History of the Society

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Foundation and early history

In 1905 two brothers, Charles and John Douglas, both priests, founded the Society of the Faith as –

“an Association of Christians in communion with the See of Canterbury for mutual assistance in the work of Christ’s Church and for the furtherance of such charitable undertakings as may from time to time be decided upon, more especially for the popularisation of the Catholic faith.”

The Douglas brothers also intended to create a collegiate institution with resident and non-resident members, but this never came into being.

In 1926 the Society became a charitable limited company.  In 1935, it took on the lease of Faith House in Westminster, which provided a base for the activities of the Society, in particular a bookshop for the Faith Press  and workspaces for Faith Craft.

In June 2019 Father Gage, the Society’s Vice Principal, gave a talk to the Anglo-Catholic History Society on the Douglas brothers and the Society, the text of which is here – Anglo-Catholic History Society Talk.

The Society and Eastern Churches

The Douglas brothers had travelled in the Near East and were ahead of their time in having an interest in the Eastern Churches.  As a result the Society had a role in the foundation of the Catholic Literature Association and the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches’ Association.  It also supported the Nikaean Club and provided grants for visiting Orthodox theological students.

Difficult times

Charles Douglas died in 1955 and his brother John in 1956. For the next twenty years, the Faith Press and Faith Craft Studio continued to produce notable works.  Faith Press published the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book as well as important texts such as Peter Anson’s ‘Building up the Waste Places’.  Faith Craft, using distinguished designers such as John Hayward and Francis Stephens, created high quality stained glass and ornaments.  But costs were rising and tastes were changing.  In the late 1960’s, Watts and Company moved into Faith House to take the place of Faith Craft.  In the 1970’s, the Society, led by its Secretary, Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, invited the Church Union into Faith House to run the bookshop.  Faith House continued to be an iconic building but the cost of running it was becoming a serious burden for the Society.

The Society today

By the late 1990’s, the board of trustees knew that it needed to take urgent action to make Faith House self-financing and to provide income to pursue its objects.  It obtained permission from the freeholders to let out the top floor for profit and, although its main tenant was a charity serving young people in developing countries, the income enabled the Society to restore its finances.  The SPCK ran the bookshop (now closed) from 2003-2008.  The Society now using its income to maintain Faith House and pursue our objects of “the furtherance of charitable undertakings … especially for the popularisation of the Catholic faith.”

Our current tenants are –

  • Watts and Co “purveyor of fine ecclesiastical designs, textiles, furnishings and accessories”.
  • National Churches Trust “Our work promotes the repair and revitalisation of church buildings for the benefit of all the local community”
  • Sion College “A body of central London clergy which celebrates, supports and challenges the Anglican ministry within the capital by promoting learning and fellowship among the clergy of London”
  • The Council of Christians and Jews “Our aim is for Jews and Christians to meet, to understand each other better and to create meaningful engagement between the communities.”
  • David Powell & Co Accountants.
  • Classical Property Services Ltd

Readers may be interested in three documents printed by the Society about itself.  They are a Commemorative Tribute, published in July 1955; a note of the Formative Years of the Society written by Charles Douglas, presumably in the early 1950’s and a brochure describing what the Society could offer, not dated but on internal evidence produced around 1960.

The Formative Years

Society Brochure

A Commemorative Tribute