These comments arrive, almost daily in response to my blog. Once approved they are part of the public record. If for any reason an author wishes them removed simply contact me. While minimally edited for length and occasionally content, they attest to the warmth and relevance of the Garden Congregation ministry. We all hope for some sort of ongoing connection in future months. As the Dean says in his final broadcast, “till we meet again.”
Thank you, Ken, for your wonderful tribute message. Your reflection and the heartfelt comments shed light on one important thought – the Garden Congregation is still here!
All of us are connected in ways we may never have imagined the first time we clicked on the YouTube ‘play’ button. Perhaps it was unintentional at the onset, but Dean Robert and Fletcher (and all the others who helped with the services) brought us together from around the globe to help us show the world what the Creator’s Kin-dom looks like.
Most of us will never meet in person, and we probably never worshiped at exactly the same time, yet daily we prayed together, listened and learned together, sang, laughed, smiled, and wept together, felt each others presence across time and space, and grew together in love for God, for one another and for all creation.
How did you find your way to your first visit to Morning Prayer at Canterbury Cathedral? For some, it was an accidental click. I dare say most of us were invited, either virtually or personally, to connect and join in. That connection cannot be severed by an arbitrary date or the flick of a technical switch. With the help of the new YouTube channel and the existing services going back over two years, we are generously being given the opportunity to remain connected. It’s not ‘good-bye,’ but God be with you as we all set out on this new beginning!
I have been part of the Garden Congregation over a year. What a blessing! Thank you Dean Robert and Fletcher. Not forgetting the menagerie. I am tucked away in Guyana, South America.
I am so sad about the end of the Garden Congregation. I know we are all on a new journey. All will be well.
I have been living the most stressful 10 years of my life and the pandemic put me at the bottom of a pit; then quite by accident I found Dean Willis on YouTube and began my “climb” back to spiritual strength and comfort.
I am still dealing with health issues for myself and my adult daughter but praying with Dean Willis and the Garden Congregation has kept me going. I am able to watch my church’s services online but I so love the beauty of the gardens and the animals and the calm, comforting voice of Dean Willis and that feeling of this caring community praying together.
Like so many others, I have learned more about scriptures, the church, the saints and other people, places and things than ever before in my life of 81 years. I wish the best for Dean Willis and the talented Fletcher and for all in the Garden Community.
I love the above articles and comments, which CLOSELY match my own thoughts and observations (not least a growing feeling that the Deanery Gardens there in Kent (as Garden of England) are INDEED the size of Belgium, beautiful beyond compare of course, and with a biodiversity of mega-proportions). Bede spoke of God reaching us through Scripture and Nature, and here we really are!
For about a year now, I have watched in from Poland (as a Brit totally separated from his homeland until April 22nd). So not from the very outset. Still, even in that time, Dean Robert has become more noticeably polished – and by that I do not mean in a shallow or slick TV-presenter sense, but rather in the sense of spiritual conviction and fluency. Given the existence and presence of the undoubtedly-also-gifted Fletcher, I would like against that background to allude to my own onward journey – with them – into understanding and acceptance. Robert and Fletcher just as they are are Brothers for me now, and let nobody say different!! Hopefully, we remember the BBC’s “Pilgrimage: Road to Rome” in which a marvellous, Godly Pope Francis speaks to Stephen K. Amos about the noun more than the adjective? I will NEVER forget my life being changed by those words of beauty, love, mercy and joy from the top Catholic…
Have we all seen how the words from Robert flow more smoothly, how he becomes more word-perfect? That is the Holy Spirit at work – a concept very dear to me since my own case of being born again on February 28th 2021 (Transfiguration Day in Poland). Like many in that situation, I became extremely “hungry” for spiritual inputs, and I suppose I might say that Dean Robert was cosy and comforting from the outset, but with time more and more and more of a spiritual teacher for me as well.
An important thing for me is the belief – also alluded to above – and beautifully espoused in words by the Dean – that the Holy Spirit inspires accomplished artistic performance, finding 21st-century ways to reach us. It strikes me that the Dean is more and more inclined to refer to this, which is scarcely surprising since he has been part and parcel of that process – to which I have also been bearing witness (and offering dissemination) for over a year now.
Since the pandemic and war have been dark days indeed, it may truly be that we are all moving towards the End Days, with all the good-bad-sad-ecstatic-melancholy that that entails. And if that is so then part of that is greater and greater revelation and discernment for many of us. Bizarrely (one would say, if one did not know different), Dean Robert has recently made reference to places and things that matter much in my own life, not least the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. There are not too many of us Brits around who know that place, but I do! I know crazy people always think that the world revolves around them, but it truly is possible to make out here a growing and strengthening web of connections between us and among us. Perhaps all good things really do come to an end, and perhaps there is a next step for lovers and afficionados of the Garden Congregation.
But I do hope total dissipation is not going to be our fate…
Having said that, the Disciples did scatter when Jesus moved on as that was the way it was meant to be…
Dean Robert’s departure will be a huge loss for those of us who followed his Garden Congregation, and I for one am very disappointed that the Anglican Church will do nothing and just allow this global community of 40,000+ to just dissolve.
Out of necessity during COVID 19 lockdown Dean Robert used these marvelous videos to expand the Anglican Church and keep spreading the word of God and message of Jesus in such an interesting and beautiful way.
It would be wonderful if the COE would allow the Garden Congregation to continue but listening to Dean Robert today 5/11, I think he put that to rest.
One family in New York is very saddened by this turn of events.
A lifelong Anglican living in Regina (SK), I began watching Morning Prayer from the Canterbury Deanery Garden occasionally in 2020. As time went in, I began to watch more regularly but it wasn’t until Lent 2022 that I became a daily viewer – or, more accurately, participant, for Dean Robert truly has the ability to draw people in and make them part of the garden congregation.
It provided a ray of light as the pandemic and the prairie winter went on amd on. I can honestly say that Dean Robert’s readings and reflections made Passion Week and Holy Week the most meaningful I have ever experienced.
Throughout the pandemic, I watch the online Sunday services provided by my own church. While that has allowed me to stay in touch, those have not provided the intimacy of the garden prayers and reflections from half a world away, as ironic as that seems.
The ability of Dean Robert to give such life to the Gospels and to make them meaningful, the breadth of his interests, experience, and knowledge, and the connections he draws using all of these are something very special. I, too, feel that the end of the Garden Congregation will leave an immense hole in my spritual life. I will, no doubt, be going back to YouTube, to view many of the broadcasts again – for as long as they are available. I do wish Dean Robert and Fletcher well as they move on. They will be sorely missed.
I am a cradle Anglican and I was educated in an Anglican Girls school in Toronto, Canada. I have always been a faithful congregant and for over forty years, I taught Church School. That said, my husband and I learned more about our faith than we ‘could have asked for or imagined” from the Cathedral garden morning prayer. I am so very grateful to Dean Robert and to Fletcher, for giving us this transcendent experience…
You said all of the things I have thought but really have no forum in which to post . . . I shall miss terribly the spiritual boost and direction that the dean has provided through this horrendous time. Yes, there is a library on YouTube but it’s not like the live dailies, especially when addressing a liturgical season. What will I miss the most? The final blessing each day.
What a beautifully written tribute, Ken! A side benefit of this series was knowing that I was united with friends like you in watching, listening, together, so often in awe and many times in laughter as well as in prayer.
Just thinking. If I were the new Dean the first person I would have lunch with is Robert. This business about the former holder of a most valuable role having to disappear as soon as a successor appears on the scene is all about ego and lack of trust?
Robert is one of a kind and should be invited to continue in his role it for at least an agreed time. In this case for say 5 years. Then there are no misunderstandings. He has done nothing less than make the Cathedral a church home for many across the Communion and beyond.