Retired Bishop To Honour Priest Who Opposed Nazis

A former Bishop of Bath and Wells will honour an outspoken opponent of Hitler through words and music in Enmore Green next Tuesday.

Bishop Peter Price knows Shaftesbury well. He retired to North Dorset in 2013 following twelve years service at Wells Cathedral. “We wanted to stay close to the diocese because we made a lot of friends there. But there is a generally established rule that you don’t stay within the diocese itself. So I moved into the Salisbury diocese. I have spent most of my time over the last five years working for an international peace building organisation.”

Bishop Peter has authored a number of books and the subject of his latest release provides the focus for this talk. He’s been inspired by the thoughts of Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who was executed by the Nazis.

“He was imprisoned in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin for so-called ‘defeatism and treason’. He had committed himself, along with a small group of courageous men and women, to building a new Christian order after the war. He wasn’t to be part of that. That was his vision. He was executed on 2nd February 1945,” said Peter.

St John’s Church in Enmore Green

Peter says that he wanted people to know about Father Delp’s bravery. “I felt I wanted to honour this guy’s memory. That’s what the book attempts to do. It’s a series of daily reflections through the Advent season. That’s usually from 1st December through until Christmas.”

Peter says Delp left us with few written works. “He did leave one significant meditation. He wrote it in his prison cell in the weeks before Christmas, in 1944.” Some of Father Delp’s thoughts have had a profound effect on Bishop Peter, who quoted from a passage that he had memorised. “‘Walking up and down myself, three paces this way, three paces that way, with my hands in irons and ahead of me an uncertain future, I have a new and different understanding of God’s promise of redemption and release’. Somehow or other that stayed with me,” said Peter.

The title of Peter’s book ‘A Shaking Reality – Daily Reflections for Advent’ refers to Father Delp. “He described Advent as a time when we all ought to be shaken and brought to our realisation of ourselves,” said Peter. “I think he was also writing that in the context of what was, for him, a pretty shaking reality – knowing that he was sentenced to death. It was only a question of when it was going to happen.”

There will be some contemporary references during the evening. “There’s a section in which I talk about John the Baptist and I make comparisons with people like the BBC’s correspondent Fergal Keane, whom I always feel is one of those ‘criers in the wilderness’. I’m quite a good friend of the war photographer Don McCullin. He shared many things with me. That is in the book, too. It’s a variety of things and there’s little bit of lightness of touch as well,” Peter laughed.

Peter admits that he is pleased with his latest work. “Of all the books I have written, it’s the one I feel most satisfied by,” Bishop Peter said. And the book has been praised by the Bishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. “He wrote, ‘It’s an eye-opening book and I commend it warmly’. It’s probably because I tell stories,” explained Bishop Peter. “I’m not some kind of great theological guru. I’m a storyteller.”

Peter will share his stories in 5-7 minute bursts before offering brief musical interludes. “There’s going to be a Leonard Cohen song. I worked with Jools Holland producing a jazz mass and there will also be a piece from his band.” And Peter says he hopes to offer his audience something to think about. “I hope they go home with the feeling, ‘I wonder if there’s something in this, after all?’” he said.

Bishop Peter will talk at St John’s Church in Enmore Green, Shaftesbury, on Tuesday 6th November. The evening starts at 7pm. There is no charge for this evening but if you would like to reserve a seat in the nave please contact Jo Churchill on 01747 850432 or Seats must be taken up by 7.10pm.