A new home has already been found, and everyone seems to be very excitedly anticipating the move to a new location and the moving on into whatever God has for us in the future.
I feel a sense of impending loss, and a great sadness.
It’s not that I lack faith, or vision or excitement about future possibilities. No doubt we will rightly take time during this year to gather together and celebrate everything that Hetton Hall has been. But I also want time to mourn its passing, the closing of a chapter and the loss of a place which has been the context of a significant phase in my life and faith…
I first visited Hetton Hall in 1993, not long after Community had moved in the previous year, for a marriage weekend led by Community members, and even though the events of the following year cast some doubts on the effectiveness of the weekend, it was a first visit that made a deep impression.
It was at Hetton that my family (the kids at least) enjoyed our final holiday together as that family, camping on the lawn during a very hot August.
While my marriage was breaking up it was at Hetton I received love, acceptance, support and advice…and even just some relief from the pressures of trying to keep everything together.
After the final break-up, Hetton provided a place of care and recovery of hope for an uncertain future. It was there that God showed me that there was to be “life the other side of divorce”!
It was at Hetton that, as an unapologetic evangelical non-conformist, I learned the value of liturgy, of silence in worship, of accepting those whose Christian journey was different to mine.
It was at Hetton that I went with Wendy after we had married, towards the end of our honeymoon. We spent several days there in bed…with ’flu!
It was at Hetton that I have made lasting friendships with people who are scattered across the UK and the rest of the world, people who have had lasting impact on my life.
I was at Hetton I experienced some of the deepest pain of the last few years, particularly during the time I spent as part of the leadership team.
Recently it has been at Hetton where the trust of the Community has enabled me to enter into elements of pastoral ministry again, and to renew my confidence in my ability to preach, lead worship and accompany people on retreat. Few will truly know what this has meant to me.
And so I feel a deep sadness about losing this place. I’m certain that I’m not the only one. I know that the relationships will continue and the memories will linger, but this home, my home, will have gone, and as yet, I’m not certain what moving house will mean, or even that I really want to be part of another move.
I’ve been reading Pete Grieg’s excellent book, “God on Mute”, and tucked away in the section about “Engaging the Silence” I found a little passage that made so much sense of how I’m feeling.
“I hope you have a place like Bethany that you can go to when you’re wrestling with unanswered prayer. It could be a place or a book or a piece of music that reminds you of all the good things God has done in the past. It could be a person like Lazarus whose very being makes the presence and power of God real to you even when life is at its worst. Bethany is a connection point that reminds you of something you once knew for sure: that God can do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine, that the kingdom remains a matter of power (see 1Cor. 4: 20) even when there’s little evidence of it in your present situation, and that all things are possible for him who believes. Bethany’s the kind of community or the kind of family where you can sometimes still smell the perfume of God’s presence.” (p 271)
I feel like I’m losing my ‘Bethany’, and it will take some time for the ne w place to absorb the prayers, laughter, tears, memories, even ‘resurrections’ that have made Hetton Hall the place it is for me, as no doubt, in time, the new place will become for Community members (and maybe even for me).