Saint Columba's House, Woking

The Nursing Sisterhood of St. Peter, in the leafy outskirts of Woking, Surrey was dying, but it owned valuable land. The trustees sold part of it for 2 and million, and used this money to build a modern conference and retreat centre with internet, TV and telephone access throughout, which can accommodate 34 overnight and 60 day guests. They employed Revd. Owen Murphy to develop its 'mission identity' during the first year or so, and thereafter to make it pay. He engages in this with Reverend Mother, who, with another aging sister, lives in the grounds, and with a newly recruited pastoral group. The centre is called St. Columba's House and was opened last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Owen invited our Community to explore with them how they might develop 'Celtic Community', and become the first Celtic Spirituality resource centre in southern England. He pointed out that Surrey was once occupied by the Celtic tribe the Atrebates. Members of their pastoral group hope to visit Iona and The Open Gate on Holy Island.

On Monday I listened to the 'God intuitions' of the pastoral group. A common thread was the feeling that 'doing church' the old way had no future. Christians need to journey with the spiritually hungry where they are, to have places to which they may come without being caged, and to offer spiritual direction. A key question was: Could this happen at St Columba's unless it was staffed by people who modelled a daily rhythm of corporate prayer?

We then discussed the question 'What's in a name - could that contain a clue as to our calling?' Evidently the original St Columba's House was built in the 1960's and given that name after some sisters, for some unexplained reason, made a retreat on Iona. Their altar and Celtic Cross was made of Iona marble. The story and significance of Columba was explored, and of the Mission Iona sent to the English under Aidan. Reverend Mother has named the new rooms after saints which include Aidan and Hilda. On Tuesday Owen and I prayer walked the grounds. On Ash Wednesday we began the season of Lent together with prayer and reflection. Watch this space.

Posted at 01:47am on 16th February 2010
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