Win two nights on Retreat at The Vine at Mays Farm

Pen &; pup .jpg

Win two nights on Retreat

at The Vine at Mays Farm

I'll tell you how you can do that in just a minute!

Welcome to our new online home! Ministries by Design has a brand new website and a dot com address -  how exciting is that? Well, not very unless you are geeky, perhaps, but even I am excited by this beautifully designed and fresh looking up-to-date site!  Designed and managed by Kim Swithinbank, this new site is where you will now find us.

So, while you are here, take a look at next year's calendar (the link to it comes in a moment)  There are lots of exciting new retreats planned - including the one that always gets an "Oooooh!!!" when I mention it: Hotel de Chocolat. A two night retreat using Chocolate as an illustration of God's extravagant grace. Lots of treats in store over 48 hours - not least hot chocolate around the fire pit and chocolate tasting ..... book soon, because there are already some bookings and places are limited! 

WHY RETREAT?

Because our daily lives are typically filled and busy - things to do, people to see, life to live. And all that is good. But we each need time to BE - and at The Vine at Mays Farm we offer you the much-needed opportunity to step back from the chaos in your life. We offer an oasis, a place of spiritual sanctuary, a safe space to reconnect with God.

 Mays Farm - over a hundred years ago!

Mays Farm - over a hundred years ago!

There are walking retreats 

and Silent Retreats

Retreats for clergy

and retreats for writers

Retreats to help you pray for others

and times for individuals to 'do their own thing.'

What would help you most? Which would suit you best? 

Maybe you find it easiest to connect with God when you are out in the countryside...

or when you are reflecting in silence in the Chapel...

Maybe you need others to share thoughts and experiences with....

or maybe you prefer to work through things on your own....

Maybe you like your own room...

or maybe you're happy to share a twin room (and pay a little less) ....

Maybe you'd like breakfast in bed ....

or maybe you prefer to keep the crumbs in the kitchen ...

..... Whatever you prefer, there is probably something to suit you, a time when you can step aside from 'normal' life, be revived and refreshed and renewed; and allow your roots to go deeper and remain in the Vine (John 15:4) You can hop over to the calendar/list of retreats here ... but don't forget to come back to find out how to win 2 free nights on retreat.

 Pilgrims walking from San Gimignano to Montalcino , September 2013 

Pilgrims walking from San Gimignano to Montalcino , September 2013 

AND THERE'S MORE!

As well as retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm, we also lead Pilgrimages. In 2014 there will be two pilgrimages for you to choose. Both are on the Via Francigena, the old pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. It passes through glorious countryside in Tuscany, and in early June, we will walk from Montalcino to Viterbo, an 8 day holiday, with a walk of 85 miles. In very early September, another 8 day holiday will be a walk from San Gimignano to Montalcino, slightly less strenuous and 68 miles of fabulous countryside.  Click here for photos and descriptions and more information.

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WIN TWO FREE NIGHTS ON RETREAT in 2014

Yes - any two nights at Mays Farm! You might choose Hotel de Chocolat, or the walking retreat or your own individual retreat. But your two nights will be absolutely free, and will include all meals (except lunch on walking retreats). 

To enter the free draw you can either:

SUBSCRIBE TO RECEIVE THE BLOG IN YOUR EMAIL

HIT SHARE ON FACE BOOK  to share this post with your friends.

RETWEET ON TWITTER including the hashtag @minstriesbydsgn

For every time you do one of those things, your name will be entered into a hat and one name will be chosen by a Board Member who is here on a retreat this week! So the more times you share/retweet, the more opportunities you have to be chosen.

The draw closes on Tuesday December 11th at midnight (GMT) and a name will be chosen the next morning and the winner announced sometime on Wednesday.

* * * *

There are places still available on the ADVENT AWAY DAY on Saturday December 14th (10am - 3.30pm) but otherwise 2013 is now fully booked! Look at the calendar for 2014 and book soon.

We look forward to welcoming you to The Vine at Mays Farm. In the meantime,

GO WELL AND GO WITH GOD

www.ministriesbydesign.org

www.thevine-at-maysfarm.com

 

 

 

 

For people like you

We took a photo on Friday evening  - a reunion of  pilgrims.

Pilgrims who once upon a time had ventured to fly to the UK solely to walk 100 miles. And make it an intentional walking with God.

One told my husband, “It changed my life. I’d tell anyone to go take a Pilgrimage.”

There were twelve of us gathering for dinner - an evening in the most amazing home in California,just south of the Napa valley.

 

 

 

A gathering of people like you - people who love the Lord, people who long to go deeper with God.

People who are busy with their lives. Weary from everyday life. But still longing to go deeper with God.

And as we reminisced about Pilgrimage, we knew that we had gradually lost something we'd found when walking.

Because vision leaks. Life takes over. And we wistfully look back at times when we have been close to God; times when we have clearly heard His Voice; moments when we felt ourselves near to Him; journeys we knew to be in step with Him. We yearn for that closeness to return; long to hear the still small voice again; remember with longing the joy and love we experienced when we first knew Him.

Sometimes it happens unexpectedly again. Joining with others in a moment of worship. Being prayed for. Glimpsing the rise of a powerful moon in a pinkly grey sky.

 

But sometimes we even forget that we yearn for more of Him. We are people who live life busily, every moment in our schedules accounted for, crazily careering from one moment to the next.

We are people who often forget to live our lives with eternity in mind.

Maybe we need to walk a mile or three to reconnect with God. Maybe we need to rediscover a rhythm of walking which rests and clears the mind, helping to shed the everyday problems or see them from a different perspective. Being physically active all the time, meeting the challenges of the ups and downs, knowing the accomplishment of a long day of travel and arriving tired but triumphant after depending on God and one's companions to get there.

 *  *  *  *

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. "

(Psalm 32:8; NLT)

We need to get on that pathway. Get walking so that the Lord can guide.  And sometimes making a pilgrimage is a really good way to do that. Doing it physically enables it to happen spiritually.

*  *  *  *

We're offering two pilgrimages in 2014: walking the Via Francigena, the old pilgrim route which traces a path from Canterbury to Rome. In late May/early June (dates depending on when people like you would like to come!) we will walk from Montalcino to Viterbo, a walk described as "one of the world's most unique, classic walks .... South of Montalcino the country becomes wilder, with forests, low plateaux and Monte Amiata and the wide crater of Lake of Bolsena."

In very early September, the pilgrimage will be from San Gimignano to Montalcino, the walk we did in 2013. A glorious, Tuscan trail,  characterised by paths through vineyards, olive groves and forest, and landscapes punctuated with cypress trees and walled hill towns and villages.

These Pilgrimages are exhilarating, demanding, Spirit-filled times. Mountain top experiences, literally and spiritually. Designed with people like you in mind.

 

If you would like to know more, ask to be put on the mailing list (email: admin@ministriesbydesign.org) and be one of the first to get the full details. Each walk has a total of just 12 people so register your interest now so that you can be sure of your place.

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 And if you'd rather walk in the glorious English Cotswolds, come on one of the walking retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm. Details of the first one in March 2014 can be found here.

 

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People like you, people like me - We are people who often forget to live our lives with eternity in mind.

Walking a pilgrimage can help to restore that balance.

 

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Take a peek here for full details of events & retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm from now until Easter 2014 

 

 

 

 

Mainly for Americans - but other can sneak a peek!

I've added a couple of books on to my Kindle today. Which is exciting because it means it's nearly time to 'fly the friendly skies' and cross The Pond once again. Three whole weeks in the United States of America is fast approaching - part work and part vacation. Visits to friends and family - including Thanksgiving with the grandsons. No wonder I'm excited! And one of most exciting things is having the opportunity to meet with friends and acquaintances and soon-to-be-friends in 3 different states - California, South Carolina and Virginia.

So here is your invitation to a special event - YOU ARE INVITED!  

It would be wonderful to see you - and you can bring your friends too, anyone who might like to come to Mays Farm, or come on a Pilgrimage with us in Italy. There will be a presentation with photos and video clips; and the opportunity to find out more about future events.

Plus, find out how you can 'own' part of a 17th Century chapel in the Cotswolds.

All you need to do is email me (penelope@ministriesbydesign.org) to say you would like to come, and to which event, and how many you are bringing with you. You will then receive your invite with full details of the event.

 

The Revd Penelope & The Revd Kim Swithinbank

are back in town and would love to catch up with you & your news!

Come and hear about their new ministry

Ministries by Design:

-       retreats at Mays Farm in the Cotswolds

-       pilgrimages & walking holidays in Italy and the Cotswolds

-       discover how you can be a part of a 17th century Cotswold building!

 

CALIFORNIA:

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15

San Rafael CA 94903

Cocktails at 6.30pm  dinner at 7.30pm

Kindly hosted by Jennifer & Ken Kroner

SOUTH CAROLINA

Friday, November 22

 Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island SC 29455.  

5:00 -  6:30pm

Wine & Cheese

Kindly hosted by Sue & Quentin Jackson

VIRGINIA

Tuesday December 3

The Falls Church Rectory, Falls Church, VA 22046

6:00 - 8:00pm

Wine and Cheese

Kindly hosted by the Revd John and Mrs Susan Yates 

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

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For full information about The Vine at Mays Farm/retreats/Quiet Days: click HERE 

On next week's blog: Hotel du Chocolat.  Places will be limited so make sure you don't miss out on the opportunity to be blessed by God's extravagant grace

Feeling at the end of your rope? Me too ......

I got it all wrong last week. Ever feel you've reached the end of your rope? That you've got it all wrong; you're barking up the wrong tree; hopelessly out of your depth; mis-hearing God's Voice; and any one of the many other clichés I could quote.

Yes, all of that. And more.

So I posted a sad little note on Facebook.

Said that I wanted to give it all up, as it all seemed like a big failure.

I  felt totally out of my depth. Totally out of perspective.

What had happened?

- we moved into the new house on July 18th; the first retreatant arrived that same afternoon of July 18th.

- the house was full of retreats and lovely retreatants for the next SIX WEEKS! Even at weekends. Oh, and did I mention that I was leading the retreats and doing all the cooking - oh, and still have no Aga and for most of the time had just a microwave and then a small electric oven.

- at the same time, we had all the unpacking to do. The work was still progressing. The builders are still here.

- then we madly had a large party to celebrate rather large birthdays this year and to have a house-warming. Lots of lovely family and friends came. It was a fabulously happy day. And took a lot of organising and preparation. But there was no time to clear up properly for we were off to Italy.

- 2 days of rest and we were straight into leading a Pilgrimage. 10 amazing people came with us as we led them 70 miles on the Via Francigena, leading physically and spiritually. At least no-one was lost or inadvertently left behind.

 

 

 

Returning home on Thursday, we walked into the lovely house we had left - and could not believe our eyes!

We'd left this:

 

 

and we walked into this:

 

you can't see the thick dust in the photos but it is everywhere, over everything, in every room

 

 

The decorator we had hired came in while we were away. And did a terrible job; and didn't do half of what was supposed to be done.

And it's truly colder inside the house than it is outside, even at midday and with windows open to let in the comparatively balmy air from outside. It was much warmer in Tuscany and the difference is stark.

Then there was the post - and the bills and more bills; and no money and no support (we so far have just one person supporting us monthly and are desperately in need of financial support.)

Living by faith is hard. Especially when you are totally exhausted.

Living into God's calling is not always the easiest path - but it's the only one worth walking.

 

*  *  *  *

 

Friends and acquaintances have given enormous support to me over the past few days, all via social media.

Lots of prayers, lots of verses from Scripture, lots of encouragement.

I am exceptionally grateful.

Of course, there's still dust everywhere and the house is upside down and there are about 100 people coming on Saturday for the Open Day and Launch. (will you come? please?) It's still cold and damp indoors.

There's still no money, and only a total of 4 nights of retreat booked in for the foreseeable future and lots of outstanding bills.

*  *  *  *  

But I need to be grateful for how far we have come in such a little time. Grateful for the extraordinary weeks of the Preview Retreats.

And to remember not to give in to despair and frustration.

Especially when so very tired.

And isn't that just when the enemy likes to get in and tell us we are no good and never will be any good and that it's all gone pear shaped?

BUT.

But.

But -

illustration from #smokymtnchristian on Facebook

seen on FaceBook, from the Psalm we learned on the Pilgrimage

So now I am tied to God.

Resting in the power of God.

Learning to be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.

*  *  *  *

And you?

What do you do when you are at the end of your rope? Where are you tied up?

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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28th 2013

 OPEN DAY and LAUNCH

 

for THE VINE @ MAYS FARM

Wwould love you to come and enjoy The Vine @ Mays Farm

12noon- 4pm

Come for as long as you can - call in, or stay!

Light refreshments served all day

2pm  short dedication prayers in the Chapel

The Board of Trustees will all be here

Come and see what is on offer at this place of spiritual sanctuary -

retreats for you, for your leadership team, for your small group

 

RSVP by email. Thank you!

*  *  *  *  *  *

What retreatants are saying, after experiencing one of the Preview Retreats which were offered over the summer:

"L & I returned home from our Retreat at The Vine this weekend. The retreat center is going to be a wonderful place (it officially opens in Sept) and I highly recommend it to all  for visiting. It might be very special to go with a group of friends.  We enjoyed  meeting new friends, loved seeing the countryside and charming villages, and most especially experiencing afresh God's blessings upon us. The location is beautiful and peaceful, and the ministry very meaningful. The Swithinbanks are called to this place for ministry, and her Godly leadership skills for custom retreats are excellent! "  L&L from USA

"I had the most amazing time and am longing to be back at the best 'spiritual spa' that I have ever been to. I could not have asked to have been blessed with more beautiful and tranquil surroundings . I found utter peace at The Vine - I just loved it.  I came back and felt like I had found how I want to live -  I want to live with the supernatural peace that I experienced at The Vine." S.B. from London

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www.ministriesbydesign for more information, Penelope's latest blog posts, and retreat details.
Your prayers and support are greatly valued and appreciated as we begin this new ministry. There are huge hurdles ahead of us (not least the money to complete the house and support the ministry) and we are learning afresh to look to the Lord and lean on Him:
Jesus said, "I am the Vine ... Remain in Me."

 

 

 

 

Curiouser and curiouser cried Alice

 

Early thoughts from a Pilgrimage ... 

Last week we (the other pilgrims and I)  walked in Tuscany -  from San Gimignano to Montalcino.  A mere 65 miles of the ancient Cammino, which goes from Canterbury to Rome, a total of 1300 miles. We called it a Pilgrimage for we wanted to make it a time when we intentionally spent time to draw closer to God.

And on the way we met Alice.

Rucksack on back, skin tanned, legs strong -  walking from Hertfordshire to Rome. Alice graduated earlier this summer from her studies of mediaeval history; left her home in Hertfordshire on June 23rd  and set out to walk to Rome. Take time to think. Cogitate on what may lie ahead for her. And meet her parents in Rome on September 23.

We were fascinated, astonished, curious. Why do it? Where did she stay at night? Would she be there in time? What did her parents think about it? And is it changing her, or her attitudes or beliefs?

Her tales were of sordid campsites in northern Europe, of a night finding nowhere to sleep and walking on in the dark - 30 miles without a stop, and then of warm Italians and welcoming Catholic churches and convents and parishes; and of how their faith was drawing her in, causing her to reconsider her agnosticism and making her wonder about becoming a Roman Catholic. And of calling her mother every other day to reassure her.

Later that night, when we had toiled up a hill to stay at the  Fattoria Pieve a Salti and were sitting by the pool under the setting sun, we prayed for her, for her safety and for her faith.  Thought of her sleeping in the parish church at Buonconvento, and of the 201 km she still has to walk to reach Rome.

 

Maybe some of us felt inadequate - our 65 miles felt very tiny in comparison. Most of us felt old - Alice is 22, our pilgrim party contained two who are 73, one who is 70 and one who is about to be; several in their 60's and 50's.

But comparisons are not always reality.

As we arrived in Montalcino after a long steep incline  at 20% there was a grand sense of achievement.

Physically -  many of the pilgrim party were not used to long walks each day, steep hills, strange beds, learning long sections of  Psalm 27: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple...

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock...

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

And spiritually  - thinking of how the deer desires, longs, pants  profoundly for water in the intense heat, especially the day we were unable to refill empty water bottles and the sun was hot and the path long and steep. How deep is our desire and longing for the Lord in our lives?

Or our ability to walk at all, being so wonderfully complex in our makeup, walking so slowly as we revelled in God's creation of us.

Remembering one morning of how He walks beside us. One pilgrim spoke of the intense sense of  the Lord's Presence beside her as we imagined His walking alongside us - and of how that Presence was accompanying her ever since.

One morning, married couples held hands and prayed together as they walked - one couple said they had not walked hand-in-hand for thirty years. Nor prayed together like that. You could almost see their marriage strengthen.

65 miles. 12 pilgrims (although only 10 made it the whole way). 6 days of walking. Too much pasta and plenty of water. No blisters, no falls, no casualties. God walked beside us, watched over us, drew us closer to Him. And each other.

And now it's over.

And already some are looking forward to next year and walking the next part - Montalcino to Vitterbo.

Come with us? Curious though it may be, walking in order to spend intentional time with God seems to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be a pilgrim.

Today, I am flying to Italy - in order to walk. Walking: the original form of transport. A metaphor as we journey with God.

I don't NEED to go to Italy to do it. Nor to journey with God.

And yet.

Walking along the ancient ways, following the paths journeyed by pilgrims, remembering their search for more of God as they walked from Canterbury to Rome, will help me in my spiritual walking.

 

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Scripture has much to say about pathways and walking with God.

On the Cotswold Pilgrimage, we learn some of the verses each day, to encourage us as we walk and listen to the Lord. I've listed below some we have learned .

And so I am excitedly stepping out to walk with God; and was astonished this morning to read not one but two blogs on Pilgrimage. Each written by one of my favourite authors, Maggie Dawn and Sheridan Voysey. 

On why we make Pilgrimages, and what we learn from them and why they have such impact upon us.

*  *  *  *

So I'm off to pilgrimage, being joined by 11 others. We will walk the Via Francigena from San Gimignano to Montalcino, over 6 days.

Pray for us? Pray for us as we look at how we can drawer closer to God, face-to-face with Him.

On our walk but also in our everyday lives.

Join us next year when we do this part again, or  then the next part, of the VF?

 

Bless us, Lord Christ, on our pilgrimage,

Be with us and all who are dear to us,

And with everyone we meet.

Keep us in the spirit of the beatitudes –

Joyful, simple, merciful.

                                                                                                                  (Taize: Pilgrim prayer)

 

Psalm 32:8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Genesis 17: 1 The Lord said, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai);

walk before me and be blameless.”

Romans 6:4  Christ was raised from the dead by the glory

of the Father, so that we might walk in newness of life.

Proverbs 3:5,6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on

your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge

him and he will direct your paths.

Philippians 3:12

But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ,  who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Jeremiah 6:16 (RSV)  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads

and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the

good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Psalm 37:23  The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord; He delights in every detail of their lives. (Though they stumble they will not fall

for the Lord holds them by the hand)

Searching for sanity again already?

You shake the last of the sand from your sandals recall the sun and the sea, the sunburn and the swimming pool,

remember the siestas and the sangria,

empty the last souvenir from the suitcase

and settle back into September sanity.

And the possibility of a clean slate.

 

"January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.  

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection."

So writes Gretchen Rubin.

Maybe it's the same for you.

September.

A new start, a clean slate, time for something newer and stimulating? Searching for sanity again already?

*  *  *  *  

That need for self-evaluation, for reflection and renewal, can be something which drives us to what is sometimes called spiritual navel gazing.

Or it can be something which stirs us to greater things, to a desire to draw nearer to God and start afresh with renewed vigour in our relationship with him.

Get set for September - shake up your schedule and set a time for intentional seeking of God.

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps 27:8 ESV)

Set a new schedule - now , while you think about it and before everything else takes over! Set a time for those extra moments to seek his face.

And set a date to come on retreat.

Plan to spend a couple of nights away, time for renewal of the energy which has been sapped over the autumn, summer energy seeping away.

Spend a night or two at The Vine @ Mays Farm.

It's been transformed over the past few weeks! So even if you have already been, it's very different now.

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NEW!

WALKING RETREAT FOR OCTOBER

Walking in the autumn colours, it promises to be a very beautiful time to be away, to enjoy the countryside, to be intentional about searching for God. There's something special about walking, allowing the mind to clear of busy-ness and the beauty of creation to speak of the glories of God. And the peace and quiet as one walks is stunning for being able to concentrate on speaking to God and listening to and for him. Book now - limited places available!

Monday October 14  - Friday October 18 2013

Arrive Monday afternoon in time for a cream tea. A light supper followed by compline and an early night in a comfy bed in an ensuite twin bedded room.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we have breakfast followed by a morning devotion, and then leave to walk  for 7 - 8 miles,  pausing for a leisurely lunch break at a local hostelry about half way round. During the walks we may chat or be in silence, take part in a spiritual reflection/exercise or pray. Each day's walk is different:  hilly or wooded, through the prettiest village in England or past a Georgian building used in filming a Jane Austin novel.  We walk approximately from 10.30 -  1.00, stop for lunch and walk again until reaching home about 4.00. Free time until supper, which is followed by compline.

Friday: morning devotion after breakfast, followed by a 3-4 mile circular walk. Departure by noon.

Facilities for guests include: fridge,  washer/dryer,  wi-fi in the house (but you are encouraged not to use it too much and we do not use technology on the walks!) sitting room  and a well-stocked library  (both have wood burner stoves and underfloor heating!)  lovely grounds including a walled garden and a chapel.

The small print:  this fully guided retreat is for 4 nights half board. You will need to buy your own lunch each day at the pub on the way. Dinner, bed & breakfast are provided. Each room is fully ensuite, equipped with a tea/coffee tray and freshly made up beds. (bring your own towels) Accommodation is in twin rooms (bring a friend and share a room, or we can allocate room mates!) COST for the fully guided 4 night retreat half board is just £200 to cover costs; with a suggested donation to MbD of £20 a night which can be gift aided.

There are just 10 places available  - so make sure you book now to be able to come!

Email admin@ministriesbydesign.org to ask for a booking form.

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For those who love photos - latest updates!

DONT FORGET TO BOOK YOUR PLACE ON THE WALKING RETREAT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAVE THE DATE!

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28th 2013

OPEN DAY and LAUNCH

for THE VINE @ MAYS FARM

  • You are very warmly invited to the

    Open Day and Launch

    We would love you to come and enjoy a day in the southern Cotswolds and see what is happening at Mays Farm! 

    You've seen so many photos, now come and see this special place for yourself.

    12noon- 4pm

    Come for as long as you can - call in, or stay!

    Light refreshments served all day

    2pm short dedication prayers in the Chapel

    The Board of Trustees will all be here

    Come and see what is on offer at this place of spiritual sanctuary - 

    retreats for you, for your leadership team, for your small group

    More details coming soon

     

     

    We very much hope to see you at The Vine @ Mays Farm before too long.

     Work parties are happening on Friday July 5th and Saturday July 20th - and any day in between that you like to come, we're here working to get it ready!

    MINISTRIES by DESIGN is based at The Vine @ Mays Farm.

    The Vine @ Mays Farm
    for retreats, 
    quiet days, 
    quiet spaces,
    Spiritual Direction
    leadership training
    & mentoring
     
    come alone
    come with a group
    bring your friends
    your small group
    your leadership team

    The Vine is a place for spiritual sanctuary and sustenance, and the name came partly from the two Vines growing in the Orchard and partly from John 15 where Jesus says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches – abide in Me.”  The Vine offers the opportunity and space you may need  to draw aside from everyday life and spend time ABIDING and BEING, waiting on God, taking time for reflection and repose.

    The house is a 17th Century Cotswold Farmhouse, renovated and refurbished to be a wonderfully welcoming and restful place. There are five large bedrooms, each with ensuite facilities. Breakfast is often served in your room so you can start gently and have time without even rushing downstairs! Lots of places for sitting and dreaming – the Drawing Room, the Library, the Chapel; or the Walled Garden -  the gardens are currently a work-in-progress during the renovations!

TIME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT?

I am currently leading a Walking Retreat in upstate New York - near Lake Keuka, one of  the Finger Lakes.

Here's why I find such days such amazing times.

 

Complete wholeness – of stillness and silence.

As in the absence of interruption or invasion by iphones or imaginations. We stand, gazing at the beauty spread before us, hardly daring to breathe.

This is what we came for, this is what we saved for and trained for. This is the vacation with a difference for which we had dreamed and yearned.

A Pilgrimage.

A long walk with a difference because it is a long walk with God. Intentionally wanting to find Him.

And find Him we did –  in the glories of creation, in one another, in our uplifted hearts.

 

 

And we found the gift of TIME.

Time to be, time to be with God.

 

 

 

Isn’t that what so many of us crave? Time out, we call it.

Time to do something different, BE something different, in some place different.

Pilgrimage has been part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It’s not always been a part of mine, until some 10 years ago, when I was asked to lead one. I discovered that the daily walking, the lack of distraction, the determination to keep going, opens up opportunities for the still small Voice in ways I could not have found elsewhere.  I’ve led many since then, and each one has had its ups and downs, literally and metaphorically. Each one has been special. Sometimes the sun has shone, sometimes it has almost snowed.

On one occasion, we plodded along, one foot then another, one foot and then another. It was hailing, cold wet hard hailing. “All hail King Jesus …” someone began to sing. There were giggles and groans. One foot in front of the next foot.  Onwards and upwards. We had walked a mere 17 miles the previous day. 83 more to go to reach our destination.  One foot then another. The hail turned to sleety rain and tried to invade the scarf wound around my neck.  It was June, it was England, it was Pilgrimage at its worst. And maybe at its best too, for we spurred one another on, sang to God in spite of the cold, and appreciated even more the day when the sun finally emerged.

 

 

A mere 100 miles, each of the weeks of Pilgrimage in England, walking the ancient pilgrim paths and sheep-herding byways, from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey. Some 60 miles in Tuscany, along the Via Francigena, from San Gimignano to Montalcino.  (Those names, they roll romantically round the tongue, inviting and enticing!)

Sometimes in silence, sometimes in prayer; sometimes singing, often laughing; taking time out from daily lived busy-ness, purposely spending time waiting to hear God speak into the rhythm of walking.

Nothing else to do – suitcases moved by unseen angels, meals awaiting us at the next destination along the way. An evening time of devotions – a short thought; some worship; prayers. Maybe Compline. Sharing our journeys, helping each other along.

 

Pilgrimage is a time of challenge – physically and spiritually.

It is a leaving behind – of daily routine, of family and friends, of expectations.

It is a purpose filled week of deliberately stepping aside and stepping out, in faith, to find God in ways never previously experienced.

It can be a difficult time. No good to pretend it’s easy, however much one has tried to get fit, practice, walk the extra mile.

It’s not the usual walking.

And yet, into this challenge, this sacrifice of normality and time and effort, God speaks. Whether it’s the chill of an English summer or the heat of an Italian one, there is something unusual, something special, something incredible, about this intentionality. So often we don’t know God, don’t hear His voice, because we don’t take the time to stop – really stop, or step out of our comfort zone and wait.

Wait for Him to speak into our hearts.

The Pilgrims are always amazing people. On each Pilgrimage I’ve led there have been people in pain – pain from living, pain from past wounding, pain in this journey. But they keep walking.

 

And each time, God has stepped into people’s lives – sometimes right then and there, sometimes later when reflecting. But God always speaks – if we take time and trust Him to do so.

“It truly was a life changing experience for me; and I met with God in a way I’d never done before.”

The Via Frangicena is another ancient Pilgrim route – from Canterbury to Rome. I Pelligrini (the pilgrims) walked it as an act of devotion to God, as an act of contrition. They carried little other than the walking stick, the hat, the cloak and the backpack.

Sometimes they ‘walked’ on their knees. They had no idea when they set out as to whether they would ever return, after such a long and dangerous journey. But their contrition and devotion drove them out and on, dependent totally on God, their fellow pilgrims and the people they met along the way.

When we first walked a part of it (Tuscany in July) the sun beat down mercilessly, our skins scorched and our tongues stuck with thirst. Yet we gave up relatively little compared to I Pelligrini of old.

And what of us? You and me?

How far would you be prepared to walk in order to empty your life of its everyday busy-ness, its tests and trials, its screaming loud insistence?

What do we need to sacrifice in order to hear that still small Voice?

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16

How much do you yearn for the rest, the silence, the stillness, in which to hear God?

What might you do in order to take time to hear that still small voice?

 

 

The Revd Penelope Swithinbank is an international speaker and leader for Christian conferences, Pilgrimages, Retreats, Quiet Days and women’s events. She loves hiking, reading and travelling.  Author of ‘Women By Design,’ she is a Spiritual Director, blogger, wife, mother and grandmother, and is about to open a Retreat house – in an old Cotswold farmhouse, a place of spiritual sanctuary for those who need time away, especially those in Christian leadership. 

Website and Retreat details: www.ministriesbydesign.org

 

I nearly died this morning.

I was nearly trampled to death earlier this morning. At least, it felt as if it was just about to happen.

Walking the dog along one of our usual footpaths, we (Gracie and me) came upon a herd of cows; young bullocks, actually, not very large nor very old. All black, they were, grazing nonchalantly under the trees at the edge of the field. Even so, as Gracie has not come across cows at close quarters before, I put her on the lead, in case she charged at them.

Over the years of dog walking (my parents first got a dog when I was just 10) I've traversed many fields of cows with various dogs in tow - and have always found that cows will crowd you if the dog is on the lead - but they usually back off if you shout and wave your arms around, and allow the dog to run free.

I presumed it would be the same today. It was not.

As I passed the bullocks, they stopped grazing and began to stare. I  hastily let Gracie off the lead, and fortunately she had the good sense to race for the gate at the end of the field. Thanks, dog. You left me to it!  I turned and stamped my feet and then continued to walk on. The bullocks followed. Threateningly. More arm waving, more shouting, more walking on. But to no avail.

I suddenly remembered the news last week - of a man trampled to death not too far from here, as cows stampeded.   My fear grew and perhaps the cows sensed that.

Or perhaps they didn't like Matt Redman who was playing loudly on my iPhone so I could sing as I walked.

It certainly wasn't my singing as I had stopped when I saw them!

So now I have a shaped rearguard of black young bullocks at my back, and they are getting closer. And I'm remembering the man who was sadly killed. And I'm wondering what young calves are fed these days that makes them so vicious. Cows, even young bullocks, were sweet large-eyed docile beasts when I was young.

Now they are vicious killers.

I ran. In my blue hunter wellies I pounded towards the gate. And so of course the bullocks began to run too. And I think they run faster than I can. I am no runner.

Gracie barked - from the safety of the other side of the barred and locked gate.

I hurled myself at it and never have I climbed a gate so quickly.  With black bullocks running at it. At me.

Now there are ten thousand and one reasons for me to bless the Lord. Because I got over the gate and looked back to see the bullocks crowding the gate. I didn't even stop to take a photo. Heart pounding - fear? running? climbing a gate quickly? - I stumbled on throughthe farmyard. What DO they feed young bullocks? Do cows have more of a killer instinct than they used to?

I wish I could say I prayed as I charged for that gate! All I could think of was running fast enough to outrun the bullocks.

Thank you Lord. You had my back covered.

 Isaiah 52:12

You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the LORD will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind. 

Psalm 139:5

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 

New Living Translation (©2007)

 

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, worship His holy name ... sing like never before, Oh my soul, I'll worship your Holy Name.

PENTECOST, PARCHED IN PETRA and PRAYING A DANGEROUS PRAYER

I had an interesting experience with water - or at least the lack of it -  a couple of weeks ago. My husband & I are celebrating auspiciously large birthdays this year; at Christmas, he gave me 2 books: the "Lonely Planet guide to Jordan",  and “I Married a Bedouin,”  written by a young New Zealand nurse who, in the late 1970’s, was on a gap year travelling, and met and married her Bedouin, who lived in a cave in Petra, Jordan.

I loved reading about Petra – it's been at the top of my bucket list since I first saw a photo of it when I was a teenager. Ecstatically excited to be going at long last, I devoured the books, amazed by Marguerite van Geldermalsen's account of living in Petra, where her children were born - including her son Raami.

And when I read the guide book and noticed "Raami Tours" mentioned,  we got in touch - and yes, it's her son, and a little local entreprenurialism. So we decided to do the "trip of a lifetime thing"  and  booked with Raami to have a local guide for each day of our stay. That decision led to 5 amazing days of things we would never have seen or done if simply following the guidebook!

Our local Petra guide was Ibrahim, who was also born in a cave in Petra, but  he doesn’t know when. He is perhaps in his late 20’s, has never been to school, but has learnt to speak English from the tourists. He and I developed quite a bond: he declared at one stage that I was like a mother to him!

On day four, we were scheduled to go for a hike  - a couple of hours in the Dana Nature Reserve. Ibrahim had only been there once before; so Nasser came too - and we discovered that Nasser, who speaks no English, is the son and heir apparent to a local Bedouin sheik, someone who is one of the advisors to the King of Jordan. Ibrahim and Nasser  took us for what turned into a long 6 hour hike:  down through the Dana Nature reserve to Wadi Araba.  From +1700m above sea level down into the desert at  -50M below sea level.

 

Down and down we slipped and slithered on the stony path.

After a couple of hours, Ibrahim decided it was time for tea - and he produced a kettle and glasses and black tea from his knapsack, lit a little fire and brewed up - throwing in a handful of herbs he gathered from the wilderness for good measure.

 

While it brewed, he showed me how to get colour from a little stone to paint my hands as the Bedouin women do.

 

Then we were off downhill again … as the sun rose higher and hotter and the oleanders bloomed beauty in the rocks.

 

The wild life was stunning.

 

 

But we were getting hot.

Hot. HOT. HOTTER.

Hottest.

Our water bottles ran out after four hours. We'd no idea we would be walking so far - in such heat - with nothing to do except keep walking.

 

Gradually we began to realise that we were parched. Dry. Thirsty. Miles from anywhere, with no water. And nothing to do except keep walking.

My husband began to overheat.  We were panting, longing, deeply desiring, desperate for, water.

WATER.

And into my mind came those words from the Psalms:  As the deer pants for the water ....

Words set to a sweet little tune, which belies the depth of the thirst and the dryness of the desert. We were parched and had a real problem.  The words suddenly came to life for me. THAT'S what the deer feels  - and that's what the psalmist was describing.

That dryness, that desperateness, for the refreshingness of the Lord.

That longing that only water, only God, can satisfy.

Do we know that deep desperation for the Lord? As the deer pants ....  are we panting, longing, dryly desperate for God’s Presence in our lives?

In the desert, on our way down to Wadi Araba, we – at least, Ibrahim and Nasser – stopped some passing goatherds – who were Bedouin too and who shared their cool water from the waterskins they were carrying. But we, thinking there was not too much further and wary of water whose provenance we didn't quite trust, refused it.

And began to wonder: will we ever make it?

 

 

Never have we been so glad as when we eventually saw Nasser's car in the distance, his brother driving it,  loaded with cold bottles of water. And oh the joy and the pleasure of sitting in the shade of a tree, drinking cold cold water. And knowing there was a ride in the car.

(to Nasser's house for lunch - but that's another story...)

Never will I forget the desperate parched longing for water. The deer panting and likely to die. The psalmist longing, panting, desperate  for the Lord in his life.

I need to stop God, to ask for cool water in my spiritual desert.

And don't we each need to do that?  To know the refreshment of His spring rains in our parched and weary and battered and bruised lives.

Sermon over!

But I now know that I need to pray: God make me want to want you like that.

It's a dangerous prayer. 

 

Psalm 42:

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the living God.

and in The Message -

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God. I’m thirsty for God-alive. I wonder, “Will I ever make it— arrive and drink in God’s presence?”

 

And this too:

As we wait in silence,
fill us with your Spirit.
As we listen to your word,
fill us with your Spirit.
As we worship you in majesty,
All fill us with your Spirit.
As we long for your refreshing,
fill us with your Spirit.
As we long for your renewing,
fill us with your Spirit.
As we long for your equipping,
fill us with your Spirit.
As we long for your empowering,
fill us with your Spirit.

http://goodinparts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/together-for-pentecost.html?spref=fb

 

An invite to join us as our guests

Winter is coldly here  ... spring is on the horizon ... and  already unbidden thoughts about going somewhere different or special in the summer flit across our minds. Somewhere to allow ourselves the space to BE; to soak in some peace and quiet; maybe some time focusing on the Lord and on our relationship with Him. We know the very place, and this summer we would like to invite you to join us, as our guests.

In late September, Ministries by Design will be opening The Vine@Mays Farm, offering a place for retreat, a spiritual sanctuary from noise and bustle, with visitors taking part in various types of retreats, or coming for a private visit, whether for a day or for a longer period.

At the end of the building project, and before we officially open, we are offering a few preview retreats at no charge (although we will welcome any offers of help with paintbrushes, brooms etc! and any donations are always acceptable, as MbD is a registered charity).

Why are we doing this? Several reasons!

-  We have been blessed already by many many people as we launch out into our new venture. (If you missed the announcement about our moving to Mays Farm, you can read the article hereAnd we want to bless othersWe want to bless you. Come and experience the peace and the quiet, the  opportunity to draw aside from a busy life and enjoy a few special days.

But also, honestly, we need some 'guinea-pigs!'  A few people who will come on retreat and then tell us how it was and what is good and what might be improved.

Some people like to have something to do manually for an hour or two during a retreat; and there will be gardening or decorating, or tidying once the builders have gone; or curtains to hem or raspberries to pick .... and if you wanted to help in that way for a couple of hours each day, it would be much appreciated. It's not compulsory - although it would be an enormous help!

 

The house will have 5 bedrooms, each with sitting areas, and with private ensuite facilities. You can relax in your room, in the Library or the Drawing room, in the chapel, the walled orchard and grounds, the local countryside ...

All retreats are full board - breakfast, lunch, dinner are all included, tea and coffee making facilities in each room.

There are 2 different retreats and each will happen at least once in July/August/September

1. A WALKING RETREAT - get fit spiritually AND physically!

Arrive on a Monday afternoon, settle in with a cup of tea. First session, then supper. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, after a buffet breakfast,  Penelope will lead you on one of several local walks, each of about 6 miles, with opportunities for spiritual reflections and meditations as we walk. Return for lunch and spend the afternoons as you wish to make the most of this time - praying, sitting in the chapel, journalling, sleeping; and hopefully helping out manually for a couple of hours.  There will be a short session  each day before Supper, which  will be followed by compline and early nights. Final session on Friday morning, and leave  after a light lunch.   Maximum of 10 people, in en-suite twin bedded rooms.

2. A GUIDED SILENT RETREAT - to concentrate on your relationship with God

Arrive on a Monday afternoon, settle in, enjoy tea. First session, then supper, compline and early bed, after which we will move into silence. Breakfast will be served in your room to allow time to rest, reflect, be renewed. Each day there will be individual time with a Spiritual Director, and there will be guidance if required as to how to get the most from this time. There will be opportunity to help manually around the Centre for a couple of hours each day. Meals will be taken in communal silence or you may take your meal to your room if you wish. Leave after a final time with your Director on Friday morning followed by a light lunch if required. Maximum of 5 people, in private en-suite rooms.

Of course, we risk a lot doing this - you might sign up, then as you haven't paid anything, pull out at the last minute! Or you might come and not like it at all and write us a bad review. Or you might not help out manually as needed. But we believe that the Lord is calling us to this, blessing us with so much in this new home and with opportunities for ministry, and in turn we want to bless you. We hope you will know the Lord's richest blessings when you come, and that you will then want to come again, and recommend it to others to come, too. We hope and pray that The Vine@Mays Farm will be one of those 'special places' for many of us, a place where one slips easily into a different rhythm with God, a place to hear His Voice and seek His guidance.

Oh, did I tell you that Mays Farm is just 1hr 40 mins drive from London (M4 jct 17) , easily accessible by mainline trains (Chippenham), near to Bristol, Cheltenham, Oxford, Birmingham, and on the edge of beautiful Cotswold countryside?  Come and enjoy!

If you would be interested in being invited to one of these special retreats for free, as a guinea pig, then email me! (see below) and DO PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS TOO! (men and women all welcomed, but we will take care with room allocation!!!!!)  

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO COMMIT NOW - just express your real interest and ask for an application form. If you are accepted you will be sent the details and the dates soon, and then you can sign up to come.

If you would like an application form for an invite to the free retreats, please email me now:

penelope@ministriesbydesign.org

stating why you think it would be good for you to come and which of the two retreats you would prefer.

A special invite just for you!

Come on a holiday with a difference this year! Take a week out from your stressed busy life and walk an ancient pilgrim route - through the glorious Tuscan countryside, on a Pilgrimage led by the Revd Kim and the Revd Penelope Swithinbank.

THERE ARE JUST A COUPLE OF SPACES STILL AVAILABLE - contact us soon to book.

 

THE VIA FRANCIGENA

This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he’d passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths.

 

You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. Sometimes be Spiritual Reflections and times of silence, but with Kim there too it won’t be silent all the way! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.

 

You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods

 

The route is stunningly beautiful – we have already walked it and just loved it.From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato ….    this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.courtyard

Dates:

September 7 – 14 2013

This is an 8 day holiday.

We arrive on day 1, walk from San Gimignano to Montalcino over the next 6 days

and leave on day 8.

COST – £1395 (HB)

 

All costs are per person, sharing a twin bedded room with private bathroom facilities.

You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too),

local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.

Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day.

Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.

 

Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you,

and how to prepare for this walk – physically and spiritually!

 

For a daily itinerary CLICK HERE

 

We are using ATG of Oxford as our tour operators, but all your bookings and payments will be done

through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you – we will do all the admin!  

 

For more details of ATG:

http://www.atg-oxford.co.uk/pdf/trip/jfr.pdf

 

We are doing the guided walk in the Tuscan Hills – but with the Swithinbanks leading us,

rather than ATG guides! And the price has been negotiated to be really good for you

as part of the Pilgrimage, compared with the ATG guided walk price.

ATG book all the accommodations for us, move our suitcases each day, and provide route maps,

 emergency backup and suggestions.

 

For centuries, Christians have walked to special places, to take time to be with God and allow God the time and space to work in their lives. A pilgrimage is a setting aside of one’s normal routine, and taking time to reflect on what the Lord is saying, and allowing the rhythm of the walk to give mental and spiritual refreshment. It is a physical expression of our spiritual journey with God; it is a time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the company of others; and it is a desire to spend quality time with God in a new way.

It is a vacation with a difference. Come join us!

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16

 

Hilltop town

 

A fourth way to alleviate the bleakmidwinter blues!

I'm blogging my way out of any potential midwinter blues! I'm only making resolutions that bring energy and enthusiasm; I'm following advice from the Revd Sidney Smith to live as well as I dare right now; I'm getting as much sleep as I can; and I'm enjoying hugs and cuddles like never before. And here's another way that helps. Booking a summer vacation - it's something to look forward to and even though I don't want to wish my life away, there is something rather encouraging and enervating about planning something special for a future event. And something which will energise me and be a real treat, which will get me fitter spiritually as well as physically, and in a most beautiful part of the world.

So I thought you might like to come along!

It's a very special Pilgrimage - and there are just a few places left for the September dates.

Come join us for a Pilgrimage on the Via Francigena? We walk about 10 miles a day; our luggage is moved for us; and we have special times of prayer, devotional talks, spiritual exercises - and plenty of time to relax, laugh, walk, talk or be in silence. It's incredibly beautiful, for our souls and our spirits as well!

Here are a few introductory details, to whet your appetite.  Contact me for more information. We'd love you to come too!

NEW FOR 2013 - Italian Pilgrimages
San g path
San Gimignano
VFmap
Canterbury to Rome
via f pilgrim
Via Francegina
Siena
Siena
Mays Farm MAYS FARMRead more
LogoVisit our website
BOOKING
If you are interested in coming on one of the walks, please email us for full details and a booking form. To reserve your place there is a deposit of £200 with the balance due 8 weeks prior to the Pilgrimage.  Places are limited to just 10 people maximum (plus us) so don't delay!
Please pray for us as we put this together; and pray about whether you might be able to come. Do feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the walk. We are so excited about this opportunity and really hope you might be able to join us; and do pass the details on to others you know who might like to come too.

 

Grace and peace,
warmly,
Kim and Penelope

 

Kim & Penelope Swithinbank
Ministries By Design
Mays Farm, Hullavington
Walking the Via Francigena
San G framed

We are excited to be sending you the details for the first of our new pilgrimage retreats - in Tuscany, next June and September.
As you know, Penelope has been leading
Pilgrimages on the Cotswold Way for many years and many women have appreciated that opportunity.
But now Kim will be joining her in leading retreats and walks for both sexes, for singles and for marrieds  - and we
want you to have the opportunity to come too!
QUESTIONS? call us, we'd love to chat with you!
UK: 07870 497365
USA: (til  Jan 21) : 843 325 5220
fresco
The Via Francegina
This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he'd passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths. You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. But with Kim there too it won't be silent all the way!! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.
You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods.
The route is stunningly beautiful - we have already walked it and just loved it. From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato .... this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.
The vacation will be organised by Alternative Travel Group and you can look on their website for further information about the walks. ATG journey
However, all your bookings and payments will be done through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you - we will do all the admin!
courtyard

Dates:
There is a choice of dates:
June 23 - 30
Sept 7 - 14
This is an 8 day holiday. We arrive on day 1, walk from San Gimignano to Montalcino over the next 6 days and leave on day 8.
COST - £1395 (HB)
 
All costs are per person, sharing a twin bedded room with private bathroom facilities.
You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too), local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.  Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day. Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.
Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you, and how to prepare for this walk - physically and spiritually!

 

Hilltop town

NEW PILGRIMAGE IN TUSCANY summer 2013

NEW FOR 2013 - Italian Pilgrimages
San g path
San Gimignano
VFmap
Canterbury to Rome
via f pilgrim
Via Francegina
Siena
Siena
Mays Farm MAYS FARMRead more
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOKING
If you are interested in coming on one of the walks, please email us for full details and a booking form. To reserve your place there is a deposit of £200 with the balance due 8 weeks prior to the Pilgrimage.  Places are limited to just 10 people maximum (plus us) so don't delay!
Please pray for us as we put this together; and pray about whether you might be able to come. Do feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the walk. We are so excited about this opportunity and really hope you might be able to join us; and do pass the details on to others you know who might like to come too.

 

Grace and peace,
warmly,
Kim and Penelope

 

Ministries By Design
Mays Farm, Hullavington
Walking the Via Francegina
San G framed

We are excited to be sending you the details for the first of our new pilgrimage retreats - in Tuscany, next June and September. As you know, Penelope has been leading Pilg
rimages on the Cotswold Way for many years and many women have appreciated that opportunity. But now Kim will be joining her in leading retreats and walks for both sexes, for singles and for marrieds  - and we
want you to have the opportunity to come too!
QUESTIONS? call us, we'd love to chat with you!
UK: 07870 497365 (NOT Dec 28 - Jan 21)
USA: (Dec 29 - Jan 21) : 843 325 5220
fresco
The Via Francegina
This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he'd passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths. You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. But with Kim there too it won't be silent all the way!! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.
You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods.
The route is stunningly beautiful - we have already walked it and just loved it. From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato .... this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.
The vacation will be organised by Alternative Travel Group and you can look on their website for further information about the walks. ATG journey
However, all your bookings and payments will be done through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you - we will do all the admin!
courtyard

       Dates:
       There is a choice of dates:
       June 23 - 3
       Sept 7 - 14
       This is an 8 day holiday. We arrive on          day 1, walk from San Gimignano to              Montalcino over the next 6 days and            leave on day 8.
       COST - £1395 (HalfBoard)
 
       All costs are per person, sharing a twin        bedded room with private bathroom            facilities.
You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too), local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.  Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day. Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.
Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you, and how to prepare for this walk - physically and spiritually!

 

 

 

Hilltop town
Do please pray for us as we begin this new season of our lives and ministries. We will be leaving London on December 25 (yes, really!) and will be renovating Mays Farm for the next few months. We hope to have the Retreat House ready later summer 2013 - more news on all of that later, but you can read more about it in the link "Read More" on the left!

Can I live by faith? The first hurdle arrives.

The initial excitement of finding a house that can be our family home as well as provide a place of peace and sanctuary for others has lasted for a while! Feeling called by God to pursue that dream is exhilarating. If you missed the 'formal announcement', you can find it here.

And for a while we have known blessing upon blessing. Not just that the sellers chose us in spite of ours being the lowest offer; or our London flat going under offer within a few days for more than we had imagined it might be worth; or the sense of the house being the 'right' place every time we walk in.  But more than all those, the 'sixth sense' type of feeling or knowing, that deep imponderable, that the Lord is in this and is making it happen.

So we smiled and accepted the most amazing offers of help - this person doing all the legal work to set up the charitable Trust for us, that kitchen design person offering their services for free, this one who knows how to get grants for insulation doing the ground work, that one offering to put together a little group of initial donors to the Trust. And the kind comments, tweets, emails, letters, cards -  from friends and acquaintances, family and congregation - the sense everyone has that this is 'right,' this is what we are meant to be doing. And people we haven't even met offering to come and be praying labourers when we need them; a member of a youth group we ran 30 years ago writing out of the blue offering to come and help. The couple we asked to be Chairperson and first trustee of the board saying yes  .... blessing upon blessing. And we can't quite believe it's all happening and that there are less than 90 days until we leave the church here.

But.

And there was bound to be a first but.

The mortgage company we used for the London apartment have refused to 'port' the mortgage. We hadn't counted on that. We took out that mortgage years ago when we were first in the States, both of us on the generous salaries that clergy there often enjoy. Now we are stepping out into the unknown, really living by faith as we take on this new project;  there is no provable  income in the future. The mortgage company don't like that!

So here is the first stumbling block.

Can I trust the Lord in this? Do I believe He can sort it out? And if I say, yes I do - do I mean it or is it just that I can hide behind my husband knowing that he is making phone calls and filling in forms and doing his best to find a new mortgage provider?

Because if I can't trust now, if I can't keep praying AND trusting, in this first hurdle, what of the next? And the next?

So here is my prayer request:

Will you pray with us that the Lord will indeed provide what is needed?

That we will learn to trust in God's provision and God's timing?

 

Listen to these children singing one of my favourite songs from Isaiah, a song we sang a lot on the first Cotswold Pilgrimage; click on the link for the music to play while you continue reading:

Surely, it is God who saves me; 
I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing 
from the springs of salvation.

And on that day you shall say, 
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;

Make his deeds known among the peoples; see that they remember that his Name is exalted.

Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, and this is known in all the world.

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

(Canticle 9 The Song of Isaiah)  

Attempt something so great for God that it be doomed to failure unless God be in it.

 

 

In need of some exercise?

On Wednesday - yes, THIS Wednesday, I shall meet this year's Pilgrims and we will head off to the Cotswolds for the Pilgrimage. I am excited ... apprehensive ... and I am sure they are too! Will you join us in spirit even if you are not with us physically?  I will be tweeting each day about our progress - find it here: @minstriesbydsgn And maybe you can take a few moments each day as you read our tweets to think about your own walk, your journey with Christ - maybe think about some of the verses which remind us that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7 ) that we need to keep in step with the Spirit  (Gal 5:16) and we are pressing on towards the goal! (Phil 3:12-14) For the Pilgrims next week, that goal is Bath Abbey, where we will be having our own service when we arrive  - footsore, maybe,  tired - but exhilarated no doubt! 100 miles up and down the Cotswold escarpment.

The Cotswold Pilgrimage

Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey

For centuries, Christians have walked to special places, to take time to be with God and allow God the time and space to work in their lives. A pilgrimage is a setting aside of one’s normal routine, and taking time to reflect on what the Lord is saying, and allowing the rhythm of the walk to give mental and spiritual refreshment. It is a physical expression of our spiritual journey with God; it is a time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the company of others; and it is a desire to spend quality time with God in a new way.

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16

SO HERE WE GO!  A Pilgrimage Walk in the stunningly beautiful hillsides of the English Cotswolds. We will be  spending 8 days on a vacation with a difference: walking on the ancient footpaths and pilgrim paths from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey. It's the fourth time I've done this!

 

We will worship God in the beauty of His creation; take time to think of how we can live our lives as a daily offering of worship to Him; and allow ourselves the time and space to exercise spiritually as well as physically. Daily devotional talks each evening will be based on different Walks in Scripture or on verses we learn as we walk.  We will walk and talk, pray and sing, reflect and contemplate, listen for  that still small voice.

Join with us - in prayer, in time with God, maybe even in some extra exercise?

Might you share this?   - repost and retweet, as we'd love to have lots of people praying for us!

And why not think about doing the Pilgrimage with me next year?

Asking for your prayers - please?

Dear praying friends - I have a huge favour to ask of you!  As you know, I am leading a Pilgrimage again this year, with 12 of us walking from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey, in just over a week's time: we meet on Wednesday September 12th and begin walking on Thursday morning. During the Pilgrimage, I will be leading and guiding the walking, and each evening giving a talk on a walk in Scripture.  There will be verses to learn as we walk, and times of prayer and meditation; and often I find I need to be spiritual director for some who want individual help.So my reason for writing is to ask if you would be willing to pray,  and especially to support me in prayer as I lead this week's adventure! I feel very ill-equipped, spiritually and physically, this year more than ever before; and desperately need prayer for strength, grace, wisdom and love.  Prayers for safety, too, as we walk up and down the Cotswold Escarpments, covering 100 miles in just 6 days; for good weather; for friendships to be made; and more than anything for each person to hear the Lord speak to her deeply. And pray for my husband Kim, left at home alone, not something he finds easy!  Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.  

Monday/Tuesday September 10/11th

I will be co-leading the Church Staff Retreat with Kim - I'm doing the cooking! Please pray for stamina and for a sense of excitement and anticipation, and that our recent holiday will have been really refreshing spiritually and physically.  

Wednesday September 12th 

The pilgrims meet at Heathrow Airport & a shuttle takes us to Chipping Campden. We'll have the first evening's session (each session includes worship, talk and prayers) Please pray for safety in travel, for safe arrivals, and for a good time as we begin to get to know one another.

Thursday September 13th

The Pilgrimage begins - with the longest day, 17 miles to Winchcombe. Please pray for stamina to walk and then to give a talk in the evening! And for good rest and sleep each night. 

Friday September 14th 

The shortest day, just 14 miles to Charlton Kings. Pray that I can find the hotel - it's off the Path and I have to map read a different footpath to get there!

Saturday September 15th

As we walk to Painswick, please pray that the meditations and spiritual exercises we will be doing as we walk each day will be meaningful and that the Lord will really speak to people in a deep lifechanging way.

Sunday September 16th

We head to North Nibley, where there is a huge monument to Tyndale, printer of the Bible in English.  Please pray that the Bible will come alive to us in new ways as we read and pray through Scripture, using Contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina.

Monday September 17th

Walking to Tormarten, we will gain views of the Severn estuary and the Welsh hills. Please pray that our horizons will be enlarged by the Lord and we will continue to be open to what HE may be saying to us; and for me to be a channel to be used by Him.

Tuesday September 18th

The final day, walking into Bath; and then a short service the Abbey itself. Then the final talk and Communion together. Please pray that we get there in one piece!  And for the final evening to be very special as we reflect on where we've come from and what we've learned, and what the Lord is leading us on to.

Wednesday September 19th

Parting after such a profound experience can be painful. Please pray that I am understanding and helpful; that people are depending on the Lord and not on one another; and that travels home are easy and uneventful for everyone.

THANK YOU for your prayers: we really really need them!

Halfway to heaven

Tanya Marlow is passionate about teaching the Bible, answering tricky questions of faith and training others to do this.  In the past she has done this in student and church ministry and as Associate Director of the Peninsula Gospel Partnership (PGP) Bible training course in the UK. Right now she does it by reading Bible stories to her gorgeous toddler, as she learns what it means to be a stay-at-home mum who is also currently housebound with an autoimmune illness. Her blog, Thorns and Gold, can be found at http://tanyamarlow.com where she writes about many things, but mainly the Bible, suffering, and the messy edges of life. We sat back in the airplane seats and exhaled, half- triumphantly, half-exhaustedly. We had done it - somehow we had managed to get a suitcase, a rucksack, a disabled and chronically ill wife (me), a restless toddler and an exhausted husband onto the flight. Below us, we could see them throwing the bags onto the plane with a certain degree of carelessness. We felt the relief of no longer having anything to carry.

My mind ran over the chaos of the past few days: the packing, the writing of lists, the resting in preparation, the phone calls, the last-minute shopping for essentials, the researching of the symptoms of sunstroke in under-fives, the rush of the deadline to finish remaining work.

There are times when life is a whirlwind and we are whirling within it. Our days had been full of flurry and preparation and whirlwind and now we sat, waiting.

**********

The plane took off, and I just watched the landscape change from the window. With a sleeping toddler on my lap, there wasn't much else to do. People, cars, trains, were reduced to busying insects. There is always more countryside, more space, it seems, when viewed from the air - acres of land that I am not aware of when on the ground.

As we went higher I seemed to slow down. People and the small scurrying movements were no longer visible, just the twinkling lights of cities. It's strange to just have the sound of the plane and the murmur of passengers' conversations whilst watching a whole country spread out beneath you -  like watching a movie on mute.

There are so many people in the world, living their lives while God watches.

*********

We were above it all, and now into clouds, white and soothing.

This is the in-between.

When we landed, there would once again be a flurry and frenzy. For now, everything was still. We were journeying, but in a place of quiet and stillness.

***********

This is the value of a retreat.  It is not the destination, and we do not spend our lives there. It is the in-between. It is a journey in quiet and stillness. It is the chance to leave some of the baggage we have been carrying, to view our lives from above, at a distance, to see the whole world and reflect on the creator who holds it.

We can close our eyes, we can exhale. We can watch the clouds and think on the glory of our Redeemer. We can listen for the whisper of God and pray that we might see our lives through His eyes.

Over to you: How have retreats helped you see life from a different perspective? Reflecting on the size of the world helps me to remember God as creator and sustainer. What things help you to reflect on the nature of God?

Three ways to help you exercise more.

9,500 steps daily average was my pedometer reading until a few weeks ago.    Not very good if you are trying to get ready to walk 100 miles in 6 days.  Three weeks ago I decided to step it up, if you will excuse the pun. A new daily minimum of 12,000 please, Penelope. So I started to plan my walking. And to schedule it in the diary. Suddenly, my daily readout looked promising: 12,500; 15,750; 18,900 (wish I had run up and down the stairs before bed to get to 19000!).  A desire to beat yesterday's total began to creep in. Where else could I walk to get to my new target? And who else might come with me?

Here's what I have discovered that really helps:

1. Plan to walk and walk to plan.

By writing an appointment with myself in my diary, I find it's easier to do it.  It means I have a schedule; I know when I am to walk and I know when to do everything else . By putting it in black and white, it's one step further away from procrastination! The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.  SO: I am now planning my walking times - and my walking routes, and putting them into my diary - and doing what I plan.  And planning which way to go is now part of the anticipation and enjoyment.

2. Invite a friend - publically if necessary!

Walking alone is fine, it's something I quite enjoy, and with my new earphones which are actually comfortable to wear, I can listen to praise music and sing along  - even out loud if I am in the countryside!  But I discovered that if I only plan to walk alone I can still put it off.  So I issued a public invitation to friends on Face Book and on Twitter, inviting anyone to come and join me at 10am last Wednesday to walk from Muswell Hill to Hampstead Heath and back via Kenwood.  A 7 - 8 mile round trip.

And of course having invited people I had to do it - even if no-one turned up! They could have phoned at any moment to ask if they could catch up, join in. So off I went - and started to tweet with photos as I went, just to prove I was doing the walk.  

coffee stop at Kenwood House

It was inspirational for me! I repeated the exercise the next day - invited people to walk from Muswell Hill to Raynes Park, which is about 12.5 miles, as I needed to get to Raynes Park by about 3pm.  It began well - listening to praise music, tweeting the progress, taking photos of landmarks en route.

Reaching Finsbury Park via the Woodland Walk/Capital Ring path

But then came the rain and I didn't want to get soaked on that particular day, so I hopped on the Tube at Highbury/Islington (after some 4 miles on the Woodland Walk from Muswell Hill via Finsbury Park and up to Highbury Fields) and decided that with what I would do at the other end, I would be fine. I purposefully climbed up and down every escalator at Tube stations; and then went to Waitrose and back, in Raynes Park - ostensible to buy G & T and a lime, but really to add more steps.  Honestly!

Join me on a walk next week? Castle Combe and the surrounding area, on the MacmillanWay and local footpaths in an 8 mile circular walk - Thursday August 9th. Let me know if you'd like to come. Start and finish in Littleton Drew.

3. Set short term and longer term targets and goals.

Aim for nothing and you are sure to hit it. And that's what I was doing until now. It was rather a hit or miss affair.

But now I have a definite daily goal: a daily minimum step count. And a longer goal: being able to walk 100 miles in 6 days, in five and a half weeks' time. Please hold me accountable!

None of this is anything new - I have heard it all before. What IS new is applying it to yourself as opposed to simply reading it. Being do-ers of the word and not hearers only. Now where did I hear that before? The New Living Translation says,  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (James1:22) Plan and schedule your time with God - whether daily, or a special time or retreat; join with friends to study God's word and pray together; set a target - maybe to read the Bible in a year, or to read a whole epistle in one sitting, for example.

As ever, life gives illustration to God's Word - or is it the other way around? The three ways to make myself walk and exercise apply equally as well to my relationship with the Lord.  You can hold me accountable in this one as well.

What have you found really helps you to exercise regularly and effectively - physically and spiritually? What makes a difference? Please do share - we all need as much help as possible in these areas!

I am regularly writing a blog  on preparing spiritually and physically to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September. For details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotswold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page. We are full for this year - why not plan to come next year?

I plan to lead three Pilgrimages next year - the Cotswolds, plus 2 new ones: part of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, and the Mary Jones trail in N. Wales. Come with me?