The Vine at Mays Farm is officially launched and open. And it was a very special day, as friends old and new came to help the launch and have a look around. They came from London and Stamford and the New Forest; en route from Cornwall and Edinburgh and from just up the road in the village. My Pilates teacher; friends from university days; villagers we'd not met before; my psychotherapist and her husband; representatives from the Diocese of Derby; members of congregations from previous parishes. What an enormous privilege and joy to have so many come. A steady stream all day! Gallons of tea were consumed, apples picked to take home, lots of conversations with lots of different people. What a blessing.
But the highlight of the day was the fact that the chapel was used for the first time! It so nearly wasn't. An hour before the celebrations were due to begin, the chapel was still a store room, thick with dust and unusable. I was disappointed; there just had not been time to get that ready, with everything that needed to be done. And then one of our dear Trustees picked up a broom and my husband and her husband set to and moved things - including the grand piano which was still in the middle of the chapel; and just in time, the little room began to come into life. It's not finished, and the money needs to be raised to complete it. But it's usable.
So we had the service of celebration and dedication, and some 35 - 40 of us squeezed in and Phil Lawson Johnston led the worship and I led the prayers. We sang "The Lord's my shepherd I'll not want .. and I will trust, I will trust in Him..." and we prayed for every single room in the house and for all who come to visit and to stay.
"Heavenly Father, make the roof of this house wide enough to shelter all who come; oil the door of this house so it opens easily to friend and stranger ... May all who enter encounter the Risen Lord, may all who visit grow in your love ... "
And the readings -
2 Samuel 7:28-29 -
the verses Kim & I read on one of our early dates and which have been so special to us for years:
And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever.’
And my ordination verses, embroidered on my preaching scarf, and now so wonderful for this place with the vine in the garden -
“I am the true vine .. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me ... Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."
Some stayed in the chapel to pray for a while afterwards. One guest said she wanted the chapel service to go on and on, it was so meaningful and glorious. Many commented on how special the house feels and that there is a real sense of the peace and grace of the Lord.
All day, people were arriving and walking around - nearly a hundred came, but in a steady stream so that there was time to greet and chat and proffer tea! They walked around and viewed the rooms - it's all so nearly finished! And the house responds to people; it seems to come alive with the Lord's Presence when there are guests and visitors in it.
The bedrooms are each named after a place where we have lived - and with furniture or pictures of the places too.
There's also Cambridge and South Carolina. Come and and enjoy a retreat and try them out!
And the final prayer that everyone prayed together: might you pray it too for all who will use this place for spiritual sanctuary and sustenance?
Visit O Lord this home with the gladness of your Presence. Bless all who live here and all who visit here with the gift of your love. May your fatherly care shield them, the love of your dear Son preserve them from all evil and the guidance of the Holy Spirit keep them walking in your ways. Grant that they may show your love to each other and to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you. Guide, comfort and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, Lord Jesus, now and forever. Amen.