On Wednesday we had the Friends’ and Partners’ service in the Scargill Chapel. There will be another service later for community, and there is a big wedding party this weekend, but this service was the very last event at Scargill open to everybody – partners, supporters, former community members, friends from the local area. For a lot of people, it was a funeral, and as with any funeral people came with a range of emotions – predominantly sadness, some anger, and a lot of thanksgiving for fifty years of life and service.
Cate had lavishly adorned the central stone dais in the chapel with rocks and thick moss from the estate and flowers and leaves from the gardens, and lit it with our best candles, carefully saved for the occasion. We filled every bit of floor space with rows of extra chairs, and just about every seat was filled – and there were others listening to a relay in the Marsh Lounge too. David, the Chair of Trustees, opened the service by sketching in the background to the closure for those who didn’t know the detail – he apologised, too, for failures in communication. His statement can be read on the Church Times blog posted on July 17th, and the order of service can be downloaded from the website scargillkeepsake.wordpress.com.
There was an extraordinary range of people involved in one way or another. The service was led by Stephanie, one of the Trustees, and Dilly, former warden and current community member. Dilly is the author of our inspirational liturgies, the copies of which are always disappearing from the chapel because guests want to take them home with them. There were short (and not so short!) reflections from partners, past and present community members and others. They were all moving. Paddy Marsh, a former warden, spoke about the pioneering work Scargill had been involved in in the early days and his pleasure at the recent work with asylum seekers and Mythbusters (a programme bringing together children from different faith communities). He reminded us how the Israelites had tried to locate God in a building, but learnt that God is not to be limited in that way; and how at Jesus’ tomb the women were told, ‘He is not here: he has gone before you’. Another powerful reflection was given by a deputy head from a Mythbusters school, about the danger we are in as a society of ‘sleepwalking into segregation’, and the impact of Mythbusters on the children of his school. I was also asked to give a reflection from the point of view of a current community member, which I’ve added to the end of this blog.
The music, which was beautiful, was provided by a former Trustee and his wife on piano and recorder (and whoever chose the hymns did well – they came from a range of traditions and eras and so reflected the diversity of people present, and followed themes of thanksgiving, hope and resurrection – and they were a good sing too). Intercessions and candle lighting involved past and present community, partners and trustees. And so we arrived at the Eucharistic prayer, which was from Scargill’s Easter liturgy. I’ve heard the prayer and responses many times before (we don’t just keep it for Easter) but I’ve never heard the responses said by so many people or with so much conviction and passion:
We announce resurrection in our lives,
In this place and in the life of our world.
So pervade this feast with the life of your Spirit,
And free us to be your people of hope.
The table is set, the feast is now ready
Let all find a place in God’s love.
We break this bread remembering the brokenness of the world:
Yes, we will remember.
We raise this cup celebrating the sign of God’s risen life among us:
Yes, we celebrate God’s life.
And the service finished with Dag Hammarskjold’s words of affirmation:
For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.
A lot of community members, and not a few partners and guests, were in tears by the end, but on the whole I’d say they were good tears, acknowledging a very deep loss, but accepting the invitation of the open door.
I came wanting space, and I got space – a whole dale full of it.
I came wanting honest work, and I got that too – some nights as I hoovered the entire dining room for the third time that day I was so tired I could hardly see.
I came wanting time to work out what my next step should be, but I very quickly knew where I wanted to be –and it was here.
I came wanting a place that would give me a spiritual framework and I got that too. I have met God in every corner of this house, this chapel, this estate.
God in the green trees.
God in the cry of the curlew.
God in the guests, the partners, the community.
Scargill is a place of meetings, and a place where doors open.
I asked other community members what community has meant for them, and though there are a myriad different experiences of Scargill, there were common themes:
People have loved the encounters with others, the being with others who share their beliefs and values; and the converse of that, being with people with totally different experiences, ideas and assumptions, learning to find the common ground and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
They have treasured the discipline and the richness of starting every day with an act of worship.
They’ve loved the companionship, having fun together, cooking and sharing meals together, playing volleyball, sharing crosswords, and sharing distress too, supporting each other, accepting each other.
They’ve loved the variety of the work, learning new skills, dusting off old ones. ‘I have spread my wings here,’ said one.
They’ve come here for healing, and have learnt how to forgive; they’ve come here to find work, and they’ve found themselves. This is a place where that happens.
C S Lewis said: 'Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself your neighbour is the most holy thing which will ever present itself to the senses,’ and that is what Scargill has meant to me.