(We have chosen a selection of biographical details for Andy, John and Linda which give clues to their self understanding and contribution to the ethos of the community)
Andy brought a contagious affection for the holy island of Lindisfarne a love of the Northumbrian saints and the seeds of a vision which was beginning to find clarity in the language of the upper and nether springs.
A clue to helping us get to know Andy is captured in a photograph of him, as a child, next to St. Aidan’s monument on Holy Island. Early in his life Andy found ‘a place of resurrection.’ Not for him some journey to a distant shore, but still a crossing of the sea, to Lindisfarne, The Holy Island. If we measure this journey in miles then it was only a short distance to travel, but we would also miss the point. When Andy crossed the causeway to Holy Island he gave up the possibility of any other way of life. This was the place God had chosen for him. As such, it became and is the non-negotiable part of his life. His work, marriage, relationships, hopes and opportunities have and are worked out within the framework of this understanding. This covenant relationship to Holy Island would become a feature of Easter workshops which often concluded on the Island, and later the venue for the Northumbria Community in the renewal of their commitment to the Rule.
In the early days, monastic was not a word that would find a lot of use in Andy’s vocabulary. Yet the life he lived hinted at a way of living familiar to Holy Island, first practiced by those early Celtic Saints, St. Aidan, St. Oswald and St. Cuthbert. Nor would Celtic have much use in his vocabulary, as the memory and spirituality of those early Celtic saints still reverberates from the Island landscape. Instead he chose the vocabulary of the upper and nether springs to give meaning and understanding to the spirituality he was both seeking and finding. For Andy, Holy Island is the uppersprings, a refreshing, moving, life giving stream flowing from a deep spring whose source is the generations of prayer and faith associated with the Island and in particular those wayfaring Celtic Saints. Quite unconsciously, Andy put into the foundation of the Northumbria Community the spirituality of these early Celtic monastic communities and only later would it become a necessary self-conscious connection.
A familiar sight on the roads in Northumberland in the late 70’s early 80’s was Andy, with three or four suitcases, most of which had seen better days, hitching a lift to his next destination. Availability to the life God had called him, precluded a career and a regular salary. Supported instead by occasional odd jobs, ministry, and gifts from family and friends. Unselfconsciously, he had chosen the same method of transport as St. Aidan, who walked everywhere so he had the time and opportunity to meet people. His aim was to make available practical and down to earth ways of living as a Christian, which he had learned himself or been taught by another and leading others to faith in Jesus that had given meaning to his own life. One vehicle to achieve these aims was Dance. Wherever he went, he recruited folk to take part in his dance presentations, refusing to take no from people who thought they weren’t good enough and from men who thought dance should be reserved for the ladies. In doing so, he made sure the ministry of dance did not become the property of the professionals and all a little genteel. He was equally at home preparing pieces for use in a liturgical setting or for use in the street which was his preferred option. This preference is expressed in the Rule, in Church Without Walls. Dance created communities, as people gathered together around a point of common interest. The Vine, in Earl Shilton was an example of this. Dance was an essential feature of Easter workshops and an integral part of the life of the Northumbria Community.
A contribution worth highlighting that Andy made to the ethos of the Community was in regard to putting relationships before reputation. Andy had a habit of making friends with those who were marginalized in society. People who because of poor education , little social definition, or moral failure were regarded as not important enough to invest time in. Andy invested the time. Often traveling long distances to spend a day with somebody. His total support and lack of embarrassment with those who were taking their first faltering steps in ministry and his refusal to only invest time in people who could do something for him, remains a constant challenge to those who use people to get on in their ministry and drop them soon after they arrive. It is also the key to healthy community life where the reputation of the community is always secondary to the welfare of each individual.
For those who know Andy his idiosyncrasies are legendary, a subject of affection and frustration amongst his friends. Love or loathe him, you will always remember you met him.
(Andy married Anna in 1994. They have two children, Joel and Martha.)