Monday, 20 June 2011

Pushing boundaries in the home of Dick Turpin

The centre of Hoddeson ... a charming town in the Lea Valley, with timber-framed Tudor inns, market stalls and interesting shops and cafés (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Hertfordshire this week for the USPG Annual Conference 2011, which takes place from today [20 June]until Wednesday [22 June]. This year’s conference, ‘Pushing Boundaries,’ has a special focus on the importance of leadership development and health within Anglican global mission.

The conference, which runs from lunchtime to lunchtime, is being held at the High Leigh Conference Centre on the outskirts of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

The speakers at the conference this week include:

• The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt
• The Right Revd Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana
• The Right Revd Paul S Sarker, Moderator, Church of Bangladesh
• The Most Revd Maurício Andrade, Primate of Brazil

High Leigh ... the venue for the 2011 USPG annual conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I was last in High Leigh two years ago for USPG’s 2009 conference. High Leigh is set in the heart of the Hertfordshire countryside and stands in 40 acres of lawns, parkland and woodland.

From High Leigh, it’s a short walk into the nearest town, Hoddesdon (population 20,000), a charming town in the Lea Valley, with timber-framed Tudor inns, market stalls and interesting shops and cafés.

The White Swan ... a timber-framed, Tudor-style inn on the High Street in Hoddesdon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A number of these timber-framed inns lining the High Street date from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when the town was enlarged and her Secretary of State, Sir William Cecil, acquired the manor of Hoddesdonsbury. The Cecil family maintained its connection with Hoddesdon in the centuries that followed. This link is recalled in the name of the Salisbury Arms – the family has held the title of Marquis of Salisbury since 1789, although the pub itself dates back to the 16th century, when it was first known as the Black Lion Inn.

Many of Hoddesdon’s ancient inns remain to this day. As well as the Salisbury Arms, they include the Golden Lion (1535), the White Swan, which also dates from the 16th century, and the Bell (1660). Local lore says that it was from one of these inns that a “broad-shouldered, pock-marked man” called Dick Turpin operated during the 1730s, holding up travellers and stealing their possessions on the road between Hoddesdon and Ware.

Saint Augustine’s, Broxbourne ... a church in parish with a history that dates back to the 11th century (Photograph © John Salmon)

The local train station for Hoddesdon is at Broxbourne, and these two neighbouring villages, divided by Spital Brook but difficult to distinguish from each other, have been part of the same borough since 1935.

Broxbourne grew up on the Great Cambridge Road, now the A10, and Broxbourne High Street, like its counterpart in Hodesdon, is also lined with a number of old houses and inns dating from the 16th to the 19th century.

In the reign of Edward the Confessor, the Manor of Broxbourne was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The manor passed into Norman hands after the Conquest, and the Domesday Book mentions Broxbourne Mill. King John granted the manor to the Knights Hospitallers, and following the dissolution in the 16th century, the manor passed to John Cockin 1544.

Broxbourne’s parish church, Saint Augustine’s, stands a little to the east of the village and is Grade 1 listed building. The Domesday Book refers to a parish at Broxbourne in 1086 and to a priest, but not to a church.

The present church has a 12th century Purbeck marble font. But Saint Augustine’s was entirely rebuilt in the 15th century, probably funded by the Lord of the Manor, Sir John Say, who died in 1478. The tomb of Sir John and Lady Say remain in the church and is a National Monument. The church has other monuments and brasses dating from the 15th century, some of the Communion plate dates from the early 17th century, and three of the eight bells in the belfry date from 1615. Saint Augustine’s is now part of the Parish of Broxbourne with Wormley, formed in the late 1970s.

Today, Hoddesdon and Broxbourne are safer places for travelers and visitors than they were in the days of Dick Turpin. I look forward to some strolls around these streets and some walks in the countryside, as well as meeting some old friends and making some new friends.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a member of the council of USPG.

‘The Challenge of a Secular Age’ in Cambridge

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in the sunshine this morning ... the venue for this year’s summer school of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Cambridge this morning, on my way to a conference, and called into both Sidney Sussex College, where I have stayed and studied each summer since 2008, and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, which is the Orthodox house of theological studies in Cambridge.

The institute is based at Wesley House, around the corner from Sidney Sussex in Jesus Lane, and is a full member of the Cambridge Theological Federation as well as being a designated Allied Institution of the University of Cambridge and a Regional Partner of Anglia Ruskin University.

The IOCS was founded in 1999 with the blessing of all the Orthodox hierarchs in Western Europe. Guest lecturers and supporters have included Metropolitan Kallistos of Diocleia, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Father Thomas Hopko, Father Professor Andrew Louth, Archimandrite Symeon and Archimandrite Zacharias of Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Essex, and the late Metropolitan Antony of Sourozh.

I hope to be back in Cambridge again next month for the 12th Summer School of the institute, which takes place from 24 to 29 July in Sidney Sussex College.

Wesley House, Cambridge and the offices of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The theme of the summer school this year is ‘The Challenge of a Secular Age.’

This year’s Summer School promises to investigate the genesis and nature of secularism and to reflect on the role of the Christian faith in the contemporary world. Recent debates have shown that secularism is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon that defies easy analysis. An undifferentiated rejection of secularism is as unconvincing as its uncritical embrace.

The questions to be addressed at the summer school next month include:

● When and why did modern secularism come into being?
●In what way does secular thought influence our way of perceiving the world, and how is this influence manifest in the different spheres of public and private life?
●How are Christians to meet the ‘Challenge of a Secular Age’?

The speakers and topics include:

● Metropolitan Kallistos Ware: ‘Our Orthodox Answer to Secularism I: The Transfiguration of Christ’; ‘Our Orthodox Answer to Secularism II: Pray without Ceasing.’
● Dr Jonathan Chaplin, the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Tyndale House, Cambridge, and a member of the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge University: ‘Between Theocracy and Secularism: Religion and the State in Britain Today.’
● Dr Brandon Gallaher of the University of Oxford and Stipendiary Lecturer in Theology at Keble College: ‘An Alternate Modernity? Orthodox and Roman Catholic Engagements with Secularism and (Post-)Modernity, and the Nature of Episcopal Authority.’
● Dr Mihail Neamtu, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and for the Memory of Romanian Exile: ‘Communism: a Secularised Eschatology?’
● Revd Professor Nikolaos Loudovikos, Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy at the Superior Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki: ‘Psychology and Secularism,’
●Dr Irina Kirillova, of Newnham College, Cambridge, and the Department of Slavonic Studies: ‘“If there is no God, then all is permitted!” (FM Dostoevsky).’
● Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Orthodox Christianity at the University of Winchester: ‘Art: from Ritual to Voyeurism.’
● Revd Dr John Hughes, chaplain and tutorial adviser, Jesus College, and the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge: ‘Beyond the Secular Market: Christian Social Teaching and the Economic Crisis.’
● Dragos Herescu, graduate secretary, IOCS, and Durham University: ‘Secularisation and the Curious Case of the Orthodox Church.’

Another speaker, Alexander Ogorodnikov, is yet to be confirmed. He is a former chair of the Russian Orthodox Argentov Seminar, a peace activist, a Gulag survivor and the founder of several Russian humanitarian organisations.

The programme also includes a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, for the Divine Liturgy, followed by a tour of the monastery.

King’s College and King’s Parade in the morning sunshine in Cambridge today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

After my visit to Cambridge this morning, I headed south to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, where the annual conference of USPG (Anglicans in World Mission) begins this afternoon. I’m looking forward to my return visit to Cambridge next month.