Our former home was an interesting Victorian building, originally the presbytery or priest's house, in the lovely and historic village of East Hendred, a few miles south of Oxford. The house was not ours but rented. We now live in a beautiful Herefordshire barn conversion, built of the local Pontrilas brick and situated in the Golden Valley, with views across to the Black Mountains and the Brecons.
We try to grow as much fruit and vegetables as we can and in the last few years, with the help of friends, have given the gardens a major makeover.
Although our lifestyle is frugal rather than ascetic (we don't get up at 3.00 a.m like the Cistercians, for example), we do have to earn a living. Fortunately, St Benedict saw a spiritual value in work and set aside definite times for it in the monastic timetable. Whatever we do is part of our search for God, so, whether in choir singing the praises of God, working for our living or carrying out some ordinary household task, we try to be ready to welcome Christ in whatever guise he may come to us.
All our work is carried out at the monastery, and has included a small design agency, Veil
press (the 'Veil' of the title was a play on the Vale of White Horse, where we used to live). Veil
press provided printing and editorial services while Veil
net and Veil
hosts were its web design and hosting arm respectively.
We also ran Veil
audio, formerly St Cecilia's Guild, a free audio book lending library service for the visually impaired. Currently we are reassessing the kinds of work we should undertake in addition to our online outreach and our hospitality here at the monastery. New kinds of work may be undertaken if anyone with the appropriate talent or skill joins the community.
You can read more about this in the Work
It takes more than a shared house and shared work to make a community. It takes a shared ideal, a sense of common purpose and an abundance of grace to overcome the inevitable frictions, to say nothing of the shortcomings we all have as individuals. St Benedict rightly saw community life as a blessing, one we delight in sharing with others. Oblates, Associates, Friends, visitors and guests are all part of the monastery's larger community, the 'shared cloister' to which there are different degrees of belonging but to which all contribute something valuable, something no one else can.
Entrance to the East Hendred monastery, built in 1865 as the presbytery or priest's house
The photo below shows Howton Grove Priory, our present home