The Herbert Kelly Institute for the Study of Anglican Religious Life

Since the mid-19th century Anglican religious life has flourished in many forms and made a rich, if somewhat hidden, contribution to the life of the Anglican Church. Though it may be declining within the Church of England, the religious life represents a universal calling that continues to inspire people today – not only within the church but beyond it too.

With this in mind we are proposing to set up an Institute for the study of Anglican religious life at St Antony’s Priory that will not only preserve the legacy of Anglican religious life, but also provide the resources that will help to inform its future.


  • Establishing premises as a centre for the activities of the Institute, which will include a specialist theological library, as well as office space and lecture rooms.
  • Curating a resource hub for the archives of as many religious orders as possible, especially those that may have already reached completion, and providing information about the history of the religious life, as well as signposting to other relevant resources.
  • Working with the custodians and curators of collections to share knowledge and provide a resource for researchers, as well as supporting, where necessary, the creation of detailed catalogues and ensuring preservation of archive collections.
  • Facilitating the study of, and enabling research projects relating to, Herbert Kelly, traditional Anglican Religious Orders, and new expressions of religious life.
  • Hosting public lectures, seminars and other outreach projects which relate the story of Anglican Religious life over last 150 years, and its significance for the future in relation to contemporary contexts.
  • Funding postgraduate research in Anglican religious life at the University of Durham.
  • Setting up an imprint for the publication of relevant research papers, books, etc.


  • To SSM: fulfilling the aims of SSM, namely promoting vocation, nurturing faith and spirituality and encouraging theological learning, continuing the vision of Herbert Kelly and reviving interest in his unique contribution to theology, and building a national profile in relation to the study of religious life.
  • To Anglican Religious Orders: ensuring the preservation of their archive collections and facilitating study of their history, enabling collaboration between religious archivists and sharing of good practice for curatorship and conservation.
  • To the Church: celebrating the heritage of this important element of Anglican life, sharing its wisdom to support the exploration of new forms of religious life, the development of personal spirituality and engagement with the wider ‘spirituality movement’.
  • To Scholars: collaborating with Anglican religious archivists and other stakeholders and providing a central information resource for researchers, students, and clergy on sabbatical.

Potential Partners

Nothing like this is currently being done in the Church of England, although a similar project is now being explored, also in Durham, in relation to Catholic religious orders.

Potential partners, some of whom might also be willing to support this work financially, could include: Religious Orders and related bodies, libraries and Archives (e.g. Lambeth Palace, Durham University), historians and writers on religious life, ecumenical partners.

The Institute will bring cohesion and focus to the study of Anglican religious life nationally, and help to ensure that its legacy continues to bear fruit in generations to come.

A downloadable version of this information is available here. Please do feel free to share it with anyone who may be interested.


“This sounds like a very good project.”

“What providential timing! Your project feels like an unexpected legacy, and we have just embarked on bringing order to our community archives.”

“Thank you for your letter which arrived just in the nick of time. We are about to downsize and are in the process of disposing of a large percentage of our effects. I have tried various avenues for disposing of our archives and each enquiry has led to a dead end. I shall follow this project with the greatest interest.”

“I will be very interested in hearing of further work in this and helping by completing your survey. We have just finished work with a very accomplished Archivist to get our documents etc., into good order.”

“It sounds really interesting and it is surely the right time for something like this. I’d really like to keep in touch with what’s happening.”

“Our interest is in the living tradition and strengthening the future of the religious life in the Church of England. We would be very interested in partnering with St Antony’s in this work. all good wishes for this timely venture.”

“How exciting to discuss your admirable proposal. I so hope it can happen: it very much needs to be done.”

“That sounds a very worthwhile and exciting venture and, for us, very timely! Sadly, we shall be moving (…) and need to give thought to our archives.”

“I have for many years wanted to see a research centre for Anglican religious life. I am particularly concerned about the loss of information to women’s studies, as more and more communities are ageing and reduced in numbers.”

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