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Why become a Friend?

Presence … Place … Participation … and People

One of my favourite views at Lee Abbey Devon is from Crock Pits back to the House. This is especially lovely in the late afternoon on a sunny day as the light really begins to enhance that warm glowing colour of the house façade. But this is not the only captivating thing about this view. It takes in so much of the Estate – the Field, the entrance to the Bay, many of the other buildings, hills, woodland and Duty Point Tower perched on the tall cliffs. In this view, it’s apparent that Lee Abbey is right on the edge, close to rough seas, far away from any big city – and can be quite hard to get to!

On my last visit to Devon someone asked me why I am a Lee Abbey Friend. My answer was going to be about the beautiful views, the warm welcome, the great food, the important spiritual experiences that have taken place there, the fact that it is a ‘thin’ place. But then I realised these were answers to a slightly different question – ‘why do you keep going back to Lee Abbey?’ The answer to the Friends question encompasses all of this but goes further. That view up from Crock Pits is a picture of God’s love for all of His Creation and what it means to be human within that creation. There is great diversity – sea, sky, land, woods, fields, the fruit of people’s labour. I feel part of it when I take in that view; I’m not just an observer, I can feel the wind and smell the sea (and the sheep!). And then there is the fact that it is on the edge, but has a global reach and impact on lives across the world, through the diversity of the Movement’s activities in Devon, London, Small Missional Communities and, above all, its people. This little place on the edge shouldn’t be able to do that. But the reasons that it can and does are all to do with how Spirit-inspired people – Founders, Community, Guests, Friends – have found a place where we can hear God and feel the need to answer His call to action.

Everything about Lee Abbey is set up to show how creation and disciples can work together to advance God’s Kingdom. And I want to be part of it; I’m compelled to be part of it. This is the reason I’m a Friend – God has called me to be part of this widespread community; it nurtures me and I hope I make my contribution, as well, to this common life. This isn’t merely a financial contribution, although I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can support the Movement financially, but through prayer and in living out the values that are shot through all of Lee Abbey’s work. These are my values – I believe them to be the values Our Lord has given us to live our lives by.

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32, NRSV)

Paul Armitage
Lee Abbey Friend for nearly 30 years