Engaging in community life is a really important part of living and serving at Ashburnham Place but I recall as a newcomer it can be a bit daunting and I’d imagine if English is not your first language then even more so and this is why it is important to have smaller groups within the large community. When you come to live here there will be those you share a house with, those you share a language with, those you work directly alongside and those in your Pastoral group (or Connect groups as they are now called).
All new volunteer staff are assigned to a Connect group and stay with that group until they leave 3/6/12 months later. My husband and I have now been hosting one of the groups for about 16 months and we have had 16 people come and go, staying for various lengths of time. Our current group is just six people, all of whom are spending at least a year here and that is great as we really have a chance to get to know people and form bonds.
Every Connect group works in its own way but they are all hosted by permanent staff who make themselves available for the volunteers to come to when they need to talk, pray or ask a favour. For our group the priority is always time together, it does not really matter what we do but each month we have an evening or day set aside. It makes me smile when you hear of the friendly rivalry between the volunteers as they declare their Connect group is the best one of all!
- I thought I'd share with you some memorable moments from our monthly meetings -
- Sitting on top of Seven Sisters cliffs getting to know some of the newer volunteers watching my children run up and down the hills.
- Hearing one of our group pray out loud for the first time and watching their confidence and English language skills develop.
- Roaring with laughter as we played bowling and found that many of us were completely useless!
- Playing silly games together like malteaser football and collect the peanuts.
- Enjoying great food that has been prepared by our group members, we have now tried Korean, Kazakh, Czech and Brazilian.
- Opening our house up and having our volunteers drop in for a cup of tea or catch up.
The volunteers we have got to know as part of our Connect group will never be forgotten and we pray for them regularly and thanks to the wonder of Facebook we can be sat there on an evening doing something non-Ashburnham related when a message will pop up from one of our team and we get an update of what they are doing. We are very blessed indeed.