help us meet the cost of transportation, restoration and cleaning, and support our ongoing mission in this place, then please donate via this link. I want to end with a huge thank you to those who already have donated. Ours is a small parish ever reliant on such generosity. Like Littlemore we are a tiny English hamlet where God is doing extraordinary things…

Like all small parishes and businesses the coronavirus rather caught our parish on the hop. This has meant a sudden drop in income from collections just at a time when we were embarking on two small but exciting projects.

The first involves the transportation, renovation and installation of new pews for the church. These arrive at lunchtime today and they are not just any old pews but of huge historic, cultural and spiritual significance. These antique pews come from Littlemore in Oxford having been commissioned, on his birthday, by the patron of the Ordinariate, St. John Henry Newman. Because the pews were buttressed against a wall, and mounted on a small step, they are not even and require some care from a skilled carpenter.

The second project is a little more functional but just as important. On Easter Day the roof of our disabled lavatory collapsed due to an ingress of water caused by shoddy workmanship in the past. We have therefore had to entirely rebuild and refelt the roof at short notice.

In order to make up for lost collections and pay for these exciting projects I have set up a ‘go fund me’ page for the parish. Do share it with friends and contacts who might be interested in helping us. And do thank them.

On the subject of thanksgiving I want to applaud again all those members of the congregation who responded so magnificently during our last major giving appeal. Both those who organised fund raising events and those who switched their giving to bankers order. The fact that most of our congregation now pay by standing order or direct debit has meant we are not in total crisis due to this pandemic. Thank you so much for this.

Now GO FUND US by following this link!

Kinderversity Pembury.jpg

After many years managing the New World Montessori from St. Anselm’s church hall Odile, the manager, is retiring and handing over the reigns to new owners, Emma & Ryan, who will trade under the name Kinderversity. This will be their second nursery setting as they already run a successful venture in a nearby village.

The changeover has been a smooth and amicable process which guarantees continuity and means staff and children from New World Montessori will be retained. The main difference is that the nursery will now open five days a week, Monday to Friday inclusive, from 7am – 7pm.

The change is welcome news for our parish because extended hours brings in greater revenue . It is good news for the village because the nursery here has a fine reputation which looks set to continue.

Please share this exciting news widely, we want it to be a success, and let people know that Kinderversity is opening from Monday 1st June. It has the full support of OFSTED and all necessary safety precautions have been taken.

To book a place for your child email Emma and Ryan directly on pembury@kinderversity.co.uk

Another nugget of wisdom from our associate priest Fr. Kiely. I am really enjoying this series and hope that you are too.

People are now daily asking when church will re-open? It seems Pembury Anselmians are a spirited bunch who do not enjoy being deprived of the sacraments. Good! Such hunger speaks of lively faith. But sadly I cannot answer because the decision is not vested in me. I can however arrange confession, at a safe distance, so contact me to arrange this if it helps.

I imagine the clamour to re-open will grow louder now that non essential shops are opening. How do Catholics make sense of a world in which you may travel to work on the tube, play golf, visit a market or non essential shop but church doors remain closed? We don’t and we can’t.

My youngest son, Gus, hit the nail on the head as we purchased ice-cream from a mobile van at the coast yesterday. He said “people must think ice cream is more important than God. If you can hand somebody a cornet you could give them Mass.” I felt he made a valid point. What is the present situation saying, not only to children, but to all of us about the vitality and efficacy of the sacramental life? This continues to trouble me greatly.

My eldest son pitched in asking why a person couldn’t choose to go to church instead of Tesco or the garden centre? I tried to help them make sense of it but it wasn’t easy. We eventually agreed that the present situation is chaotic because the virus caught us all on the hop. We also felt the order in which things are opening rather reflects the priorities of modern society. It shouldn’t surprise us that the church is bottom of the pile given that modern man prefers mammon and Magnums to Mass.

I write all this to assure you that many clergy and bishops share your sense of frustration at present. None of us take pleasure in this scenario. So please be patient. And please pray for our bishops and government officials who lead us in difficult time and try to support them.

Perhaps take solace in two facts. First that the minute there is news to share I will update you via this blog. Second that the moment we are permitted to open St. Anselm’s we shall do so.

And thank goodness for the lovely spell of weather in which to wait for this news. At least it isn’t raining. Here is a picture of the dog taken on our walk along the beach yesterday.

Father Benedict shares his wisdom on the Gospel quality of gratitude. Perfect for this feast of the Ascension. Mass will be live streamed on our parish facebook page at 9:30am.

Father Benedict delivers the third of his Gospel nuggets. It is entitled ‘preparing for death in this season of life’ and, as ever, is full of wisdom.

This Lent the parish was raising money for Fr. Benedict’s charity, which supports persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Several people contacted me to say that the lockdown stopped them offering their gift and so we shall extend the collection after our return to the pews for a short period to enable giving. Please pray for him and for those battling virus in dangerous and oppressive parts of the globe.