How do l feel leaving Hetton Hall…….?
Mixed feelings……sad to see the end of a chapter, but remembering John’s prophecy a few years ago that the House would close, a Diaspora begin and the focus would be on the spirituality of the Uppersprings, I was also excited that this new chapter had begun.
Hetton Hall was the second place of the Nethersprings the first being the Grange at Whittingham Glanton where we lived for five years.
On refection l realised that leaving Hetton Hall was not leaving the Nethersprings which is a specific geographical location in North Northumberland. However I was leaving a house that was once home to me, John and the kids for seven years, as well as being the Mother House to the community. It has a special significance.
Seeking the Nethersprings had begun many years prior when Chris and Sandra Haggerstone, John and l sat down with our Northumbria Map and tried to locate this special place. The Franciscan Friary at Alnmouth became a definite point, Holy Island another and Shepherd’s Law where Harold the hermit lived became the third point thus creating a triangle. We knew that the place of the Nethersprings was contained within or very near those catchments area below Holy Island.
This being the case, we began our journeys up to North Northumberland, pooling our family allowance money for petrol and packing the kids our four, and Chris and Sandra’s three into the cars. The voyage of discovery began.
Many disappointments followed as we earnestly sought the place we would call home and the place of the Nethersprings. We had no resources nothing to commend ourselves we were totally dependant on the Lord.
Holy Island we knew with certainty was the Uppersprings. (We adopted these metaphors from Joshua Chap 15.19, where Achsah asks of her father Caleb to give her water for this “| Dry Land|”” …..and he gave her the Upper and Lower Springs.)
The Uppersprings we also knew was the outward flowing, bubbling dynamism of the Spirit, whereas the Nethersprings ethos was the deep well, the quiet place of the desert, a seeking of God afresh.
After many months God graciously released the first place of the Nethersprings; The Grange , Whittingham Glanton.
This came about quite amazingly.
l had a word from God while living still in Newton Aycliffe that God had got us a house. John thought I had lost the plot. Up until now our trips had not produced anything we could see. At the same time a friend of ours from Theological College John Ferguson got in touch. An unexpected meeting with Norma Wise at Alnmouth Friary had prompted him to ask where we were and what we were doing. He actually wanted some advice from us and at the end of a visit to his home he asked if there was there anything he could help us with ? At this point John said yes please a home in this area! A few days later, Chris and Sandra found a house, with a job, near Glanton. A few weeks later John Ferguson, true ti his word, found us a house, near Glanton!
The Grange was a beautiful old stone house with strong walls but the inside was badly neglected.
The Lord gave me a word ‘ ….the people l send you will be like this house with strong walls but inside will need major work……’ So began a passage of people coming on retreat or just to talk….but again just like Ravensdowne God provided the place and the people and gave us the energy and grace to live this life with the full responsibilities of four growing children. Andy was also living with us full time until he could establish himself back on Holy Island.
At this point of the journey many of the prayers that went into Celtic Daily Prayer were being used. An example ‘Establish thou the works of our hands “…came directly out of the gardening work and widow cleaning that John and Chris did to support our way of living and to put bread on the table.
I remember putting the prayer (from Brother Sun and Sister Moon) on my kitchen cupboard;
If you want your dream to be
build it slow and surely.small beginnings, greater ends
heartfelt work grows purely.
This was an ongoing encouragement as many days felt long and hard physically , emotionally, and spiritually when all the demands of running the home and caring for folk going through an emotional or spiritual crisis. John was often working through the day either window cleaning or gardening then counselling someone well into the early hours, then work the next day. Hard choices when you need to spend time with someone and work is waiting!
Availability and vulnerability were learned and lived long before they were written into the Community Rule
Our other support at this time came in the form of the Aycliffe folk. Ken and Norma Wise, Bill and Theo Clementson , Dave and Sandra Sayers, Arthur and Pat Guy who prayed regularly, brought us food supplies and clothes (fashionable I might add! ) and financial gifts.
Brenda Grace was a regular visitor either staying with us at the Grange or with Chris and Sandra on the hill. She was seeking to come North and be part of what God was doing among us. It was during this time that we sent out some information about the Upper and Nethersprings to some friends including, Roy and Shirley Searle, folk we had met at Bible College. They responded quickly inviting John and Andy to a meeting on Holy Island with their group called Northumbria Ministries. They were very excited by what John and Andy had to share and felt keenly drawn to what we were about. They would join us several months later.
Freda and Trevor ( John’s sister and brother in law ) were also very much part of our support network of folk ….and were especially instrumental when the Board of Trustees was established to deal with the issues of growing a God given work.
Because the work was growing we and the Trustees felt a new house should be found. We did a bit of scouting on our own and had our hearts set on a farm close by. The Trustees were not so keen and because we were now inwardly moving from the Founders to the Few we had to bend and let the farm go.
At this point we were also under tremendous pressure financially. We had been giving more time to people than work. With no money coming it was difficult to make ends meet. The electricity was cut off, our phone was disconnected, the rent needed paid, and people were still coming. Worn out emotionally and spiritually we asked God for a breakthrough. We got a note from Trevor saying a lady he knew had heard about our work and wanted to give us some money. John went to the phone box to ring her, and told her he was happy to meet and talk with her without her giving any money. She explained that she was not a Christian but was pleased to hear of our work supporting people in crisis. After convincing himself she was sincere and not just vulnerable, John agreed to the financial gift. Just before he went off the phone she asked if we would like to know how much money she wanted to give us?
Twenty Four Thousand Pounds!!
The Lord, as usual proved faithful through the giving of some dear person. We gave the cash to the new Trust to get the next chapter of the journey started.
Shortly afterwards we got a phone call from a Lord Vincent offering us Hetton Hall. We thought the call was a practical joke and it took a while to convince us otherwise. The Trustees made a trip to see the property and fell in love. Sue in tears said this is a place to cry out to God!
We trusted their discernment, thus moving from the Founders to the Few and now getting ready for the Many. It had taken us 14 years to get this far.
Thus began another chapter in our lives and a new chapter for the Northumbria Community.