I have just spent a few days leading a retreat on mindfulness of God at Scargill House. Based in the Yorkshire Dales it is a Christian community that leads holidays, conferences and retreats with hospitality at its heart.
It reminds me at a spiritual level of the Bishop’s Garden in Wells Cathedral where springs bubble up, a metaphor for the welling up of the Holy Spirit. The wells here are community, creation, hospitality, silence and solitude.
It has been a joy working with the community on the retreat as they lead worship, provide a rhythm of prayer, a pastoral care and prayer team as well as a hospitality team. They also offer walks, and workshops and conversation as well as of course lots of food!
There are gardens to sit in, including a beautiful walled garden and 90 acres of estates. As you sit in a lounge area you overlook the dales.
And pheasants, and woodpeckers come to the bird feeders in front of the window, along with many other birds.
At communion in the chapel on the last night there were deer outside feeding as we took the bread and the wine. The estate is run with a deep ecological understanding and desire to care for creation. The community is all ages, different nationalities and with many young people.
Community and contemplation is at the heart of the gospel and the kingdom and the leading edge of mission if only we had the courage to grasp it. My prayer is that many other intentional communities will spring up.
Of course community is not easy. At the Warden’s suggestion I have been reading some Jean Vanier, a famous founder of communities. I was particularly struck with a phrase of his: ‘Many want community and a feeling of being together, but they refuse the demands of community life.’ This is true in the local church as well.
I was also struck by another simple truth of Vanier’s: ‘People enter community to be happy. They stay when they find happiness comes in making others happy.’
My prayer is that there will be a renewal of Christian community life in the UK, for I believe it is the right (kairos) moment for it.
Do check out the Scargill website:
I walked down to Lee Bay this morning as the sun shone, part of the Lee Abbey Estate where I am running a retreat on mindfulness of God. To be mindful of God I need to inhabit my body, my emotions, my mind and my soul.
The stream became symbolic for me, and I thought about the streams of awareness in us, in me, our senses. Not just the traditional five, wonderful though they are but also the sense of our own body, sensing our thoughts and feelings, other people’s feelings (see Daniel Siegel, an interpersonal neurobiologist for his 8 senses). But also the ability to sense the presence of God with all our senses.
I then thought what if I allow these streams of awareness in me to become living water, inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit – able to see and sense through God’s eyes.
Coming here to Lee Abbey gives me a taste of what that might be like and also the desire to seek it first above my other desires.