DAY 1 IN THE BIG MOTHER HOUSE Saturday 13th February
I’m here at Nether Springs to talk and facilitate a discussion on our Rule of Life with Companions on retreat and those on the house team. We conclude our discussion by sharing Midday Office and then cutting a cake to mark the 5th anniversary of our coming to Acton Home Farm. Five amazing years which has seen the Community settle into our wonderful new mother house, grow in many remarkable ways and make transitions that have deepened and developed the Community in so many significant ways. Before we blew the candles on the cake out, each in turn gave thanks to God for something related to Nether Springs. I gave thanks to God for the young people who he had brought to live and work at our mother house in these recent years. The prophecy that Dave Hay and I received from Jean Darnell back in 1992 was now being fulfilled as God was bringing young people from the nations to come to us in Northumbria. Catherine, one of the younger folk who God has brought to us, who leads the team then assured me of the team’s prayers as tomorrow I will be leaving for the Continent. May we return home rejoicing at the wonder he has shown Shirley and I on our travels.
DAY 2 FRIENDS and COMPANIONS REUNITED
Setting off and driving through the snow, we had a very pleasant and smooth journey down to Margate where we stayed the night with John and Sue Richardson. Picking up where we left of, friendship rekindled, ease of conversation we caught up on family news and happenings since we last were together. I have always admired the way John has woven our Community’s ethos and liturgies into the fabric of not only his own life but of the various contexts in which God has called him; inner city when he was Dean of Bradford Cathedral, ‘Minster Ministry’ from Wye Abbey and the benefice and in recent years in a tough suburban and seaside setting of Margate, where over 2,500 people pass through the doors each week at the Trinity Parish Centre, many victims of a broken society, wounded and seeking a safe place and God’s healing and restoration.
We arrived on the day when John announced that he was moving onto pastures new. After Easter he will taking up the post of part time Assistant Priest in the Romney Marshes with eight parishes and he will also minister as the Chairman of Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Multi Academy Trust, continue as Chairman of Mildmay Hospital in London and spend more time in mentoring new priests. He feels that the call to the Marshes, to a church that is one of the oldest in Kent, is very much to repair the broken altars and restore the ancient ruins. His continuing role in healing and deliverance ministries will no doubt be exercised in an area which is wick with witchcraft and dark religious and occult practices.
I love the diversity that exists in our Community; people and the places where God has called us to live and work.
A glance at the shipping forecast indicates a rough Channel Crossing in the morning; Force 6 gusting 8 later….
DAY 3 BEAUTIFUL BRUGES
Sunshine, stormy seas, not as rough as anticipated but nevertheless providing a challenge when walking about the ship we arrived safe and sound in Calais and headed straight off to Bruges where are spending the rest of the day and night celebrating my birthday. It was rainy as we disembarked and headed towards Belgium, passing the Calais Jungle, mindful of the suffering and hardship of those camping out in testing conditions on the outskirts of the town, where hostility rather than hospitality has been mostly their experience. Prayed for Andy, Anna, Joel and Martha Raine form our Community who are there this week with a team from the North East.
By contrast we arrived in beautiful Bruges. With Valentines Day yesterday and my birthday today, spent with my wife, what more romantic and inspiring than to be in a place that looks like a backdrop for a fairy tale? It’s a beautiful, pristine medieval city with its cobblestone streets leading to countless historical, architectural and artistic wonders. Bathed in the afternoon sunlight we wandered around the stunning and ornate houses that line the city’s canals. The whole city emanates an appreciation of the past, a love of the present, and enthusiasm for the future. We are staying in a delightful small hotel just off the city centre near one of the canals.
And quite by surprise, we discovered just one minute from our hotel a bar that serves meals, great dark beer and is screening the Middlesbrough match against Leeds. God is good even though it was only a draw!
Tomorrow ~ meetings with Robin Christoff in Antwerp and linking up for a meal with good friends Victor and Tonny in Dordrecht before moving onto Arnhem.