What are you doing writing the history of the Northumbria Community!


History is just so important and there are so many folk these days who just don’t realise how much!  History tells us where we have come from, what influences have been at work to guide us on our way, what people have been there with their words insights and vision. We can also learn what not to do again, acknowledge mistakes we have made, people we hurt, things we could have done differently. We also remember those words and actions that caused us pain and distress and how we dealt with them. It is these honest and as far as possible accurate memories that we pass on to those who are to go forwards into the future.

One of the main challenges for us, throughout our journey was getting back in touch with our history from which we were disconnected:  Our Northumbrian history steeped in the life of the early Celtic saints and communities, our monastic history and its influence on European society, and the deeper roots of our history, in the early church, in particular St. John, Mother Mary and the Community of Jesus. John, Andy and I did our very best to ensure that whatever God  was building in our lives, was founded and intertwined  on this bedrock of memories of which we were to be both a reminder and ongoing people in the story.

We first started www.northumbriacommunity.com in 2002. Our intention was to create an archive of material that documented the beginnings of the community and make a record of the people, places and events who were part of it all, past and present.

‘What are you doing writing the history of the community!?’

One of the main problems with recording the foundation of the community is the confusion, misunderstanding,  that exists as to when everything began. While the Northumbria Community was given a legal identity in 1993  which marked the covenant relationship between the Nethersprings represented by John Skinner,  and Northumbria Ministries represented by Roy Searle, the actual foundations go much further back.

The Community was founded and established on ‘a way for living’ developed in the hearts and minds of  Andy Raine , John and myself  over a period of 14 years beginning in 1978. These were years of hardships and testing, and it was in that context, in those ‘hidden years’ the way for living on which the Northumbria Community is founded was forged. Chris and Sandra Haggerstone, Brenda Grace,  the Aycliffe Folk, Easter Workshop Folk, Trevor and Freda Miller were some of our supportive companions in those early and difficult years.

Memory is the only thing we hold onto in order to tell our past not only to ourselves but to others when they want to know “who we are” and “where we have come from.”  Last year this was keenly demonstrated to me when we “lost” the family photo albums belonging to the kids.

Over the years I had put together an album for Jayne, Sara, Sadie and Ben with baby photos, toddler shots, school years….and times with family and friends. When you move around to so many homes and places as we did it’s vital to have accurate recorded memories.

So you can imagine the sense of devastation we all felt when discovering they were lost. I think it was particularly acute as we all live in different physical locations and our memories are what bound us together as family…we shared the same history.

John and l felt this was definitely one situation too painful to contemplate as the albums represented so much joy for us and hope and almost felt like legacies for the kids…we prayed in earnest for their recovery. What had been hard was watching the shock on the faces of the kids and the silent moments on the phone.

Thankfully they were discovered amongst storage in an attic! I can’t tell you the relief we felt and a few tears flowed! I often think if we had a fire what would l want to try and save besides my family and animals?  Photos come to mind.

Talking of photos takes me quickly back to John and I returning to visit to Hetton Hall in November 2009 after an eleven year absence., I like looking at photos so I was naturally drawn to the notice board in the dining room and had a fun time scanning the different faces of the past and present community, recognising a few.

What was amazing was that there wasn’t one photo of John and I…………..!?

I think there must be a lost album somewhere!

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