What is the Bewcastle House of Prayer?
A vision, and a becoming…
An open, land-based Christian community of lay and ordained under the Bishop of Carlisle
Inspired by, and in the borderlands between, the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic church
Living and praying, studying and playing, working and feasting together
Laughter, music, craft, simplicity, beauty
A place of welcome, compassion, healing, rest and refreshment
Dwellings built lightly
Land cared for with humility and understanding
Food grown, fuel generated, waste recycled, the Garden of Eden restored
An experiment in living to a different rhythm
A blessing to the surrounding communities and the distant cities
An alternative way of being for the rural church
People coming home
An ancient way of life rekindled
Interested? Read on…
Outside Bewcastle parish church, just up the road from us, is the 8th Century Bewcastle Cross, one of the most important Anglo-Saxon monuments in Northern Europe. As you approach, Christ, uplifted by a pair of worshipping animals, blesses you. Above, John the Baptist carries the Lamb of God. Below is a falconer. On the opposite side is a vine that scrolls its way to the top of the cross. Inside each scroll is a bunch of grapes, with one of a pair of creatures feasting on the fruit. What is going on with all these animals?
The vine represents Christ. The branches are the Church (us, his disciples), and the fruit are the fruit of our lives. The pairs of animals are from Noah’s Ark, a living part of Christ’s church, feeding off the fruit of our lives. The early Church understood Christ’s work on the cross as the redemption of the whole of creation. Human beings are an integral part of that, but the message of the Bewcastle Cross is that we are called to be God’s instrument of blessing – for each other and for the whole created order.
This House of Prayer is an attempt to express the Church’s calling to be this blessing to all. We are called to invite God’s presence to permeate our lives, which we do through regular daily prayer offered three times a day – morning, noon, and evening. And the work we do with our hands is to be creative and gentle, bringing people, creatures and land into the freedom of the Holy Spirit of God through the cross.
So we are pilgrims seeking a way in prayer to release joy and liberation – a freedom that comes from the other side of the grave. An important aspect of this is the way we treat the soil from which we come and to which we will return – the soil of Christ’s body that was transformed at his resurrection.
So rather than battling and repressing the soil, we try to honour and learn from it. The native Americans referred to the Earth as their mother and God as their Father. We have to learn again how to listen to God’s creation and rediscover God’s wisdom hidden in it. Then we can begin to be his blessing upon it.
For this reason observation is a central activity. It requires patience, silence, stillness and listening – the same attributes as prayer. Learning, study and experimentation are also key components that grow out of observation. Hence we have a library and a weather station.
Our relationship with the Earth reflects our relationship with each other and with God. When we hear of peoples being exploited, having their homes and way of life destroyed, being robbed of their land by governments and corporations, we see the anti-Christ at work. “Blessed are the meek”, Jesus said, “for they shall inherit the earth.
So another important aspect of the House of Prayer is finding ways to live in peace, without greed or the exploitation of people or the earth’s resources. The principles of permaculture offer helpful reflections in this regard. Permaculture is about stability, deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities living lightly in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture and social justice, peace and abundance. It is about true sustainability, based at the local scale. As the great economist EF Schumacher famously once said, “Small is beautiful”!
Hospitality is at the heart of Jesus’ good news. It derives from God’s own hospitality towards us. So another important dimension to our work is offering a place for pilgrims to stay for a few days or weeks. And we are here to be a resource for the local churches and the local community as part of the ‘Borderlands Minster’ within the Bewcastle and Lanercost benefices of parishes, part of the Brampton Deanery in Carlisle Diocese.
So we hope you enjoy your time here and find something of interest to stimulate your own pilgrimage.
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