S T   C U T H B E R T ’ S  H O U S E Hermitage of the Diocese of Nottingham               

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Christmas 2016

Dear Family & Friends.  

2016: Whatever other insignificant events might have befallen, for St Cuthbert’s House 2016 will always  be remembered as the Year of the Great Walk.  Early in January, I challenged myself, with your support, to walk 2 million steps before the year’s close.  As December draws in I can report myself to be closer to the 3 million mark, and the charity, Freedom from Torture, to be more than £600 better off from your donations.  Their Justgiving page is still open, so if you have missed out on donating and would like to do so, here is the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/2-Million-Steps . Thank you to everyone who has contributed!

Many of the 2-million-steps (at least 3000 per day) were achieved locally on the village circuit: hermitage-postbox-church-hermitage. Most of the rest were accumulated along the Viking Way – a long distance footpath from the banks of the Humber in the North, down to Rutland Water in the South.  I am not at all certain how authentic it is in terms of its Viking-icity (2 miles along the edge of the A18 in full rush hour should have been sufficient distress to send even the fiercest Nordic warrior back to the fjords), but it certainly opened up the Lincolnshire Wolds, towns, villages and farms in a way which I hadn’t previously ventured to experience. It is a beautiful county, with some surprising and remarkable scenery, alongside settlements of quite idyllic domesticity.  

I was joined midsummer on my meanderings by Mr Bingley – a sturdy oversized ChihuahuaX (think pint-sized Corgi with BIG ears) from the local rescue kennels.  Owning a dog is a new adventure for me and entirely unlike my previous experiences of being owned by a cat.  It has taken a bit of getting used to.  Cats are highly scriptural in making their carers feel somewhat lesser than the angels;  with Mr B. on my case, I begin to wonder if I might understand how it feels to be God!  I am thoroughly enjoying his companionship (and adoration) around the house and on our walking expeditions.  Having completed the VW by the end of August, we are now venturing forth a little closer to home and exploring the minutiae of the drains and field paths closer to SCH.  I am loving being on my independent feet again!

Later in the year we were inevitably (stray cats are indigenous around here) adopted by a long-legged tortie (Georgiana) who quickly learnt that 3 feet upwards from a rabid Chihuahua is a safe place to zone out.  She is often to be seen lolling over the edge of her favourite shelf, tantalisingly out of reach.  She is a mouser and has purloined the greenhouse as her exclusive hunting territory.  I can venture in but Mr Bingley, if he is wise, does not.  We were also joined, late summer, by a pair of Bluebelle chickens (Louisa and Caroline) so we are now a full (Meryton) household.  I enjoyed the leisure of living without furry & feathered friends for my year of convalescence, but am happy now to be kept busy once again by them all.  

In November I completed my 15th year in the hermitage.  As a late arrival to the consecrated life, I am bound to celebrate the less significant anniversaries and jubilees, as the more significant are by no means guaranteed.  So celebrate fittingly I did … with the silence of exam invigilation duties!  I was a little apprehensive as to my employability in education post-convalescence, but despite some speech/face anomalies, the local school has re-engaged my services and I am now happily working again as occasional tutor and invigilator for them.

Although my own departure has become gloriously less imminent than might have been previously anticipated (“remarkable” is the word most commonly used by the hospital consultants in association with my continuing recovery), I have nonetheless prepared full Xmarksthespot ash-disposal instructions should the need arise.  They designate a wilderness twixt the fens and the marshes on the eastern edge of Lincolnshire.  It was with some bemusement therefore, that I learnt of the new Church guidance discouraging the scattering of funeral ashes outside of designated and hallowed church plots.  Indubitably beyond the bounds of any official sanctuary, I nonetheless hold my chosen spot to be sacred in its wildness and desolation, not least because it was, for a period of my life, a place of frequent prayer.  In acknowledgement of Church teaching therefore, whilst I still hope I might find rest surrounded by the tidal mudflats of the Welland estuary, I will now consider my final journey to be primarily missionary in nature. Glad to be of service.

As we struggle to witness to God-amongst-us in these turbulent times and in wild, unsanctioned places, I wish you each in your own mission a well-mapped route, a sure destination, and blessings throughout the coming year.

Rachel (Hermit of the Diocese of Nottingham)

A few snapshots of the Great Walk!