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The college at Kelham Hall

The Kelham Rood by Jagger

Lesotho Priory: a haircut in the open

Michael Lapsley

The Society of the Sacred Mission is an Anglican religious community working in England, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Lesotho.

The Society began in London in 1883, the brainchild of Herbert Hamilton Kelly. It's initial purpose was to train men for the Korean mission, as it was then known. But its real mission turned out to be the training of men for the priesthood in England and overseas who would not otherwise have been accepted.

Within a few years, the Society and its college had grown and moved to Kelham Hall [top] where by 1960 it had about 80 students. The College's chapel at Kelham was famous for two things : the UK's largest concrete dome of the time (1928) and the Jagger Rood [left]. Falling numbers closed the Kelham College in 1973. By then it had produced about 3 500 men to serve.

In time, the Society's training work extended to the the founding of a large theological college in Adelaide, Australia, which has also since closed. Today some ten members still serve in two priories of the Society in Australia - one in Melbourne and one in Adelaide. A single brother lives and works in Japan, the priory there having closed some years ago.

Meanwhile the Society had expanded its work to South Africa and Lesotho, where its members developed Christian centres, schools and a teacher training college. Much of its schooling work there ceased with the introduction in 1954 of the Bantu Education Act by the then National Party government.

Today there is a small but thriving priory in Maseru [left], the capital of the independent country of Lesotho. Its young members engage in education, service of a small leper community and ministries to street children and HIV/AIDS victims. Some of its number are training for the priesthood.

In South Africa, Michael Lapsley [left] heads the unique Institute for the Healing of Memories. Michael was himself badly wounded by a letter bomb during his time as a chaplain to the African National Congress. His work now focuses on helping those scarred by the struggle in South Africa during the Apartheid days before 1994. But he has also conducted workshops in other areas recovering from strife, such as East Timor and Rwanda.

 In 1998 the Society started a new project at its priory in Durham, England. Situated in the poorer north-east of the country, the Ecumenical Spirituality Project at St Antony's Priory is intended to help meet a need amongst people of all faiths and persuasions for prayer, meditation and spiritual growth in general.

A large part of the Priory's ministry involves hospitality at quiet days and other functions [left]. The Project is funded in part by the Society (a registered charity) and partly by donations.

Members of the Society also work in Oxford and Milton Keynes. The Well at Willen is a project of the Society and the Willen Priory nearby [left] houses members of the Society.

The three provinces of the Society - Europe, Australia and Southern Africa - are autonomous but closely linked.

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