Monthly Digest: November 2018 - Mucknell Abbey
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Winter sloes

Monthly Digest: November 2018

“So dull and dark are the November days.
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze;
The place we occupy seems all the world.”
– John Clare, ‘November’


  • Bonfires and fireworks on the 5th November are a bit of an ambiguous English tradition, almost completely unmoored now from its origin in the 16th and 17th century European wars of religion. But everyone likes a giant fire, and here at Mucknell we have them fairly regularly as part of our land management. But Abbot Thomas generously gave up permission to light one on the night of the 4th at a time when we normally have supper. Unfortunately the weather was simultaneously too wet and not wet enough, so in the end we were reduced to sparklers. Although somewhat bathetic, Abbot Thomas managed to turn it to very good account by crafting a prayer for Christian Unity, which everyone thought was a Splendid Idea. We may have witnessed the birth of a new Community tradition.


Unity prayer


  • Br Michäel and Sr Sally were not with us, however, as they had both gone off to West Malling Abbey earlier in the day. Br Michael was attending the last of his icon courses for this year, while Sr Sally was enjoying a few days of retreat.


  • On Monday 5th November we celebrated our Community Requiem, remembering and giving thanks for the lives of our former Sisters.


Requiem candles

A candle was lit for each of the nineteen Sisters who have died in Community since our foundation.


  • Earlier on the 5th Br Ian and Br Aidan put on their high-vis jackets and set about replacing the traffic mirror at the bottom of our lane, which has been pretty ineffectual for sometime now. We are glad to report that the work was a success, and so visitors to the Abbey should feel a little more at ease when pulling out of the junction. Sadly our efforts to get other traffic calming measures in place have so far proved unsuccessful.


  • On Monday 12th Br Ian travelled to Leicester for a conference on Vocation and the Church, organised by the Ministry Division of the Church of England. The aim of the conference was to bring together those who give vocation advice, to share news and to discuss a range of pressing topics, such the on-going efforts to increase diversity within the Church.


  • On Wednesday 14th the Community were joined by brothers from the nearby Franciscan Friary at Glasshampton for a Safeguarding “top-up” delivered by Hilary Highton (Diocescan Safeguarding Adviser) and Simon Hill (chair of the Safeguarding Training Team).


  • A meeting of the Advisory Council was held at Church House in London on Thursday 15th, and Br Stuart and Sr Alison were both in attendance. Br Stuart then went on to visit the Community of St Anselm (COSA) at Lambeth Palace, for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s First Priority Working Group, where he also bumped into the head of the German Lutheran Church. Br Stuart was back there on the 27th for a meeting of the COSA trustees. In the same week he had been at Winchester Cathedral offering reflections on ways in which they might get in touch with their Benedictine roots.


  • On Sunday 18th Abbot Thomas and Br Michäel went to celebration of the Eucharist at Worcester Cathedral presided over by the Reverend Canon Dr Alvyn Petterson, the Canon Theologian. Alvyn has been meeting regularly with Br Michäel over the last few years to discuss the theology of the Church Fathers, and this was Alvyn’s public farewell before he retires to Oxford.


  • Professor George Castledine, who has died aged 72, was a faithful retreatant here at Mucknell Abbey, and a good friend to the Community. Easter Week will feel incomplete without him. On Thursday 22nd Sr Sally represented us at a Memorial Service held in Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire.


  • As you read this we may still be busy planting trees. We began on the 28th, mostly battling against driving rain and high winds, but sometimes under a glorious winter sun. There are almost half of the 40 Scots pine left to plant, as well as 50 Hornbeams. These will replace the many Ash trees which caught dieback and had to be removed.

Alison tree planting

Stuart tree planting

Anthony tree planting


  • For the bird-watchers among you Br Anthony has kindly contributed this winter survey: ‘Most of our regular visitors for the winter have arrived now. Meadow pipits and the winter thrushes (field fares and redwings) are back with us and already making inroads into the berry crops in the hedgerows. Large numbers of blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, greenfinches and goldfinches are coming to the feeding station. The greater spotted woodpeckers are busy too on the Suet blocks. Kestrel, sparrow hawk, buzzard, carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws are daily visitors. Bullfinch, jays and green woodpeckers can be seen along the boundary walk. Stock doves and mistle thrushes are forming their winter flocks and we see them scavenging on the pastures. Work is beginning on the tree planting and our neighbours will be doing some remedial work on the pastures which need scarifying.