Hetton Years 1992-1998

The foundational lecture series entitled ‘Internal Émigrés’ held in Old Bewick church over the winter months of 1991-92 purposefully articulated the Monastic spirituality of Northumbria and our own calling to identify with the monastic tradition. Our desire was to explore ‘a new inner monasticism of the heart’ by drawing from the ancient wisdom of ‘old’ monasticism; respecting and consulting with traditional monastic values in order to live those insights outside of the cloister.

In 1992 many significant things came together. The priority of finding a place for “the Nether Springs, a residential monastic centre, and home of Northumbria Ministries” was realised, as Hetton Hall in Northumberland became the Mother House of the emerging Community. John and Linda Skinner moved from Glanton to Hetton Hall, initially living in one room while extensive building work was completed. Roy and Shirley Searle left their ministry in Sunderland and moved to nearby Wooler to work exclusively with the Community. Andy Raine moved to Holy Island as his permanent residence and a base from which to go and return for his itinerant ministry.

This is when the growth explosion began as the relationship between those who had been around from the beginning, the founders and the few, provided the context for the earliest attempts to articulate vision and vocation. The publication of our in-house Northumbrian Office as Celtic Daily Prayer in 1994 made the Community known to a much wider audience and Mission Teams became a regular feature of Community life. In January 1994 Kevin and Ellen Grimley of the Vine Community in Barwell came to Hetton Hall as ‘Wardens’ for almost one year and made a significant contribution to the life of the Mother House.

1994 was also the time when Trevor and Freda Miller left their ministry in Scotland, to explore their vocation as Priors at the Nether Springs. They had previously helped initiate the Nether Springs Trust, and Trevor led the negotiations between the Nether Springs and Northumbria Ministries. This period of learning and training coincided with Trevor being appointed to the leadership of the Community, initially alongside John and Roy, and at the end of 1997 succeeding John as Abbot to partner Roy Searle in overall Community leadership.

The name Northumbria Community was officially adopted in 1994 to differentiate between the newly formed Northumbria Community Trading and Northumbria Community Trust. In 1995, the now considerable growth of people wanting to connect resulted in a fresh ‘Call to Community’. This was a significant process, devised to move the almost overwhelming responsibilities from the original founders to a wider group. At Easter 1996 this fresh call realised a YES to Community from 260 people and over the next couple of years this process went through various evolutions including the setting up of a Community Council representing the wider growing Community.

In January 1998 at Bradford Cathedral John and Linda formally relinquished the responsibility they shared for the Community in order to concentrate on pioneering the European vision of the Celtic arc, a spiritual connection from Turkey to Ireland. This became an original and distinct foundation tasked with taking the spirituality that formed and established Northumbria Community into Europe as John and Linda, together with Kevin and Ellen Grimley travelled extensively throughout Europe researching this Celtic arc vision of Christian renewal in Europe. It was also a time of division, despair, bewilderment and paralysis. George Lings comments that “the Community is notable because it has survived what is still felt by some as a painful split among founders, over divergence of vision and inability to come to common discernment about it.”

Continue to the Hetton Years 1998 – 2010.