In Memory : Father Donald Allchin
FR DONALD was our Warden for 27 years, and then Warden Emeritus. During the intercessions at Mass he would pray for the Sisters of the Love of God ‘wherever they may be’, and we would wonder… And we could apply the same phrase to him, praying for Fr Donald ‘wherever he may be’, whether in Canterbuiy, Denmark, Wales, or America. He used sometimes to say that his relationship to SLG provided a thread of continuity through the changes in his life; and he gave something of the same to us.
By way of tribute, at this stage I want simply to say that he was a good man. You only had to watch him censing the altar during the Eucharist to see that he was a man of God; God was the heart and centre of his life.
A necessarily hidden but treasured part of his life was his ministry to solitaries, and his understanding of the hermit life. And one of his enduring enthusiasms was for Julian of Norwich, whom he recognized as a great theologian significant for our times. So, having remembered Donald as we have known him, and entrusted him to God as God knows and loves him, let us allow Julian’s words to speak to us:
And I saw quite certainly in this and in everything that God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall. And all his works were done in this love; and in this love he made everything for our profit; and in this love our life is everlasting. We had our beginning when we were made; but the love in which he made us was in him since before time began; and in this love we have our beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end, which may Jesus grant us. Amen.
When Mother Jane died, Fr Donald said to us that when a good person dies, there is a special out-pouring of grace for those who remain. May that be so for all of us now.
Sister Rosemary SLG
The priest and theologian AM Allchin, who has died aged 80, was deeply Anglican, yet embraced the Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church and the free church spirit of Wales. Donald’s desire was for unity, and the baseline of that unity was the love of God.
His books were witness to this core interest: The Joy of All Creation: An Anglican Meditation On the Place of Mary (1984); Threshold of Light: Prayers and Praises from the Celtic Tradition (1986); Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition (1991). He made contact with the Danish church through the writings of Nikolaj Grundtvig (1783-1872), and in 1997 published NFS Grundtvig: An Introduction to his Life and Work. If that was the breadth of his interests, the depth was a desire for the ancient monastic tradition of prayer, praise and hospitality. He was often in positions in the church which had monastic roots, or in communities of fellowship.
Donald was born in London, the youngest of four children of Frank Macdonald Allchin, a doctor, and his wife, Louise. At 16, he went to Westminster school, where the chaplain, Robert Llewelyn, suggested he should read The Letters of Evelyn Underhill. Later in life, Donald said that Llewelyn was the first person to help him see that theology was exciting.
From Westminster he went to Christ Church, Oxford, and it was there that his deep affinity with the Orthodox church was fostered. He attended the conferences of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius, which encourages links between the Orthodox and Anglican churches. In their periodical for 1949, he wrote: “It was a real revelation of the place which theology should hold in the life of the church.”
Later, he was to train for the ministry at Cuddesdon Theological College, near Oxford, and was ordained in 1957. His curacy was in the parish of St Mary Abbots, Kensington, west London, where he regularly reviewed books for the Orthodox journal Sobornost, and deepened his interest in the Orthodox church. Oxford drew him back in 1960, this time as librarian of the religious institution Pusey House, where he spent eight years. In the 1960s Donald began to discover Wales: its saints, poets and scholars.
In early 1967, and again in 1968, Donald taught in New York at the General Theological Seminary, and visited the charismatic monk, Thomas Merton, in Kentucky. In a letter to me on 31 March 1968, Donald wrote: “You have no idea what a difference the presence of the saints make in Britain, until you come to a great empty land like this one, which lacks that tradition.”
From 1968 until 1973 Donald was warden of the religious community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford. This allowed him to encourage the monastic life more generally, to write, travel, attend conferences, give spiritual direction and encourage the future archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, with his doctoral thesis. In 1973 Donald was invited to be a residentiary canon of Canterbury, where he stayed for 14 years.
Yet Wales still beckoned. He became warden of the community of Sisters at Ty Mawr, near Monmouth. He learned Welsh as best he could, and all things Welsh delighted him. Eventually he went to live in Bangor, and from 1992 was honorary professor at the University of Wales in Bangor.
Donald looked for and found clues of where the spirit moved wisdom into the present world. He was an advocate of the spiritual and monastic life, and encouraged many in that calling. He was also available to others who simply needed time to talk. He enjoyed the telephone, but he certainly never made it into the electronic age. His domesticity was nil. Every so often, friends had to go in to tidy up the books, articles and manuscripts that littered his home. He will be best remembered for his desire to put people in touch with one another, and for all to experience God.
He is survived by his sister, Betty.