In August 1994, soon to be married Clare Underwood and Ant Grimley
made a journey to Nethersprings to share their new dance production Brendan.
Little did they know that they were
bringing a ‘word from the Lord’ that would deeply affect
their own lives and also that of the Northumbria Community.
Brendan told the story of Saint Brendan
and his band of monks who in the 6th century
set out from Ireland on an epic journey
into the atlantic and beyond ‘in search of paradise.’
Brendan although not the archetype captured the spirit of
‘peregrinatio,’ a deep and meaningful tradition within the
early Irish Church that often led monks to ‘journey for the love of God.’
A journey from which some would never return home, theirs would be
‘an exile for Christ’
It would be on a distant shore that many of these wandering Irish Saints
would be laid to rest. The time, arranged by the Lord, the place,
their ‘ place of resurrection’
Availability to make a journey for the love of God has always been
an essential feature of the mission of the Northumbria Community.
Andy, from the earliest days had set a precedent calling together
all kinds of folk to travel with him on ministry trips, to venues in the UK and the USA or hitchhiking to destinations himself.
Roy, from the moment he arrived at the Nethersprings took to the road
and apart from an extended retreat at the beginning of his ministry with the community has spent a great deal of time away from home and family
alone or with teams on mission.
John and Linda, together with Kevin and Ellen traveled extensively
throughout europe researching the house that John built and seeking
to understand the Celtic Arc, a vision of Christian renewal in Europe,
from Turkey to Ireland.
Yet each of these journeys carried within them that special promise
and hope of coming home of returning…
Brendan was a prophetic reminder that to be true to ourselves and our vocation then we must be prepared ‘to leave behind all that is familiar
established and secure and go off into the unknown’ Merton
To be translated into our own context the spirit of peregrinatio must be stripped of romantic notions and idealism.
The call to community was and is first and foremost a call to
progressively greater degrees of ‘availability and vulnerability’
An acknowledged willingness and readiness to make significant life changes that attune our lives more closely to our vocation which is embedded in the monastic tradition.
The call to community is not essentially membership of a social fraternity
whose establishment would endanger our ‘way of living.’
Community as we know it is the gift of God to those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage whose lives have been redefined and redirected by the question ‘Who is it that you seek?’
Community as we know it is sustained within the paradox that as we continue on our journey alone we will truly be together.
Here lies the struggle for the heart and soul
of the Northumbria Community.
It was a sunny afternoon in the enclosed garden at the Nethersprings
when Brendan was first performed
At the end, an appeal was made for those to whom God had spoken that day to stand andtake the first faltering steps of peregrinatio.
Of the few who stood that day, there were those who would soon find themselves strangers and aliens and in exile from their beloved community.
Clare and Ant stood that day and in doing so represented a new generation of community always eager to learn as much as possible
about the tradition in which they had been nurtured. Always ready to
respond to the call of the desert themselves.
In April 2001, the Lord called Clare to her final journey when He called her home.
Words cannot describe
the grief at our loss
wife, mother, daughter,
Clare found her
Place of Resurrection.
May her life
inspire a new generation
to do the same.