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A brief history

IN 2005 the Christendom Trust was relaunched as the MB Reckitt Trust. The change of name was decided upon because the Trustees considered that the term ‘Christendom’ nowadays carries connotations that have nothing to do with either the origins or the focus of the Trust, and which could mislead the public. By using the name of the benefactor who endowed the Trust, continuity with the honourable past of the Trust is maintained.

Maurice Reckitt

THE Christendom Trust was set up in 1971 by Maurice Reckitt (1888–1980), whose great-grandfather founded the well-known family business which later became Reckitt and Colman. Reckitt was brought up as an Anglo-Catholic, and as a young man became involved with guild socialism and various Christian social movements. During the First World War, he joined the Labour Research Department, and in 1923 became Chairman of the League of the Kingdom of God. His most enduring achievement was Christendom, a quarterly journal of ‘Christian sociology’ which he edited (and largely subsidized) from 1931 to 1950. His vocation, in the words of his biographer, John Peart-Binns, ‘was to be available’. He spent most of his life ‘co-ordinating and leavening the thinking of small groups together with such people as T. S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers, T. M. Heron, Philip Mairet and many priests’. He authored and edited numerous books on Christian social issues, of which the most readable and best-known is his account of the social movement in the Church of England, From Maurice to Temple (1947), based on his Scott-Holland memorial lectures.

The Trust is still closely allied with other Christian movements for social justice: see page of links to related organizations.


V. A. Demant

With the support of V. A. Demant, Reckitt founded the Christendom Trust to encourage and fund research into the application of Christian social thought. The trust deed singles out industrial training, religious education, terminal medicine, clinical theology, ‘the exhaustion of natural resources through man’s activities, and the effects of an industrial society on man’s environment’. It also mentions the publication of research, scholarships to enable research, and co-operation with other similar bodies. Canon Demant drew up a statement of the Trust’s aims shortly after its foundation, which was published in the journal Theology ('An Interpretation of the Aims of the Christendom Trust' ).

Since its foundation, the Trust has sponsored essay prizes (commemorating the work of Demant since his death in 1983), research fellowships (attached to the Universities of Sussex, Lancaster, and Cardiff), and a host of research projects, conferences, community and church action projects, and publications, including the Anglican report, Faith in the City. Research Fellows have included Haddon Willmer, James Bentley, Francis McHugh, John Milbank, Richard Roberts, and Roger Ruston. Maurice Reckitt was quick to emphasize that the Trust should be concerned with ‘Christian social thought and action’. ‘We are not here to bind up the wounds of the world’, he insisted, but to look behind the present situation and to discover how we got to where we are. It is with these precepts firmly in mind that the Trustees attempt to support the work to which Reckitt, Demant and the Christendom movement devoted themselves.

For a longer account of the first 20 years of the Trust by a founder member, go to Twenty Years of the Christendom Trust by Martin Jarrett-Kerr CR.

See also An Agenda for Prophets by Stephen Yeo

Before reading the applications guidelines it will be helpful to know about Some recent beneficiaries of the Trust.