Mays Farmhouse, Hullavington
Well - take a deep breath; and go make a cup of tea. RIGHT NOW ……. OK? Sitting down? Here goes:
Our whole future has been changed in a whirlwind just these past few weeks. We will be leaving London and all its painful associations just after Christmas. There; I've said it; and the lovely church family at St James have been told today. It's official!
As you know we are both somewhat bruised from the tragedies and upheavals of the past few years and in particular I have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, following the awful accident in which I saw my mother die. The constant London sirens, blaring up and down the Muswell Hill Broadway just by our house have brought so many moments of terrible flashback, and we were advised some time ago to consider moving. A few months ago we both strongly felt the Lord say that it was time we were to begin pushing doors to see where He would lead us and what we would be doing.
We have indeed pushed a few doors, but nothing felt right nor fell into place. And then, about 8 weeks ago, we both suddenly felt that it was right to do something totally different, something which would give the freedom to work in both the UK and the States, and not tie us to one timetable in one place. Something where we could each use what the Lord has given us in ministry - Kim for mentoring and coaching younger clergy,teaching on church leadership, supporting those taking on larger churches; and me for retreats and pilgrimages and for spiritual direction for younger clergy women.
We started to look for a property in the UK to use as a base and a small retreat centre; in mid August I found one on the internet, went to the open morning and felt the calm and presence of the Lord as I walked in! It's just 5 miles from our little Bolt Hole; it's an ancient farmhouse not too far from Bath, dating back at least to the early 17th century.
Suddenly as we started to pray about it everything began to fall into place VERY quickly. We had to put offers in by Wednesday 29th August. Apparently ours was the lowest offer. But it's been accepted (unbelievable!) and we met with the sellers and spent an afternoon with them (they will be doing up the large barn across the driveway so will be near- neighbours) and they said they just felt they wanted us to have it. Is that the Lord or what??? So we put our London flat on the market on a Wednesday and an offer was made on the Monday and we accepted it - it is not far short of what we have to pay for the Farm. WHAT provision!
Then, just as we were going to France for a week, I spotted a book on Kim's desk, which, he said at the time, he couldn't remember where it had come from. I read it whilst away, and the way I was praying about the Farm completely changed - from I WANT IT to PLEASE BLESS IT, please bless whoever lives there, please bless the village and all those there. So I spent the week praying that the Farm would be a blessing to whoever bought it and a blessing to those round about; and to be able to live lightly to it if we didn't get it. On returning, I phoned my friend who lives opposite Mays Farm and mentioned the book: Ray Godwin's 'Grace Outpouring.' To which she replied that she and her husband read it a few years ago and have based their ministry in the area on that exact book and way of praying.
When Kim shared our vision for a little Retreat Centre at Mays Farm with the Church Wardens and Senior leaders at church, their reaction was been amazing: HUGE sorrow at the parting but HUGE belief that this is the right thing. And that if it's right for us it must be right for St James too. So it has been announced in church today: September 23: the exact second anniversary of my mother's tragic death.
We are now beginning to think more clearly about both the short-term and long-term futures! We are also having to scrimp and save - we need every last penny for this new project, as the house needs total renovation; it has not had anything done to it AT ALL for at least 50 years and even then not much was done. Being an old farmhouse though that means that all the old (VERY old) stuff is still there - inglenook fireplaces complete with ancient spit hooks, copper sinks, stone fireplaces … and the dairy and the cheese room … the outside double toilet …. it is like a museum!! We love it. I went into one old area and the new neighbour asked what I would do with that room and I heard myself say :This is the chapel. And so it will be. Not sure why I thought that…. but it's right. The orchard will be full of little quiet spaces; there will be 6 bedrooms with private bathrooms, several of which will have adjoining sitting rooms with pull out beds; so not a vast retreat centre, but it will sleep 12 - 14 comfortably.
A third of our time will be spent in the USA (spread out over the year) and Kim will work 75-80% of the year, to keep a better life/work balance; we will be setting up Trusts with a board of trustees to keep us accountable, in both the USA and the UK.
But a little sabbatical first, which will be a physical one: overseeing and doing a lot of the work on the house. And another little God-incidence: the Bishop wants to pay Kim until the end of March so we can have a 3 month sabbatical (and store our furniture in the Vicarage too) Another HUGE provision whilst we begin the project. A friend in Bath is doing the plans; the builder, plumber, electrician are all signed up, and we hope to start the work in December - the solicitors are doing their usual thing at the moment with all the paperwork!
So my vision which the Lord is giving me is for THE VINE (my retreat house, based on my ordination verses from John 15) and there are 2 vines growing in the (walled!) large orchard.
It seems that the Lord has his hand on this. We were given Isaiah 60:22 last week: "I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly" and it really does feel as though this is His timing and He is doing it swiftly! Things are falling into place in remarkable ways in answer to prayers. We already have the chairman of the board of trustees for the UK. God is being SO good. Of course, there is a long way to go yet, and I am sure there will be ups and downs. BUT ….!
So now you know: Mays Farm. Our new home. We are moving after Christmas.