By Uvedale Tristram THE BENEDICTINES of Worth Abbey have embarked on a new monastic and ecumenical venture in East Dulwich, close to the heart of London, which required a decision of the Privy Council to enable the monks to take over St Peter's, a large former Anglican Parish Church with its adjoining vicarage and hall.
This week, there was a special service of celebration in St Peter's to mark the inauguration of the new ecumenical community. Among those present were Archbishop Bowen of Southwark, the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, the Most Rev Michael Marshall who has been closely involved with the project, Abbot Farwell of Worth and the Abbots of Downside and Ampleforth, Dom John Roberts and Dom Patrick Barry.
The Blessed Sacrament will be reserved in the Monastic Church, which has a tabernacle in the wall to one side of the altar, a sign of its high Anglican tradition. The Divine Office will be celebrated daily and there will be a conventual Mass each weekday. All are welcome at these services. On Sundays, the monks will say Mass in one of the Catholic churches in the area or in the monastery chapel.
The community consists of five monks, and a layman living the full monastic life without vows or lifelong commitment. The monks hope that they will be joined not only by more Catholic laymen but also by other Christians who would like to join fully in their life and work.
Fr Andrew Brenninkmeyer, the Superior, stresses the ecumenical aspect. "There are ecumenical prayer groups for laity and clergy which meet weekly," he told the Catholic Herald. The Church will be open all day for private prayer as well as for the
public prayer of the community. A priest will always be available for confession and spiritual guidance.
The Anglicans will continue to use the Church for their Sunday Eucharist and other services. They have shown marked enthusiasm for the new venture; when I visited the Church last week, a group of seven were busy on the high altar, polishing candlesticks ready for the opening celebration.
Abbot Farwell epitomised the spirit of the new foundation and its raison d'etre: "In ancient times, the Benedictines moved from the cities to the deserts and the wilderness in search of quiet for the contemplative life," he said. "Now, we feel we should bring the opportunity for contemplation and the Opus Dei (the Divine Office) — the prayer of the Church to the inner city. We should share our prayer and praise."