Ælred Arnesen RIP

The Revd Br Raymond Halfdan (Brother Ælred) Arnesen 1925-2022

On Christmas night Br Aelred was admitted to Ealing Hospital with an infection, but from that point on he became reluctant to eat or drink. He returned to the care home but was still not wanting to eat or drink. A doctor had seen him and advised that the best thing to do was to make him comfortable. Br Ælred died peacefully, aged 96 and in the 42 year of his profession, in the care home where he had been resident for the past 14 months

Br Ælred read divinity at Queens’ College, Cambridge after the war, and was ordained in 1952 to a parish in Northumberland. In 1955 he became a member of the Society of St Francis in Dorset (1955-1966).

In 1966, he established the Ewell Monastery, a Cistercian community, located in West Malling, Kent. It was clear that modern Anglican Cistercian life would need to be seen as Anglican rather than a copy of a Catholic model. Here the integrated monastic life of the Cistercian reform was followed by monks and lay people. Worship and prayer, work and study were lived out as a response to Christ. It was a commitment of Christian discipleship lived out in the communion of brothers in the solitude of the monastery.

The Order came to receive official recognition by both the Church of England and the worldwide Cistercian Order (OCSO) within the Roman Catholic Church. Br Aelred OC was the Prior throughout the life of the monastery.

The abbey buildings were constructed on the site of a former farm, with an ancient tithe barn being developed into the community chapel. The chapel still remains after the closure of the monastery and is a Grade II* listed building.

The Cistercian Rule was never popular within 20th-century Anglicanism and the community never numbered more than five brothers, although these were often strengthened by temporary residents at the monastery from among the associates of the Order. In 2004 the community shrank again, leaving just Br Aelred and Br Tim as the only two members.

In 2004 the decision was taken to end the Cistercian experiment and the monastery was closed.

Br Ælred has always been very supportive of us, and gave us much helpful advice and assistance when our Order was founded. On his website http://www.arnesen.co.uk/page2.html we can read that he saw our Order as an adapted continuation of the Ewell journey into the Cistercian life.

Br Aelred continued to live the religious life in West London as a Cistercian solitary until his death on Friday 7th January 2022.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Br Ælred’s funeral will be held at Mortlake Crematorium, on Wednesday 2 February, at 12.40pm. The service will be about 30 minutes long. Everybody is, of course, welcome to come along. 

Directions: https://www.mortlakecrematorium.org/directions/

(A simple route that they don’t mention is, if you arrive at Richmond station, to get a taxi from there to the crematorium. It’s about a 5 minutes’ journey, and there’s always plenty of taxis outside the station).

The service will be streamed live for those unable to attend. The login details for the live stream will soon be published here. The service will be taken by the Revd Paul Arnesen, Br Ælred’s nephew. 

After the service you are invited to a nice local pub by the Thames (The Ship), which is just 5 minutes’ walk away. A table will be booked so that you can get something to eat and have more chance to chat. If you are planning to go to the pub then it would be helpful if you could let Tim Pritchard timothy.pritchard65@gmail.com know before 31 January, so that he can inform the pub.

Books by Br Ælred:

  • ‘The Possibilities of Prayer in the 21st Century’, also containing ‘The Anglican Cistercians of Ewell Monastery’ & ‘Essays on Worship’ Trafford Publishing, 2007
  • ‘Worship as Believing’, also containing ‘Faith and Reason in Search of a Theology of Eucharist’, Trafford Publishing, 2008
  • ‘Presence in Human and Divine Relationships’, Trafford Publishing, 2008