As I announced on Facebook we've just spent a couple of nights at Ashburnham Place, near the site of the Battle of Hastings - well, the nearest town is Battle in East Sussex. Neither of us has been there before, so we didn't know what to expect, though we had seen the brief comments on its website:
"For nearly eight hundred years Ashburnham Place was the home of the Ashburnham family. In 1953 the last member of this family, Lady Catherine, died and the inheritance passed to a young clergyman, John Bickersteth. Seven years later he gave the house and the surrounding parkland to the Ashburnham Christian Trust. The purpose of the new Trust was to promote the study of the Bible and the training of people in the principles of the Christian faith. Much of the original house had to be pulled down and new facilities have been added. The Trust continues, under new leadership, to work towards the same goal - encouraging people to come to a personal faith in Jesus Christ and to live their lives in the service of God....
|Turner's sketch from the Tate Collection|
|Turner's watercolour from the British Museum|
Well, Gill said she was looking forward to my reflections - so here goes. The first thing to admit is that we were not staying in the big house, but in Carpenter's Lodge where our son and his family have just settled. He's just started as one of two new directors there.
We travelled down on Sunday afternoon and arrived in the sun. As you turn in at the imposing gates, you drive through old deciduous woods, past a lodge and then you round a corner and catch a view of the house across the lakes, which no doubt was the first vista Capability Brown wanted to greet you. The trees have now encroached on the panorama, which is a shame, though perhaps in these motorised times we might not linger to admire the view as we should.
That evening we joined the community for their Sunday evening celebration. There is something uplifting about joining an international group united in worshipping a God whom they clearly love. The community is international because it includes a good number of young volunteers from all round the world who come to improve their English and to serve God, which they do primarily in looking after the needs of the guests who come on retreat, for conferences or simply for rest and refreshment. From my point of view the worship led by four of the volunteers was refreshing and personal including as it did one of my favourite modern worship songs, "This is my prayer in the desert".
|Andy and Paul, new directors,|
with the old church behind