Our lodges open with restrictions from 3 December. For bookings, please contact Sr Laurentia at Tel: 01347 868931 In view of our vulnerable elderly sisters, the abbey church, parlours and bookshop remain closed until further notice. The bookshop is still operating a mail order service and Sr Benedicta would be delighted to hear from you: Tel: 01347 868927.

Please be assured of our prayers at this testing time and please do continue to send prayer requests via or the Prayer Page of the website. The telephone is checked frequently so do leave a message if you wish to get in touch or need to speak with someone.

17 November
Just published by Gracewing, 'Seeking Byland: Poems through the Seasons from Stanbrook Abbey' by Laurentia Johns OSB.
This, Sr Laurentia's first full book of poetry, contains poems from Advent through to Christ the King which draw both on nature and the liturgy.
Available via Stanbrook Abbey Bookshop, 10 plus p. & p.
Contact Sr Benedicta at
Tel. 01347 868927

6 November
Stanbrook Abbey has won another architectural award.
Together with St Mark's Church, Leeds, we came first in the 'Celebration of Excellence' run by the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association. For more information see:

Community Conference 18 Nov 2020

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever

Hebrews 13:8

I began putting this talk together on the feast of All Saints. It is a feast I have always loved and was the first major feast after I entered the monastery. I see it as an entrance, gateway, to the end of the year and to Advent. A feast of light in days which are becoming darker, both physically and because of the pandemic that we are living through. What moved me to offer to give this talk, and to choose the last date on offer, was a desire to reflect on this past year as we come to its end. I read somewhere that 2020 will be one of the dates that will always be remembered, a bit like 1066, 1914, 1939 etc.

As we entered the First Sunday of Advent last year, 2019, oblivious to all that lay ahead, I picked up my Quomodo. It turns out that that piece of card contained words that were prophetic. It read: Into the desert. Not a jolly prospect was my first thought, to be honest, and I resisted the temptation to return it to the pile and pick something else. I should tell you that what is written on that slip of card I take quite seriously and have often found it to be a challenge or a comfort in the year that lies ahead. It often contains a message which takes time to become clear.

 Back to the desert! Despite my initial reaction I know as well as you that the desert is the place to go if you wish to encounter God and to be found by him. It has been described as the archetypal liminal place. Jesus knew that there was no other way from Jericho to Jerusalem except by way of the desert. It is a threshold, a place of transition, a place of no distractions - unless you happen to come upon a burning bush! St Jerome wrote: The desert strips you bare. He has other words on the desert which, given the times we are living in, are very ad rem. He writes: We wear a wax mask that must melt in the heat of the desert.

As we journeyed into 2020, and even before we reached the end of December, we had a taste of what was to come globally. We thought people were down with bad colds and coughs but in January it spread through the community and we had to take all sorts of emergency measures. However by Ash Wednesday we were all back in choir, fighting fit and back to normal, ready for Lent, the annual desert by which we journey to Easter. We know what to expect: write your Lent bill, God (or the abbess) will rewrite it, the weeks will drag by and eventually we come to the glorious feast of Easter. No surprises there. Not so in 2020. Our desert was turned into a positive war zone. It is interesting that as Covid-19 struck we had just begun to read 'The Splendid and the Vile', a detailed look at one year of the Second World War. When would the bomb that was the coronavirus hit our nation, our county, our community? Rumours of the measures that would have to be taken abounded. 

As in a war, we lost control of our lives. Plans made long ago were thrown into disarray. There were no longer any certainties. Mr Trump told the American people it would be over by Easter but we knew better than to believe him! Easter was one of the first casualties. THE celebration of our liturgical year was not going to happen in the usual way. Lockdown kicked in - no going to church, synagogue, mosque etc., no school, no unnecessary outings or meetings. We know that we were very blessed at that time to be able to have Eucharistic services and share the word with each other in the homilies. But we were also painfully aware that for many people there was not this consolation. People wrote to say that just to know that we were here, praying daily as we always did, meant a lot to them.  We were a sign of stability in an unstable time.

New words entered our vocabulary - coronavirus, Covid-19, lockdown, social distancing. The human encounters that Pope Francis so often speaks about and would underline in Fratelli Tutti were off-limits, forbidden, dangerous. We had to 'keep our distance', view everyone as a potential threat. As with a war we had no idea of how long it would last, when it would end. More new words came in, or old words with a new twist: we �worked from home� (which we do that all the time!), we met via Zoom or Skype. The internet so often seen as something bad came into its own and showed its good side. Families could meet safely, friends could share a chat and coffee with each other from their own homes, children were schooled and had PE lessons, all via the internet. Virtual meetings - we may dislike the idea but it kept some people sane even though it seems odd to learn of people singing in a choir via Zoom, or playing in an orchestra. We were not in control but the Dunkirk spirit came into play again and people looked out for their neighbours, and showed small kindnesses and tried to raise spirits. On Thursday nights people gathered at their front doors to show appreciation for the NHS and the people working on the frontline of this 'war'. Many tried to do what they could to raise spirits and to raise money - Captain Sir Tom Moore became a household name, and even disabled children pushed themselves to the limit to raise cash. We learnt anew that the human spirit cannot be put down, although that is not to ignore the huge cost to some people's mental health from lack of contact with others or being unable to simply go outside.

Looking back on all this it still seems like one long Holy Saturday even now. Are we in a tomb, or a womb? Surely either would cover the present situation as both lead to life, either in this world or the next. I have come so that you may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). God's word cannot be other than creative. His plans for us are nothing less than life-giving. We cannot look back on this year and simply leave it behind. If we do not learn from it then we will never learn from any year. Both the womb and the tomb are not the end. They lead us elsewhere. One day we will emerge into a post-Covid era but it will not be a case of going back to normal. In 1945 the world could not say the war was over and so we return to 1939. We have to beware of such a mentality. Everything we live through and experience makes us or breaks us, but it never returns us to where we were.  In a sense we know that on a liturgical level, no week 33 is ever the same as the last one, no Advent the same as the one before. Why? Because we are all different people than we were the last time week 33 or Advent came round. Some years we may not see too much of a difference, other years we may have experienced a major shift.


So what can we make of 2020? Where have we found the creative words that bring us to a new life? Ponder on these words from a new poet that I have found in this year: the poem is called What to Remember when Waking and it is written by David Whyte (no relation as he spells it with a 'y'), a Yorkshireman now living in the USA:

                  there is a small


                  into the day

                  that closes

                  the moment

                   you begin

                  your plans.


               What you can plan

                    is too small

                 for you to live.

 As we know God is always calling us to embrace something other than what our tiny plans can foresee. Surely we learnt that in the years when we were discussing whether to move or not. God's plans are like the desert, vast with huge horizons.  In this desert we, the community and all in our world, are experiencing our fragility and vulnerability. But through all this we should learn that we are in God's loving care, that we are his Beloved. He is our Good Samaritan, our rescuer and our healer. 2020 will only be a wasted year if all of us, in and out of monasteries, fail to learn how to be Good Samaritans too. There was an interview with a young girl in March or April  and she was asked what she wanted to come out of this time of pandemic - her reply: That people will continue to be as kind as they are at this time.

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Advent is round the corner. Emmanuel will once again make himself known to us. God is with us. We are to be with and for each other. As we ponder whether we are in a womb or a tomb, I will end with more words from David Whyte which to me speak of Christ coming into our world and all that it means for us:


                        To become human

 is to become visible

 while carrying  

what is hidden  

as a gift to others.

To remember the other world

in this world

is to live in your true inheritance.



Sr Benedicta White

18 November 2020



News & Photo Archive

Summer News

27 June 2019, Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sr Marian Sweeting-Hempsall made her Solemn Profession of Vows and thus became a full member of the Stanbrook community. 

17 July, on the completion of Dame Andrea Savage's 12-year term of office, Dame Anna Brennan was elected the new abbess of our monastery. 

19 July, we celebrated the Requiem Mass of Dame Agatha Backhouse (1937-2019) who had died peacefully at Apley Grange, Harrogate, on 12 July. R. I. P.

News of a collaborative venture between our own Sr Philippa and Mirfield's Fr Nicolas Stebbing. 

These two veteran monastics share their vast experience of monastic life in a way that should be helpful to all Christians. 'Making space for God: an invitation', published by Mirfield. ISBN 978-0-902834-48-9. �6.50. Available via Stanbrook Abbey bookshop: A poem of D. Laurentia's, 'Mary Reflects', formed part of the programme of 'Carols from King's' on BBC 2 on Christmas Eve 2018. 

Links below: 

The video download (just as an fyi): 

The pdf of the booklet:

Photographs of Stanbrook.

Aerial footage of Stanbrook Abbey
Made by students of the Kent School of Architecture

The monastery won a national RIBA award in June 2016.

In November 2016 we were awarded the Presidents' Award for new church buildings.

The abbey church has also won an award from the Wood Trust for 'excellence in architecture and product design in the world's only sustainable material.'

For an article about Stanbrook in the Yorkshire Post April 2016, please click on the link below:


Deo Gratias! The abbey church was duly and solemnly dedicated by the Right Revd Terence Patrick Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, to much rejoicing.
For a full photographic record, please click here


The inaugural Mass in the new Abbey Church took place on Sunday 26 April 2015, thanks be to God and thanks to all our kind benefactors.
Read more by clicking here

 Right: Choir of the new Abbey Church (still incomplete)
Below: Inaugural Mass: the Gospel is proclaimed at the ambo

 Archive: The project since the start of the build:

Click here for Blessing of the East Wing site 6 February 2014
Deo gratias, building work began February 2014
Click here for March 2014 update

Work in progress, Spring 2015

Inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

March 2015
Much activity inside the church which it is
hoped will be finished by the end of April.
So one more Easter in the Chapter House...

August 2015, the new chairs for guests arrive! Many of these have been sponsored by kind benefactors.

West-facing view of the church

East-facing view of the church