News Release

St Michael's Abbey thanks Farnborough members for their service

Members of the Farnborough congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Reading area were recently treated to a celebratory barbecue by Father Abbot, monks and parishioners of St Michael’s Abbey as a thank you for service offered two years’ ago.

At that time 70 members of the Farnborough congregation organised a ‘Helping Hands’ project to clear one of the Abbey’s field of hay and sticks. Farnborough Abbey is a site steeped in history. In 1880, the French Empress Eugénie bought a house in Farnborough on the Hampshire-Surrey border. Crushed by the loss of her husband Napoleon III in 1873 and the death in 1879 of her 23 year old son in the Zulu War, she built St Michael’s Abbey as a monastery and the Imperial Mausoleum. The Empress was later laid to rest there herself, in a granite sarcophagus provided by Queen Victoria.

The volunteer group ‘Friends of Farnborough Abbey’ has now established allotments on the site, turning it into a beautiful and productive garden for local residents to grow their own food. Named the Jubilee Allotments, it was opened by Father Abbot, Right Reverend Dom Cuthbert Brogan, on the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. This month’s barbecue was an opportunity for the Abbey to thank the congregation, renew friendships, and reveal the fruits of those labours.

“This is breathtaking,” said Jonathan Read, one of the youth. “I remember this as a scrubby field. Now it’s all bright fruit, vegetables and sunflowers. You can tell people are really caring for this land.”

‘Friends of Farnborough Abbey’ spokesperson, Carol Knight, praised Farnborough members’ work on the site. “We couldn’t believe how many turned out to help, how organized people were, and how quickly the field was cleared. Without that service we wouldn’t have had the allotments ready in time. It’s wonderful.”

The Benedictine life has been practiced on the site where monks adopt a traditional ritual of prayer and study, living by the works of their hands according to the Benedictine way. The monks run a guesthouse, a small farm of sheep and chickens, hives of bees, plus a printing house and a craft bookbindery. It is this devotion to work that led the Father Abbot to convert the Abbey’s field into allotments for local families.

Director for public affairs in the Reading area, Nic Read, remarked, “The Abbey’s invitation was very gracious, and we appreciate it. While the food was delicious and conversations were spirited, what impresses most is the genuine friendship formed through a simple act of Christian service. As Paul commended to the saints in Ephesus, Christ-like devotion makes us ‘no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens’. We are pleased to be such friends of Farnborough Abbey, and to have their friendship in return.”


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