Vision

This is an attempt to put down in writing what we feel in our hearts God is calling us to. This vision has developed over a long period and we regret that we have not accurately journalled its growth. Along with this resume we have added a selection of bits and pieces which have been and remain significant to us.

Our vision for Bridge House and our ministry here has its foundations in our commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour and His challenge to us to be His witnesses in "Jerusalem, Judea and to the ends of the earth.". More specifically, however, our vision has been shaped by the painful and traumatic experiences in both of our lives. We believe it is true that before we met we had both, independently, made a commitment before God to offer our experiences to Him for the sake of others who may have been hurt by life's experiences. We wanted our suffering to be used to help others who were suffering.

When we met and began to put this commitment into action we obviously found kindred spirits within each other which no doubt brought us closer together very quickly. But rather than becoming introspective and exclusive in our relationship we discovered that this unity turned us outward even more. Together we wanted to help and minister to hurting and broken people.

As our commitment to each other grew, the vision of ministry grew along with a realisation of the resources God was making available to us in that ministry. Bridge House could become a place to reach out to people, especially marginalised, alienated and unchurched people and it could become a link for them to the Kingdom of God. It could become a bridge, or a "Touching Place". The tea rooms, farm shop, caravan site etc. will all give us opportunity to engage with people who may have time to talk and open up.

Besides this passion for people, we have both, from different perspectives, come to hold a passion for the whole of God's creation. We have come to understand that the Gospel is not just about people but about the whole of creation as well. This means that our lifestyle must reflect this God given responsibility for the earth and its resources. We strive to find ways of honouring, protecting and caring for our environment both locally and world-wide. Thus our use of the smallholding became a part of our vision. Trying to live simple, sustainable, environmentally friendly lives in harmony with God and His creation.

Putting house and smallholding together, our vision extended to see that a daily and seasonal routine in harmony with God and creation can be a framework for retreat, restoration and rejuvenation for world-weary and damaged people. Those suffering temporarily could be helped to return to full strength. Others with more permanent disabilities and dis-ease could find a place of support and encouragement and, we pray, a place where they can meet God in their own ways.

We have found great rapport and encouragement in our links with the Northumbria Community and the Community Rule of "Availability and Vulnerability". A rule of community describes and outlines a way for living adhered to by all members of the community. So with the support and encouragement of the Community we seek to be Available to God and to others; in the cell of our own hearts, in hospitality, in intercession and in mission. We also seek to live in Intentional Vulnerability; by seeking always to be teachable, in prayer, by scripture and through accountability to others, by taking the "heretical imperative" to speak out when necessary to challenge the status quo and giving relationship higher priority that reputation, and finally by living as Church without walls. As they, and we, say "A way of following The Way". In all we now do we try to be informed and directed by this commitment to Community and Rule, although we recognise that we are only novices on the Way.

Living off the land is not easy or simple and the folk we seek to support are least capable of supporting us. Therefore this is, inevitably, a ministry of faith; Faith that God can and will use us, Faith that the needy people will find their way to us, Faith that the land will help to support us, Faith ultimately that this is what God is calling us to and that He alone will sustain us.

Let me sum up with a pile of clichés which are, nonetheless, vitally and dynamically real in our thinking. We want our faith to be a real and living faith which reaches outside of our comfortable, middle-class Christian ghettos to the real, and desperate places where people actually are. We want to be salt and light IN the world and to be protected FROM the evil one. We do not want to be taken out of the world and leave others to join us when they feel good enough to do so. We want to be church without walls; neither internal denominational walls nor external secular/Christian walls. We want to journey alongside others on the journey of life and faith and, with our sights set on the coming King and Kingdom, help others to orientate themselves on Him and realise that Kingdom in the here and now. We want to BE the people God intends us to be and not just DO things for Him and we want to help other find their identity in Him and so fulfil His purposes for them. We want to live holistic, creation centred lives of faith with Christ as our head; sovereign, saviour and friend. We want the whole of our lives to be ordered by Him and His gospel and empowered by His Spirit.

We have taken the first few tiny steps on this journey and we wondered if you might like to journey with us, at least for a while.

Scriptures, songs and stuff significant to our vision.

A collection, in no particular order, of Scripture readings, songs and other bits and pieces which are special to us in the understanding of our vision.

Isaiah 58:6-12

6"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

11The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Touching Place

CHRIST'S IS THE WORLD in which we move,
Christ's are the folk we're summoned to love,
Christ's is the voice which calls us to care,
And Christ is the One who calls us here.

To the lost Christ shows His face;
To the unloved He gives His embrace:
To those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ makes with His friends A touching place.

Feel for the people we most avoid,
Strange or bereaved or never employed;
Feel for the women, and feel for the men
Who fear that their living is all in vain.

Feel for the parents who've lost their child,
Feel for the women whom men have defiled,
Feel for the baby for whom there's no breast,
And feel for the weary who find no rest.

Feel for the lives by life confused,
Riddled with doubt, in loving abused;
Feel for the lonely heart, conscious of sin,
Which longs to be pure but fears to begin.

John L. Bell & Graham Maule.
Copyright © 1989 WGRG, Iona Community.

Blessing

from Northumbria Community Midday Prayer


Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing God never changeth
Patient endurance attaineth to all things.
Who God possesseth in nothing is wanting
Alone God Sufficeth.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Isaiah 61

1The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

4They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.

8"For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed."

10I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

 I,THE LORD OF SEA AND SKY

I, THE LORD OF SEA AND SKY,
I have heard My people cry;
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
I will speak My word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,
If You lead me;
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain;
I have wept for love of them -
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone;
I will speak My word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Chorus

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame,
I will set a feast for them -
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts are satisfied;
I will give My life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Chorus

Daniel L. Schutte.
Copyright © 1991 Daniel L. Schutte
New Dawn Music.

"Seven Times a Day" meditation

Seven times a day as I work on this hungry farm, I say to Thee, "Lord, why am I here? What is there here to stir my gifts to growth? What great thing can I do for others - I who am captive to this dreary toil?"

And seven times a day Thou answerest, "I cannot do without thee. Once my Son lived thy life, and by His faithfulness did show my mind, my kindness and my truth to men. But now He is come to my side, and thou must take His place."

Lady Poverty in the eyes of Juniper, friend of Francis, fool of God

If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realise deep within that everything is a gift from the Father. Then in this attitude of complete dependence, I become useful again, for then I am empty of selfishness and I am free to be God's instrument instead of my own. In poverty I begin to value everything rightly again. I see how little really matters, and I see that only that which glorifies God is of value.

I write these words in pain, Lady Poverty, for I have wept bitter tears because I was poor and had to beg from others, and I felt like a burden to people and to God . . . And I have grown weary of Christ's words not to worry about tomorrow. But in His grace I have surrendered to God's sovereignty and providence, and it has made me free.

. . . Lady Poverty, I love you. You, my Lady, take all the sting from being poor. In your embrace I am rich indeed, for I have someone to love. I have you. Perhaps, my Lady, that is why I keep submitting, surrendering my desire to control my life, my need to provide for the future. You have stolen my heart and made me happy, and your love makes up for all the pain that loving you involves.

. . . And we know it is all worthwhile because when we look into your eyes, we see Christ Himself.

Murray Bodo

FAITHFUL ONE

FAITHFUL ONE, so unchanging,
Ageless One, You're my Rock of peace.
Lord of all, I depend on You,
I call out to You again and again.
I call out to You again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble.
You lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm Your love is the anchor,
My hope is in You alone.

Brian Doerksen.
Copyright © 1989 Mercy/Vineyard
Publishing/Adm. by CopyCare.

Theology of Brokenness

If the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time. There was supposed to be no need for a second chance. If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life. A serious mistake was a permanent stigmatisation, a mark that you wore like Cain. I have seen that mark on all kinds of people: divorcees, ex-priests, ex-religious, people who have had abortions, married people who have had affairs, people who have had children outside of marriage, parents who have made serious mistakes with their children, and countless others who have made serious mistakes. There is too little around to help them. We need a theology of brokenness. We need a theology which teaches us that even though we cannot unscramble an egg, God's grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence far beyond any egg we may have scrambled. We need a theology that teaches us that God does not just give us one chance but that every time we close a door He opens another one for us.

Ronald Rolheiser
Forgotten among the Lilies

A bit of our story written - 26 April 1998 for Wallingford Baptist Church.

On 23 March 1998 Wallingford Baptist Church decided that they would have to make me redundant soon after the completion of my 3 years probationary period as a Baptist Minister. From 1 January 1999 I would no longer be a minister at the Church.

At the time of that meeting Rosemary and I were in Northumberland on a retreat at Nethersprings, the mother house of the Northumbria Community. We knew the decision had to be made and were spending time with God in the process of discovering what future he had for us.

On the morning of 24 march we met our Spiritual Director for the very first time. After about 30 minutes of general background talk together; where we'd come from, how we met and married etc., Ervine talked alone with Rosemary for about 20 minutes. As she was leaving, and I was arriving, Ervine said that he had had confirmed something he needed to say to me [Phil], which was quite radical, hence his need for confirmation before speaking.

As I joined him he told me how his conversation with Rosemary had confirmed what he believed was a word from God for me. He added that he doesn't usually do things like this with retreats but he believed it to be very important.

He said he believed that my call to ministry was not to full-time pastoral work in the local church setting, but that it was to a wider ministry and more diverse ministry and that he thought it had something to do with our home, Bridge House.

I was astonished, Rosemary, when I told her, was amazed. This "Word of God" confirmed much of our thinking and praying about our future. We have a long way to go before we fully understand (if ever) what the future may be. Being made redundant is just one part of the future plans God has for us. His word to us helps us move to that future with confidence and trust.

Just a little bit of our story.

Blessing

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you,
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

From Celtic Daily Prayer
Morning Prayer
A Northumbria Office

Today I believe

Lord, you have always given
Bread for the coming day,
And though I am poor,
Today I believe

Lord, you have always given
Strength for the coming day,
And though I am weak,
Today I believe

Lord, you have always given
Peace for the coming day,
And though of anxious heart,
Today I believe.

Lord, you have always kept
Me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.

Lord, you have always marked
The road for the coming day,
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.

Lord you have always lightened
This darkness of mine,
And though the night is here,
Today I believe.

Lord, you have always spoken
When time was ripe,
And though you be silent now,
Today I believe.

From Celtic Daily Prayer
Evening Prayer
A Northumbria Office

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