The John Sebastian Marlow Ward Website

J.S.M. Ward and the Abbey of Christ the King

About John Sebastian Marlow Ward
Early Life of J.S.M. Ward
Ward as a Medium & Spiritualist
Ward and Freemasonry
JSM Ward as a Historian
J.S.M. Ward as an Author
J.S.M. Ward and the Abbey of Christ the King
The Abbey Church in Barnet
The Folk Park
Ward and the Anglican Church
Ward and the Masonic Research Society
Churchill Sibley and the Orthodox Catholic Church
Ward and the Orthodox Catholic Church
The Abbey and the War
The Dorothy Lough Case
Mar Georgius and the Katholicate of the West
The Consecrations
The Consecration of Bishop Chamberlain
Ward driven from England.
The Community in Cyprus
Death of J.S.M. Ward
Ward's Work survives his Death
Key Associates of J.S.M. Ward
His Mystic partner, Jessie Ward
Life of John Churchill Sibley
Last of Ward's priests; Peter Gilbert Strong
Ward's son; John Reginald Cuffe
Other Individuals Associated with JSM Ward
The Spiritual Journey of J.S.M. Ward
Ward as a Mystic
Ward and the First Apocalypse
Other Key Apocalypses
Ward and the Return of Christ
The Legacy of J.S.M. Ward
The Basic Theology of J.S.M. Ward
WARD'S THEOLOGY; The Nature of God
WARD'S THEOLOGY: The Work of Salvation
WARD'S THEOLOGY; God's Great Plan
The Mystical Theology of J.S.M. Ward
After their mystical "Great Initiation" in 1927 John and Jessie Ward received a number of other mystical experiences through which they felt themselves to be called to help prepare the world for the Return of Christ. Both determined to follow this call, and Ward, already a well-known and popular after-dinner speaker, began this work by delivering a series of six weekly lectures on the meaning of life. At first these were very well attended, but as time passed numbers fell until less than a dozen attended the last of the series.
However, most of these were very interested in his message, and eventually six other people joined with the Wards to dedicate their lives to the task of preparing the world for Christ's Return. All came from a Christian (and mainly Anglican) background and eventually the group decided to pool their resources and form a religious community within the Anglican Church.
Based on the double monasteries of the early Anglo-Saxon Church and the double communities of St Gilbert of Sepringham in the Middle Ages, this mixed community was unique at the time. It included both single people and married couples and eventually the group purchased a large house (Hadley Hall) at New Barnet, near London, where on 24th June 1930, they established themselves as THE ABBEY OF CHRIST THE KING.
Although often accused of being a sect or cult, the Abbey of Christ the King was, from the beginning, quite unlike other new religious movements of the 20th century,  and Ward himself differed greatly from most other founders of such groups.
For a start he had little personal interest in money and cheerfully surrendered all his worldy goods to the common cause, as well as giving up his well-paid job as the head of the intelligence department of the Federation of British Industry to live the life of a monk. Nor did he give much thought to his appearance and the red cassocks that he habitually wore were were usually shabby and often stained.

Again, unlike the founders of many other groups, neither he nor his wife Jessie ever profited financially from large donations by their followers. In fact it was they, who contributed the lion's share of the communal assets and in some ways it was the other members, who benefitted from Ward's sacrifice,  not the other way round. This was so much so, that the royalty cheques from the sale of his books provided a significant part of the communal income during his lifetime. After his death 1949, the publishers stopped sending cheques to his widow, Jessie Ward and as a result, during its remaining years in Cyprus, the community suffered real destitution and at times came close to starvation.


In fact none of those who joined the Abbey of Christ the King in later years ever brought substantial wealth with them and until long after Ward's death the community remained poor and at times nearly destitute.


A Brief History of the Abbey of Christ the King


The exact date of the founding of the Abbey of Christ the King is a matter of some debate. Can it be held to have begun when in early 1927 John and Jessie Ward were first called into the presence of Christ and asked to Prepare the Way for His Return? Or should we date its beginning from the first meetings of those who were later to become the founding members?


Until her death in 1965, Jessie Ward, tended to see the year 1929 as the year in which "The Work" began[i], but others regard the day on which the little community moved into Hadley Hall, 24th June 1930, as the true Foundation date of the Abbey of Christ the King


Certainly from that time onwards there was a tangible entity in existence that was dedicated to preparing the world for the Return of Christ, an entity which was is still in existence, having outlasted all of its founding members by many years. (The last founder, Elizabeth Chamberlain, died in 1985). This itself is a very significant fact, for the first major test of any work comes after the death of its Founder, and the vast majority of organisations do not long survive that first testing. The Abbey of Christ the King has.


Of course, it can be argued that the fact that John Ward did not act alone in founding what he usually called simply "The Work", was itself a powerful factor in ensuring that it survived his death in 1949. Certainly the leadership shown by his widow, Jessie Ward from then until her own death in 1965 kept the community in existence during a period of intense trials, both spiritual and material, whilst the fact that the youngest of the Founders, Elizabeth Chamberlain (1900 - 1985) lived to the ripe old age of 85 meant that the tangible link with its beginnings was retained within the community until that time.


It can also be argued that what was originally called the Abbey of Christ the King has been significantly changed in form since its early beginnings, and this is at least partly true, for today there are many groups that claim to preserve at least some of its original ideals. Nor have these been official foundations of an original Mother House as would be expected of a "normal" religious Order, despite the fact that Ward himself seems to have expected the Work to spread in some such way[ii].


However, the later history of the many facets of the Work founded by Ward is a major work in its own right, and in this brief account we shall merely concern ourselves with its early years when it was led in person by J.S.M. Ward himself.



Early Years within the Anglican Church

Taking June 24th 1930 as its foundation date, the Abbey of Christ the King spent its first five years as an officially-recognised part of the Anglican Church. Nor should this surprise us, for with Ward himself, together with most of his followers coming from an Anglican background, they turned naturally to the Church of their ancestors. However, despite his persistant efforts to do so,  Ward was never able to persuade the Anglican authorities to ordain him as a priest. Thus, even at the beginning, he was no traditional Anglican clergyman. He preached regularly about the Second Coming of Christ, delivering the Message that he believed himself to have been given and he also promoted other ideas that were not generally accepted by the Establishment, such as the Doctrine of Reincarnation and a belief that the Holy Spirit is the Female Aspect of the Godhead.


At first, the little community was just that and no more. Lacking any collective income but including many qualified teachers it soon commenced to operate a small school, St Michael's College, the fees of which provided its main income in the early years. Remembering this period in later life, Jessie Ward, once described how the school came into being thus.


"The Master[iii] said that as we needed an income, we had better start a school, and we felt with God behind it, the school was sure to be a financial success, but it wasn’t – we only barely made enough to survive and eventually it was closed down”.


Nevertheless, with the benefit of hindsight we can see the real reason that the school was permitted to come into being. It did provide an income, but from God's point of view its primary purpose was to introduce to the Work, many young people, who were later to take part therein. Of the twelve followers who left England with the Wards in 1946 at least seven had been initially brought into contact with the Abbey through St Michael's College.


But the most important task of the Community during its first months had been the building of a Church.


[i] This was based on a mystical reason, for it was in 1929, during the time when Ward himself was delivering his series of lectures, that in a mystical experience she perceived that Christ has actually begun His Descent to earth

[ii] In one of the hymns that he wrote for use of his followers (no 498) he referred the fact that the Work would “in due season spread throughout the world, By Thee be guided aided and sustained”.

[iii] This was said in discussions with John Cuffe, when he was a teenager. The term “the Master” as used by her referred to the Master of the Work otherwise called the Angelic Guardian of the Work. He is the great Angel (a Throne) who, under God, was responsible for the day to day mystical guidance that both the Wards received.

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Christ is Coming
For Further information
Contact:  Rt. Rev. John Cuffe
               St Cecelia's Orthdox Catholic Church
               Caboolture Qld 4510 Australia.
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