Rev David Rogers
For one week, Saint Peter’s Bourne, a Christian Education and Spirituality Centre situated on Oakleigh Park, South London offered its hospitality to a group of journalists covering the just concluded Africa Fashion Week London. Funke Olaode encountered the Warden of the home, 66-year-old Rev David Rogers who is a celibate
At Home with Revd Rogers
Saint Peter’s Bourne Christian Education and Spirituality Centre: An Oasis of calm in a busy environment is a home which can welcome up to 25 people comfortably. Often times, many people comment on the sense of peace they feel when visiting St Peter’s Bourne. This is not surprising as until recently, the house was home to a religious order and so benefits from a marked spiritual quality. St Peter’s Bourne is a safe place to be, which people can make their own. The house provides a comfortable, intimate setting for fellowship, study and reflection. These and many other facilities enjoy by guests and visitors alike are made possible by a 66-year-old committed and dedicated priest of the Anglican Communion, Rev David Rogers, who has been running the home for the past nine years.
Meeting Rev Rogers, you are easily at home because of his cool, calm and warm disposition. Is his fatherly love a reflection of his personality or it has to do with his calling as a clergyman? His response was sharp “It is both. It is my personality. I like people because I want them to feel good and also because I believe in God and Jesus Christ, who gave us the example of how to live. So I try to combine that with who I am”.
Growing up among eight siblings was interesting for Rev Rogers and equally helps him in his relationship with people. “My family is from Devon in the South-West of England. I have five sisters and two brothers. We have all grown up. They are all married except me because I am ordained and I’m celibate. I have nephews and nieces, which I visit when I go home. I always go home to Devon where I have a home at Christmas. My main occupation is catering and hospitality. I also like going to theatre, cinema because I have my own free time for relaxation and recreation. I have a car so I enjoy driving. I am just like everybody else. I enjoy life; I enjoy food and enjoy my work.”
Growing up among eight siblings
“We grew up in a three-bedroom bungalow not a large house and it was interesting.
“There is 20 years difference between the eldest and the youngest so we didn’t grow up together at all time. Some went to work and only five grew up with my parents under the same roof. My mother runs the home and my father worked in a building construction industry. My father is dead and my mother is still alive and she is 89 this year.”
Though trained as a chef and derives pleasure in catering and hospitality, Revd Rogers is more fulfilled running homes for his church, the Anglican Communion in the past 33 years. “I have been involved in running the church homes for the past nine years.
“This is the fourth home I have run. The first was in the Winchester Diocese in 1979, which was a big house; I have also worked in a house in Kent and then here in North London. All Anglican houses. This house is a retreat and conference centre where people come to discuss mainly spirituality and prayer meditation. We also allow people not for religious purposes but who want somewhere quiet to stay or rest.”
“For me, I have also been myself. I have always been in catering because I trained as a chef when I left school. That has been very useful here because I can prepare food for guests. Also, I like to give hospitality to people, make them feel comfortable, give them food, concentrate on what they want to do and don’t have to think about when the next meal will come.”
Living a Life of Celibacy...
For many, life of celibacy is restricted to the Catholic fold, but Rev Rogers gives an insight. “In the Anglican you can marry if you wish but if you are single, you can either be a celibate. For me, I decided not to marry because marriage is like a vocation. People feel drawn to marriage while others feel they want to dedicate their lives to God. If I was married, I would have to think of my wife and children and not work here in the home 12 to 14 hours in a day. You can say that I am married to the church.”
Doesn’t it sometimes feel the urge to have intimacy with the opposite sex? “Oh yes! It is not easy but this is a life I have chosen. You know whatever you choose in life, if you want to be true to it can be difficult at times”
His youthful look if far from his age. What is his secret? Laughing, he replied: “I am not married (that’s a joke). I don’t have a secret. I live from day to day. I work and enjoy life. For instance, we have a cleaner who does the majority of the cleaning and the laundry. But if she is not here I have to do. The towels must be clean, the refuse must be emptied. And when I am not working I go on holiday like anybody else”.
When he is not attending to visitors, Rev Rogers relaxes by reading and watching television. “I go to the cinema, I get together with friends, I work seven days in a week and I visit the Theatre sometimes”.
Keeping the environment green…
British love gardening and St. Peter’s Bourne environment is a replica of a typical British homes. “If you have gardens, you have people that enjoy garden. Again, you have to work. In England, the temperate weather here is mild and we get a lot of rain and that is why England is very green. Africa is hotter and you have more difficulties to keep things green because you need a lot of water. We love trees because they give human oxygen and take the carbon dioxide. And if you cut the trees, the air becomes polluted. So it is left for each country to take its environmental destiny in its own hands.”
Home Away from HOme
The home is set in a beautiful garden on the borders of north London and Hertfordshire, a short distance from Central London. It is primarily a centre for Christian groups and individuals to use as a resource in their pilgrimage of faith: a place of study, to develop understanding, to deepen their belief and to enrich their spiritual life.
The comfortable communal areas include a large sitting room with conservatory area and the Grahamstown Room, which can be used for meetings, both of which overlook the garden. Other facilities include the Chapel, as well as the Petroc Bookshop, Edmonton Resource Library beautiful tranquil garden. Visitors also enjoy hospitality and home cooked meals in its panelled dining room.
The home also welcomes other organisations who wish to make use of its facilities including: schools, colleges, social services and local businesses. St. Peter’s Bourne can cater for day groups of up to 25 people and accommodate 10 to 12 people for residential stay. It offers both weekday and weekend bookings. A flip chart, overhead projectors are also available. Its regular programme of events includes drop-in days, prayer workshop, after-dinner talks, quite days and guided retreat.
The Large Communal Room
With its bright conservatory and relaxed atmosphere overlooks the rear gardens. It is used by many groups for more informal and relaxed discussions and activities.
The Chapel and Lilbrary
It offers quiet spots for individuals to study, reflect, or simply spend some time alone. The home encourages people to drop in for a few hours, but inform them beforehand to make sure they make suitable arrangement. Access to Internet can be arranged with the warden during your time with the house.
It carries popular titles on Christian thinking and study material by various authors. Prayer books and devotional aids such as “holding crosses”, candles and greetings cards are also sold there.
The house maintains this spiritual tranquillity from the Order of Sisters, whose home it once was. It is something the management value and share with all who come. Whether the visitors are looking for space and time alone, or participating in a study group, meeting or attending a small conference.
Edmonton parishes and other church groups use Saint Peter’s Bourne for guided retreats, quiet days, PCC meetings and other special events. Regular visitors also include small businesses, local government, schools, colleges and charities who want to gather in small groups and get away for a short while to consider key issues concerning the future.
The location is also valued by overseas visitors of other faiths and denominations who want a base from which to explore. The home is also used by a number of parishes and church groups for meetings, studies, special worship and celebrations.
Very often, getting away from the usual parish hall or meeting room, results in people experiencing something new and thinking new thoughts. This can be very valuable where your church or praying community needs to think through its future or decisions for the future.
If required, the home can help visitors or guests arrange facilitators or retreat conductors to ensure that the time spent in the home is productive and rewarding.