The healing chapel built on a vision

The chapel at Le Monnaie celebrates its 50th birthday on Wednesday. Herbert Winterflood looks back at the vision - and the tragedy - that prompted its building

The chapel at Le Monnaie celebrates its 50th birthday on Wednesday. Herbert Winterflood looks back at the vision - and the tragedy - that prompted its building MEMBERS of the Monnaie Fellowship have a double celebration on Liberation Day, the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the St Andrew's Chapel of Christ the Healer.

It came into existence through the tragic and premature death of Robin Drake, who was cut down in his prime by cancer.

His untimely death evoked spiritual activity within the lives of his parents, the Rev. and Mrs Frank Drake - an unseen power so potent that from it emerged a chapel which has brought comfort and strength to many people, including those touched by medical problems, either themselves or through relatives or friends.

Nicholas Drake, their youngest son, said that the chapel would never have been built without the insistence of the late Dorothy Kerin, a visionary and founder of Burrswood Christian Healing Centre based at Groombridge in Kent.

The Rev. Drake had taken Dorothy to the spot at Le Monnaie where he had had a visionary experience regarding the establishment of a chapel on the site.

Her response was immediate and most definite.

'I have never been more sure of anything in my life that God wants a chapel built here, now,' were the words Dorothy used.

The Drake family had been shattered to the very core when Robin was diagnosed as suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma, now curable but not so in the 1950s.

Eventually, they decided that the best way forward was to attack the problem at a spiritual level.

'My brother received holy unction in a gesture of total dedication, placing his entire future into the hands of God,' explains Nicholas.

At one stage in Robin's illness he was persuaded by his mother to visit Burrswood for six months. Afterwards, he believed, having been spiritually uplifted, that he had also been physically cured. But the latter was not to be.

Robin returned to Guernsey in June 1955 with Dorothy, Princess Marina Chavchavadze and one of Dorothy's adopted children, Philip Kerin, who will be present at a special service at Le Monnaie.The Rev. Drake told Dorothy of his chapel vision and received the strong stamp of approval from her.

Anxious to respond to Dorothy's insistence that the building should be constructed, he engaged an architect, the late Clifford Moullin, to prepare plans and a few days later a benefactor came forward with an offer to underwrite the full cost of the project.

Within a year the chapel had been completed.

Four months after the dedication of the building, Robin died in complete peace, his father asleep in a chair alongside him.

Nicholas recalled that the attitude of the Church towards its healing ministry in the late 50s was 'harsh and widely misunderstood'.

'The rector of our local parish objected strongly to services being held anywhere than in his church,' he said.

It was some time before Frank managed to persuade the then Bishop of Winchester to allow Communion to be celebrated in the chapel.

It is small and holds only 40 people, but on Wednesday mornings islanders gather there to offer prayers for the sick, the laying on of hands and Holy Communion.

When Frank died, aged 86, Nicholas became the owner of the chapel.

He set up a trust which now owns it and looks after its day-to-day administration under the chairmanship of the incumbent of St Andrew's Parish Church.

The Rev. Piers Warburton, the first to take on this role, and his successor, the Venerable John Guille, will both return to Guernsey to join Wednesday's service.

The Rev. Ryc Smith, who left the island in February to take up a new post, will sadly be unable to attend.

The vice-dean and existing trustee, the Rev. Andrew Sharp, is taking the services during the St Andrew's interregna.

The service of commemoration, which is by invitation only, will be held at the chapel at 5pm and the firework display at Castle Cornet to mark freedom from five years of German occupation can be linked, by coincidence, to a celebration of half-a-century at Le Monnaie.

It is described as a holy place where, after a time of quiet prayer, many have found comfort, healing and peace. For Christ said: 'Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. I am come that ye might have life and have it more abundantly.'

The Drake family had already dedicated Robin's life to God and, in doing so, had unreservedly accepted that the outcome of his illness, whatever that might be, would be His will.

So, despite the grief that inevitably follows the premature death of a firstborn son and elder brother, Robin's passing was seen as a blessed relief after years of extreme anguish and discomfort.

His epitaph, 'For so he giveth his beloved sleep', is engraved under the chapel's east window, which is dedicated to Robin.

It also appears on the headstone above his grave in St Andrew's Cemetery, a plot now shared by his parents.

The chapel is at Perry's Guide reference: 23H2

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