I was visiting Tom Hiney last weekend, who became a curate at Dewsbury Minster after leaving Cranmer Hall in Durham. We were going for a walk along the canal when Tom said, pointing into the distance, “Look, Mirfield is over there!” and a moment later, “We could walk to it.”
The significance of Mirfield is that my uncle was one of the Anglican monks there for many years, lecturing at the theological college. I’d never been: I knew him after he’d retired to the London house of the Community of the Resurrection. While in London I’d visited him about once a term, and we shared our passion for Gloucestershire county cricket… but as an atheist in those days, I was less keen to know about his monastic life.
Tom and I therefore made our way along the canal – aided by a local dog walker who gave us directions to the college. We entered the chapel – much changed since my uncle’s day, not least because it had recently been renovated, rather impressively (see photo).
Later, as we wandered around outside, Tom remembered the monks’ graveyard. It’s a place marked by a uniform simplicity that reflects something of the monastic ideals. Before long he discovered my uncle’s grave, which recorded – along with the usual dates – the date of his being professed as a monk, and the name he took (so that my Uncle Christopher was generally known as Father Mark).
Tom’s clearly enjoying life in Dewsbury, although finding curacy a very all-consuming role. One reason he was drawn to the place is the sense that – despite being one of the less well-known Yorkshire towns – there is an apocalyptic air. It’s certainly a town that gets caught up in national and international events: it was the home of one of the 7/7 bombers, and the Minster’s chapel last week had become a shrine to a local lad who had been killed in Afghanistan, just days before his 21st birthday.
Tom has recently started a weekly radio show on Branch FM, a local Christian broadcaster, called “Global Gospel”. In it he draws attention to the persecution faced by many Christians in different parts of the world – and emphasises their inspiring witness, which puts to shame many of us in the comfortable west. Tom’s own passion comes through, along with his conviction of the urgency of the present hour. The show is combined with worship music from different parts of the world. It’s available as a podcast here.