Arthur Shearly Cripps

Human life is full of stories, of people, of interconnections and strands of meaning that give meaning to other things.

Here, Nicolas Stebbing, CR, describes the life, and mission of Arthur Shearly Cripps, and his association with our Church.

Consider this:

Arthur Cripps grew up here in Tunbridge Wells. He learned the Catholic faith in this lovely church. He came to love the sacraments and to pray. From here he went to Oxford and then, eventually to his own parish in Essex. Then, quite suddenly, in 1902 he turned away from this very English life style to live most of the rest of his life in Rhodesia. There he became a saint. He was a difficult saint, loved by the local village people whom he served; an irritant to the diocesan authorities and the local white communities whom he criticized. He lived in poverty, caring for his people, fighting for their rights, praying to God and simply being a priest. Seventy years after his death the area in which he worked is strongly Anglican in its Christianity and Baba (Father) Cripps is still loved.

In about 1920 he found a destitute boy called Michael Zambezi and sent him off to school. Michael did well, became teacher, then a priest and was for a while my parish priest. He loved to talk of that “grand old man” who had saved him from destitution. Fr Michael’s memories are part of my link with Fr Cripps.

Another link was the Shearly Cripps Children’s Home built in his memory ten years after his death. It became well known in the country and continued his work of rescuing boys and girls from destitution and preparing them for a fruitful life. I worked there as a young curate and loved those wonderful children and the sisters who cared for them.

Twelve years ago some of us saw the problems young people were facing as they emerged from children’s homes to find their way in a bleak and difficult society. We founded a new organisation called Tariro, which means Hope, to look after these young people and prepare them for life.

That work has flourished and there are now little groups of Tariro kids in many parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the Home fell into a bad state of repair. It lacks money and competent management so in this last year Tariro has stepped in to help. We restored running water so that the children have showers and toilets that work. We have repaired windows, doors, and floors and just now started a garden so that the children will eat better food.

It is lovely seeing the Home come alive again after years of neglect. It is lovely seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, the energy with which they run to greet us when we come to visit. There is so much more to do to improve these kids’ lives and to ensure that they are healed of their traumas and ready to face the future. It’s an exciting prospect and I can’t wait to get back to Zimbabwe this May to find out how the story continues.

Nicolas Stebbing CR

READ HERE about the sponsored bike ride raising money for Tariro UK.