Abbotswick – A new birth for an ancient inheritance
Prayer is the backcloth, the base and the substance of Abbotswick where the atmosphere is pregnant with the presence of God. In days gone by the original ‘Abbotswick’ house was a place of rest and hospitality for abbots on their pilgrim way to Canterbury.
Today, the fruits of this spiritual heritage are often expressed by those who visit Abbotswick as “being enfolded in a cloak of peace and serenity”.
The idea of a house of prayer was conceived by Sister Agatha O.S.F. in the early 70’s. She had a long standing dream of opening a dwelling where everyone would be welcome to come, pray and help bring Christ’s healing love to the world.
It took many years for her vision to come to fruition, but after numerous obstacles a small property was made available for this purpose in Chadwell Heath. This soon proved too inadequate in accommodating the ever increasing number of visitors. Providentially, with the help of the diocese, Sr. Agatha acquired the large house of Abbotswick set in about 14 acres of beautiful grounds.
This was a country house standing in a well timbered garden with a small lake and proved to be the perfect place for the House of Prayer to open its doors on Saturday 3rd May 1986. Very little is known about the history of the house but we know it dates from about 1800, being described in 1817 as the seat of Adam Chadwick, and was rebuilt early in the 20th Century.
By its official opening in 1987 Sr. Lucy and Sr. Bernadette had become part of the resident community. More that 60 people from across the diocese took part in a retreat culminating in Mass celebrated by Fr. William Nix. In his sermon he stressed that this was a house not for saints but for ordinary people. “This is a place to renew ourselves”, he said. “Our mission is to return to our own parishes to renew our communities and to touch the hearts and minds of people throughout the diocese”.
Over the years the community decreased in size and was no longer able to manage the running of Abbotswick. The Diocese took it over and in 2004 asked the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham to run it. The House of Prayer continues to be a place of joy, work, fun, contemplation and worship for people of all ages, walks of life and church denominations.