Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
We arrived at the end of the day of Staff Retreat in Pendle Hill – so were quickly shown our room, given 10 minutes to spruce up, and taken to Media, the town nearby, for pizza. Then back to our room and to bed by about 8pm here – already 1am in the time zone we’d woken in.
Wednesday and Thursday we were finding our bearings. This place is like Woodbrooke but with some major differences. There is a resident community: some of the staff live on site; interns also live on site, are paid something, but otherwise treated a bit like students; there will be students from next weekend; there are conference guests coming and going all the time and there are often ‘sojourners’ – guests who come for anything from one night to months at a time.
The campus is GREEN – trees all around, of immense size and age. From our window across a lawn we see the beech tree which is a ‘state champion’- one of the the biggest beech trees in Pennsylvania. There are many deciduous trees and some conifers, and we are looking forward to the ‘fall colour’ season. It is also green in the sustainable sense too, with smell free efficient washing powders and cleaning materials used all through.
There are three meals a day provided in the dining room which is just down the stairs for us. The style of cooking would be familiar to anyone who has been vegetarian or vegan for a long time – it is varied and wholesome, with meat served only 2 or 3 times a week. The bread is made in house, as are scones and sometimes pancakes which are a Saturday treat. Desert is only served when one of the community has a birthday, then that person chooses.
The heart of the community is worship. There is daily worship in the Barn, a central building that also houses the offices. The meeting room is white painted, with long wooden benches with cushions, and no books, table, flowers or clock. The people sitting on the ‘facing bench’ are responsible for closing worship, (they can see a clock in the lobby) and towards the end of the half hour, they will ask if anyone has joys or concerns or prayers to share, for us all to join in lifting these up to the love of God. After a further 5 minutes or so, closing handshakes and then new people introduce themselves and those leaving or travelling say so. Then announcements and we go on with the day.
We had a meeting with Terrance, Dean of Studies, and Diana, the year-long Friend in Residence (FiR) on Friday, to share our expectations of what we will do and hear some of the responsibilities we’ll carry. We already have a ‘daily job’ which everyone in the community has from Monday to Friday – at weekends, people from outside are hired to do some of those. My job is likely to be laying up breakfast, and helping wash up afterwards.
William is taking part in one of this weekend’s courses –‘Preparing the Way’ a practical weekend doing autumnal jobs around and getting the campus ready for winter. The project he has been working on this morning is to replace the main supporting upright timber in the ‘Cob Greenhouse’. The old one when they got it out was seen to be half eaten away by termites. Others have been weeding then mulching below the champion beech mentioned earlier, and working on a couple of other projects.