A celebration the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Companions/Fraternity of the Community of the Resurrection St. Albans Group/Network

Compiled by Ros Johnson

We looked back in the records held at Mirfield and saw that a meeting was held on 30 May, 1970 at Frithsden. This may not have been the very first meeting of the St. Albans branch but it is the first on record that we have. Some of the Fraternity members (now known as Companions) have written to us with their experiences and memories of their earlier association with CR and we gratefully relate their comments here.

Mrs. Hilda Gooding writes from Bromham, Bedfordshire that her first "connection with CR dates from 1962 when I met Gabriel at a dinner party in Barbados and I think it was he who transferred me to the local group". John Hartup and Hilda were part of the original St. Albans group. 

John Hartup writes: "My wife and I have been connected with Community/Fraternity since the early 1970s. The starting point was a Mirfield Mission at my parish church - the Church of the Transfiguration, Kempston. That mission was led by Brother Michael and Father Jack Guinness and the team included some young theology students or priests, one of whom was Fr. Stan Taylor (now vicar of St. Andrew's,  Leeds - we still keep in touch). There were also two sisters from The Sisters of Charity. My wife and I were quite involved in our parish church at the time and became active participants in the "Home Team".  A year or so after that, Br. Michael asked us to join him on a number of similar missions in other parishes, including Orford (near Warrington).  For this we stayed at the vicarage where Fr. David Hope was parish priest (later to become Arch Bishop of York).  I remember well Fr. Hope going down with flu during the 10 day mission and my wife Rita helped to look after him!".

We both became Associates at about the same time and often attended meetings of the St. Albans branch of FR, which at that time were mostly held in the south of the diocese viz Little Gaddesden/Berkhamsted/St. Albans/Abbotts Langley areas.  Roger Turner was branch secretary at about that time and Fr. Howard Beech became our Chaplain. Roger carried on a goodly number of years until he asked me to take over because of pressure of work. I was able to extend the activities of the Branch to wider parts of the diocese and we held meetings at Bedford ( St. Paul 's Church), Luton (St. Saviour - where there was already a small, separate 'cell' with Fr. Geoffrey Northcott), Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage (St. George - Fr. Melvyn Barnsley).  I remember too that we had a meeting at a large private school near Watford which Father Aidan CR led and where he played the organ!

As time went on, our branch membership declined such that only a few were able to get to meetings. By this time, my secular work had intensified considerably and I could no longer take an active part.  A number of members decided that they would try and keep in touch by correspondence only"

However, Roger Turner from Malvern writes: "I am fairly certain Lorna Brown had re-convened an earlier founded St. Albans FR branch in 1969.  I am sorry I have no records now of those days.  I know that Phyllida Upstone is still around because she writes in the CR Quarterly.  But I had to be ruthless in packing up for Uganda 3 years ago and had no idea of another revival just on the way in or I should have kept the books. So there are no records of those days other than my personal diaries now in Masindi and memories, of course.  Canon Harold Beech was chaplain, followed by Clive Smith, both hospital chaplains.  The Revd Max Lee was also around; he marked my essays when I was in Reader training. I had been initiated at CR by Humphrey Whistler in 1965.  I am as certain as one can be about anything that long before next May I will be back in Masindi and only back in the UK if thrown out." (This was written in May 2010). 

The Revd. David Uffindell writes to say "I believe I was the first, or certainly one of the first, NSM clergy Companions as no-one was quite sure at Mirfield how an NSM could keep the Companions Rule.  For many years Fr. Luke Smith was my link with Mirfield and we always met at the Commemoration Day and when he was in the Shrewsbury area".

In 1987 there was a three day event from 16th to 18th October, with Fr. Peter Allan CR leading at: 

There is a note that in March 1988, the sub for the Quarterly magazine was 5.00!  

Apparently, there was then a revived branch meeting held for the 25th Anniversary of the founding and it was held at Aldenham School on 20th May 1995. Two of the teachers on the staff were Companions. The  last Chaplain there was an Oblate. The agenda for 1995 says: 1.15 Eucharist followed by lunch and meeting. 

I have seen a letter from Fr. Aidan CR, written at the time, which states "overhaul of Fraternity ... a little like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones but sure they will ultimately live!" That was in 1990. 

St. Albans City Hospital Chapel was used in 2000 and the group then seems to have folded. 

The Revd William Girard writes: "I regard myself as Rhodesian by adoption, having lived there from 1948 to 1965; as a boy to begin with at Penhalonga where my father was a mining Engineer and then after leaving school I pursued a legal career before coming to UK in 1965 to go to Mirfield. I also knew the Stebbing family at St. Luke's, Rhodesville, where Dorothy Stebbing was PCC Secretary;  I think I may in fact have taught Nicholas Stebbing to be a server!" 

Miss Kathleen Moxham of High Wycombe says: "I used to go regularly in the past to Summer Schools which CR ran at Wantage. One year I drove the then Superior, Fr. Jonathan Graham, from Wantage to Littlemore, Oxford to visit a mentally depressed member of FR. On the way we stopped at a church where he said the idea of forming the CR Community was first considered. The Graham brothers were such delightful people with fresh and imaginative interpretations of the faith, making it all come alive. It was a loss to the Community that they both died suddenly and relatively young."

We then come to 20 September 2007, when the re-invented St. Albans group first met for midday Eucharist in the Abbey and then repaired to a room in the Deanery for a buffet lunch. Ten attended the meeting, during which the Revd David Powell accepted our request for him to become our Chaplain and Kevin Sims became our Secretary.  Ros Johnson agreed to be the Facilitator. We decided to have four meetings a year. The following month, Kevin and Ros went up to Norwich to join that local group for the day and learn how they run their group. These ideas became the basis for the St. Albans group. Next Kevin scoured Crockfords for all CR trained priests living in neighbouring counties. He e-mailed them inviting them to join us and gradually built up a database of around 200 people wishing to receive our anticipated quarterly Newsletters, which would cover the Group's activities but also wider items of interest. On 23 May 2008 the St. Albans group organised a very successful Companions Day at Leighton Buzzard attended by 94 people - the first time a Companions Day had been held outside Mirfield. 

Since then, Father Nicholas Stebbing has become Chaplain for the Companions. A Companions branch has started in London (inaugurated at Southwark Cathedral), headed by Canon Andrew Nunn CCR and another at Brighton by Fr. Gareth Jones.  An attempt was made to start another at Portsmouth , but the local Companion/Fraternity members turned out to be too frail or elderly to make it stick.  However, Mrs. Jennifer Higginbottom is going to give it another go, supported by Canon Alan Wilkinson. 

So this is the story up to the present; an ever evolving one. Hallelujah to that!