CBS Mass – Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding

Hosted by: St Michael & All Angels

In place of Thursday Vespers, at 6pm, CBS Mass, with Plainsong and Hymns, in commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar (1637) of the Little Gidding Community.

With the collapse of the Virginia Company in 1625 taking a large portion of their fortune, the Ferrar family retreated to Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire (now in Cambridgeshire) to take on a humble, spiritual life of prayer, eschewing the material, worldly life. In 1626, Nicholas Ferrar was ordained as a Deacon by William Laud. The Ferrar family transformed their holdings at Little Gidding into a humble Anglican religious community.

It was never a formal religious community, as with a monastery or convent, as there was no official Rule, no vows taken, and no enclosure. The Ferrar household lived a Christian life according to High Church principles and the Book of Common Prayer, and engaged in tending to the health and education of local children, and in bookbinding. The Ferrar household was criticised by Puritans and denounced as “Protestant Nunnery”. In December 1637 Nicholas Ferrar died, but the community continued under the leadership of his brother, John Ferrar, until the latter’s death in 1657. King Charles I visited Little Gidding three times, including on 2 May 1646 seeking refuge after the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby.

Forgotten until the Victorian Oxford Movement Revival, much of its appeal lies in the lack of rigidity (representing the best of Anglicanism’s via media) and a ″common-sense simplicity″, coupled with a ″pastoral warmth″ traceable to the origins of Christianity, that are exemplified by Nicholas Ferrar and the Little Gidding community.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

from Little Gidding, the last of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.


St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Dinham Road, Mount Dinham, Exeter, EX4 4EB