Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, Founder of the Little Gidding Community, 1637
Lesser Festival
4 December

[Nicholas Ferrar portrait]

Born in London in 1592, Nicholas Ferrar was educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge and elected a Fellow there in 1610. From 1613, he travelled extensively on the continent for five years, trying his hand as a businessman and then as a parliamentarian on his return. In 1625, he moved to Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, then a derelict manor-house with a chapel which was being used as a hay barn. He was joined by his brother and sister and their families and by his mother, and they established together a community life of prayer, using The Book of Common Prayer, and a life of charitable works in the locality. He was ordained to the diaconate by William Laud the year after they arrived. He wrote to his niece in 1631, ‘I purpose and hope by God’s grace to be to you not as a master but as a partner and fellow student.’ This indicates the depth and feeling of the community life Nicholas and his family strove to maintain. After the death of Nicholas on this day in 1637, the community was broken up in 1646 by the Puritans, who were suspicious of it and referred to it as the Arminian Nunnery. They feared it promoting the return of Romish practices into England, and so all Nicholas’s manuscripts were burned.


God of peace,
make us worthy of your perfect love
that, with your servant Nicholas Ferrar and his household,
we may rule ourselves after your Word
and serve you with our whole heart;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 19.9–18

A reading from the First Book of the Kings.

Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

This is the word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119 vv 57–64

R Incline your heart to understanding
[and find the knowledge of God].

You only are my portion, O Lord;
I have promised to keep your words.
I entreat you with all my heart,
be merciful to me according to your promise. R

I have considered my ways
and turned my feet towards your decrees.
I hasten and do not tarry
to keep your commandments. R

Though the cords of the wicked entangle me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I will rise to give you thanks,
because of your righteous judgements. R

I am a companion of all who fear you
and of those who keep your commandments.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your love;
instruct me in your statutes. R

New Testament Reading: Acts 4.32–35

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

This is the word of the Lord.

Gospel Reading: Luke 12.32–37

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.’

This is the gospel of the Lord.

Post Communion

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Nicholas Ferrar
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
   has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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