August 2022: Digest - Mucknell Abbey
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August 2022: Digest

As I sit here typing away, I can hear the swallows chirping outside my window. Their beautiful swooping flight has been one of the beauties of this past month, as has watching the juveniles who haven’t quite figured out the swooping thing just yet. Like much of the country, we’ve not had much rain at all, apart from a real downpour one morning last week – of which more later!

Study and Solemnities

We enjoyed another study day earlier this month led by Russell Jefford, a friend of the community. He was talking particularly about Gregory of Nyssa, and his Life of Moses, having spoken to us earlier in the year about Gregory of Nazianzus. This input, along with a couple of the books we have read this year, have given the whole community some very interesting insights into Eastern Orthodoxy; there is much we could learn from, and it is always good to be reminded that we are part of a Christian family that spans both time and space. The two books we have read at meals are Victoria Clark’s Why Angels Fall: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo and Gillian Crow’s This Holy Man – Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony. The former was published in 2000, and the latter in 2005, and both in their different ways were appreciated by the community.

As is our custom, we took the few days around the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the 15th as Community Days, The heat in the end prevented the planned outing to the Malvern Hills, but we did enjoy some time together, particularly to hear from Br. Michaël and Sr. Sally about their experiences at the Lambeth Conference. Sr. Sally was there for a few days helping to look after the ARC stall, and was greatly encouraged by the variety of people she had conversations with about the Religious Life. Br. Michaël was part of the chaplaincy team for the Conference, and while the experience was a demanding one, he too had found great blessing in being part of the Conference, and in experiencing at first hand the diversity of the Anglican Communion.

Estate Days

A little later in the month, we had a set of 4 Estate Days, which as the name implies, means all hands on deck for work around the estate. This time round we dedicated the first day to the Kitchen Garden, which mostly involved transporting bags of horse manure from our neighbour’s manure heap up to the garden. We set up an efficient system of bagging up the manure, then barrowing it to the lane, where a waiting car, driven by Br. Philip, did most of the hard work! The photos below show our progress, from clearing the heap of weeds, to getting quite a respectable amount dug out. We also had a visit from our neighbour’s dog, Simba, who pretty quickly worked out that if he bought his stick right to where we were working, we were much more likely to throw it for him!

The following day then saw us tidying up the last of the ash trees that we had had felled over the winter. They were processed into logs and twiggy bits, which will all be burnt when conditions allow. We were also very greatly helped during these days by a few working guests, both outside and indoors processing the produce of the kitchen garden.

We were also very grateful for Sr. Sally and the kitchen team for providing us with lovely treats for our morning coffee breaks:

Having sorted out the ash trees, we then divided broadly into two groups. One was clearing rushes from the swales, which are fortunately pretty empty of water at the moment. Following some heavy rain one morning, though, there was plenty of mud around, as Leah enjoyed demonstrating:

Another group (including myself) were organising and tidying up our wood shed, which had accumulated a large pile of (again!) ash from our previous estate days. Some of this had already been split and stacked in the shed itself, but there was still a large pile that needed something doing to it. Our solution was to build some wooden “igloos”, which we first tried a couple of years ago, having read about them online. That first trial had ended up with wood that was as dry as wood that had been stored inside, and so with lots of extra wood, it was time to have another go:

The new face you can see in the final photo above is Lindsay, our new Alongsider. She arrived on 17th August, and after a few days to collect herself, was thrown into lots of Estate work – she particularly enjoyed building the wood stack she’s pictured with, and named it Prudence. Hopefully she’ll say a bit more about herself in next month’s digest.

Sermons and Swallows

Over the month, we’ve heard from various members of the community on Sunday mornings:

Abbot Thomas – 31st July, talking about the holiness inherant in everyday life lived well.

Sr. Jessica – 14th August, reminding us of our need for the purifying fire of God.

Leah – 21st August, with some reflections on the Sabbath.

Br. Jonathan – 28th August, looking at the topsy-turvy nature of Christian hospitality.

And finally, a clip of the swallows that have spent quite a few days this month congregating around our bell tower: