Moving from Hendred to Howton Grove

We have now been here a month; and in all that time, I think there have been only two days when it hasn’t rained, so no photos yet (the rainless spells were used to mow the lawn and do some essential outside work). Is there anything worth sharing from our experience of moving from Hendred to Herefordshire?

Quietnun packing up to leave East Hendred
Quietnun packing up to leave East Hendred

Inevitably, one thinks first in terms of loss and gain. We made many good friends in Oxfordshire and miss them all. Here making friends will be a slower process, for we no longer live in a village and the opportunities for getting to know people will be fewer. Against that, we are delighted by our new home and its situation. To wake up every morning without worrying about damp or mould is a joy, and the countryside around us is breathtaking in its beauty.

In practical terms, we face a steep learning curve. We are in an entirely different geographical location, and a different diocese. Our most immediate challenges will be the ordinary ones of everyday life. At first, just finding our way around the city and major villages was a lesson in patience: finding out where to shop, where to park, where to obtain those innumerable little things that suddenly become necessary when one moves.

Part of our library, still in boxes
A Library in Boxes: Howton Grove Priory

Religious communities don’t fit into any convenient category when it comes to utility companies and the like, so there has also been much to-ing and fro-ing to ensure that essential services are maintained and billed in the correct manner. Then there are the alterations and repairs which are needed. The barn has been carefully looked after, but even so, one or two things need attention and are beyond the strength and skill of the community. In Hendred we knew who the reliable tradesmen were; here we don’t. Consequently, our oratory is still without the Blessed Sacrament while we seek out someone who will secure the tabernacle to the wall for us; our library remains in boxes while we try to find someone who will build good, plain bookshelves for us (Ikea flatpacks don’t fit well with old walls); and so on. We know we shall sort it all out in time, just as we shall get a vegetable garden going again and launch a new website and online services.

In the meantime, the experience of dislocation is probably good for us. Monasteries can become too comfortable, too complacent. Being faced with a completely new situation will call for new talents and new responses. The Hendred years brought development and graces of their own. We became a community; we formulated a clear vision of what it means to be contemplative Benedictines; we began our internet outreach and our service of the blind and visually impaired. Who knows what Howton Grove will bring? The prayer goes on.

The prayer goes on: the oratory at Howton Grove Priory
The Prayer goes on: the Oratory at Howton Grove Priory

17 thoughts on “Moving from Hendred to Howton Grove”

  1. You look to be in a lovely situation. Hereford is one of those unsung, beautiful counties of England.

    In transition seems to be a description that you could apply to your situation – being settled will take some time. It took us two years to get our house the way that we felt comfortable with. Being newly married, was us both starting again together – the growing pains that it entails as we learned that living together from single status takes adjustment, patience and love.

    Now, after 24 years in one place, we contemplate a move to be nearer our Parish – not immediately, but in the next 2 years, we will upsticks and go. It will be traumatic, we will have to unload and de-clutter, but it will be worthwhile as getting rid of the baggage is something we all need to do from time to time.

    Our sojourn will be towards Canterbury, its Cathedral and our Parish close by call us loudly and strongly. So, while we could stay put and just travel, we want to be part of the community to live and share with them and the common life of the parish, they are our people and it’s where we belong.

    Prayers for your transition and ongoing development of your ministry – I will be following it with interest.

    • Thank you, Ernie. Having survived a few major moves in my life, I have to say each one teaches something new. There will be special prayers for you and your wife as you prepare for your next move.

  2. This is the first time I’m posting a comment on your blog, which I find really interesting, in many ways.
    I like very much your chronicles about the moving and the transition, and I find them at the same time really close to reality, to what it is, and also rich of a calm, distant look upon things.
    Best wishes from Italy.

  3. I’m sure many of your readers will join you, as I do, in your ongoing prayer in anticipation of graces and blessings abounding at Howton Grove. God bless!

  4. Your location is to be envied and peace and quiet no small blessing in this chaotic world.

    There are many challenges to face, but think what an opportunity for quiet (even mute) evangelism there will be as you become integrated into a new community and your values become apparent.

    It has struck me forcibly over the last year or so that while the population as a whole has never roamed so far from truth, there is a deep yearning surfacing for that which will put us in touch with God’s image within. We often forget, with the evidence of so much dedicated self-will and plain antagonism against Christ, that human beings are already primed for the Truth since they are God’s creation. There is no need to prepare the ground with explanations of our Belief. We go in at the deep end, at the point of need, hopefully at the right moment, led by the Spirit and, as St Francis of Assisi counselled, ‘Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.’

    You are being supported by many prayers from friends, followers, St Benedict, the Blessed Virgin, and all the saints and angels. Be not daunted by the task ahead. A day at a time. A step at a time. (Easier said than done, perhaps, but still inescapable wisdom.)

    I think your wise old doorkeeper is enjoying his new pad πŸ™‚

    God Bless.

    • Thank you, Rosy. Peace in abundance, yes, but the quiet is not always so obvious, what with the A465 and the SAS both close at hand. On our first night we thought we had made A Terrible Mistake. There were military (we assume) helicopters buzzing overhead for hours, possibly in preparation for the Queen’s Jubilee. Happily, it hasn’t happened since. As to Bro Duncan, I think he’s in his seventh heaven here.

    • Given the time we’ve been saving up for this move, all the preparations that had to be made for it, and the slow unpacking and settling in process, etc. it seems we have been here for ever! It is lovely, and we are very grateful. (The blind will come, when we can. In the meantime, we make do, as they say.)

  5. We’ve had company transfers to different cities, this last one to the other side of the country. A university graduate student working on her thesis came to interview us, told us it takes two years for settling in, the first year all family traditions are a first time in the new location, the second confirms the roots put down. This far from “home” meant different products/labels in the new grocery store, new layout to learn, driving lost a lot of the time, new doc, dentist, lawyer, different climate. Eventually, as time passed, this became “home”. We’ve come to realize we could live just about anywhere in this country and be happy, that happiness is a choice, settling in follows naturally. God is with us wherever we are.

  6. God grant you all patience and a sense of humor as you settle in. My family has just completed an across-the-country move this year, and we are still learning what life is like in the Upper Midwest versus the Deep South of the US. Yet, as you note, each move teaches us something!

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