Hetton Years 1998-2010

In 1999, after major re-evaluation and the painful task of putting our house in order, the cry of our heart: ‘Let your tender mercies come to us that we may live again’ became a reality once more. This sustained period of focused prayer led to a greater openness and dependency upon God. This in turn led to further stability and growth as the task of ‘Building the new on foundations of old’ and ‘giving away that which is not ours to keep’ began to influence many as people began connecting through the creation and sale of our resources and publications. This was a time of renewed impetus, ‘a season of mission’ as new initiatives, partnerships, music, dance, liturgy, storytelling, creative arts, and writing began to be expressed at festivals, in groups and gatherings all carrying the DNA of the Community throughout Europe and North America.

In 2003 the Community began an ongoing exploratory period of leadership development, described as ‘the most radical thing in the history of the Northumbria Community’. This involved a significant transition from leadership by the first generation to a shared leadership with following generations. This resulted in the appointment of a Senior Leadership group working alongside the Overseers with a broader representation of Community Companions through a quarterly General Chapter.

In 2004 the organisation, Building Bridges of Hope (researching fresh expressions of church) asked if we would agree to be accompanied for a two-year period by a researcher. We agreed, and in a wonderful example of serendipity, George Lings of the Sheffield Centre accompanied us. He became a great gift to us and his extensive evaluation in 2005 led the way in the strategic reframing of our values and vocation in a time of ongoing change.

In 2007 one of the more significant happenings within the Community was a re-aligning and a re-establishing of a clearer novitiate process. As a new monastic Community, this had always been part of our life but the continued growth and development demanded a deeper understanding of our values and vocational expression for novices.

The reality for us that ‘constant change is here to stay’ was never better demonstrated when in May 2009 we received the news that owing to the economic downturn, after an 18-year tenure, our Hetton Hall lease was not going to be renewed.

The wonderful provision of God continued as in August 2009 (following a gathering at which Roy Searle spoke of our needs) we began serious and successful negotiations with landowners Alan and Eileen Ferguson in relation to part of their property at Acton Home Farm becoming the next Nether Springs.

The transition took on new urgency and key appointments were made that were huge in their significance, especially that of Pete and Catherine Askew coming to Hetton in October 2009, each taking on major responsibilities at the Mother House. Pete, already in Senior leadership, was soon to become an Overseer and tasked with project managing the whole transition from Hetton Hall to Acton Home Farm.

Throughout all this time the Nether Springs continued a full programme of retreats, teaching/training, spiritual direction, for hundreds of people with amazing help from dedicated volunteers.

A liturgy of blessing and thanksgiving was shared as the Lease expired on 30 November 2010. Then we became engulfed in snow, unable to move, which halted the extensive building work needed at Acton and with it, our intention of beginning with a New Year retreat. However, it was worth waiting for as in early February 2011, the new Nether Springs was open to offer heart, home and hospitality to all.

Continue to Transition and Acton Years.