Search Results for: jellicoe sermon

Jellicoe sermon 2014 – Fixing the jigsaw puzzle

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Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 16.19.18Each year, one of CTC’s staff or partner church leaders preaches the Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford – a chance to engage a new generation of students in inner-city ministry. This year’s sermon was given by Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere, who is also preaching at the CTC Celebration on 28 October!

“We come here today to honour the legacy of Father Basil Jellicoe, Magdalens Missioner to Somers Town in the 1920s. Born privileged, on 5th February 1899, Fr Basil studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, before training for the priesthood at St Stephens House. Jellicoe regarded the state of his parishioners’ housing as disgraceful and employed his sermons to address this. His said to have described the slums as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual disgrace.’

What did he do about it?

He toured the country in his small car fundraising and selling loan stock to fund more befitting housing projects. He gained the support of the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Housing Minister in the St Pancras House Improvement Society. In this venture and became the founder of the St Pancras Housing Association and several other housing associations in London, Sussex and Cornwall. (more…)

Director preaches 2013 Jellicoe Sermon

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profile-AngusEvery year, Magdalen College, Oxford hosts a Jellicoe Sermon, in honour of Fr Basil Jellicoe.  Fr Basil studied at the College, and went on transform the rat-infested slums of London’s Somers Town as part of the Magdalen College Mission.

The sermon is given by someone connected with CTC and our Jellicoe Community.  This year’s sermon was delivered by our Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie.  The Gospel reading was Luke 18.9-14.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Most people remember Rosa Parks for a single, iconic act in the summer of 1955.  On her bus home from work, she sat down as usual in the area reserved for black people.  As the front (which was reserved for whites) filled up, the bus driver moved the “colored” sign behind Parks, and told her to move to the back to accommodate the extra white passengers. (more…)

Jellicoe Sermon: ‘A life that counts beyond self’

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Bishop Doug Miles, from koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore, is a leading figure in community organising in the US.  Last week, he preached the 2010 Jellicoe Sermon in Magdalen College Chapel:

As I prepare to preach this sermon, I am requesting those present who are 35 and older to help me preach. If you are in agreement with what I say, give affirmation by a nod of the head, the wink of an eye or by letting a smile play across your lips.

M. Craig Barnes, in his marvellous book ‘When God Interrupts’, makes the assertion that “God must save most of us from ‘the life of our dreams’”. That most of us do not end life, nor find ourselves at this junction of life doing what we thought as teenagers or even young adults doing what we had wished for or expected doing, most of us are not married to the heartthrob of our teen years. Many of us are not doing professionally what was our original life’s quest. Many of us are not living where we thought we would reside or are not travelling roads we thought we would travel.

Thanks be to God that in His omniscience, He has delivered us from the life of our dreams. Why does he do this? I venture to say that He does so for one of at least three reasons.

1. The life of our dreams may not have been what was best for us.

2. It may not be what God wants for us.

3. It may have ended in our destruction rather than our usefulness for the kingdom.

This was true of a shepherd boy king named David in his humanity; and probably true for Jesus in his ever dawning sense of his divinity.

David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, in the culture from which he comes, could not have dared dream that his life would carry him down the road its does nor to the dizzying heights he attains. In Jewish culture of that day the youngest son was last in line for inheritance, last in line for the patriarchal blessing last in line to secure a wife, last in line to leave the father’s house. Last, last, last. It did not matter how gifted he was, nor what spirit of ambition drove him or how willing he was to work – his destiny was to be last.

Yet David probably never dreamed of becoming a great psalmist and blessing family, friends and the kingdom with the gifts so richly bestowed upon him. Hear him:

“In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord
And in your help how greatly he exults.”

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
The world, and those who live in it.”

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

“The Lord is my light and salvation: whom shall I fear?”

A blessed musician with ability that far exceeded the ordinary, David probably dreamed of dazzling the ladies with the playing of the lute or mesmerizing a generation with the melodies produced at his hand.
He never imagined he would be King of all Israel and called a “Man after God’s own heart”.

And most assuredly our Lord – Jesus – made a similar journey to his place between two thieves on a cross on a hill called Calvary. In his humanity as a child, he could not have possibly the winding road of his life nor that one day, centuries later we today would be gathered in this place dedicated to His glory as we worship Him as “King of kings and Lord of lords”.

He had such an impossible beginning that we have glossed over with tradition and the hindsight of adulation. A bastard child of what seemed an illicit relationship between a young woman engaged to a man probably four times her age who on the eve of her marriage turns up pregnant by an unknown father.

Tradition said and literally required that she at worst be stoned to death for her seemingly shameful dalliance and at best be returned in shame to the house of her father as damaged goods.

So as a child – a middle child of a stepfather with sons and daughters both older and younger than Jesus, and Jesus as Mary’s eldest child who bore the chief responsibility for her welfare in old age – his horizons were severely limited by life’s circumstances.

Yet he probably dreamed of becoming a master carpenter in the king’s service who one day would be called upon to design and build the framework for some magnificent structure in Jerusalem – a structure that would dazzle men and be blessed by God. And as in the case of David, he too had to be rescued from the life of his dreams.

There are some seated here today who will be delivered from the life of your dreams and thanks be to God for that deliverance.

So how do we get from the life of our own dreams to a life that counts beyond itself? Allow me to suggest three quick points and I will be done.


To claim a life that counts beyond self one has to come to a day of decision for God.

Our faith is not a faith of osmosis whereby we can acquire a relationship with God simply by being around people who have such a relationship. Religious faith is like a tooth brush – each person should have his or her own and use it regularly. And life will lead you in some directions that will cause you to choose for or against God, especially if you seek to be open to His revelations.

David found this to be true early in life. As he kept his father’s sheep there was a time when a bear came to destroy the flock and he slew the bear with sling shot in hand. On another occasion a lion attempted to harm the flock and once again sling shot in hand he killed the lion. What some would have pointed to as either luck in human skill David saw as divine intervention for His sake.

The Bible informs us that age 12, Jesus is found by a frantic Mary searching for what she believed to be her lost son, finds him in the Temple in Jerusalem, and when chastised Jesus responded, “Did you not know I must be about my father’s business?”

We do not know what revelation led to that declaration but we do know that 18 years later he sits in a synagogue in Nazareth, quotes from the prophet Isaiah, and claims a place in the prophetic tradition of Israel: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”

If you want a life that counts beyond self – in the days of your youth choose for God.


To live a life that counts beyond self requires a willingness to take risks, we are challenged to dare to be different – to march to the beat of a distant drummer.

One day David took provisions to his older brothers who were engaged in battle against the Philistines – as he approached the battlefield he found a giant named Goliath daring the children of Israel to send down to the valley a man that would dare to stand up to him. David saw “teachers, scholars, pastors and preachers, captains and generals” on the mountain side afraid to go down to the valley. And this shepherd boy, this slight lad of shepherd status dared in the name of God to go forth and sly the giant.

Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, one day walked away from his carpentry shop, walked away from family and risked scorn, ridicule and pity because of what he believed to be God the Father’s claim in his life.

What are you willing to risk to be on the right side of justice, to be on the side of that arc of the universe that bends towards justice?

Are you willing to do as Jesus did and exchange the truth the moment for the fact of the matter?

The truth of the moment – Jesus gives up carpentry
The fact of the matter – He claims the Sonship of God

The truth of the moment – the lure of the prosperity of the healer
The fact of the matter – true treasures are found in heaven

The truth of the moment – the ridicule of men
The fact of the matter – The affirmation of the father: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

What are you willing to risk to claim a life beyond self?


To claim a life beyond self requires a willingness to be available to God.

In all his shenanigans and moral mess David always made himself available to God when god wanted to use him.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane made the conscious choice to make Himself available for a divine appointment on Cavalry.

God does not call us to be the best at anything – though some of you are and will be.

He does not challenge use to be the brightest – though some of you are.

He calls us to show up, available and willing to be used.

He calls up to show up, as Noah did to build the Ark.

To show up as Joseph did to save his family from famine.

Show up as Moses did to go back to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go.

Show up as Joshua did to fight the Battle of Jericho.

Show up as Daniel did to meet and slay a giant named Goliath

Show up as Nehemiah did to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Show up as Esther did proclaiming, “If I perish, I perish. I am gone to see the king.”

Show up as Jesus did for a date on Calvary.

And if we show up, God will show off in and through our lives.

Are you willing to live a life that counts beyond self?


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The Jellicoe Lecture

The Centre occasionally invites a prominent Christian thinker to speak about the relationship between faith and public life. The Lecture is named after Fr Basil Jellicoe whose ministry in the slums around Euston Station exemplified the historic Anglo-Catholic commitment to social transformation. Lecturers have included Terry Waite CBE and the Principal of St Stephen’s House, the Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward.

Jellicoe Sermon

The annual Jellicoe sermon in Magdalen College Chapel is given by a Christian leader involved in community organising. Centre Staff and Tutors also preach at a number of services in partner churches and colleges in Oxford.

The 2015 Sermon was preached by our research associate Revd Dr Simon Cuff, curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing.

The 2014 Sermon was given by Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere, of the Apostolic Pastoral Congress.

The 2013 Sermon was given by the Centre Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, the founder of the Jellicoe internship.

The 2012 sermon was preached by Captain Nick Coke of Stepney Salvation Army – a member of London Citizens, and a regular host of Jellicoe interns.

The 2011 sermon was preached by Fr John Caster SSC. At the time, Fr John was Team Vicar at St Mary’s, Somers Town (the parish in which Fr Basil Jellicoe ministered, and in which most of the affordable housing he secured is located). St Mary’s is now part of the Parish of Old St Pancras, a founder member of North London Citizens.

The 2010 sermon was preached by Bishop Doug Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church, Baltimore.


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Jesus meets us in our darkest hour

Richard Springer’s sermon on the National C of E Online Service for Corpus Christi, 2020

Populism and the politics of Jesus

Angus Ritchie’s 2019 Micah Lecture at Liverpool Cathedral, June 2019

The blessing of peace and the gift of power

Richard Springer’s sermon at St George-in-the-East, May 2019

Populism and the practice of Jesus

Angus Ritchie’s sermon for the Mayors of London at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, November 2018

We can believe in Jesus and Nehemiah

David Barclay, Jesus College, Cambridge, February 2016

Seeing like the saints

Simon Cuff’s 2015 Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford

“Just Church” Sermon series at St Peter’s Bethnal Green

19 January 2014: Adam Atkinson – “Grace and peace” 

26 January 2014: Caitlin Burbridge – “Scripture and Story”

9 February 2014: David Barclay – “Heaven and Earth”

16 February 2014: Andy Walton – “Choice and the Cross”

23 February 2014: Angus Ritchie and Adam Atkinson – “Show and Tell”

Echoing Mary’s “yes” to God

Angus Ritchie, Sermon for Candlemas at Westminster Abbey, 2 February 2014

What’s Theology got to do with Children’s Welfare?

Angus Ritchie, Edward Rudolph Lecture, Children’s Society, September 2013

Jellicoe Review published

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The Jellicoe Review 2010/11 is now online – with testimony from, and articles by, many of our interns and staff.  It also contains articles by Bishop Richard Chartres and Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch on Fr Basil Jellicoe, and the ways he has inspired the Jellicoe Community’s ongoing work, and Bishop Doug Miles’ Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College.

It’s an excellent way to get a sense of what the Jellicoe Community is and does, and what our internships involve.

Bishop Stephen to preach at Jellicoe service

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Pastor Peter Nembhard’s powerful sermon launched what is going to be a termly act of worship – in East London and also in Oxford – for the wider Jellicoe Community.  
We will soon be announcing dates and venues for our summer term services, but in the meantime we are delighted to confirm that the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell will preach at our autumn act of worship in East London.  This will be on the evening of Tuesday 11th October, at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine.

Celebrating Fr Basil & the Jellicoe Community

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Sermon preached at Magdalen College, Oxford on 6th February 2011, to mark the anniversary of Fr Basil Jellicoe’s birth, by The Revd Dr Angus Ritchie  (Fr Angus is the College’s Jellicoe Chaplain, and the Director of the Contextual Theology Centre in East London, which runs the Jellicoe Internship programme)

Many of you will have seen this week’s Chapel posters. Fr Michael has chosen a wonderfully retro photograph (above) – with a becassocked cleric, standing behind a bar. The priest in question is Fr Basil Jellicoe, Magdalen’s Missioner to Somers Town – back in the 1920s, one of the most wretched slums in London. (Our College Trust, which disburses funds to charities each term, is the successor to the Mission.)

Among his many distinctions, Jellicoe – slum priest, retreat conductor, social reformer – is the only Anglican priest to have inspired an entire musical. Jellicoe: The Musical had its brief moment of glory eight years ago, treating the residents of Somers Town to such hits as ‘St Pancras House Improvement Society’ and ‘A Parson Running A Pub’. While it has yet to hit the West End or Broadway, the musical is indicative of Jellicoe’s larger-than-life character, and the affection his memory continues to inspire in his old parish.

Jellicoe exemplified the best characteristics of that generation of Anglo-Catholic clergy. He had passion and prayerfulness, humour and charisma. Above all, he was inspired by the conviction that the life of God could and should become flesh in every earthly community.

Born on 5th February 1899, Fr Basil studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, before training for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House. Upon ordination, he was appointed Magdalen’s missioner to Somers Town. Jellicoe regarded the state of his parishioners’ housing as a scandal. As a good Anglo-Catholic, he knew the Eucharist to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spriritual grace” – a sign of the way God in Christ enters and redeems the material world. His sermons attacked the slums were a theological as well as a social outrage – they were, he said “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual disgrace.”

Jellicoe had been born into privilege and used his many connections to assemble a powerful alliance for change – enlisting the support of the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Housing Minister in his St Pancras House Improvement Society. He understood the importance of dramatic flourish – erecting vast papier mache effigies of the rats and bugs that infested the slums, and ceremonially torching them as the first slums were demolished. And he used the ‘new media’ of his age: making an early film of the conditions in which his parishioners lived, and making a mobile cinema in a trailer, so that those who lived in prosperity up and down the land could see what life in the slums was really like. After each showing he told them: “Now you know what life is like. You have no excuse for inaction.”

The Times’ obituary gives some flavour of Jellicoe’s extraordinary energy and enterprise: telling its readers that Fr Jellicoe “resolved that he would not rest till his people had homes fit to live in, and the rehousing schemes started by his society have already provided many excellent flats with gardens, trees, ponds, swings for the children, and other amenities. Although the rents charged are not more than what the tenants paid for the old slums, the loan stock receives 2 per cent and the ordinary shares 3 per cent.”

Jellicoe asked local people what they wanted (not a common practice at the time), and ensured the housing was beautiful as well as functional, with space for socialising and creativity. Not surprisingly, the beauty and layout of this college was also an important inspiration. Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch has observed: “Half a century before the development of London’s docklands, Fr Basil Jellicoe had pioneered an economically viable and morally inspiring form of ‘regeneration’. More recent initiatives have all too often alienated and displaced the original residents. Jellicoe’s version of neighbourhood renewal took local people seriously, and ensured their needs were given pride of place.”

Jellicoe’s vision transcended the narrower tendencies of Anglo-Catholicism. Archbishop Rowan Williams recounts a characteristic incident: “Father Basil was challenged by some of his more narrow-minded High Church friends about why he would come to celebrate and preach in a parish church like [St Martin-in-the-Fields] where the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved. Jellicoe said he had no problem at all in coming to preach in a church part of which was reserved for the service of Christ in the form of his poor.” The sacrament we celebrate today was, for Jellicoe, about a deep and generous engagement with the world – not a pious retreat from it.

Fr Basil was a realist – living in the world as it is, and inspired with a vision of the world as it should be. We see this realism in the economics of the St Pancras House Improvement Society, and in Jellicoe’s willingness to move beyond the confines of one church tradition. We also see it in his attitude to alcohol. Jellicoe himself was teetotal, and yet one of his most controversial schemes was the establishment of a College for Publicans. His reasoning was pragmatic not judgmental. He wanted the drinkers of Somers Town to get good service and good beer – and to save them from the kind of pub that made its money by encouraging alcoholism and so devouring the whole of a family’s much-needed income.

Seven decades on, the Jellicoe Community was founded here at Magdalen. Its aim was to enable another generation of students to live Jellicoe’s convictions, on residential placements in East London. More recently, interns have been drawn from a much wider range of institutions – last year, Magdalen’s Antonia Adebambo and Ellen Lynch were joined by around 20 other students.

Today’s interns are placed in Christian congregations from a wide variety of traditions. Within the Church of England, these vary from charismatic evangelical right through to the smells and bells of Jellicoe’s own church, St Mary’s Somers Town. Jellicoe interns are also placed in Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal and Salvation Army congregations.

These churches are all members of London Citizens, the capital’s broad-based alliance. It contains over 160 dues-paying organisations – alongside churches there are mosques, temples, schools, student and trade unions. Their common action has achieved some striking results. London Citizens has won over £60 million pounds for low-paid workers, and secured the world’s first Living Wage Olympics. The Citizens UK Assembly in May secured commitments from David Cameron and Nick Clegg to the end of child detention in the asylum process, and to Community Land Trusts as a way of achieving decent, affordable housing in our own generation.

In organising, the action grows out of the relationships – relationships based on an attentive listening to people’s circumstances, passions and values. Community organising is not unique because of the things it campaigns for. What’s distinctive is the process. The action is not merely for the poorest and most marginalised in society – it is taken by them. People used to being passive recipients of whatever the political process deals out become agents of change. The process matters every bit as much as the results.

The work of community organising is very much in the spirit of Jellicoe: in its commitment to valuing and listening to local people; in its invitation and its challenge to those with wealth and status and in its realism – its willingness to engage with the world as it is and not simply to dream of the world as it should be. I hope community organising can also learn from the less positive aspects of Jellicoe’s story – focusing not on a charismatic individual (with the attendant dangers of burn-out – Fr Basil died of exhaustion, aged just 36) but participating in a process which is actually led by local people.

At a time when young people are supposed to be apathetic, the growth of Jellicoe Community shows there is a real appetite for engagement with social and economic justice – engagement driven by the very people who are supposed to be hardest to involve. At a time when they are supposed to have given up on institutional religion, we find students increasingly drawn to a form of social action built on the life of local congregations. And at a time when the media is full of stories of church disunity, we find Christians working together across a wider and wider range of denominations and traditions. The approach of community organising is to build relationships around the issues on which we can agree. This is not to evade the serious issues of disagreement. Rather, the hope is through organising on the areas where passion and vision are shared, we can come to more contentious issues with deeper bonds of trust and solidarity.

In denouncing slum housing as “an outward sign of an inward disgrace” Jellicoe’s words and deeds proclaimed the intimate connection between spirituality and social justice. Fr Basil knew that when the Spirit of God warmed and transformed human hearts there would be evidence of this in the public sphere as well as the personal, in the transformation of slums as well as the celebration of sacraments. Of course, the Jellicoe internship is just one of many different ways in which you might rise to that challenge.

Last term, Bishop Doug Miles preached the Chapel’s annual Jellicoe sermon – choosing as his theme ‘A Life That Counts Beyond The Self’. Basil Jellicoe lived such a life; a life that counted for something, a life that is still having an impact, many decades on.

Like Bishop Miles’ sermon, today’s readings [Isaiah 58:7-10; Matthew 5:13-16] both challenge us. They ask what kind of life we want to live, what kind of church we want to be. Will we follow the stale path of maximising earnings and minimising engagement beyond the circles of the prosperous and fortunate – a life that may be outwardly religious but which is hardly salt or light? Or will we allow Jesus Christ to call us out beyond our self-absorption – into a life that is richer, fresher, fuller – a life that changes, and is changed by, the poverty and injustice of our own age?

Magdalen appoints ‘Jellicoe Chaplain’

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Magdalen College – Basil Jellicoe’s alma mater – has appointed the The Revd Dr Angus Ritchie as its Jellicoe Chaplain.  His role will be to oversee the development of the link between the College and East London, and act as Senior Member of the Jellicoe Society.  This is a continuation of work Angus has been involved in for some time – including setting up the Jellicoe Community, and arranging an annual Jellicoe Sermon in the College Chapel.

This year’s Jellicoe Sermon will be given by Bishop Doug Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church, Baltimore at 11am on Sunday 21st November.  Bishop Miles is a leading figure in BUILD, the city’s community organising alliance, and will be in the UK from 21-28 November on a speaking tour.  Other engagements include a keynote address at a conference on urban mission at Holy Trinity Brompton on 25th November.

Seeing like the Saints: working together towards ‘the world as it should be’

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Fr_Simon_-_Version_2The Revd Dr Simon Cuff is a CTC Research Associate and Curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing. This week, he delivered the 2015 Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford. Delivered on All Saints Day, Fr Simon reflects on how we might see the world as the Saints did; as it is, and how it should be…

“Michelle Obama once told of an outing with Barack Obama early on in their relationship. The romantic Barack had taken her to a meeting of local community leaders he’d worked with after leaving college. The future President stood up, she said: ‘and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be,”‘ a distinction often made by community organisers in America, but also those working in this country through the diverse alliance of faith and civil society institutions known as Citizens UK. (more…)

Four weeks in Somers Town

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Dr Dominic Keech, an ordinand at St Stephen’s House, spent four weeks this summer on placement in Fr Jellicoe’s old parish, as part of the Jellicoe Community.  Dominic worked alongside Fr John Caster, who is preaching the 2011 Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford on 23rd October.

In July, I spent four weeks living and working in the Anglican parish of Old St Pancras, based at one of its four churches: St Mary the Virgin, Somers Town. This part of the borough of Camden forms a rectangle lengthways between Euston station and Mornington Crescent tube, bordered at the West by Eversholt Street and at the East by St Pancras International. It grew in the mid-nineteenth century with the train-lines running north. It is now an archetypal inner city hub of shops and offices, high density housing and travel interchange.
Somers Town is better known than the many urban estates which reflect it, perhaps through the documentaries which have told its important history, and the 2008 film Somers Town, by Shane Meadows. In common with much of London at the turn of the twentieth century, Somers Town was a place of condemnable conditions: dilapidated and infested housing, poor sewerage and intense overcrowding. In the 1920s, the remarkable ministry of Fr Basil Jellicoe initiated a scheme of slum clearance, and the foundation of a housing cooperative in which local residents – re-housed in new buildings but within their existing community – could vest their interests. Unlike much of Camden surrounding it, Somers Town remains a place of predominantly social housing, and many of the people who live there are related to the first residents of the St Pancras Housing Society homes.
Fr Jellicoe is symbolic of social action, deeply and stably engaged in a community, which flourishes in real change for people on the ground. It is a model of commitment to community which the parish of Old St Pancras (which also includes St Michael’s Camden Town, St Paul’s Camden Square and St Pancras Old Church) continues to take seriously. It is an inalienable part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition of those churches, which believes the Incarnation and the Sacraments of the Church are here to catalyse change in the world, and not only adorn it.
The parish has been involved in the foundation of North London Citizens from its outset, and established a listening campaign within its four churches early in 2011. The issue which surfaced most pressingly in those conversations was housing: as a basis for stable community for everyone, but particularly for the elderly and infirm; for vulnerable adults; for unrepresented and transient immigrants, and for low income families. This concern presented itself most consistently in Somers Town, where peoples’ homes are administered by housing associations, and the borough council.
I was invited to come to St Mary’s by its priest, Fr John Caster, and the Rector of the parish, Fr Philip North. They asked me to build in some way on their listening campaign, by hearing myself what was concerning people, and relating it to the bigger picture of social housing policy in a time of considerable political change. My time in the parish was split between investigating the history and current state of Somers Town’s housing stock, local government housing policy, and national plans laid out in the Welfare Reform and Localism bills; and listening to people talk about their housing situations.
Both national and local policy promise to change the way social housing is funded in a very radical way. This in turn will have an effect on the way housing associations and councils set rent levels – to perhaps as high as 80% of the market rate, an impossible increase for lower and even middle income households in urban areas. Inner London estates, in close proximity to high-cost private housing, are therefore in a highly compromised position. If welfare reform reduces the level of Housing Benefit without regard for local variations in real housing cost, this looks set to impact some of the most vulnerable people in our cities. I produced a detailed discussion paper for the parish, which attempted to draw together these different aspects of the housing scene as they are emerging. I hope it will be of use as the Old St Pancras team develops its role in the work of North London Citizens. It was a privilege to be so warmly welcomed by people at St Mary’s, who want to make sure that the inheritance of Jellicoe carries on animating their community to come together, and change things for the better.

Packed launch event

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Oxford saw two packed Jellicoe events this week, both with the inspirational Bishop Douglas I. Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church in inner-city Baltimore.  Bishop Miles has been at the heart of broad-based community organising, in the city which originated the Living Wage Campaign.  He preached the Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen on Sunday, and addressed the launch of the Oxford Jellicoe Community on Monday.

His sermon will be online soon – and the Oxford Jellicoe Community is now on Facebook here

Pictured: Bishop Miles (centre) with Jellicoe Community Development Manager Laurence Mills and 2010 intern Antonia Adebambo

Pentecost: When the spirit comes, the world is transformed!

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Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.09.48In place of our weekly blog, we bring you a sermon preached by our Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, at Magdalen College, Oxford, for Pentecost. In it he covers the Holy Spirit, Social Justice and one of our heroes… Fr Basil Jellicoe.

“Bishops are often told to stick to spiritual matters, and to stay out of politics and economics. Such advice is half right: the Church and its leaders certainly should focus on to spiritual matters. After all, that’s why Bishops get to wear such funny hats. The curious shape of the mitre is modelled on the flames of the Spirit that descended on the Apostles at Pentecost. They remind us that Bishops are “spiritual” leaders, and indeed that the mission of the whole Church is a “spiritual” one.

The problem comes when we assume that political and economic questions – the quality of people’s housing, the wages they are paid, the way a country treats refugees – are somehow not “spiritual” issues. (more…)

Director preaches at St Paul’s Cathedral

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profile-AngusFounder and Director of CTC, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie preached the sermon at Evensong on Sunday 16th June at St Paul’s Cathedral. Mentioning Pope Francis, the Wesley Brothers and the funniest joke in the world, you can read the text below…


Back in 2002, Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire did some research to discover the funniest jokes in the world.  He set up LaughLab, a website where people could submit and vote on different jokes, in order to establish which ones had the broadest appeal across ages and cultures.

Alas, many of these jokes aren’t exactly suitable for a sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral.  But, whether they are dodgy double-entendres, or rather more innocent puns, the best jokes exploit the fact that many of our words are ambiguous.  (Apparently, one of the most popular jokes goes like this. Two fish are in a tank, and one says to the other: How on earth do you drive this thing?) (more…)

Reflections & prayers for Sun 29 July

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This Sunday’s Gospel reading is John 6.1-21 (or 1-15)
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” …Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Earlier this month, we looked at the importance of taking people and their gifts seriously.  We see the same here: Peter is dismissive of the boy’s offering, while Jesus sees its potential (not least in the way it sets an example of sharing). 
Last week, we looked at the importance of the balance between material and spiritual feeding.  Jesus knows that the crowd need food as well as sermons.  We can’t witness to God’s love, if we don’t show that love in our day-to-day behaviour. 
As the Letter to James says: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Ministering to people’s physical needs – whether feeding the hungry, or building a world where they aren’t hungry again – is one way we make the Gospel a reality, and open people’s lives to the power of the Spirit.
But we cannot live by bread alone.  The value of sharing goes beyond the purely material.  When we share of what God has given us, we are drawn into the communion – the love – that is at the very heart of God.  Today’s Gospel reading not only teaches us about the human generosity and sharing that draws us into the life of God.  It also points us to the feast of the Eucharist – where God’s self-giving in Jesus takes flesh for us in bread and wine.
Prayer Intentions
Pray for David Barclay, starting work on 1 August at the Contextual Theology Centre on its Call to Change initiative with the Church Urban Fund.  Pray that this work will help churches to engage with their neighbours to build generous and just communities. 

Pray also for all communities affected by the Olympics – and for local initiatives such as Highway Neighbours helping people support one another in living with its impact, and enjoying the historic events.

From Ascension to Pentecost: A Reflection

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This sermon was preached yesterday by Angus Ritchie (founder of the Jellicoe Community) at Magdalen College, Oxford.  The readings were 1 John 4.11-16 and John 17.11-19

There are very few statues or sculptures of our Lord’s Ascension.  It’s always difficult to convey movement in a statue.  How on earth do you depict Jesus going up into the heavens?  Painters certainly show it as a stately and seemly movement – so the sculptor cannot show hair or clothes being ruffled by high speed, upward travel.  How, then is movement to be expressed?

A number of churches have tried to rise to this artistic challenge. One congregation has commissioned a vast helium balloon of Jesus in a cloud.  The Shrine Church at Walsingham adopts a different approach.  Its Chapel of the Ascension has a cloud sculpted into its roof, with two feet sticking out.

I must confess, when I first saw the Chapel roof, my reaction was to collapse in fits of giggles.   Because sculpture cannot easily convey movement, there is an unfortunate ambiguity.  It isn’t entirely clear whether the feet are on their way up or down.  It rather looks as if the ceiling has fallen in, and someone’s feet are now dangling through the roof.

But once you’ve got over its unintended comedy, the sculpture conveys some fundamental truths about the nature of the Ascension.

For it shows us who and what has gone, without telling us precisely where he has gone.  We know who has gone: Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord.  In the Walsingham sculpture, the feet ear the wounds of the cross.  We know what has gone: Christ’s physical body.  In the Easter season the Gospels have been emphasising over and over again the physicality of Christ’s resurrection.  Our risen Lord is not simply some spirit who has shuffled off his mortal coil.  In the resurrection God not abandon our physicality – he rescues it from death.

So we know who and what has gone – but where exactly has our ascended Lord gone?  Christians disagree on whether the story of the Ascension should be taken literally.  But even if we take it completely literally, we cannot imagine that Jesus’ body continued to ascend on the other side of the cloud.   Today’s Gospel reading makes that clear: Jesus tells his disciples he is going back to the Father, not on an extended voyage into outer space.

That’s what I like most about the Chapel of the Ascension at Walsingham.  We only see the feet.  When we think about what lies on the other side of the cloud, words and images begin to fail, and so they should.

The Christian faith is that human beings have a physical and spiritual future.  Our story does not end with death, and its continuation is not merely about some kind of half-life in a world of ghostly shadows.  Our story – our whole being – is taken into God; the God who holds the world in being, but whose presence in this world is obscured by sin and death.  

The Bible is somewhat reticent about what this future will be like.  It is of necessity a mystery, because our future with God is beyond human understanding.

That shouldn’t surprise or trouble us.  I don’t know how many of you saw last term’s debate between Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins in the Sheldonian Theatre.  (If you didn’t, but are still interested, the footage remains online at   One thing that this debate made clear is that the difference between Williams and Dawkins lies in the ambition and scope as well as the content of their picture of reality.

Richard Dawkins longs for a day when an exhaustive and comprehensible explanation of everything is on offer – a scientific theory which will account for and describe reality without remainder.  Rowan Williams thinks the world is more mysterious than that. 

The position of Archbishop Rowan, and indeed of any thoughtful Christian, is that there is an inexpressible depth to the world.  As Christians, we’re not in the business of offering a comprehensive explanation of every detail of reality.  We recognise that many aspects of reality can be researched and understood, but others pass human understanding.  As one writer has put it, life is not simply puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be experienced, a gift to be lived.

This is not a plea for blind faith.  As the Archbishop’s dialogue with Dawkins made clear, Christians can give good reason for thinking the world has this kind of depth.  There is a genuine argument to be had between those who think science can one day explain everything, and those who think that the scientific account of the world leaves open some further question about the origin and destiny of our world.  This is the true boundary between faith and reason. If there is a God who passes all human understanding, our knowledge of that God will depend not only on our reasoning, but on his self-revelation.  And the Christian faith is that God’s self-revelation is centred on Jesus Christ, His Word made Flesh.

The Letter to the Hebrews talks of Jesus as the ‘pioneer of our salvation’.  A pioneer leads the way through uncharted territory.  Jesus, who lives the life we ought to have lived, and dies the death we ought to have died, shows us that there is a hope beyond the grave.  In his resurrection, we see that our personality and our physicality have a future.

In a moment, we will recite the Creed, which sketches out the shape of this future hope.  It speaks of Christ ascending into heaven, of him coming again in glory, establishing a kingdom which shall have no end.  But beyond this the Creeds, and the Bible, do not go into huge amounts of detail.  We are given an array of pictures of what lies beyond, but they are just that: images and metaphors, glimpses of a glorious future that is beyond our understanding.

These glimpses of the future are given so that we might have the confidence to live with love and courage here and now.  As St Luke recounts the Ascension, angelic figures ask the disciples “why do you stand looking at the clouds?”  And in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of his disciples not being of the world, but being sent into the world – sent to proclaim and embody the love that flows within the heart of God.  As we heard in our Epistle, No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

How does God abide in us, now that our risen Lord no longer walks among us?  How are we to have the grace and power to embody the very love of God?  The answer is in the next verse of the Epistle: By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit.

That is why these days between the Feast of the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost have a special significance in the life of the church.  We rejoice that the pioneer of our salvation has borne our wounded humanity into the life of God – with the hope that gives us, both of the safe keeping of those who have gone before us, and of a day when the whole creation will be renewed in love, in beauty and in justice.  And we rejoice that God has sent his Holy Spirit, that the love, the beauty and the justice of Christ might take flesh in this world, here and now.

This year, Christian Aid Week overlaps with these days of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost.  This is a good reminder – that the hope of an eternal future with God does not leave us gazing fondly into the heavens.  Rather, God calls us to be inspired by that hope, and sends us the Holy Spirit, that Christ may be made present here and now.  As Christian Aid’s slogan puts it, we are called to believe in life before death as well as afterwards.

After we have said the Creed, offered our Intercessions and shared the Peace of Christ, Fr Michael will lead us in the Eucharistic Prayer: taking bread and wine, ordinary elements of the physical creation, and praying these words

grant that, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood;

The Holy Spirit enables the Church – through the sacraments, through our common life, through acts of love, mercy and justice – to embody as well as proclaim her ascended Lord.  So as we gather at the altar, we another of today’s prayers has already been answered  For earlier in the service, Fr Michael sang today’s Collect:

we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us thine Holy Spirit to comfort us and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before.

In this Eucharist, we are both comforted and exalted.  We are lifted to glimpse something of our glorious future in Christ.  It  a future in grow in communion with God and all his children  – those we see here, and those from whom we are now divided by distance or by death.  And this foretaste, this glimpse of glory, is not given not to distract us from our earthly pilgrimage.  Rather, it gives that pilgrimage its direction, its  confidence and its power.

Pastor Peter preaches at Merton

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Peter Nembhard, Pastor of one of our Pentecostal congregations, preached a powerful sermon on Moses, anger and justice – at a special Jellicoe event in Merton College, Oxford.  Song of Moses brought together a group of Christians from very different traditions and contexts – College Chapels and St Aldate’s and St Mary Magdalen Churches in Oxford and Pastor Peter’s ARC in East London – to pray and reflect together on the call to social justice.

Jellicoe intern Daniel Stone gave testimony on the impact of being on placement at ARC.  Daniel has since been elected Vice-President (Charity & Communities) of Oxford University Students Union.

The service was one of a series of events in which the Jellicoe Community has been connecting faith and life in Oxford, including
…an extended Mass at St Mary Magdalen, interspersed with teaching on why things are done as they are in the liturgy – and its implications for Christian life
…a series of workshops on Community Organising (arranged by Sarah Santhosham, who will be a Jellicoe intern in Shadwell this summer)
…sermons at Balliol, Corpus Christi and Magdalen by clergy from our partner churches

Coming up – on the evening of Wednesday 22nd June – is an event with two of the leading thinkers on faith and organising, Baron Glasman and Prof John Milbank.  Full details of this final Jellicoe event of term will follow soon!

“Meekness isn’t weakness”

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It’s been a week of action for the Jellicoe Community.  At our home, the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, a packed chapel heard Pastor Peter Nembhard’s powerful sermon on Action, Power Justice.  Pastor Peter (above) is Senior Pastor at ARC (A Radical Church) in Forest Gate, Newham – host to three of our Jellicoe interns.  He preached on the story of Moses, drawing out the ways in which God called him to channel and discipline his anger at injustice – turning him from a violent and impetuous young man, to the leader of the Hebrew slaves in their journey of liberation.

Drawing on later examples of Biblical leaders, and in particular the leadership exercised by Jesus, Pastor Peter told us that “Meekness isn’t weakness.  It is power which is obedient to love”.

Also this week…

the first dozen Jellicoe interns for this summer were selected after interviews in Oxford.  We also hope to have interns from the Universities of East London, London and Cambridge
…Mgr John Armitage describing the roots of Catholic social teaching in historic struggles for justice in East London – and its more recent application in London Citizens’ Living Wage Campaign – at this term’s Jellicoe Seminar at St Stephen’s House, Oxford
…Contextual Theology Centre staff teaching on Citizens UK’s five-day training
…the launch of the Centre’s new booklet on Effective Organising and Congregational Development and a new four-week course on faith and organising – details online at

Happy New Year!

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The ‘Fourth Debate’ with Cameron, Clegg and Brown held to account by our local leaders… a record number of Jellicoe interns… the 70th anniversary of Jellicoe’s death (with articles on Fr Basil, and the Community, in the Church Times – and the Bishop of London’s anniversary sermon )… Bishop Doug Miles’ launch of the Oxford Jellicoe Community…

…all these made 2010 a momentous year – with 2011 promising to be at least as full of action and of growth.

Events already in the diary include

– A new termly act of worship for Christians involved in citizen organising – on the evening of 21 February, with Pastor Peter Nembhard from ARC in Forest Gate

– The monthly Jellicoe Book Club in London – with our next meeting on 25 January (to discuss Phillip Blond’s Red Tory)

– a major national event on Bank Holiday Monday (2nd May) – details to follow

We will soon be blogging details of events in Oxford: our termly Jellicoe Seminar (this time on the Living Wage Campaign); a new Jellicoe Study Group; and a briefing for those interested in a Jellicoe Internship this summer or in the next academic year

Celebrating Fr Basil

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Over 200 worshippers gathered on Sunday evening to honour Fr Basil Jellicoe, in this 75th anniversary year of his death.  The service, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, included readings and prayers by Jellicoe Interns, and a sermon by the Bishop of London.  This was followed by a reception with presentations by the interns on their work this month and songs from Jellicoe: The Musical – first performed in 2003.

St Martin’s was chosen because Fr Basil ministered there towards the end of his life.  The evening included testimony from the daughter of the then Vicar, who recalled his ministry in the parish.

We are grateful to Origin Housing – the successor body to Fr Basil’s St Pancras House Improvement Society – for helping to fund the reception, and for St Martin’s for hosting this inspiring event.

75 years on…

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Fr Basil Jellicoe – slum priest, housing reformer and the inspiration behind today’s Jellicoe Community – died 75 years ago.  The anniversary will be marked with a special Choral Evensong at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London – with a sermon by the Bishop of London, and a drinks reception with this summer’s Jellicoe InternsAll are welcome.


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