Nicholas Ferrar has been remembered in the Church of England since his death on 4 December 1637.

His name was first officially observed in the calendar of the Church of England in the Alternative Service Book 1980, where it was listed on 2 December, and continued, on 4 December, in the Common Worship calendar in 1997. He is also commemorated in other calendars, including those of the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the (American) Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church of Canada.

At Little Gidding two major commemorations are observed: the date of his death, 4 December 1637, is celebrated as a Festival, and usually transferred to the nearest Saturday. The annual Pilgrimage to his tomb at Little Gidding is also celebrated as a Festival, and at present is usually held on a Saturday around the third week of May.

The following liturgical resources have been used at Little Gidding in recent years. Unless otherwise noted these resources have been compiled by the Friends of Little Gidding and, with acknowledgement, may be freely used.

Biographical introduction from “Exciting Holiness”

Born in London in 1592, Nicholas Ferrar was educated at Clare Hall (now Clare College), Cambridge, and elected a fellow there in 1610. From 1613, he travelled on the continent for five years, and on his return worked with the Virginia Company, and was briefly elected to parliament. In 1625, he moved to Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, where he was joined by his brother and sister and their families and by his mother. They established together a community life of prayer, using the Book of Common Prayer, and a life of charitable works in the locality. He was ordained to the diaconate by William Laud the year after they arrived. He wrote to his niece in 1631, ‘I purpose and hope by God’s grace to be to you not as a master but as a partner and fellow student.’ This indicates the depth and feeling of the community life Nicholas and his family strove to maintain. Despite difficulties with the Puritans, who were suspicious and referred to them as the ‘Arminian Nunnery’, the community continued after the death of Nicholas on this day in 1637, until his brother John and sister Susanna died twenty years later. The memory of Nicholas Ferrar and his family has continued to inspire Christians to lives of prayer, service and community.


Loving God, the Father of all,
whose servant Nicholas Ferrar
renounced ambition and wealth
to live in a household of faith and good work:
keep us in the right way of service to you
so that, feasting at the table in your household,
we may proclaim each day the coming of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Amen. [FLG]

Post communion

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [CW Trinity 9]


Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [CW 4 before Advent]


Year A Year B Year C
1 Chronicles 21.18, 22–26a 2 Samuel 24.18, 21–25 Genesis 28.10–17, [18–end]
Psalm 84.1–4, 9, 10 Psalm 122 Psalm 15
Acts 2.42–47 Revelation 19.5–9 Acts 4.32–35
Matthew 24.42–46
or Matthew 9.9–13
Mark 3.31–end Luke 12.35–40
or Luke 5.27–32

Prayers of Penitence

The minister invites the people to confess their sins
Christ calls us to share the heavenly banquet of his love
with all the saints in earth and heaven.
Knowing our unworthiness and sin,
let us ask from him both mercy and forgiveness. [NPfW B30]

Pause for silent reflection.

The minister leads the confession, which is based on words of Nicholas Ferrar [FLG]
Merciful God,
by the sinful abuse of your infinite and inestimable benefits
we have rather sought our own glory and content than yours.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Merciful God,
we have not ordered our ways nor thoughts towards you as your kindness has deserved:
our plenty has been an occasion of wantonness, our abundance used to excess, our riches to vainglory.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Merciful God,
we pray that you will continually remember us with your innumerable favours and your gracious inspirations
and we cry out for the sweetness of your mercy. [FLG, after NF]

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The minister says the Absolution.
May God our Father forgive us our sins,
and bring us to the fellowship of his table
with his saints for ever. [NPfW B83]


The minister may introduce the intercessions
Gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist,
a foretaste of that great banquet
to which, with Nicholas Ferrar and all the saints, we are invited,
let us make our prayers to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The intercessor leads the prayers of the people
Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to be a servant and deacon in your Church:
May your Spirit strengthen and inspire
[N and all] your bishops, priests, deacons and all the baptized.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to honour the rulers of this country
and to be a courtier and a Member of Parliament:
May those who govern and represent us
exercise their office with fairness and integrity
and, remembering the trust that they hold,
work for the good of all your people.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to renounce the pursuit of power and influence
and to live in a godly household:
May we be Christ’s eyes, looking with compassion on the world,
and may we be Christ’s hands and Christ’s feet,
doing your work and walking your way in this world.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to use his skills
in the care of the sick and those in need:
we pray for all who are ill and those who care for them and love them
(remembering especially any known to us …)
May they come to wholeness and healing in you.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to eternal life with you:
we remember before you those whom we have known but see no more
and all who have been benefactors to Little Gidding …
May we, with them, sit and feast at the table in your kingdom. [FLG]

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

At the end of the intercessions the minister says
Loving God,
you call us to be one with Nicholas Ferrar
and all the saints in heaven and on earth:
grant that in our earthly pilgrimage
we may ever be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,
and know ourselves surrounded
by their witness to your power and mercy. [NPfW F19, altd]

Merciful Father
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Proper Preface

We praise you now and give you thanks
for your servant Nicholas Ferrar
who turned his back on wealth and honours
and with love for you sought only Christ.
Waiting on his Master by day and by night,
in prayer, study and devotion,
in love for all your people,
he was drawn closer to you
and witnessed to your greatness and your mercy.
Watching for the day when your promise will be fulfilled
he glimpsed the glorious splendour of your majesty
in the heavenly banquet in your household.  [FLG]

And so we join our voices
with Nicholas Ferrar and all your saints,
with angels and archangels
and all the company of heaven
to proclaim your glory,
for ever praising you and saying:

Holy, holy …


This hymn, appended to a page about the Order of the Good Shepherd, is particularly appropriate. It may be sung to a tune with suitable metre, for example, Song 34 (Angels’ Song).

To thee Good Shepherd now we raise
our thankful hymn of joy and praise
for Nicholas thy servant bless’d
who thee in heart and deed confess’d.

A scribe instructed wise and true
he brought forth treasures old and new.
He found thy Word, Eternal Cause
in sacred page and nature’s laws.

The gospel music of thy love
in four-fold harmony he wove.
His life returns an answering note
to each who Gospel music wrote.

Like Mark in early days of youth
he learned of thee the way, the truth.
Like Matthew, counted riches vain
to find in thee, O Christ, his gain.

Like Luke, his hands made sick men whole;
his words a medicine to the soul.
Like John he saw thy light to shine
in mystic fellowship divine.

Good Shepherd may we in our turn
like him thy holy wisdom learn,
and seeking but thy will alone
rejoice with him before thy throne. [Bishop John How OGS, 1881–1961]

The following verse, written by George Wither, may be sung as a concluding doxology to the hymn. John Ferrar recorded that these words were sung every day at Little Gidding. The tune Angels’ Song was written for it by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), and it was hymn 34 in Wither’s book, hence its other name Song 34. It’s quite possible that this was the tune used at Little Gidding. In Wither’s book the first line is “Thus angels sang, and thus sing we”, but the word “so” appears in the records that survive of John Ferrar’s text.

Thus angels sang, and so sing we,
‘To God on high all glory be,
Let him on earth his peace bestow
And unto men his favour show.’ Amen. [George Wither, 1588–1667]

Other Prayers

Gracious Lord,
who gently drew the deacon Nicholas Ferrar to your service
and let him hear the calling of your love:
grant that we, who venerate his memory,
may be constant in prayer, steadfast in hope,
and rejoice in simplicity of heart;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [Church in Wales]

Lord God,
you gathered Nicholas Ferrar and his kinsfolk
in the household of Little Gidding,
and shaped their life as a family
into an image of your heavenly commonwealth.
May we follow their example by seeking true wisdom
and studying perfection in Christ Jesus,
not as masters
but as partners and fellow students with one another;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [Anglican Church of Canada “For All the Saints”]

Lord God,
make us worthy of your perfect love;
that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household,
we may rule ourselves according to your Word,
and serve you with our whole heart;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [ECUSA Lesser Feasts and Fasts]

Most loving Father,
who caused your servant Nicholas Ferrar to establish a true household of faith:
give to all Christian communities the manifold gifts of your Spirit,
that by them your name may be hallowed among men,
and your kingdom be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [The Cloud of Witnesses]

Almighty God
by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with the saints in heaven and on earth:
grant that in our earthly pilgrimage
we may ever be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,
and know ourselves surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [NPfW F19]

Hasten, Lord, the day
when people will come from east and west,
from north and south,
and sit at table in your kingdom
and we shall see your Son in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. [NPfW F21]


CW: Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, © the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England 2000.

NPfW: New Patterns for Worship, © the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England 2002.

FLG: © The Society of the Friends of Little Gidding.