28 Aug August 2023 Digest
Welcome back to a (currently!) sunny Mucknell Abbey. We’ve had a very busy month, as you’ll see – visits out, some estate/kitchen garden work days, lots and lot of beans to process, and of course the usual round of Offices and hospitality to a wonderful variety of people. Read on to see what we’ve been doing…
From Dorset to Dudley
We’ve spent time in some very diverse locations this month. On the 7th and 8th, a small group visited Cerne Abbas in Dorset, and then on the 9th a slightly larger group spent a day with Bishop Martin in and around Dudley.
Abbot Thomas along with Brs. Jonny, Adrian and Michaël spent a couple of days in Cerne Abbas, where a Benedictine Abbey was founded in AD987. It was destroyed at the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th Century, but remains of the buildings that made up the Abbey can still be seen and visited today. We were invited by the Rev’d Jonathan Still to view the excavations currently being undertaken by a group including some archeaology students. During the visit Abbot Thomas also gave a very well received talk about the Benedictine life past and present, and the group also had chance to visit St. Mary’s Church.
On Wednesday 9th a slightly larger group spent a day in Dudley at the invitation of Bishop Martin Gorick. In the morning we spent time in Cradley Heath with the Wednesday Worship group who meet at Cradley Heath Community Link, hearing some moving stories of God’s work in people’s lives. We also learnt something of the challenges facing the town and its residents, and shared something of our life at Mucknell – leaving many members of the group eager to visit. It was good to hear from Paul Latham, who helps to run the Community Link project. After lunch with the group, Bp Martin then took us to the Black Country Living Museum to see something of the history of the area; it was particularly well known for its chain making, something we also heard about in the morning in Cradley Heath. A particular point of local pride is that the chains for the Titanic were made in the local area. While at the museum, several of us saw a demonstration of chain making, where we learnt that each link for the Titanic chains was made of metal 5 inches thick, and was 3ft tall, taking 6 men 6 hours to make. All in all we had an enjoyable and interesting day, and look forward to welcoming the folk from Cradley Heath to Mucknell sometime soon!
The great outdoors
We’ve also been enjoying time in the kitchen garden and on the wider estate. We spent 4 days working together to get a whole variety of tasks done, including fetching horse manure from our neighbour for use in the kitchen garden and flower beds. We also sieved a whole lot of compost, dug many, many potatoes and then got on with some of the weeding too. On the estate, there was lots of strimming to be done, as well as taming some of our hedges and trees to make the pathways round the estate slightly less hazardous. We were well provided for with mid-morning snacks by Br. Stuart in the kitchen, and he and Br. Anthony worked hard on processing mountains of runner beans and French beans.
One of our kitchen garden experiments this year was growing potatoes in old tyres -as the plants grow, you add another tyre and fill it up with compost. Getting at the pototoes required a bit of thought so as not to end up with compost everywhere. We found that the plants had not perhaps produced as many potatoes as the ones planted in the main beds, but what they had produced was in pretty much perfect condition – no slug holes!
On Saturday 26th, we prayed our farewells with George, who’s been living alongside the Community for a couple of months before starting on the Ministry Experience Scheme in London. It’s been great to have George with us, and he very kindly treated us to fish and chips for his last evening here!
As someone who’s whole life had been spent in education in one form or another before coming to the monastery, the busyness of August always catches me a bit off guard! Throughout and within all the ‘doing’, though, is the constant and steady rhythm of prayer, which holds us, and within which we hold the world. So whatever is happening, whether times are relaxing, stressful, busy or empty, know that God is always present, always ready to meet us, whether we’re in Dorset, Dudley, Worcestershire, or anywhere else!