Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Category - "Making contacts":

Gladstone’s Library: A Writer’s and Reader’s Dream


Feeling frazzled? Overworked? Caught up in the daily round? In need of a break? In need of space in which to write, read, reflect or simply to be?

Look no further, but book yourself into Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in North Wales. You may live some distance away (I drove four hours to get there) but, in Michelin terms, it is a vaut le voyage destination in its own right. It is set out like Napoleon’s library at Malmaison, which is a brilliant idea in a large room as it successfully divides it into a series of mini-Malmaison personal libraries for each reader.


There you will find a peculiarly English, nay Anglican, setting in which to do any or all of the above. Some come on a modified retreat, with solitude in their ‘cells’, daily Eucharist in the chapel, and  interspersed with communal meals at which heart speaks unto heart. A gentle nudge in this direction is provided by the deliberate absence of television in any of the bedrooms. Others come to finish their thesis or novel, knowing that someone else will cook and clean for them and supply good food at regular intervals. Others still are simply in search of a base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, interspersed with lively and intelligent conversation at the beginning and end of the day. St. Deiniol’s (its original name) is part club, part Oxbridge college, part cloistered monastery whose constituent parts form the large house and library of a host who asks nothing more of you than to behave as a civilised guest –  and settle the extraordinarily reasonable bill at the end of your stay. (Adding whatever you can afford as a donation seems the least one can offer in addition).

I call it ‘Anglican’ because guests understand that they are expected to obey the ‘golden rule’ of treating others as they themselves would be treated – and they do. The social contract works because both sides understand what is expected of them. An illustration: I needed help with my suitcase and the lovely intern, finishing her PhD on neo-Victorian literature while helping behind the reception desk for a few months, cheerfully and kindly carried it for me.

The tone is set by the Warden of fourteen years, the Revd Peter Francis, who tweaks the injunction at the end of the Eucharist to  “And what does the Lord require of us?  Just this: To act justly, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” The use of the word ‘kindness’ rather than ‘mercy’ (the more usual translation of Micah 6.8) I found very moving, and indicative of the ethos of the whole place.

I was on my own and had thought I might feel lonely, although I was deliberately seeking a period of solitude and quiet away from the telephone and demands of social media. I need not have worried. When I wanted companionship and conversation, there was always someone to talk to, and when I wanted solitude no one thought it strange or unsociable (How many hosts can you say that of?!) I met a very wide range of people, including visiting Canadians and Americans, who all agreed that Gladstone’s Library is a unique haven which deserves to be treasured (as it is) and used to the full (as it needs to be if it is to thrive).

Thank-you, Peter, your visiting chaplain (Methodist, lest I have given the impression it is exclusively Anglican!) and all the staff for a stay that was both recuperative and invigorating. I can’t wait to come back!



Note: I stayed at Gladstone’s Library for four days, with a two-day course in the middle on ‘The Future(s) of Anglicanism’. This was a fascinating, and I think historically important, session, and I will be blogging about it in the next few weeks.


The illustrations are taken from the website, with the kind permission of the Revd Peter Francis.



The Sound of Silence

I have made a new friend. In the early hours of this morning, as I was tweaking my posts and twittering on twitter, as you do when you can’t sleep, I started chatting online to the friend of a Facebook friend whom I had befriended (still with me?) because we shared common interests in Flanders and Swann and that marvellous quote by Alice Roosevelt “If you haven’t got a nice word to say about anyone, come and sit next to me.” And though I may not be at exactly the same altitude as him on the church candle, his description of himself as ‘High Church Latitudinarian Anglican’ sounds pretty compelling to me. He writes like an angel, with that gift of establishing an immediate bond of sympathy across the ether which any writer trying to communicate with an audience would envy. He has no blog of his own at the moment, but has kindly allowed me to offer the following as a guest post. We would both appreciate your comments. Over to the Revd Richard Haggis:

The Sound of Silence
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given” we sing at Christmas time, and yet Easter time is much the same – there is silence from the tomb as the great and extraordinary event of the Resurrection actually happens. If it actually happened. Of course it did – we’d half of us be out of a job otherwise! Oh wait, I am out of a job! Christian art generally engages with the risen Christ – standing boldly atop the tomb or with Mary Magdalen in the garden or at the barbecue on the beach – but we read nothing of the moment, presumably glimpsed only by angels, when life was restored to death.

On this day sixteen years ago I was ordained a deacon of the Church of God. On this day eleven years ago, I was licensed as a parish priest to Saint Giles-in-the-Fields. Both make me think of silence. Some of the evangelicals on our ordination retreat struggled a lot with the rule of silence. One said she thought it was “rude” to be amongst strangers and not talking to them. Saint Giles had a congregation which appreciated silence in the intercessions, probably, on average, the most mature congregation, spiritually, I ever ministered to. Chequered times since, but I do not for one moment regret the privilege of ordination, nor the greater privilege of serving some very wonderful people. And even the less wonderful were pretty wonderful.

I was talking to a charming young lady at a party lately swapping notes about how much we liked walking alone in the dark, preferably in the rain, and it was the silence we agreed we both enjoyed, a sort of blanket of privacy, making the world and its woes irrelevant, and allowing and encouraging us to think our own thoughts. So many people these days fill up the silence with music, piped straight into their ears – Joyce Grenfell wrote a prescient song about that, when she noticed that piped music was broadcast in the ladies “and into the gents … they tell me”. (Bring Back The Silence And Deserve Our Thanks.)

I’ve known a few priests who are terrified of silence. This seems a shame. How else will they ever hear the “still small voice”?

But silence is a two-edged sword. There’s the mutual silence of calm content between friends or partners, and the silence of unexpressed grudges and sorrows; the warm silence of contemplation in the small of the night, and the silence of terror at real or imagined horrors; the silence of the aquarium and the sleeping cats, and the silence of the empty nursery, the deathbed vacated; and the silence that draws us towards the silence of God, into the transfiguring quiet of that emptying tomb.

Then there’s the silence when the bloody telly is switched off.

So, I’m broadly in favour of silence, but I know there’s a downside.

Littlemore, Oxford

2 July 2011

The video is attributed to i-church,which you can find online here

‘You gotta circulate, else you won’t percolate’

Marjorie Wiley Crutchfield Kenyon was my most unforgettable character. I met her in the late 1960s when I was 17, on one of her annual trips to London from her Connecticut home to find an apartment. She took me with her to see what I called a flat, which looked very nice to me but which she pronounced quite unsuitable. She was looking for a first floor apartment at a good address in an architecturally distinguished building in one of London’s squares with a garden in the middle. Quite a tall order, but it took me many years to realise that she didn’t really want to buy such an apartment, she was more interested in the chase which gave purpose to her annual visits to escape the cold New England winters.

I used to lunch with her at the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly, where she based herself. The lunch was a frugal sandwich and a cup of coffee, for she was watching her pennies, but you would have thought it was lobster at the Ritz. She was the greatest of great ladies, and did not hesitate to give me lessons in deportment and etiquette. She told me stories of her grand past, of the family home in New York’s Washington Square, with its own carriage house, which the family left for Newport in the summer. She told me about the cotillions, the visits to each other’s houses and the yacht trips to Spanish Town, then the capital of Jamaica. I swallowed it all, until we got to Spanish Town. There was no Google in those days, but a quick trip to the library told me that Spanish Town had not been the capital of Jamaica since 1872. She did look immensely old, but it gradually dawned on me that we were in the realm of fantasy, based on the novels of Henry James, Willa Cather and who knows else. Once I realised this, I played along happily. She was a great story-teller and needed little prompting to launch into stories of her childhood and time as a debutante. I loved it all.

When I was 22, I went to live in New York. As you could then, I turned up in Manhattan with a few dollars and some introductions. I found myself a job at the British Information Services at 845 Third Avenue and spent three of the most exciting years of my life. Weekends in Old Lyme with Marjorie in her clapboard house were, as you can imagine, the greatest possible antidote to the single life in Manhattan. But Marjorie now regarded it as her main mission in life to find me a husband (no easy task in 1970s Manhattan). She decided that the best way of doing this was to go to church, and braced herself to spend a weekend with me in the city. We went together to St Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue, lingering over the post-service coffee. I could see that, while the service was lovely, it was not going to work for me as a marriage market as I had never been with such a homogeneous group of people – they had all clearly known each other since they were in their cradles. I had a similar group of people whom I knew in London; Marjorie found it difficult to accept that my main reason for coming to New York was to rebel and meet people I would never otherwise have met.

But, and we are now getting to the point of this shaggy dog story, her parting words to me each time I saw her were ‘You gotta circulate, else you won’t percolate!’ Bless her, she meant it in a social context but I have realised since starting the Lay Anglicana website and trying to spread the word about the Anglican Covenant that it is also a great motto for the digital age and campaign trail.

Thank-you, Marjorie, for your friendship. (Oh yes, and I did find a husband eventually, back in England and many years later).

We rely on donations to keep this website running.