History of the Pilsdon communities
The lifestyle of Pilsdon, to our knowledge, is unique, although we have some similarities to other vow-based communities. But we believe that we are the only one that is directly based on the precedents and model set by Nicholas Ferrar, in Little Gidding. Little Gidding was the first Anglican community to be developed after Henry VIII's dissolution of monasteries. Its leading characteristic was that it was based around families, rather than the monastic lifestyle.
Nicholas Ferrar was a theologian, born in London and educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge . He was elected to Parliament in 1624 but retired - at the age of 33 - to Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire in 1625. There, with his mother, brother and sister and their families, he organised a small community centred on a manor house, small farm and a little church. With other families and their children they lived a life of corporate simplicity set within a framework of daily prayers, meals, work and recreation. Nicholas Ferrar guided this community for twelve years and it continued for 20 years after his death. Throughout this period a constant stream of guests visited Little Gidding, finding there the 'spirit of joy and serene peace'.
The first Pilsdon Community was established at Pilsdon Manor near Bridport in 1958. Since then there have been several wardens, each shaping and developing Pilsdon to how it is today - and it continues to change and adapt with each continuing Warden (or Guardian) and the different guests who join us on our journey here. After ten years of being Warden in Dorset, the Reverend Peter Barnett and his wife, Mary, served as the founders of the Pilsdon at Malling Community.
In 2001 Brook House in Dorchester was opened as a ‘move-on’ community house for Pilsdon residents. It was found that this was needed in order to help people to reintegrate into society.
Pilsdon at Malling
There has been an Abbey in West Malling for nearly 1,000 years, and part of the original building still stands. Many changes have taken place over the centuries and the present St Mary's Abbey has been the home of Benedictine Sisters since 1916. Cistercian Monks leased the adjacent Ewell Monastery, owned by the Abbey, in 1966. When Fr Aelred & Br Tim decided to retire from the Cistercian life after Easter 2004, the Sisters invited Pilsdon to establish their second community at the former Ewell Monastery.
More information can be found out about us by downloading a leaflet here.
Daily Structure and Rhythm
07.30 Morning Prayer (Eucharist at St Mary's Abbey)
10.30 Coffee Break
12.00 Midday Prayer (Eucharist on Wednesdays)
(16.45 Vespers at St Mary's Abbey)
18.00 Evening Prayer
(19.25 Compline at St Mary's Abbey)
21.00 Compline & Lock Gates
08.00 Morning prayer
18.00 Sung Liturgy with Eucharist
21.00 Compline & lock gates
Attendance at services is voluntary and we welcome those living outside the Community to join any of our services, our Sunday tea, Eucharist and Supper.
Glimpses of Pilsdon
"The Pilsdon at Malling Community have the ability to make you feel warm and welcome even at the darkest of times and for that I will be eternally grateful."
Sue Stephens, 2008
"The first few years are the hardest" is a very true saying, and never more true than when setting up a modern community in a manor house in West Dorset.
Most, but by no means all, of the guests were weighed down by an almost insupportable burden. But where else and in what other circumstances, could men and women off the streets, from mental hospitals and prison cells, from schools and factories, universities and offices, teachers and tramps, bishops and knife-grinders, have all lived together? ... This is the story of those first twenty years…”
(lntroduction to "Pilsdon Morning by Gaynor Smith - 1982)
“We are learning that work can be unrelated to money and that even cleaning out drains can be done joyfully. We are realising from experience that the word "acceptance" is a key word in personal relationships, and as we say our prayers in our working clothes we are conscious of a deep underlying unity between work and worship.”
(Letters from Community - Dec '58)
“There's a man from Ghana with a smooth black shiny face, and a wistful expression - he's wearing some very smart clothes from the clothing shed we call the boutique!
He smiles as he thinks of family and friends back home, but a wistful expression returns when he remembers that as an asylum seeker, he no longer has any status or home, except that offered at Pilsdon. He has fled for his life and has managed to hold fast to his Christian faith during this year or more of prison in England. He hears the chapel bell, which reminds him to praise God for his merciful kindness. He has now found friends, who cared enough to fight for his release from detention, put up his bail and offer him a family and home. He shares his faith in God and his hope for the future freely with those still lost and desperate. He has no possessions, nor money, but… his burning hope is his gift to the community. And his face shines.”
(Easter 1998 Newsletter by Mary Barnett)
“This is the story of one of the pioneers of Pilsdon, of his long struggle with the disability of cerebral palsy, of the friendships he made and kept, and of what he gave to Pilsdon and Pilsdon gave to him. It is a story of love and courage. It is the story of Sidney…
Our lives had been enriched by his. He had enlarged our boundaries, widened the doors of our perceptions and shown us the meaning of courage.”
('Give me five minutes' by Gaynor Smith - 1991)
“Pilsdon is difficult to write or talk about… Again and again we find ourselves saying, "Pilsdon is this, but it is also that, a many sided thing." One thing is certain. We are very ordinary people and our faults and weaknesses do not disappear because we live here… it is the constant giving and receiving of forgiveness that, under God, makes life in the community possible. Nobody pretends that it is always easy.”
(letters from Community - Oct '59)