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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Story of the Community of Celebration

Following is an article concerning the release of a book written by a member of the Community of Celebration explaining his view of their history and purpose. Gale and I lived in Aliquippa during the arrival of the Community and were members of All Saints' Church. All Saints' became a centerpiece of their ministry and an early base of operations following their relocation from Scotland. They greatly influenced the worship in the Diocese of Pittsburgh especially among parishes that were active in "renewal" and Cursillo in the 1980s and 1990s.. Although we remained friends with many of their members, Gale and did not find their lifestyle one we could personally embrace.

 Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011, 17:25 (GMT)

This well received book tells the story of a remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit in the latter half of the twentieth century. Based in Britain, the Community of Celebration and its ministering teams known as the Fisherfolk attracted crowds in churches and cathedrals through their worship. Recordings sold in thousands. Christians around the world were inspired to make the attempt at community living.After featuring prominently in the ‘renewal’ scene for a number of years, the Community began to adopt a lower public profile. But it did not come to an end. It continued, at times with several branches, slowly evolving over a period of decades. Beginning as an almost hippie-style commune with an international ministry, they gradually became smaller, more locally focused and reflective.

After relocating to Aliquippa, an old steel town in desperate need near Pittsburgh (USA), their life and ministry developed through several phases until they achieved formal recognition as a religious community of The Episcopal Church of the United States. Today they are a familiar Christian presence in the town, with their own purpose built chapel, providing a focus and support for other agencies which have since come with a mission to the poor of Aliquippa.

Following the Spirit is the story of the Community of Celebration. Taking its title from a TV documentary describing the extraordinary renewal in Houston in the sixties that led to the founding of the Community of Celebration in Britain, it traces the development of the ‘religious order’ concept that was ultimately to become the Community’s identity. The Community’s founder, Graham Pulkingham, became less and less essential to it as its members took on the work of establishing that identity for themselves. The subtitle of the book is 'Seeing Christian faith through community eyes'. Community living confronted many issues in ordinary church life, where institutional needs and social and religious conventions powerfully control the way people think and what is practically possible. Often, the real casualty here is a truly Christian spirituality that unites the human and the divine.

A major section of the book looks at several issues in which there was a characteristic ‘community’ way of looking at things. For some, the Community’s evolution was as much a spiritual and theological journey as one in life experience, and a third section attempts to give a flavour of this. The author’s own background, for example, is evangelical and charismatic. That inspired the move to community living and yet the very circumstances of community life promoted a deeper appreciation of the Incarnation and its implications for Christian life and theology.

The author, Philip Bradshaw, is an Anglican priest who has taken life vows in the Community of Celebration. He and his wife live near London, where they maintain a Community house on behalf of the parent Community in the USA.

 Order it from the Community’s website:

 From here: 


A more critical view of their community was written by the former religion writer of the Washington Post, Julia Duin, titled Days of Fire and Glory. A description of the book on says this, "It was the late summer of 1986 when Julia Duin moved to Houston as the new religion writer for The Houston Chronicle. At the invitation of friends, she visited the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston's blighted East End and fell in love with its gorgeous music and charismatic worship. After she met Graham Pulkingham, the spellbinding priest who had led Redeemer into a powerful renewal starting in 1964, Duin became convinced the world needed to know the story of this gifted man and his church. As she began investigating the story, many warned her there was a darker history behind Pulkingham. Now the journalist who first broke that story reveals the details of the scandal that rocked the charismatic and Christian community movements, and the Episcopal Church. Duin provides a fascinating portrait of the glorious days of the renewal and its sister movements within Catholic and Pentecostal churches".

You can find it here

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