On the eve of the biggest date in the Christian calendar, we throw the spotlight on Blackpool-born Kenneth Cragg, one of the Church of England’s most distinguished missionaries and scholars.
Local historian Kenneth Shenton says Cragg, a pioneering theologian, perhaps more than anyone else in the 20th Century, attempted to bring about a deeper understanding of the religious faiths of Muslims and Jews.
Kenneth says: “Albert Kenneth Cragg was born on March 8, 1913, youngest son of a Chapel Street barber and tobacconist, and spent his early years living in Bright Street, South Shore.
“The family were all regular worshippers at Christ Church, opposite the library in Abingdon Street. On arrival at Blackpool Grammar School, on Raikes Parade, he began a lifetime’s friendship with fellow pupil Alistair Cooke who would also find fame on foreign shores.”
In 1934, Cragg won a scholarship to read Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford. Subsequently ordained into the Church of England, after a brief Curacy in Birkenhead, his globetrotting career began with a move to Beirut to serve with the British Syria Mission. Two years later he was appointed Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the city’s American University. Marrying Theodora Melita in 1940.
Kenneth says: “Returning to Britain in 1947, he was appointed Vicar of Langworth in the Home Counties. Three years later he moved to Hartford Seminary in Connecticut as Professor of Arabic. In 1956 he was back in the Middle East both as a Canon Residentiary at St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem and Assistant Bishop of Jerusalem.
“Becoming Warden of St Augustine’s College, Canterbury on his return to England in 1961, six years later he became Reader in Religious Studies at the University of Sussex. In tandem with his academic duties, he also served as an Assistant Bishop in the Chichester Diocese. A prolific writer, in all he published some 40 books.
“While living in retirement in Oxford, a large gathering of colleagues offered him a Festschrift (a volume of learned articles or essays by admirers) to mark his 90th birthday. It was presented to him at Lambeth Palace by the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.”
Kenneth Cragg died on November 13, 2012, four months short of his 100th birthday.
Readers can visit the website at centers.lstc.edu to learn more about the Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice.