Prayer, Study and Community

St Antony’s Priory, in Durham, is a Christian spirituality centre, operated by the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM), an Anglican Religious Order founded by Fr Herbert Kelly in 1893, which is perhaps best known in connection with Kelham Theological College (1903-1972).

The Society of the Sacred Mission exists to serve the Church; its charitable aims refer to increasing the number of those giving their lives to the ‘Divine Service’, the ‘Conversion and Perfection of Souls’, and the cultivation of the ‘Divine Science’.

Today, we seek to advance those objects by promoting vocation, nurturing faith and spirituality, and encouraging theological learning.

  • The Priory offers spiritual accompaniment and training for spiritual directors, hospitality for groups and individuals, and a varying programme of courses and quiet days.
  • Overnight accommodation is available in the Cottage guesthouse, which has four self-catering rooms available for people wishing to spend a few days on retreat.

The Society of the Sacred Mission and Kelham

This film, made by the BBC in 1960, shows a fascinating glimpse of Kelham in its heyday – it really is another world…

The motto of the Society of the Sacred Mission is: Ad gloriam Dei in eius voluntate (To the glory of God in the doing of his will). Fr Kelly described it as ‘an idea in the working’, one that continues to evolve as we seek to discern God’s will today.

“Fr Kelly had not really intended to start a religious community, but rather to train men for the new Korean Mission. Quite quickly he took up training priests for the Church in England, and formed a community of priests and lay-brothers as the best way of doing it. He himself was a bit of an academic failure, and he thought that the clergy of his generation spent too much of their time studying theology in the atmosphere of the universities. He viewed the move of the Bishops to restrict ordination to graduates as very foolish. But he was quite sure that men from non-academic, ‘working class’ backgrounds needed a formation which was demanding and rigorous: he aimed to teach his students to think, to do their theology, and not just to learn a series of ‘correct’ answers to be trotted out in sermons. So the life he created was all-embracing: Mass and the daily Office, lectures, housework, manual work – even sport – all were part of the day to day life of the College. Students lived alongside the Community, not in a separate building, and the Kelham way often saw senior tutors sweeping corridors and washing up under the direction of their students.”

Scott Anderson