ROCKNELL MANOR FARM – ‘A QUIET PLACE’
(The PCC Awayday – Saturday, 26 May, 2012)
“And Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place…” (St. Mark: Ch. 6, v 31)”
It was in the spirit of Jesus’ invitation to his disciples that, on a hot and cloudless Saturday in May, members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) made the short journey from Taunton to a winding and hedged Devon lane, just a couple of miles from the Tiverton junction of the M5. Their destination was the sixteenth century Rockwell Manor Farm, home to Mill House Retreats, where the annual PCC Awayday was to take place.
The entrance to the farm stands on a bend in the lane and the crunch of tyres on courtyard gravel emphasised the otherwise peaceful atmosphere of the setting. The two-storey, timber framed building, partly thatched and partly slated, looked at its historic best in the May sunlight and stands on a site listed in the Doomsday Book. A large garden and grounds at the rear completed the sense of space and sanctuary from the speeding traffic on the nearby motorway.
PCC members were welcomed by Revd. Jane Taylor, who manages Mill House Retreats and, coffee served, the day’s programme began with a short act of worship in an upstairs room with a beamed ceiling and low, medieval doorway, the focal point for the discussions and report-backs to come.
The day was the culmination of a period of careful and detailed planning and was led by Jean Lee and Revd. Paul Tullett. Worship completed, everyone was aware of the unfortunate but necessary absence of Revds. Rod and Sheila, each called away by illness in their respective families.
The sun continued to shine as the gathering took an overview of the current ‘state of health’ of St. Mary Magdalene’s, lunched, then used the afternoon session in smaller groups to contemplate visionary ideas for the way forward. The exercise was stimulated by three scenarios from Rod, each of which set out a character sketch and associated challenges of people in three different age ranges. The casual listener-in at the door would have been aware of the lively buzz from the room within and would certainly have heard many references, including – “Tekna, Parents, Baptisms, Sunday Welcome, Pastoral Care, Choristers, the Housebound.” There could be no mistaking the serious and prayerful manner in which the work was going forward.
Finally, everyone re-assembled in the upstairs room and reported on their ideas and possibilities to be carried back to Taunton. These were drawn together and offered up to God during a simple service of Holy Communion.
And so the precious and reflective time together in a ‘Quiet Place’, ended when (Revd.) Paul expressed the very real challenge to be taken home and continued: “The exciting work done today will be wasted if we are not able to keep the momentum going in the weeks and months ahead…”
Then, as the last of the departing cars crunched out of the courtyard onto the Devon lane, two words seemed to sum up what the Holy Spirit had inspired the PCC to wrestle with, explore and celebrate in the on-going and developing communal life of our parish:
Relationships (“love one another”) and Involvement (prayer and activity aimed at drawing more people into participating fellowship)
To what purpose? Well, that was most clearly expressed by one member at the outset of the day: “How do we make St. Mary’s a more welcoming church?”
There’s every possibility that we shall all find out as the seeds planted on the PCC Awayday quietly and resolutely bear fruit.
(To find out about Mill House Retreats, go to: www.millhouseretreats.co.uk; or contact: Revd. Jane Taylor, Rockwell Manor Farm, Westleigh, Tiverton, Devon EX16 7ES; Tel 01884 829000)