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                                                     COMMUNITY DATES 2008/9


28 JUNE - Saturday 10-3

Community General Meeting

Nottingham, at Chris and Lorraine Smedley's, 25 Sydney Road, Wollaton, Nottingham NG8 lLH.


Ashram Holiday at lona Community

3 -5 OCTOBER Community Weekend

 Unstone Grange



                                  24 FEB - Saturday Community General Meeting

                                        Burngreave Ashram                   

                                                                                       8-10MAY Community Weekend Cliff College

                                                                                       27 JUNE Community General Meeting Location TBA

                                                                                     2-4 OCTOBER Community Weekend Unstone Grange




For further information on any of these Tel. John Vincent 0114 2436688 or email ashramcommunity@hotmail.com which is Pippa Thompson

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

RADICAL CHRISTIANITY - Faith for Tomorrow?

NEW KINGDOM - NEW DISCIPLESHIP - NEW COMMUNITY - NEW POLITICS Program  led by Dr John Vincent and Ashram Comrmmity Members  

Saturday Half-Days in Autumn ,Branches and Local Churches


CONTACTS- please contact these people if you would like to know more about these groups.

E Midlands - Chris & Lorraine Smedley 01159288430. Evening meetings monthly. Lincoln - Mark Chater 01522 532734. Monthly Meal at Ashram House

London - Linda Marshall 01784456474. Saturday meetings 6- weekly

Manchester - Alastair Clark 0161 4323600 Evening meetings 6- weekly North East - Jenny and Frank Medhurst 01740630475

SE Lancs - Josie Smith 01706841532. Thursday Lunch meeting Monthly.

Sheffield - Ana Maria Gonzalez 0114 2434013. Gathering fortnightly, Mon7-9.30pm


Setting up the Community Office at 84 Spital Hill, still in progress, meanwhile continue to use 178 Abbeyfield Road, Sheffield S4 7AY. Tel nos John 0114 2436688 or Caroline 2700972 (11.30-3.30pm) Ashram Mobile 07934 68578.
















































Mike and Liz Turner were among the first to join the Ashram Community in the 1960's, and have been firm friends and stalwart supporters ever since.

When Mike died suddenly a wide circle of friends and Ashram members crowded into Hazel Grove Methodist Church on 14 February for a truly memorable thanksgiving and celebration.

Michael was profound, original, deeply sensitive and incurably self-authentic, even stubborn at times. He made decisive decisions with impeccable honesty. He supported myriads of groups and individuals. He stood out. And he had a remarkable family of Liz, David and Judith.

. .

We in Ashram salute a true disciple and a much missed friend.

John Vincent.

Ashram Projects for the Future

At the Ashram general meeting in February it was suggested that opinion be canvassed as to future projects to be undertaken by Ashram. A considerable amount of money has now been liquidated through the sale of the Ashram House in Stockton, and this gives us the opportunity to look ahead. It was agreed that the Officers would meet to discuss ideas, and try to formulate a policy. Effectively it was felt that a view needs to be formulated for the medium to long term, and some ideas identified that could be discussed by the community at the May meeting. The process would tackle questions like:

·         are community houses still the way we wish to go?

·         are we up to running them any more?

·         are there other visions that we want explore?

·         where does Burngreave fit in to all this?

·         what should we spend and what should we keep in reserve?

·         should we have a large number of smaller proj ects or a small number of large?

·         should we concentrate on one project at a time - ie consecutive versus concurrent?

·         and so on!

Members and Associates were all asked for suggestions in March. Hopefully, by the time you read this some will have been forthcoming, and the Officers will have met. This could be an important discussion in May!




































A recent London Group meeting at which we began discussing the book on Christian Communities by Alison Norman, aided by JV's questions.

"The discussion brought out differences in viewpoint between those of us who have been connected with Ashram for decades and those who have joined the group more recently."

"A very interesting discussion, perhaps because we moved beyond the narrow confines of Christian communities to talk about discipleship in general."

"As for the discussion on 'community', I think that I did not contribute much as I had not read the booklet yet. I will read it by next time, promise! What I did realize from the discussion is that there are many different kinds of community, which might be more diverse than I


Sheffield Members meet in the fortnightly Gathering, in members' homes, with a bring and share meal. We have a theme for talks and discussions and from January to April has been varied with contributions from people covering members experiences. Grace talked about her visit to India, Dave discussed being a Christian and a Muslim, and Nick talked about what evangelism means to him. Other theme contributors were John - Jesus in Jerusalem and Sara - SCM. In May-July we are following parts of the "Journey programme"

Film of Burngreave Ashram

From 20-22 February, our old friend Fr. Russ Carmichael came with Gerry and Jessica Comeau from New London USA to make a film of John and Ashram. They were a great

had thought so far .. Alison Norman's survey of Christian lay communities provided an excellent summary of the present position and formed the basis of a good discussion."

"We spoke of St Francis and the fact that he invented the Third Order so that some could stay at home rather than join him on his travels in community. I think we lost our way on the whole subject of community, but that may be because community is not relevant to most of us.

However I do remember my promise to suggest that next time we relate it to what we commit ourselves to in the liturgy:

To offer the Kingdom in personal, political and economic witness,

To work for the new community of all humanity,

And to risk ourselves in a lifestyle of sharing.


inspiration to us all, and we will keep members informed of developments. All three joined Ashram as Associate Members, which is great. Gerry writes:

"We sent our Associate Member application and are thrilled to be part of the Community. I hope that you all know how much our time in Sheffield meant to us. It has taken me hours of hard thinking and praying to get it all in a context that fits my life and walk (actually love to do that thinking!!!). I guess that what I find fits best is that the "Contextual Theology" approach makes not just the words come alive for me from time to time, but that it gets Jesus into my life at a level approaching my DNA. I keep finding things about me that I used to think were apart from my Walk, some parallel, "less than" self Now that I have a personal, contextual relationship to His life and the lives of his Disciples, it's sort of brought the two streams of my life together. No longer a "faithful" self and some "other" self'

































In October last year, during our time in The West Bank, Margaret and I visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. During our time there we also saw the work of The Lajee Centre. "It was established in 2001 by a group of volunteers in the camp who wanted to ensure that future generations had greater opportunities and facilities open to them than they themselves had whilst growing up in Aida." It is a registered Palestinian NGo. Lajee works with creativity and art forms of self-expression, youth-empowerment, creative education and trauma management. It serves children from 4 years old to young people of 15/20 years. Lajee runs projects and courses in arts, human rights and democracy, photography, Dabka dancing, music, English, Palestinian culture & History, Refugee Rights etc.

Since 2005 Lajee has been working with artist Rich Wiles on a series of photography projects. The Palestinian Cultural Centre in London and some UK schools have invited Lajee to bring a group of 15 children and 5 adults to the UK in June. This would coincide with Refugee Week. The party would include the young people's dance troupe and photographic artists. They would run workshops and show film and mount exhibitions of their work, visiting schools and holding other gatherings. The visit is expected to commence on June 15th and last for some 16days. In addition to London, invitations have been received from Leicester and Hull so far, to share their skills and work.

Rich Wiles is busy arranging the itinerary and funds for the visit. It occurred to me that Ashram may like to consider contributing to this project. Lajee do have other projects of course, but this is their current priority. I intend to raise this at our Community Meeting in May at Castleton and hope that you will give it your careful consideration leading to your support for my proposal.

Thank you for considering this.

Graham Hawley

News from Rob Cloke and Familia


Ram Prasad's Story

Ram Prasad was born in Nepal, youngest of 5 children. His family was quite well off and well educated. He recalls the luxuries he took for granted as he stumbled his way lazily and mischievously through his primary school years (Grinning, he exclaims "I was so bad").

When he was about ten years old everything changed overnight for Ram Prasad. His parents were killed in a road accident. He was devastated and, too young to cope with his feelings, he ran away. He took to wandering in the hills, scavenging what food he could. Eventually he inhabited one of many caves in a hillside. He was discovered there by a Hindu holy man who, on hearing his story, asked him to be his attendant. Ram Prasad lived in this cave for 7 years, attending to the needs of his guardian who he grew to respect greatly. The holy man used to give him spiritual advice but was unable to provide him with an education that would prepare him for life in the world.

Ram Prasad's life changed dramatically again when a Canadian traveller, visiting the caves, got talking to him. He asked him if he would like to go back to school. Ram Prasad jumped at the chance and the traveller got him admitted in a good school in the Himalayan foothills. There was a big drawback however. The language spoken by the teachers was English and all his classmates, as well as being several years younger than Ram Prasad, spoke Bengali. He spoke neither of these languages. (Imagine how you would cope in this situation).































So there he was, a real misfit, in a foreign country, back in a classroom after 7 years, unable to communicate, still grieving. He struggled to adjust and would get frustrated and angry when his teachers scolded him for his mistakes. In his half-yearly exams he averaged less than 10% across all subjects. On top of all his other obstacles he now felt ashamed of being "stupid". At this point he could well have headed back to his dark cave in the hills but instead he remembered the kindness of his sponsor and galvanized himself to do better. Determined to do better, he studied day and night ("I worked so very hard"). In his end of year exams Ram Prasad averaged just short of 90%.

These days, within 2 years of college, Ram Prasad is in his early twenties. He is smart-looking, a fluent English speaker, respectful and fun-loving. He is the captain of his school, popular with his mates and pride of his teachers. He remains dependent on the support of his sponsor. He is still fiercely determined to make something of his life. When I talked to Ram Prasad about Familia tears came to his eyes. I asked him if he was sad because this reminded him of his own loss. He said he wasn't sad, he was very happy to think that such a place existed for children in his situation.

As I have reflected on the inspirational story of Ram Prasad, I marvel at the courage and tenacity he has shown in the face of great misfortune and desperation, to take the opportunity to transform his life so that he can be of benefit to society. I also reflect on the open handed generosity and compassion of those who have supported him. I rejoice in the acts of those who are prepared to step outside their own concerns (their own network, social status, nationality, religion) in order to respond to those in need. If we are really to be followers of a spiritual path, surely we sometimes have to rise above social conventions and embrace more noble values - love, compassion, patience, humility, understanding. And sometimes this will set us at odds with the status quo. Maybe this is a measure of progress. Jesus, the Buddha and others, in teaching such qualities, inevitably became a thorn in the side of the established rulers - priests, kings, politicians, emperors. Often the most political action we can take is to do nothing in order to avoid controversy, bury our heads, keep things comfortable.

If a Ram Prasad was to turn up at our front door or in our church hall, how would we respond? (You never know it might just happen.) May we have the courage to truly follow the examples of those we worship rather than allow our responses to be dictated by the norms of the world. May we have the compassion that is needed to transform suffering in ourselves, our neighbours, our churches, our communities, our world.

Book Review by Graham Hawley

"Gathered & Scattered" edit. N.Paynter (Wildgoose Publications) Pbk £11.99 ISBN 978-1-905010-34-9

This is a collection of daily readings for a four month period from a wide range of contributors within The lona Community, including: John L. Bell, Ian M. Fraser, Kathy Galloway, and Jan Sutch Pickard et al. The purpose of the book is said to be that: "These prayers, poems, articles and liturgies can be used for group or individual reflection and are intended to inspire positive action and change in our lives." The subjects covered, to name but some, are: Justice & Peace, Poverty, Social Action, Worship, Healing, Community, Women, Pilgrimage, Commitment, Liturgies, Sexuality, and Hospitality. All issues that engage us in Ashram in varying ways.

What I appreciate about the book is its adaptability. You can use it systematically or dip into it at will for reflection on particular subjects. The quality of the material rarely fails to stimulate and focus on critical questions. It is a useful resource for those of us in Ashram to promote interaction with the material and encourage and challenge us as we journey on our pilgrimage. I am happy to commend this book and encourage you to buy it.

































- From the October 2008 Weekend


Gradual build up of personal networks

Working with different faiths

Comments Eurig Scandrett

1. Fragility of the Ashram -what makes it what it is? Vulnerability, hanging on the edge.

2. Mutuality rather than big projects -support our own or a small projects. If we grew too big would want to split but we're also getting older do we need to replace folk?

3. Does it matter if Ashram were to come to an end? - It doesn't have to last for ever. We don't want to be a 'facebook' community. Ashram might provide a structure for inspiration or catalyst for energising. Discernment role for Ashram. We can't control what people are inspired to do - we can only offer it.

4. Can we be a community with out a project? Do we have a project? Do we need one to remind us what we're about? Is mutuality enough? Cf. Ashram and Iona, which has music and romantic island as well as radical roots!

5.             Ashram spirituality rooted in English cities. Difficult to understand what is going on in English cities. Radical changes in the English cities

Poverty is differently distributed

Loss of mass working class industry


Any Ashram member should be able to ask the Ashram Community to support any political    or social action in which he/she is involved.


Ashram could be a growing alliance of local projects/shops/centres with residence geared to local Branches' missions and members.





































Here are some thoughts on the weekend meeting on 'Vision', arising from my work on a book I am writing, 'Exploring the Future'

There are four worldwide problems that have to be considered, they are war, poverty, resources and global heat. They could form four sessions at the weekend. Here are brief notes on each.

WAR. The world has reached a stage where war is no longer effective in achieving the rewards intended by the war­maker. (Rupert Smith. 'The Utility of Force'). One aspect of this is the impossibility of force or arms against a comparatively weak nation. (Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine). The resort by the weak to guerrilla warfare can defeat the mightiest state machine. Further, war today is set to kill non-combatants, especially women and children. War does not solve problems. It creates more wars, which interact on world resources and city infrastructures to create devastation and destroy cultures.

POVERTY. This includes population growth, which is increasing (with poverty) and is out of control. In turn this causes forced immigration where land cannot support more people, with impacts on the land to where the immigrants move. There is mounting poverty too, in

developed countries, as the gap between rich and poor grows larger. The answer to the first is not aid, but fair trade, and more importantly, the education of women to at least further education levels, and the free supply of birth control methods. World poverty arises from low living standards with no way of raising them. Note that Iran has reduced its fertility rate from 6.5 children per woman in 1975-80, to 2.1 in 2000-05. (New Internationalist, March 07).

RESOURCES . The Club of Rome first alerted the world to the exhaustion of the world's resources in 1972 (The Limits of Growth), with 3 or 4 updates since. The rich world is able to monopolise the resources it wants, so denying them to the poor world. Oil is the most obvious resource which is responsible for war to control the oil deposits, (Iraq, Iran), but other resources such as land and water are already the cause of tension, leading to conflict. Food is another essential which is likely to become scarcer as oil, which sustains agriculture in its supply of fertilizers and weed suppressants, becomes too expensive, thereby requiring more land for post-industrialization ('One Planet Agriculture' Soil Association).



Whatever its causes whether it be from human production of carbon or a natural phenomenon (as it has



























in the past), is a different category from the others because we know it is happening, we cannot stop its progress but we can prepare for its consequences. The present majority assumption that it is a product of industrialisation means that we shall have better insulated housing, alternative means of energy production with restraint on the use of carbon. The consequence is a world of different climates, some never before experienced in human history, with different plant and animal environments. It is expected to mean drought and famine, raised sea levels and inundation of low lying land, accelerating immigration.

These are what I see as the problems.

The vision might be to accommodate these threats in a culture, which is an advance of what we have. My entity for considering this is the regional city, which is growing worldwide without a concept of its future. Some points.

* The city must contract.

* Motorcar transport must be reduced in favour of a fine public transport system.

* Land freed from motorcar use should be given over to food production.

* Non-industrial agriculture will replace the present oil-dependant agriculture. This will be around and filter through cities as in city farms.

* Non-industrial agriculture is labour intensive. The present 1 % of working population involved may increase up to 20% in future, living in small towns in the Countryside.


* The form of the city will change as a result of this, consisting of a number of clusters of high density, mixed uses, well insulated and self-powered, constructed like a cruise ship (but not in that form) connected to other clusters by rapid transport.

* The clusters will be traversed by bicycles, foot, moving pathways, lifts, escalators etc, but excluding the motorcar.

* The transformation will be gradual over the century, leading to the sustainable city. Ditto in the poor world with provision for aided self-build by the deprived.

All this assumes a change in human cultures. This is another subject, the major factors of which are:

There must be a shift to political participation that is a wider involvement of the public in decision-making.

Women will be acknowledged as the force for peace and change because of their inherent initiative for caring. They will participate in all fields as equals in every way to men,

The culture of learning will supersede that of the accumulation of wealth.

These are very brief thoughts, which may give you starting points. Or you may have some very different ideas. For the organization of the weekend it might be suitable to hold four sessions by different people to outline the problems, with the whole meeting in session to formulate the vision. It might be useful to get the views of other members. Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005


New Roots cake baked by Janice
































This January I went back to India with my brother and his wife for the first time since leaving in 1948 - 59 years ago. I was 14 and had lived there from birth (apart from a spell back in Ireland) as Dad was a Methodist missionary.


It was absolutely thrilling. Much has changed but even more remains the same - the churches, the house where I lived.


The churches are quite something.they built huge English Cathedral type buildings but in two different small towns where we had been they were now getting 3000 on a Sunday and building another huge church alongside! And Dad's photo as a young man was in 2 vestries! So some legacy!


This photograph is of a project which thrilled us where they are creating a hostel for orphan girls - and have a long way to go. So our Wider Service Fund has agreed to support that. The girls sang and danced for me and I sang a Telegu hymn for them, and all joined in!


Then we also went south to the Niligri Hills where I had been at Boarding School. Also little changed and thrilling to me.


Enough - no room to write of my reaction to wider India. I have a diary with lots of photographs which I will bring to Castleton weekend.


                Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005






Thanks Methodist Recorder also to Diggers and Dreamers for the pieces on pages 11 and 12, by kind permission


Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

copies £2.50 or 6 for £10 post free


































In the year of the 40th anniversary of the formation of the "Ashram Community, John Vincent examines the experience of ...

Being Methodist and Ashram

THE Ashram Community is 40 years old this year. So 70 of its present members and 50 associates returned for a spe­cial weekend at Cliff confer­ence centre, where many of its twice-yearly gatherings have taken place.

Fifty people came together for a conference on "Living and Surviving in Methodism Today" at the Champ ness Hall, Rochdale, in September 1967, and decided to hold "Methodist pay Ashrams", which became weekends in 1969. The name 'Ashram" we got from Methodist E Stanley Jones and seemed odd and confusing (or intriguing?) enough as title for the Ashram Community Trust, which we formed in 1969.


Ashram has grown more ecumenical since 1967, but

its life and very existence poses a continuing question for Methodists. Put simply, the question is: Does  extra­denominational or para­Church movement like Ashram continue some of the vital elements in Methodism which have been lost to us by our becoming a denomina­tion like the others? Sixty Methodists are today in Ash­ram - including five pres­byters, three deacons and six local preachers. Do we have some useful experience to report?

The case is not difficult to understand. Methodism be­gan as a "religious society", consisting of people for whom membership of a Methodist society would be a "second membership" (Mark Gibb's term) alongside their (mainly Anglican) Church membership.. John Wesley urged his members to use the sacramental ministry of the parish churches and not to separate themselves from it, however much they might be tempted to do.

Our experience in the Ashram Community has been similar. Our present members are often deeply committed to local churches, but use

Ashram for forms or aspects of Christianity which seem to be difficult for local denomi­nations to get into - as did the Methodists in Wesley's day.

This seems to be so in at least five ways:

Meetings in homes: "The house" is the place for the pri­vate instruction of the disci­ples in· the Gospels. Meetings' in homes continued through­out the life of the early Church recorded in Acts and the Epistles.

" The early' Methodists also met in each other's homes, rather than religious buildings, unless they needed a larger room, in which case they used all kinds of build­ings. Ashram members simi­larly meet in each other's homes (in area branches) or in their community houses and projects buildings (through the years, 12 have existed, with:6v~today). "

Finance for special needs:

The early Christians raised a "collection" to support the widows in the Jerusalem church, but otherwise gave each other money only for specific needs, like missionary journeys, members in prison or other needs.

Similarly, the. early Meth­odist class had members who gave at least a penny a week, basically for poor members and ministry to the poor, and then later contributions to the travelling preachers'. needs. Buildings needed special giv­ing from those who could afford it. Ashram has a basic

. general fund, a day's pay year­ly for some outside project, plus a Widet Setvice Fund and a Community Projects Fund, and then special giving or loans for buildings or larg­er projects.


Unpaid volunteer leader­ship: Jesus and his disciples were unpaid and depended on the hospitality and sup­port of sympathizers - as did Paul, who boasted about his unpaid status.

Wesley's travelling preach-

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

• The Burngreave Ashram group at the 40th anniversary cele­bration meeting held earlier this year at Cliff College.



ers received an allowance to cover their expenses, though John Wesley did not. Sim­ilarly, I was told in 1950 that ministers received an allow­ance rather than a salaty. Ashram has no paid person­nel, except for a part-time co­ordinator . for Burngreave Ashram and New Roots, who also helps with general com­munity administration, whi­ch is otherwise shared by 12 officers and secretaries and six rotating trustees.

Projects of Mission: Jesus saw his mission as proclaim­ing and acting out the pres­ence and practice of God's Kingdom here on earth. Ap­ostles and Paul basically car­ried on this mission of declar­ing and embodying the pres­ence and activity of God on

earth.                        .

John Wesley's mission was to go to "all" and especially to the poor and those excluded by the Church of the time. Ashram Community has started and maintained mis­sion projects and community houses in inner-city neighbourhoods from which de­nominations have often with­drawn.

Theology from experience and action: Jesus taught what he practised and used "acted' parables". Jesus, in John's Gospel, asks people to trust in him because of what he is doing. Paul proclaims a life of trusting God - living by faith, which he calls "my Gospel" ­while respecting others.

Wesley proclaimed "what we have felt and seen". His theology was necessitated by what had been happening. Ashram has developed a style of liberation theology consis­tent with and derivative from its presence and ministry in inner city areas, and also relat­ed to its own members, who share a liberation-style theolo­gy.


Methodists in Ashram con­tinue to feel that some of the things we are and do should make a lot of sense to all Methodists, especially to those who fear that more conven­tional "churchy" concerns tend to take up so much att­ention in our contemporary denominational life.

This year is also the year of Primitive Methodism's origin an.d the question naturally arises as to whether such char­acteristics belong to what John Wesley called "Primitive Christianity" which formed the theme for the Blackpool Conferen'ce Colloquium, (Recorder, August 2).

Many today call Ashram a "Fresh Expressions" before its time. Are there lessons for our Methodist future here?

• The Rev Dr "John Vincent, a former President of the Con­ference, is honorary leader of the Ashram Community. The free Ashram 2007 pack is available from Burngreave Ashram, 84 Spital Hill, Sheffield S4 7LE.
























































Ashram Community Trust


May 2008

Editor - Phillippa Thompson - Community Office, 178 Abbeyfield Rd. Sheffield S4 7 AY

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005



Welcome to this Spring Edition of ACT Together,



If there are issues you wish to be included please email me via ACT address, ashramcommunity@hotmail.com  Next Issue OCT 2008 Contributions via email or post by SEP 1st 2008 Editor - Pippa Thompson


Community news & dates                         1-4

A Project for us to support                      5

News from Familia                                  5-6

Book review                                            6

Community Visioning                             7-9

Mission in India                                      10

Being Methodist & Ashram                     1 I

Diggers & Dreamers                                12



is a Registered Charity with the charity commissioners Charitable Co. 1099164


In September 2007 New Roots was 20 years old! We all find it a bit amazing. Except for one short period when we employed someone, everyone has been a volunteer. And what a succession of wonderful people we've had!

It has been such a worthwhile project and so enormously rewarding for me. We are so much a part of that area and so much respected by so many people for what we stand for and represent.

On Saturday the 1st of December we had a special birthday meal at which there were 45 people, a number of them past volunteers. And we shared together thoughts about those years and what New Roots has meant to us.                   Grace Vincent