Reverend W Martin Shepherd,

Deacon, St Francis Church

The Liberal Catholic Church of St Francis of Assisi is part of the Liberal Catholic Church Province of Great Britain and Ireland (Regionary Bishop; The Most Rev Graham S Wale).



(Abridged from an article by Rev W M Shepherd).

On his last visit to England in 1930 (a year after Tekels Park was purchased to form a spiritual centre) Bishop Leadbeater blessed a set of ray crosses which today can be seen on the church walls. He saw the shells of several houses and the first foundations of the church building but was never well enough again to return to England to see the centre working. The building had been paid for by Miss Josie Chambres for use as a church and to enable other organisations to hold their members' meetings.

Bishop Wedgwood and Rev Robert 'Bobby' Bell and others held services on an irregular basis until the parish was formed in 1932. The first entry in the Parish Minute Book is dated February 14th 1932. Bishop J I Wedgwood, the Rev R W Bell and five members were present. They decided to open the church for public worship on Sunday March 6th 1932. The writer could not find any written record of this service but it is clear that a group of members had been working together systematically and consistently to assemble those things necessary for regular public worship.

In May 1935 an extension was completed on the East end. It was consecrated in June 1935 by Bishop F W Pigott assisted by Bishop J I Wedgwood to the honour of the Holy Lady Mary and All the Holy Angels as a permanent chapel for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Later that year the first British National Church gathering was held in Camberley under the direction of Bishop Pigott. It was at this time that the icon that stands behind the high altar to this day was specially commissioned and later installed.

The church gatherings continued in Camberley for several years and at the 1937 gathering the Clerical Synod held its first meeting for ten years, the start of an unbroken series. The gathering was organised by the Rev Cyril V Pink and the Rev G Nevin Drinkwater, 26 Masses were held and much instruction given.

The Parish continued as a centre for the gatherings and instruction throughout the following and wartime years. The Church windows were blacked out and services held in the daylight hours. The annual report of 1942 states that the committee saw that their work was part of the battle for the threatened forces of Light which was going on throughout the world. Major changes happened in the early 1950's. In 1950, the Rev Guy N Stephenson was ordained at St Mary's, London; and was shortly after appointed Priest-in-Charge. He was assisted for many years by Rev R W Bell and Rev R Hemstead and later by Rev Frank Coulsting. In 1951, Bishop Wedgwood died after having been ill for some time. His ashes were scattered in the church garden and a small portion put in the wall behind a bronze tablet.

The work continued steadily for some years with annual Episcopal visits first from Bishop Pigott and then Bishop Sykes.

In 1964 application was made to the Bishop for the Parish to be known as 'St Francis' and this was adopted from then on.

In 1965 the Rev S Stakesby-Lewis became Priest-in-Charge. He was followed between 1974-1976 by the Rev Paul Loveday.

In 1974 Rev Kevin Tingay was appointed. It was at this time that the Church Camps were introduced. These have since become an annual event and have introduced many families into church activities.

In 1976 Rev John McGlashan took over the parish. He has developed the pastoral work of the parish, extending and improving the annual summer camps; holding special church days with audio-visual presentation and festivals; organising clergy and server training weekends.

A constantly changing nucleus for over fifty years has faithfully kept the cycle of the church year and provided a focus of thought, rest and inspiration.

Rev W Martin Shepherd 1985