Peter Strong does not speak much about his childhood, which seems to have been uneventful. He was brought up as a member
of the Anglican Church, in which his eldest brother was a "working priest", meaning that he worked with coal miners,
living in their area and being paid the same wages. The young Peter attended Church regularly but he was discouraged
from following in his brother's footsteps by his father who determined that like most of their relatives he should work in
the Insurance Industry. When Peter was about seventeen he used his influence to obtain a position for him, with a well-known company.
It was at about this time that Peter had a particularly vivid dream and perhaps it was this as much as anything else
that made him dissatisfied with life in the world. He describes it thus;
"I was standing next to a low brick wall, looking at a church notice board. On letters of gold on a black background
it read; 'PRIMITIVE CATHOLIC CHURCH; Services 9.30am and 7.30pm'.
"To the right of the notice board was a double-scrolled iron gate between two stone pillars. To the right of the gate
were high bushes and some flowering fruit trees. Among these, looking most incongruous was the rooftop of an African hut.
That was all I saw. But it was so odd that I wrote it down in a notebook. I then promptly forgot about it. . . . "
Peter began his career in the insurance industry with high hopes, but soon found out that the realities of life
in the business world were very different from the ideals that he espoused. Soon after he joined the company, a manager and
an agent were sacked for falsifying claims, through which they had been able to purchase twelve investment properties, and
Peter found his conscience asking him why he should remain within such a corrupt group of people.
The opportunity to leave came quickly. His boss wanted to provide employment for a nephew, and summoned Peter; "You're
not happy here, are you?" he said. He was right and Peter found himself without employment. His father was disappointed but
quickly found him a job with another insurance company, where he remained for about a year. However, when there was another
sacking - this time of the chief accountant for cooking the books - he resigned, wondering whether there was any place
in this world where honesty and decency could be maintained.
His brother tried to fit him into life in a religious order on two separate occasions, but the monks he met did not impress
his youthful idealism - they seemed worldly and materialistic. Thus it was that as he approached his nineteenth
birthday Peter found himself unemployed and seeking the meaning of life without success. Perhaps he was vaguely hoping to
find someone to guide him, as the British Empire tottered towards the outbreak of the Second World War.
It was at about this time (mid 1939) that wandering through the British Museum one day he came across a cabinet displaying
a Tibetan Wheel of Life, the symbol of their belief in reincarnation. He began to study it a little absently and
it was whilst doing so that a stranger came up to him and began to talk about reincarnation. Peter wondered if perhaps he
was the guide he had been seeking.
Alfred Kaufmann was rather short and in his late thirties, with gold-rimmed spectacles and gingerish hair. In view
of the later role of Archbishop Peter Strong as head of the Orthodox Catholic Church in Australia, it is perhaps significant
that Kaufmann, his first "step" along that spiritual road, was himself an Australian.
Joining the Abbey of Christ the King
As Kaufmann talked with the young Strong about reincarnation, Peter showed increasing interest and eventually Kaufmann
invited him to visit a religious community in New Barnet, just to the north of London.
Peter had previously read in a newspaper about John Ward, the Abbey of Christ the King and their Museum and Folk Park .
At the time he had asked the Deacon of his local church about it, only to be told to avoid Ward, "because he ran a cult" that
was in the "little black book" of the established Church. Perhaps unsurprisingly this had only increased Peter's interest
and he readily accepted Kaufmann's invitation.
It was soon after his nineteenth birthday that the two of them arrived at the Abbey of Christ the King and as Strong
stepped out of the taxi he was amazed to see the gate and the notice-board of his dream. The word "Primitive" was replaced
by the word "Orthodox" but otherwise it seemed exact. There were the flowering fruit trees, and even the roof of the African
hut. As the realisation hit him, he stood stock still, and Kaufmann had to tug his sleeve and virtually push him up the gravel
drive to the Abbey.
In the Abbey, Kaufman, a priest of the Orthodox Catholic Church, introduced Peter to his Archbishop, John Ward, who clearly
made a great impression on the young man. Peter describes his first impressions of the great man at some
length in his book "John Ward; The Prophet of these Times", but in actual fact Ward said little to him during that first meeting
- conversing mainly with his priest, Kaufmann until, eventually, the visit came to an end.
Peter, however, determined to see more of Ward, and that night he wrote to him, asking to join his community. His father
was upset, but wisely did not seek to prevent him doing so, and when Ward responded by inviting him to stay for a weekend,
The rest, as they say, is history. He was eventually allowed to join the community and both Ward and the Abbey of
Christ the King became an integral part of his life from that time onwards.
Life in the Abbey
Peter Gilbert Srong became Brother Peter just as the Second World War stuttered into fire, and during the period of the
"Phony War" (late 1939 & early 1940) he rapidly adjusted to his new way of life. During the Battle of Britain and the
Blitz that followed the members of the community participated in various civil defence activities.
The Abbey was recognised as a religious order by the British government and although conscription was general during
the war, its members were exempt. Peter was made a priest in 1941 at the early age of 21, and has regularly celebrated the
Eucharist ever since. In Barent, the main Sunday services were usually taken by Ward, but Peter and his fellow
junior, Maurice Cuffe, often assisted, and one well-known-picture shows them partifipating in one of the episcopal consecrations
that took place after the War ended.
In 1946 the Abbey moved to Cyprus and Peter had to adapt himself to a simple agrarian way of life as the community tried
to become self-supporting. After Ward's death in 1949, Peter, now 30 years old was consecrated as assistant bishop to
Ward's successor Archbishop Chamberlain. Life in Cyprus was tough, and at times the community members came close to starvation.
Many became sick, and in their weakened state, some died. When finally the community left Cyprus, Peter was one of those who
had survived .
When the community sought to become established in India, it was Peter who was chosen to escort the Rev. Mother, Jessie
Ward on a mission to the Maharajah of Mysore, but when that proved unsucessful, it moved on to Australia, arriving early in
By this time, the community had used up all its financial resources and along with other members, Peter was now forced
to go back out into the world for a space, simply to provide the basic necesities of life. Although he did not realise it
at the time, this, however, seems to have been a vital part his training for what later became his calling to spread
the message of Ward throughout Australia.
In late 1957, Bishop Strong asisted Archbishop Chamberlain to consecrate Father Maurice Cuffe, thus bringing the number
of bishops in Australia to the ecclesiastically significant total of three. Following the death of Archbishop Chamberlain,
Bishop Srong was elected as Archbishop in 1965.
Together with Chamberlain's widow, Elizabeth, Peter continued to work in the world, and it was their combined savings
that in 1965 enabled to community to purchase a property at Caboolture, where it was able to restablish itself formally
as the Abbey of Christ the King, once again. The Abbey Church of Christ the King, the first Orthodox Catholic Church to be
purpose-built in Australia, was consecrated by Peter on September 9th 1967.
In 1973, after continuing their labours in the world until they had paid off the balance of purchase price, Peter and
Elizabeth formally established the Othodox Catholic Church of Australia, with Letters Patent issued by the Queensland
Governor In Council .
The Orthodox Catholic Church of Australia
There followed many years of missionary work, in which they travelled to various parts of Australia, spreading the mesage
of Christ's Return wherever they went. Their efforts were not without succcess, but they also found themselves confronted
by opposition, persecution and at times betrayal by those they had sought to assist.
For several years they rented a beautiful old disused Anglican Church in Brisbane and at times quite large numbers
attended their services. Their years at St Thomas' saw a significant increase in the number of clergy, some of which have
since spread the Message to other parts of Australia, notably Perth, Sydney, several parts of Country New South Wales, and
the Queensland Gold Coast.
Eventually, however, Peter's enemies persuaded the Anglican authorities to evict them from St Thomas' Church
and they were forced to withdraw to Sydney, for a while. They returned to Brisbane and it was there in 1985, that Elizabeth,
the widow of Archbishop Chamberlain and the last of the original Founding Members, died.
Despite this sad loss, and ongoing opposition, Archbishop Strong continued his work for God in both Queensland and New
South Wales, with the assistance of other clergy, notably Archdeaconess Margaret Brandt, whom he then married and
who still shares his labours.
Assisted by Bishop Maurice Cuffe he consecrated Bishop John Cuffe in 1989, after first consecrating St Cecelia's Church
at Moodlu, Queensland. This was the second church building that Peter had consecrated - the first had been the Abbey Church in
1967. He later moved to Gympie where a third Church - that of St Mary Magdalene, has been built by another of Peter's bishops,
Bishop Brian Baden. Most of the other clergy ordained and consecrated by Archbishop Peter Strong serve in "home chapels".
Peter now lives at Wolvi, near Gympie, Queensland and is still regarded as the head of all the Orthodox Catholic
Churches in Australia but like Ward, he has little time for fancy titles or gorgeous vestments. Although today he is
nearly ninety, he still celebrates the Eucharist regularly and continues to take an active role in guiding the younger clergy.
May he continue to enjoy the health that will allow him to do so for many years, until at length, his work
on earth completed, he is welcomed home by Ward himself, whose burden he shared when they were both on earth, and whose
legacy he has promoted for more than fifty years.