All Saints Church BansteadSt Paul's Church Nork, BansteadSt Ann's Church BansteadUnited Reformed Church BansteadMethodist Church Banstead

The Banstead Five Churches Fellowship Weekend

at The Friars, Aylesford, Kent
25th-27th September 2009

On a Friday afternoon 25 of us gathered at The Friars, Aylesford, rapidly relaxing into its tranquil sunlit peace, with its old grey stone mellow in the sun’s glow and a few late roses still blooming round the Rosary Garden for those who attempted the Revd Pat’s meditative, prayerful Walk.

The friars of Aylesford are Carmelites, who returned here 60 years ago after ejection in the 16th-century Dissolution: the history of this branch of the Order was told to us by one of them as we toured the buildings on Saturday morning. Whether he talked of the friars’ original arrival on a marshy site, or the recent underpinning of the ancient Pilgrim Hall (where we ate our meals) or the ceramic artworks of Kossowski or the symbolic meanings of the lovely stained glass, his knowledge and feeling were equally impressive.

We were in Kent but mentally also partly in Norwich, learning about the 14th-century anchoress and mystic Julian. Our spiritual leader Revd Pat Westbrook gave us an introduction to Julian’s life and her Revelations of Divine Love on Friday evening, explaining how her long meditation on her visionary experiences yielded her ‘homely and courteous’ understanding of Our Lord’s love.

The next evening our practical leader, Richard Hagon, directed a dramatised overview of the fate of Julian’s book, and how her ideas relate to the modern world, with six completely unrehearsed players displaying unsuspected talents. Julian’s thought came to life with as the (imaginary) Brother John grumbled, recalling the good old days for his youthful assistant, and in today’s world Beelzebub debated with the Archangel Michael, to be confounded by Julian’s gentle, enduring vision.

On Sunday morning Revd Pat celebrated the Eucharist with a Celtic-influenced service in the little Cloister Chapel. She had asked the Revd Canon Gordon Oliver of Rochester Diocese to preach, which he did, most tellingly and memorably, on the profound simplicity of God. And most generously, since he was to move house next day. It was a wonderful end to an enlightening weekend, and we are all most grateful to Revd Pat and to Richard for all the work they put into it.

The Friars, Aylesford looking across the piazza
Touring the buildings on Saturday morning


For the next visit see the What's On page.

Report on the 2006 trip