The years of pioneering the Northumbria Community were full of hardships and difficulties. The nature of the journey meant there could be no career or full-time employment, no social definition, no regular income. There could be no permanent home and no guarantee of how long you would stay at any one place.There was the misunderstanding of family and friends who felt you were irresponsible and wasting life’s opportunities. Then, more persuasive than any other, was the inner voice of self doubt whispering continually that you had become deluded by your own vanity.
Throughout the formative years there were groups of friends and individuals who were supportive companions and who provided economic, emotional and spiritual support to the founders and pioneers of community. Some would become pioneers themselves of the emerging community, others would remain companions as they pursued the journey the Lord had called them too. Each in their own right were much appreciated faithful friends.
Alnwick Prayer Group
The appeal for furniture and household effects for the move to Hetton resulted in an impressive array of goods and gadgets. Cardboard boxes arrived daily, each one opened in eager anticipation of the usability of the contents. Hoovers arrived regularly, each one looking more promising than the last, but none which actually worked. Eventually one very temperamental machine was coaxed into life with parts taken from the other seven donated. The most memorable gift came from Betty and Lisey from Alnwick Prayer Group. With little money and no furniture to spare they decided to give the new duvet and cover they had just bought, for their own bed.
Alnwick prayer group- began in conjunction with a series of seminars, similar to ‘Life in the Spirit’ and were led by Douglas Graham( pioneer of Marygate House, Holy Island) Paul Hendy (Cpt. Salvation Army) and Andy Raine. Sponsored by the Salvation Army, the prayer group would run for 12 years, and was inter-church with members drawn from across the local region, from just south of Alnwick to Berwick upon Tweed. Many of the prayer group would become the earliest participants in Easter workshops, a few becoming part of the community, others would go on to start other Christian ministries. A number of members of the group lived in the most difficult and demanding areas of Alnwick. Yet their generosity far exceeded their own limitations. Andy would often find a bed and a meal at one of the prayer group members and companionship during the pioneering days. Financial support for the Community was forthcoming from Alnwick when many others adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Their weekly meetings, concerts and healing services and their open air witness at Alnwick Fair all had features that would become part of Easter workshops. It is at Alnwick prayer group that ‘relationship before reputation’ was first lived out.
Douglas, Paul, Andy, Nan, Kath, young Gordon, Renee, Joyce, Ev, Betty, Lisey, Mattie, Margaret, Jenny, Peter, Sheila, Alan, Auntie Rosie, Bryn, John, Andrew, Hilda, Isabel, Neale, young Geoff, Carol Gibson, Ruth, Margaret Dobbie,Carol Dixon, Kath Carter,Mary, Grace, young Rachel, Rachel, Eddie, Benny, Kirsten, Chris, Naomi, Tim, Stuart, Liz, Sister Frances, John, Pete, Suzanne, Drewie, Tina, Amanda, J.P. Anne-Marie, Gordon, Carol, Bill, Diana Ellis and her family, and those we may have genuinely omitted. We salute you, we thank you, we thank God for you.
When hardship and humiliation are your constant companions it is always good to anticipate the arrival of true friends. Norma and Ken would often appear when hope seemed to be sleeping, their car full of black bin bags, with all kinds of gifts and necessities from Aycliffe. This commitment lasted not only for a week, a month, a year, it flowed through all the years of pioneering. Much more than the very needed material supply was the gift of friendship.Without this kindness and commitment we would not have made it.
It was while John was a Curate in Newton Aycliffe in ’81- ’82 that he and Linda would make friends with the Aycliffe folk. More like an extended family, they would supply food, finance and friendship throughout the pioneering years. Norma and Ken Wise were at the forefront of this support. They were present at every stage of the journey providing prayer and back up as the vision began to unfold. For Norma prayer was married to practicality. She did as much as possible to ensure that needs of both body and soul were met. Especially when there were four young children on the journey. Theo and Bill, Sandra and Dave, Don and Jean, Arthur and Pat, Joan were all part of this network of support. Bill would become a Trustee of the Nethersprings Trust and is the longest serving trustee. Dave, after a brave fight with cancer is now with the Lord. Brenda Grace was also at Aycliffe. Auntie Brenda was an honorary member of both the Skinner and Haggerstone households. She was one of the first to give up home and job to move to Northumberland. Photographs of Brenda appear throughout the formative years, including trips to USA with the early mission teams. An early pioneer, Brenda still works full-time for the community.
Ken, Norma, Theo, Bill, Sandra, David, Don, Jean, Pat, Arthur, Joan, Brenda, Debbie, Beth, Burt, Glad. We salute you, we thank you, we thank God for you.