Not far from the Ordinariate Church of the Most Precious Blood in Borough, is Rushworth Street, and there a passer-by with a taste for fine Edwardian architecture might observe Chadwick House. He is unlikely to realise that it was once an Anglican Convent, and the headquarters of the Community of Reparation to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Less than thirty years after John Keble aroused the slumbering Church of England to consider again its Catholic roots, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was founded, with the Revd T T Carter of Clewer, as its first president. And here is another small link in the chain, for the present parish priest of Precious Blood, Fr Christopher Pearson, was himself Superior of the CBS in his Anglican days. In 1869 the Revd A B Goulden resolved to establish a group of Tertiaries “to repair as far as lay in their power the dishonour done to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (1) by continual intercession for those who do not know Him under the sacramental veils of Bread and Wine (2) by active missionary work in our large towns.”
It was not long before some of the Tertiaries felt the call to dedicate themselves more completely to the object of Reparation and Fr Goulden arranged for two of them to serve a noviciate with the sisters at Clewer, near Windsor. In 1871 Fr Goulden was appointed priest of the mission district of St Alphege, Southwark, a desperately poor area where the sisters soon found themselves combining – in a way peculiar to Anglican communities – the active and contemplative life. Their chapel had perpetual Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, which was unusual even in the Community Chapels of that time.
The Community grew in numbers, taking over a local orphanage and home for girls, and moving to their Convent in Rushworth Street in 1911. Sir Walter Tapper was the architect of the house pictured above, and the stately Renaissance chapel with its marble altar. A branch House was established in the parish of St Stephen, Upton Park and a Home of Rest at Pirbright, near Woking in Surrey.
My own small connection with the Community came in the early 1980’s. I was vicar of St Edmund, Forest Gate, the parish which had taken over St Stephen Upton Park after the Second World War. I met Reverend Mother Eunice CRJBS, when she came each year on holiday to stay with her sister. The Community had moved from Southwark to the Convent at Clewer when the community numbers had dwindled to five. She died just before I left Forest Gate and I attended her funeral at Clewer.
The Community of Reparation was part of that great flowering of Catholic spirituality and practise which transformed the Church of England. It helped to introduce Anglicans to Eucharistic belief and devotion which had been dormant since the Reformation. Ultimately it convinced Pope Benedict that he was meeting people who, had for years been living forms of Catholic life, although outside the Communion of the Universal Church. I am convinced that Mother Eunice and her sisters would be content that former Anglicans, now united in full Communion, were just round the corner from her Convent. Perhaps it will inspire us at Precious Blood to two things: the first is to renew our love of Jesus in the Eucharist and the Tabernacle; the second is to love and serve the people of our parish in all their needs and concerns, to love them as Jesus loves them, reaching out from his silent presence in their midst, from his Altar Throne.