"Dynamic and erratic, spontaneous and radical, audacious and immature, committed if not altogether coherent, ecumenically open and often experimental, visible here and there, now and then but unsettled institutionally. Almost monastic in nature, but most of all enacting a fearful hope for human life in society."
"The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this."
We are aware that words, phrases and sentences when used to describe life, can often get in the way of life simply lived. The quotes above are often sufficient for us in describing our life among ourselves but we do realise that many people discovering us for the first time may need a little more by way of explanation. We are a Christian Community bound together by our commitment to God as our Father and Creator. to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour: to the Holy Spirit as our Indweller and Enabler This commitment finds expression in our Rule of life .Availability and Vulnerability - as a Way for Living'. First of all, to be available to God in the cell of our own heart where we can seek Him for His own sake, as the , one thing necessary.' Then to be available to others in a call to exercise hospitality, recognising that in welcoming others we honour and welcome Christ Himself We are then called to be available to others through participation in God's care and concern for them by praying and interceding for their situations in the power of His Holy Spirit. Availability also for mission of various kinds according to the leading and initiatives of the Spirit. We are also called to an intentional vulnerability, seeking to be teachable through a discipline of prayer, exposure to the scriptures and in a willingness to be accountable to others in ordering our ways and our hearts in order to effect change. We embrace the responsibility of taking the 'heretical imperative' by speaking out when necessary or asking questions that might upset the status quo! This imperative involves the calling to make relationships a priority over reputation and engages us in living as 'church without walls' living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God may be seen in us and be open to challenge and questioning. This involves us in building friendships outside of any Christian ghetto or club mentality, not with ulterior evangelistic motives but because we genuinely care. This way of life has grown out of our history and the values and emphases which reflect our ethos and calling.
A New Monastic Community
We have found a coherence and identity within the Desert and Celtic Monastic traditions that has made sense of God's leading in our lives. We believe that here, in Northumbria, the Lord is touching peoples' lives in the same way as He touched the lives of our forefathers and mothers in the faith who first brought the gospel to the North. We too are experiencing a call upon our lives regarding the nature of our faith, a call to repentance, to self denial and a resisting of evil. A call of God to find a Way for Living that relates to being a Christian in society as it is today. We are not escaping from the world, nor is there any condemning of the Church of which we are members. There is no intention to set up some new movement, strategy or programme, but simply an exploration into how we should live as Christians in a changing age with all its challenges and opportunities.
We have not sought to replicate the so-called Celtic Church nor, when we talk about a new monasticism, are we talking about joining a religious order or the need for the renewal of the old monastic institutions. What we are seeking to embrace is the 'heart' of monastic spirituality and its application in our contemporary setting.
We are composed of men and women, married and single, some unemployed, most in secular employment, some in full-time service which is specifically Christian, ordained and lay, others at home looking after families. We are a mixed Community of believers drawn from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox traditions of the Church as well as many people who come from unchurched backgrounds. We are Trinitarian in belief and ecumenical in expression. We are simply seeking God in our ordinariness; trying to be obedient to Him and open to His Spirit as we respond to His call upon our lives to follow Him.
Though some of the Community live and work at the Nether Springs for a period of time, as it is the Mother House and administrative centre of the Community, the majority of our companions are geographically dispersed throughout the UK. We also have individual Companions and Friends as far apart as Ireland, France, Russia, Canada, America, Australia and Japan as part of the family. In some areas Companions and Friends have the opportunity to meet together on a regular basis in Community Groups and increasingly in Regional gatherings.
A key event in the life of the Community is the annual Easter Workshop which provides the Community with the opportunity of being together at the Nether and Upper Springs [Holy Island]. From time to time the Easter Workshop itself is held at an alternative venue but wherever it is held we always try to meet on Easter Sunday on Holy Island, not least to renew our vows of Availability and Vulnerability.
There are now hundreds of people who have a sense of belonging to the Community many of whom have connected with us through using Celtic Daily Prayer our Northumbrian Office, [published by Harper Collins and now revised and re-issued in a quality hard cover combined edition with Celtic Night Prayer as 'Celtic Daily Prayer']. Others by listening to our music on CD and cassette; by using our Prayer Guide, or finding that our Rule of Availability and Vulnerability makes sense of their own faith journey. Many others by visiting the Nether Springs, or seeing the mission teams, [dance, drama, storytelling, music, preaching and teaching] from the Community in operation in church or secular settings or having contact with individual Companions.
We have known from the very beginnings of what has become the Northumbria Community that one important aspect of our calling is to "rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age old foundations, to walk again the sacred paths." Isaiah 58. This rebuilding is very much an inner rebuilding of the heart rather than a literal physical thing. In this particular aspect of our vision we are committed to a five-fold objective, which is very informal and flexible and thus able to be adapted to the many differing situations of our Companions and Friends
1. A Commitment to PEOPLE
To make and maintain relationships with those people God brings us into contact with. Relationships before project
2. A Commitment to PLACES
To visit those sacred places associated with those people. Places that already exist. To support those who feel called to actually move and live in and around those places
3. A Commitment to PILGRIMAGES
To make regular pilgrimages to those places, outward journeys that facilitate inward changes
4. A Commitment to PRAYER
To pray in and for those places we believe are significant. To bless and support the people who live in those places
5. A Commitment to PEREGRINATI
To a willingness to 'wander for the love of Christ' especially across the ancient Celtic Arc throughout Europe from Turkey to France to Ireland, but also to be open to wherever the Father leads
We are actively engaged in the study research and writing on related to Johannine theology Desert and Celtic spirituality and issues relating to Community and Post Modernity.
'Basket Making Principle'
In 1994 we established a Trading arm of the Community, seeking to follow the 'basket making' principle of desert monasticism, with the intention that it will help us 'put food on the table, and keep a roof over our heads'. At present 'Cloisters' produces quality cards and crafts made by Community Companions, and also stocks selected books and tapes. The new on-line website can be accessed via the link above. A brochure is available from the Community Office. Tel: 01289 388235. Fax: 01289 388510.
The Northumbria Community is a registered IPS Trust, [Industrial and Provident Society No 28305R, an exempt charity registered in England and Wales] and Cloisters is a Registered Limited Company
'Othniel, the son of Caleb's brother Kenaz, captured the city so Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah in marriage. And so it was that Achsah kept urging Othniel her husband to ask from her father a field She got off her donkey and came to her father and Caleb said to her .What is it that you want?' And she said to him, .Give me a blessing, for you have given me this dark, desert land; now give me also springs of water.' And her father gave her the upper and the nether springs." Joshua 15:17-19 ,
The Nether Springs at Hetton Hall is the home of the Northumbria Community. As its Mother House it is a major focus for its spirituality and an important residential expression of its monastic life. It is set in the beautiful countryside of North Northumberland between Holy Island off the Northumbrian coast and Woollier which nestles in the Cheviot Hills. We can now accommodate up to 24 people comfortably with ten bedrooms, three bathrooms, two large sitting rooms, well stocked library, refectory and .Cloisters' shop where books, cards, honey and crafts can be purchased. Within the delightful grounds there is a large walled prayer garden, a small woodland, oratory chapel and poustinias/prayer cells.
The primary purpose of the Nether Springs is to embrace in a residential community setting the monastic expression of heart, home and hospitality. and to provide a place and facility for those seeking .time out with the Lord from whatever background, stream or tradition, be they believer or seeker. A place of safety for retreat, refuge and reflection.
The Community in residence at the Nether Springs is on hand to welcome, direct and help all who wish to share our home. It has been our privilege to have received well over 6000 people through the doors of the Nether Springs since we opened in October 1992.
Visit The Community website http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/