In memoriam Donald Allchin
In the summer of 1990 I noticed in the Church Times an advertisement for a conference at Ammerdown near Bristol. That it was to be led by Donald Allchin got me thinking.
In 1942 when my Mother was bearing me, Donald heard about me from his Aunt, who lived two doors away from us in Ealing, London. Twenty years on I was clearly following in his footsteps, having been to the same schools and the same Oxford college, ChristChurch. And at Oxford from 1962-6 he invited me to lunch at Pusey House where he was Librarian. And then our paths parted. Until we met again nearly 25 years later. And his Ammerdown conference was entitled ‘Thomas Traherne’.
That weekend changed my life. I had come across Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations not at Oxford (there I had never even heard of him) but in the SPCK shop in Nottingham in 1979. I had been consumed by it and sometimes used to quote it in my south Cambridgeshire parishes. But to hear Donald talking about the wideness of Traherne’s thinking was mind-blowing. If only all the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England had been there. Towards the end Donald came up to me and said: ‘Richard, we must do something to bring Traherne properly to the surface.’ Out of our conversation was born Traherne’s first Festival based at his parish of Credenhill. I asked Donald when it ought to be. And he replied ‘it must be on Trinity Sunday. God’s Trinity is the heart of his writing.’ And there he was, on Trinity Sunday 1991, in Credenhill Church, Herefordshire. And on Trinity Sundays over nearly 20 years. His guidance for the programmes was unforgettable.
He was for me the heart of kindness. I close with a passage from his chapter in ‘Profitable Wonders: Aspects of Traherne, by A. M. Allchin, Anne Ridler and Julia Smith, The Amate Press, 1989.’ I still regard this as an unrivalled study of Traherne.