It’s a strange few weeks at IBTS, with a lot of the teaching staff in travels of all sorts. I’m just back from a week at Northumbria Community, our good partner-friend. Some years ago, I was part of the group visiting them in their previous Mother House at Hetton Hall, but otherwise mostly cought up during the annual Northumbria Community Week at IBTS. (By the way, all are welcome to the next Week in March 2013 – details to be provided soon!).
Not that long ago, Northumbria Community had to move – their old building was being sold. A wonderful new possibility appeared when they were contacted by people wanting to invite the community to establish their new Mother House – Nether Springs – on their land. This is what happened, and although I’ve heard a lot about the new place, this was the first time for me to visit and enjoy a week together.
- The gift and the simplicity of the basic monastic rhythm:
- Sharing the Eucharist together and the silent time before that – including eating lunch in quiet (practicing it once a week feels just right).
- Love and care for creation – including the two lovely pigs busily preparing the land in the walled garden.
- Names given to all rooms. I thought it interesting when some years ago Keith thought names should be given to some buildings and rooms at IBTS, instead of using letters and numbers. Well, this goes much further – even toilets and the recycling bin have name (it’s ‘Silas’ for the latter!)
- The interest in and prayers for IBTS. During my time there, twice in the prayer calendar it was someone from IBTS we were asked to pray for. And when I was meeting someone new visiting the House and mentioning I’ve come ‘from Prague’, surprisingly, a response often came, ‘oh, from the seminary?’! We are really being prayed for there.
- Prayers also extend to the local village of Felton in which the House is situated. So every day, a basket is taken out with pieces of paper with street names or businesses or organisations located in Felton, and one comes out for us to pray for. So we prayed, during that week, for a local school, for a garrage, for a hairdresser’s business, for a particular street… I kept thinking what a helpful discipline this would be for many a local church.
- But above all – the gift of being with people intent on seeking God – short-term visitors, volunteers, house team… The accidental and planned conversations, fun times and laughter, as well as tears and quiet times together. Creative activities and rest. All that makes us human – and all the things which have made our friendship with this community so special and so natural.