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Rev. Benjamin Robertshaw (1679-1744)

Two hitherto unpublished documents in the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society’s library give both sides of an angry dispute between an earlier Vicar of Penn and the Bishop of Lincoln. They throw a revealing light on the fierce religious arguments of the day and show how closely intertwined were church and state and how strongly the bitter memories of the Civil War and the Revolution of 1688 continued to dominate political and religious controversies well into the eighteenth-century, with violence and civil war very close to the surface.

Benjamin Robertshaw was Vicar of Penn from 1716-28 and rector of Amersham from 1728-44.  His memoir, 15 closely written pages, is preserved in the Bucks Archaeological Society’s library in Aylesbury and I quoted from it when writing in the February newsletter about his friend and patron, Roger Penn, the last male heir of the Penn family. It is a well written review of the major events and people in his life, looking back when he was about 60 years old.

He was born, in 1679, near Burnley in Lancashire and was educated by his father who was a schoolmaster. He took a degree at Brasenose College, Oxford and, in 1702, arrived in Amersham to run the Free School there at the invitation of the Rector, Humphry Drake, an earlier graduate of Brasenose. He was ordained two years later and married Mary Salter of Amersham in 1709. He was very hard up and couldn’t find the money to take his degree and he had to hold three jobs at once, deacon at Amersham, curate at Chalfont St Giles as well as continuing to run the school, ‘that arduous business‘, he called it.

An extremely unflattering assessment of Robertshaw’s performance as Vicar of Penn is given in a long three page memorandum from Daniel Baker, a wealthy and well-connected Penn parishioner who lived in a large mansion overlooking the common by Widmer Pond. He was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire when he wrote the memorandum to the Bishop of Lincoln around autumn 1721 (see extract below). Daniel Baker complained that Robertshaw lived in Amersham because of his school; let his vicarage in Penn to a carpenter and shoemaker; neglected his parishioners, never visiting them; hated dissenters, preaching against them and refusing to either register or bury any that had been baptised by Presbyterian ministers whose authority to preach or baptise he refused to recognise because they had not been ordained by a bishop. He was reported to have described dissenters in sermons as, ‘the most turbulent and seditious people in the world and added ‘schismaticers‘ (i.e., all those who had broken away from the Church of England) to the biblical description of those ‘dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosover loveth and maketh a lie‘, who were excluded from heaven.

Robertshaw also reportedly refused to pray for King George and took the compulsory oath of fidelity to him only with great reluctance. Furthermore, Daniel Baker accused him of being an overt Jacobite and possibly a Catholic sympathiser who, in 1715, had preached publicly in favour of the Old Pretender. Daniel Baker had no time for Jacobites. In 1715 he had written to his brother-in-law, Lord Fermanagh, ‘You are too much a Protestant and Lover of the Country than to Embarque in any such wicked design, as to bring in the Pretender, which consequently must be to bring in Popery and Slavery with him …. therefore I am the more surprised at this time to find any English gentleman for him ... ‘

A wholly damning indictment apparently, but as we shall see in Part 2, the Rev. Robertshaw saw no shame in such accusations and made no attempt to deny them. In this he was supported by many of the most influential gentry and clergy of his day.

© Miles Green, June 2004

Rev. Benjamin Robertshaw – Part 2

Benjamin Robertshaw was Vicar of Penn from 1716-28 and Rector of Amersham from 1728-44. We heard in Part 1 the extremely unflattering assessment of Robertshaw’s performance as Vicar of Penn from Daniel Baker, who was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire when he wrote a memorandum to the Bishop of Lincoln around autumn 1721.

Daniel Baker’s memorandum clearly had an effect because by March 1722, the Penn Parish Register shows that a curate, John Page, later to be the Vicar, was established in Penn, and by 1724 was improving the Vicarage and churchyard. The Penn register records Robertshaw, from 1703 onwards, periodically signing the affidavits (required by law since 1678 to be signed by a priest or a Justice) that the deceased had been buried in a woollen shroud. Before he became Vicar, he was described in the Register either as Curate of Amersham or Curate of Chalfont St Giles. The paucity of marriages, only 12 in the six years of his incumbency before John Page arrived as Curate, and the absence of the usual notes of any alterations or additions to the church or vicarage, support the charges against him of absence and neglect. Pluralism of this kind, holding several benefices in order to increase income and using poorly paid curates to do the work, was typical of the period and led to some scandalous abuses.

One might have expected to find a robust denial in Robertshaw’s memoir of all the apparently damning accusations against him, but not a bit of it. His own account entirely confirms Daniel Baker’s and makes it clear that Protestant Dissenters and Whigs, or ‘Whigs and infidels’ as described by Robertshaw, were absolutely abhorrent to him and that he was indeed a Jacobite sympathiser. He was a vehement High Church Tory, greatly resenting the Hanoverian George I who had succeeded Anne, the last Stuart sovereign, in 1714. Not only had Robertshaw preached publicly in favour of James Stuart, the Pretender, the Catholic son of James 11, in 1715, he was also chaplain to the Earl of Scarsdale who was arrested as a Jacobite supporter the same year.

His views sound dangerously violent to modern ears, but they were entirely typical of the time and were shared by the majority of country gentry and clergy. High Churchmen identified the Church with the state, regarding dissent from one as like treachery to the other. lan Gilmour maintains that half the nation was probably Jacobite in 1714-15 when even Marlborough and Queen Anne’s former Lord Treasurer took the precaution of sending James a large sum of money. England was there for the taking, despite the widespread fear of the return of Popery, but for Jacobite ineptitude.1  Robertshaw’s sermon in 1715, according to Daniel Baker, was preached ‘before a great many persons of Quality by whom I hear he was well rewarded’. It was the MP for Amersham, Sir Samuel Garrard, a High Tory, who as Mayor of London, in 1709, invited Dr Henry Sacheverell to preach the sermon in St Paul’s, a violent, incoherent harangue, which raised the cry of ‘The Church in Danger’ and led to his impeachment and the worst riots of the century in London until the Gordon riots of 1780. Robertshaw twice refers approvingly in his memoir to Sacheverell’s trial at which he was virtually acquitted, and his own sermons reflected the same extreme views.

© Miles Green, August 2004

1 Ian Gilmour, Riot, Risings and Revolution, Governance and Violence in Eighteenth-Century England, Pimlico (1993), Ch. 1-3, provided good background for this period.

Rev. Benjamin Robertshaw – Part 3

Vicar of Penn 1716-28; Rector of Amersham 1728-44

We have seen from Parts 1 & 2 that our former vicar was a vehement High Church Tory who despised Whigs and abhorred Protestant Dissenters, describing them as ‘infidels’ certain to be excluded from heaven. Daniel Baker, his most influential parishioner and a leading Whig, was High Sheriff of the county when he wrote a memorandum of complaint about Robertshaw to the Bishop of Lincoln, setting out all his many faults, including his absence from Penn, his Jacobite sympathies and his hatred of dissenters.

The memorandum led to a furious argument between Robertshaw and his bishop. Robertshaw’s own account makes it clear that the most serious charge against him was ‘my refusing to bury a Presbyterian’s child, sprinkled in their unauthorised way, in my Parish at Penn.’ He wrote, ‘About the year 1721 I was so unfortunate as to fall under the displeasure of my Diocesan … Upon my absolute refusal (to bury the child), the Parents never brought it to the Church Yard at Penn ; but carried it to Wycombe, where it was buried, by one who I suppose would have given X­ian burial even to Pontius Pilate himself, provided he had but in his life-time, used to cry King George for ever. Mr Daniel Baker, a silly but zealous Justice of the Peace in my Parish, officiously complained of me for this to the Bishop. And the Bishop who was then eagerly pursuing Court favour (Bishop Gibson later became Bishop of London): wrote me a very angry letter; & told me such a step tended to make K. G. himself looked on as no Christian: … I answered him; that I thought my business was to find out and & pursue truth & not to regard consequences … & if indeed the case was so, as his lordship represented, I should not alter the Cap, but e’en let it be worn, by all whom it fitted. Upon this he was highly provoked, we at once plunged pretty far into the Controversy about Lay-Baptism, etc …. & in short, I gave him as little quarter as common decency towards a Superior, would admit of …. The truth is, I did use him, as I found he deserved …. He threatened to punish me … I, who knew that an Action would not lie, (meerly because they had neglected to bring the Corps to the Church yard, & there offer it for burial), answered him pertly enough.

However at length the matter drop’t; but not without his making me promise never again to refuse burying such a person; which I was obliged to comply with, or quit my School & go to live at Penn, as he enjoined me. But I never did bury any such …. easie to get that done by some other Clergyman, who would bury all the non-Cons in the country …. with this their mitred Patron into the bargain, for half a Crown.’

Robertshaw went on to report with relish that not long afterwards, three of the Bishop’s own grandchildren were baptised by a man falsely claiming to be an ordained clergyman & ‘notwithstanding his above pretences to me‘, the Bishop had them re-baptised. He added, ‘I had the pleasure afterwards, to see this very Bishop in disgrace at Court, amongst his own Clan.

© Miles Green, October 2004

Rev. Benjamin Robertshaw – Part 4

Vicar of Penn 1716-28; Rector of Amersham 1728-44

In 1721, only a few months after his furious argument with his bishop about his refusal to bury a ‘non-Con’ (a non-conformist, in this case a Presbyterian child), Benjamin Robertshaw records in his memoir that he became Curate at Amersham for the Rector, Or Brydges, whilst staying as vicar of Penn, ‘which I did against the Bishop’s will‘, using the licence he already held as Deacon at Amersham. 1 The Bishop did not recall the licence, in part because he knew that Robertshaw was also chaplain to the Earl of Scarsdale, ‘of whom he stood in some kind of awe‘. Or Brydges was also Archdeacon of Rochester, presumably appointed by Francis Atterbury, the Bishop of Rochester, who was an ardent Jacobite, banished in 1722 for his plotting to restore the Stuarts.  Robertshaw also had a powerful ally in Roger Penn, the lord of the Manor and his Patron, a near contemporary at Oxford and, judging from Robertshaw’s memoir, a good friend, sharing a common view.

Robertshaw was well-educated, his memoirs include the occasional classical quotation, and he was clearly popular in High Tory circles. His uncompromising certainties probably made him a powerful preacher – ‘First find out the Will of God, in any point of duty, & learn what is right & true, (for truth is always but one thing & so easier to be found, whereas Error is various and endless).’ His final verdict on his quarrel with the Bishop was : ‘God forgive all that was amiss in this controversy, either in the Bishop, or me; I was perhaps too warm: But I am sure I meant well; & spoke nothing but my real sentiments, in a stile natural, free, & unguarded; tho’ if I had thought more, to be sure I had writ less. ‘

The Old Rectory, Amersham

Much of his memoir deals with Amersham and his relationships with the Drake family. He included an account of the ‘Honourable Family of my best friend & Patron Montagu Garrard Drake’ and refers to Queen Elizabeth’s stay at Shardeloes. He was bequeathed £700, as Rector of Amersham, with which he bought Stock Place Manor and Farm to provide him and his successors with about £20 pa additional income. He also built a lovely seven bedroom Georgian Parsonage House and moved into it from the town in 1736. It is now known as The Old Rectory and is currently on the market for £3 million (2004). He rebuilt an old house in the town, at his own expense of £220, for the Schoolmaster of the Grammar School founded by Dr Challoner.

His memoir brings home how closely intertwined were church and state and     how strongly the bitter memories of the Civil War and the Revolution of 1688 continued to dominate political and religious controversies well into     the eighteenth-century with violence and civil war very close to the surface. He described Whig Justices, to whom he preached an Assize sermon at Aylesbury in 1707, as talking bitterly against Monarchy and Episcopacy and told of one ‘whose sullen inexorable temper makes even his mercies to be cruel‘. He later met and argued with this same Justice at a friend’s house in Amersham and remembered, ‘I so far ruffled the hot and heavy lawyer, that he was put quite off his guard and let fall some rude, illbred expressions or reflections upon Queen Anne‘, with the result that their hostess ‘never afterwards admitted him into her house. He saw ‘Whigs and infidels’ who took their arguments from Reason rather than Revelation, as the successors to the Puritan Preachers of Elizabeth’s reign, who had ‘such a malignancy towards     Monarchy and Episcopacy … as have     proved highly pernicious to great Britain in general; & are so still‘.

© Miles Green, December 2004

1 Dr. Brydges was later advised to go to Bath for his health and Robertshaw observed ‘whither the London Physicians commonly send their Patients to be out ofthe way, when they can get neither more money nor reputation, by attending them at home.’

Continued in ‘Monuments and Memorials‘.

A Tribute to Revd. Oscar Muspratt 1906 – 2000

Chaplains at War: Revd. Oscar Muspratt
The Rev. Oscar Muspratt’s Australian church
A visit to the Rev. Oscar Muspratt’s Australian church

The Revd. Oscar Muspratt, who died in March of this year (2000), was the Vicar of Holy Trinity Penn between 1944 and 1989. 45 years of service one would think was enough for anyone but Oscar did so much before he came to Penn.

Oscar Muspratt born in Rochford, Essex, in 1906.  Oscar moved, with his family, to Australia in 1920 and at the age of 14 worked as a bullock cart driver and supported his father on a small dairy farm as a labourer. Due to the kindness of a cousin of his father Oscar was able to study chemistry at Melbourne University and became captain of the University Rugby Team.

It was in 1926 that he had what he called “a spiritual experience” which led him to enter the Church Ministry; intending to become a missionary in China. The Chinese considered this an appropriate time to prohibit any more missionaries from entering their country, and so Oscar began his Curacy in Melbourne.

St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church
© 10-05-2017 – John Conn, Templestowe, Victoria

In 1936, Oscar obtained a fellowship at Cambridge, where he supplemented his grant by taking services in local churches. At one of these he met Margaret Hooton, the incumbent’s daughter and they were married in 1st June 1937 in Cambridge.  They then returned to Australia where he became Vicar of Dandenong Mountains, and his first task was to rebuild the parish church. Here he honed his conscripting skills as he cadged, cajoled and coerced his small congregation and former university friends to help design and build the beautiful St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Kalorama. A church and congregation that remained deep in his affection for the rest of his life.

Oscar became a serving chaplain in the 2nd World War and was posted to Egypt during the battles of El Alemain, Malta during their blitz, the initial invasions of Sicily and Italy and the Normandy landings.

And so to Penn.  Oscar became the Army chaplain for Buckinghamshire where he met Richard, Viscount Curzon and subsequently the Earl Howe. As the future patron of Penn Church, which was then without a clergyman, he invited Oscar to become the Vicar of Penn Church.

He was demobilised in 1945, and began the restoration and development of Penn Church and its parish. A labour of love that occupied him for the next 45 years. He reintroduced the Church Choir, of which he was so proud, and the restoration of Penn Church’s tradition of bell ringing. The building of the Lady Chapel and construction and repositioning of the new organ. The re-roofing of the church, the extension of the cemetery and the restoration of the long window on the north wall.

His moments in Penn gave Oscar moments of great happiness. Special personal highlights were the development of links between Penn and Pennsylvania; receiving the Freedom of Pittsburgh; being the guest of the US Senate; the establishment of the Penn Pennsylvania Fellowship Trust and the Penn Mead home.

Oscar’s wife Margaret took ill and died in 1976.

When he retired in 1989 Oscar was in poor health and to the pleasure of all who knew him, in 1990 Oscar married Vera who had cared for him at his lowest times. Vera’s effect on Oscar was wonderful. He made a good recovery, throwing away his walking stick.

In 1995 Oscar and Vera bought their lovely bungalow in Brecon. There Oscar spent his time writing his recollections and his treatise on World Peace, while Vera created a beautiful garden in which Oscar took as much pride as if he had made it himself.

Over the past 2 years, Oscar’s health worsened. He had difficulty in walking, but his happiness in Brecon with Vera was great. He passed away on the morning of 8th March 2000, after an intestinal aneurysm.

So that was a little part of the man you may have known as Oscar. A suitable epitaph should be the words of Wordsworth. ‘That best portion of a good man’s life. His little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.

We are indebted to Derek Evans for most of the above.

Chaplains at War

From an article found on ‘Chaplains at War’Oscar Muspratt enlisted in the Army January 1941 upon his return from Australia. He was posted to the 1st battalion the Rifle Brigade (which he shared with the 2nd Battalion the KRRC) in the 1st Armoured division recovering from Dunkirk. During his 2 1/2 years war service in the Middle East he tended the wounded and dying from both the first and the second battles of El Alamein.

Volunteering to replace casualties at the height of the blitz on Malta, he became the gunners chaplain. This involved taking countless services with a handful of men manning the great number of anti-aircraft guns in their open gun-pits: these went on even during an actual air raid under standing orders, whilst all hell was let loose overhead.

During the invasion of Sicily, he was posted to the famous 51st Highland division and returned with them for the Normandy Invasion. As his wife was unfortunately faced with a major operation, he was made responsible instead for supervising the spiritual ministrations to the many scattered Army detachments throughout the county of Buckinghamshire. As a precaution, in case London had been hopelessly crippled by bombing, a great part of the key administration of Britain’s war effort was duplicated and scattered throughout eh county of Buckinghamshire. As chaplain he served a wide range of these often most secret and most vital establishments including Chequers and the troops who guarded Winston Churchill.

He was released from the Army service owing to his wife’s serious ill-health at that time and appointed to Penn by Earl Howe in response to the parishioners’ request for an ex-Service Chaplain.

His great grandfather James Muspratt was one of the founders of Britain’s heavy chemical industry in 1825.

From Crockford’s Clerical Directory:
Trained at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
Deaconed in 1929 and priested in 1931 in Melbourne, Australia

1929-1933 St Mary’s, Caulfield, Australia
1933-1936 Panton Hill, Australia
1936-1937 permitted to officiate Canterbury diocese
1938 priest in charge at St Mark’s, Fitzroy, Australia
1938-1941 Minister of Mt Dandenong, Australia
1941-1945 Chaplain to the Forces
1947 Honorary Chaplain to the Forces
1948-1989 Vicar of Penn, Oxford Diocese, UK
1990 retired and moved to Brecon.

The Rev. Oscar Muspratt’s Australian church

Kalorama Church 1940’s, © Images of Yesteryear

One of our former Vicar’s proudest achievements was that, in 1940, during the darkest days of the Second World War, he had inspired the building of a beautiful new church at Kalorama, 2,000 feet up in the hills of Mt Dandenong, surrounded by eucalyptus trees, with a distant view of Melbourne, 25 miles away to the north west.

Oscar Muspratt was 31 when he arrived at Mt Dandenong in 1938.  He had been ordained for nine years, working as a priest in a succession of parishes in the Melbourne area with a 2-year curacy in England where he met and married his first wife at Cambridge.  A wealthy parishioner, Ernest Jones, died soon after his arrival at Mt Dandenong and his widow agreed that the building of a new church at Kalorama would be a worthy memorial to him.

The chosen architect was Keith Reed, an old friend and former team-mate from the Melbourne University rugby team, of which Oscar had been captain.  The design for a 60-seat church was debated and there were supporters for both a log cabin style and for a clinker brick clad church, but the final choice was for local (Kilsyth) stone.  This stone was found only a few miles away and came in soft varied tones of cream, buff, brown and grey.  It was decided to follow the Early English style with a small tower and was to cost about £1,400 of which £1,000 was the gift from Mrs Jones.

Oscar Muspratt chose the name St Michael and all Angels for the church, inspired by the Battle of Britain which was being fought in the skies over England at that very time.  He had found a text in Revelation Ch 12, v7,  ‘there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon…and the dragon prevailed not’.

The foundation stone was laid on 26 June 1940, the day France fell, when it seemed that the whole future of Christian civilisation was at stake.  ‘A giant struggle lies ahead of the world and our Empire in particular’ he wrote in his church newsletter.  The church was completed in five frenetic months and was consecrated by the Archbishop of Melbourne on 28 November 1940.

St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church
© 10-05-2017 – John Conn, Templestowe, Victoria

The final cost of building was £1,835, nearly double Mrs Jones’ original offer, but she agreed to meet the whole of it leaving only the furnishings to the congregation.  Oscar Muspratt was remembered as the prime mover behind the project.  ‘He pushed – no church would have been built otherwise’.  The architect had vivid memories of the Vicar ‘being on the ball all the time, up there every day’.

The Muspratts left Australia in January 1941, only two months after the consecration, bound for England and volunteer war service as an Army Chaplain.  Keith Reed also volunteered for the Forces.  Oscar Muspratt returned several times in later years, most recently with his second wife, Vera, in 1990, for the 50th anniversary of the church.

The church has been described as an architectural gem and people come from miles around to be married there. The two photographs reproduced here confirm that it is a most attractive church.

Perhaps we should consider some formal arrangement for linking our two churches?  A good few of us will travel to Australia from time to time and it is easily accessible from Melbourne.

I have taken all the detail for this article from a detailed history of the church called ‘A light in the Hills’, written by H.L.Speagle in 1990, as well as checking with Vera Muspratt’s own knowledge of the church.  A copy of the history can be found in the Parish Office.

Miles Green, 22 December 2000

A visit to the Rev. Oscar Muspratt’s Australian church

St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church
© 10-05-2017 – John Conn, Templestowe, Victoria

I wrote in our Newsletter two years ago (Feb/Mar 2001) about the small stone clad church at Kalorama, near Melbourne, for which the foundation stone was laid on 26 June 1940, the day France fell.  The building of this church was very much a product of the enormous enthusiasm and energy of the young Vicar, Oscar Muspratt, who was to be our Vicar from 1944-89.

This August, our family holiday was spent in Australia visiting my wife’s mother who lives at Ballarat, about 80 miles west of Melbourne.  We set off early one Sunday morning with our two younger children on a 2½ hour car journey through Melbourne’s suburbs, to Kalorama, about 25 miles east of the city.  It is about 2000ft up in the wooded (mainly eucalyptus) hills of Mt Dandenong, a lovely area popular with Melbourne residents and tourists.

The church is just to one side of the road with a long view of the open lowlands behind it.  It is clad with the local stone in soft, varied tones of cream, buff, brown and grey and looks very neat and established.  It seats 60 people (about one third the size of Penn) and is apparently immensely popular for weddings and funerals with people coming on occasions from as far away as New Zealand.

We were met by Henry Speagle, the author of a very well written and detailed history of the church (available in our Church Office), who had been kindly forewarned by Vera Muspratt, Oscar’s widow.  The service was entirely familiar based entirely on the Book of Common Prayer, even including a prayer for the Queen and her Ministers.  We were warmly welcomed as representatives of Oscar Muspratt’s other church.  The congregation was on the elderly side, although there is apparently an active youth group and familiar sports jackets and corduroy trousers were in evidence.  Tea and biscuits in the nearby hall and a tour of the church followed the service.

Jean and Henry Speagle invited us to lunch and we found much in common.  His generation of Australians was educated as if in an English school with no mention at all of Australian history.  He was very knowlegeable about Anglican personalities and had been particularly impressed by Rowan Williams who he had heard preaching.  The Melbourne diocesan newspaper was full of the appointment and its likely consequences for the Anglican Church.

It was a most interesting visit.  We received the friendliest of welcomes and I recommend Kalorama to future visitors to Melbourne.

Miles Green, 10th September 2002

Peter Widdicombe, Priest-in-Charge 1991-1993

The Diocesan Duties of the Priest-in-Charge My appointment to Penn is a shared. position with the Diocese of Oxford. Two days a week I teach in various programmes for the Diocese. In the autumn of Ihe past year I taught a course in Patristics for the Non-Stipendiary Ministries programme of the Diocese. The NSM programme provides theological training for those who wish to be ordained, and will thus be able to fulfil all the functions of a Church of England clergyperson, but who will remain employed in secular jobs and receive their income from those jobs. The programme is three years long and is very demanding. The students attend lectures one night a week for most weeks of the year and have weekend and summer seminars. There are forty students in the programme and it is expanding. The students are made up of teachers, nurses, lawyers, academics, housewives and businessmen.’ The Church of England is suffering increasingly from a shortage of clergy and Ihis is one of the ways the Church is attempting to meet the need.. The course I taught dealt wilh the development of the doctrines of the Trinity and the person and work of Christ in the first five centuries of the Church, which are my particular specialities. In an article in a subsequent issue of the parish magazine I shaH describe more fully my academic interests.

This spring I have been teaching a course in Patristics for the Faculty of Theology at Oxford. In the autumn I shall be leading a seminar in the historical and theological significance of the Nicene Creed for the diocesan programme for the continuing education of the parochial clergy.  It is likely that most of those who attend will be from the Buckinghamshire area of the Diocese.  Next spring I shall be teaching a course in systematic theology for the Thamesway lay training programme, which is based in Slough.

The work requires a great deal of time and energy, but ensures that I continue to read, and so, I trust, contributes to my preaching and the pastoral work I do in the parish.  It also means that the Priest-in-Charge of Penn has, for good or ill, a slightly higher profile in the diocese than might otherwise be the case.

Rev. Peter Widdicombe, June 1991.


Following my appointment as Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, I have, with regret, submitted my resignation as Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity to the Bishop of Buckingham. Karen and I have made many friends here and I have been greatly encouraged by the increasingly flourishing life of the Christian community in the parish. I appreciate deeply the kindness and support I have been given since we arrived. Such things one does not forget.

The position at McMaster is a rare and attractive one: the Department is considered to be the best in Canada and eighty people applied for the post. The Department is primarily concerned with the teaching of post-graduates and it has undergraduates as well. The position is ideally suited to me, allowing me to address my main theological interests. I shall be teaching undergraduate courses in the history of Christian thought from the second to the twemieth centuries and I shall be teaching post-graduate seminars and supervising theses in both early and modem Christian theology. I shall also be doing research in early and modem theology.

Hamilton is located around the western end of Lake Ontario, forty minutes from Toronto, where Karen and I lived before coming to England. I am pleased to be returning to my home country.

Our last Sunday in the parish will be May 30th.

Peter Widdicombe, March 1993