At 18 he became a teacher at Clifton Grammar School
in Warwickshire, where he was also the organist. To avoid making a noise, he practiced on a small harmonium. without using
the bellows and eventually gained his Doctor of Music degree in 1894. Later he was appointed to the position of Director of the Queen’s Music and became well-known as a composer of both sacred
and secular music, and today there are references to him and several of his works on the Internet.
Sibley continued to work both as a conductor and composer but after the First World War he
began to take a greater interest in spiritual matters and a common bond through music led to him accepting ordination as a
priest from his good friend F.E.J. Lloyd in 1924, who had recently been elected Archbishop of what was then called the
American Catholic Church.
The Orthodox Catholic Church
When Sibley retired in 1929, he determined to devote his declining years to the service of God,
and after obtaining consecration in America from Lloyd, returned to England
as Archbishop of what he renamed as the Orthodox Catholic Church in the British Empire.
Unfortunately in this new role he rapidly attracted enemies from the established Church who often
employed agent provocateurs and the gutter press against him. Despite this persecution he was always the perfect gentleman, and there was a firm chin under his George V beard. Yet he was often
deceived by people who appealed to his kindly nature and both he and his wife suffered greatly from treachery by those they
sought to help. Eventually he was to admit, ‘One can be too easily accessible.’
One such attack came from a young woman reporter from the gutter press, who first sought his help
and then launched a vicious attack through “John Bull” a gutter press magazine. The same woman later tried a similar
trick with John Ward, but warned by the Archbishop, he was less easily duped.
In his ecclesiastical capacity Sibley wore a black suit, black spats, purple stock, and a wide-brimmed
hat with a rosette. He was a likeable old man with steady blue eyes behind his
gold-rimmed glasses, very upright in stance and courteous in the extreme, yet underneath was a will of iron.
On a more personal note, Sibley suffered great pain from an enlarged prostate, and the many persecutions
to which he was subjected, but struggled on. Wishing to establish a religious community he sought to purchase Minster Abbey
on the Isle of Thanet in the River Thames, where once St Sexburga had been in charge, but
he was attacked so vehemently in John Bull that the whole scheme fell through.
Nevertheless, it was through this contact that some of the bones of St Sexburga came into possession of John Ward and the
Abbey of Christ the King. They are still preserved at St Michael’s Church in Caboolture.
Sibley also established an Intercollegiate
University, which offered degrees to clergymen from various denominations
after appropriate studies. Lloyd had already set up a similar facility in America,
supported by his wealthy wife, but Sibley had no such financial backer and eventually the British university, which never
made a profit, closed down.
Death of Sibley
Eventually through his meeting with Ward and the subsequent admission of the Confraternity to the Orthodox
Catholic Church, Sibley found some success even in this life, but the pressure of constant persecution told on his wife, who
Just after his 80th birthday, on December 15th 1938 John Churchill Sibley went
to his well earned rest, and was buried in High Barnet cemetery during a raging snowstorm in a funeral arranged by John Ward
and the Community. Soon afterwards, the Archbishop John Churchill Sibley was recognised as having been raised to the ranks
of the Blessed Saints of God.