Sunday, 3 July 2016

Sharing the Love at Scargill by Clare Weiner aka Mari Howard

A note: 
I wrote this in honour of  the special ways the Scargill Community demonstrates the Christian meaning of ‘love’ in today’s world.  I wrote it a couple of weeks before the Referendum decided on “Brexit”, not in any way relating to that outcome. Some Christians are now stressing that we should move on, while expressing love to all around us. Others, whether Christians or not, are still grieving for the loss of working out the political problems while remaining in close relation to Europe. There is sadness about what is lost: there is no bitterness or anger. The future has been changed. ‘Moving on’ will take time. Loving is complex, love may be expressed, but not recognised. To show love may mean to act other than we want to, to allow to grieve, to be aware, and to accept differences at a deep level. 

The example of how the Scargill community live out ‘God’s Love’ in the actions of physical, emotional and mental caring remain deeply relevant to how we respect others’ reactions as well as others' nationalities and their opinions. So, here is a piece about how one (international) group shows a ‘Godly' love to the world, 'in spirit and in truth', written before events which may at present divide us. Loving is not easy  ...

The text below has not been changed in the light of "Brexit"...

Two Four Letter Words...

‘Never, ever, let me find you using ‘nice’ to describe anything in your written 
work!’ One of the first rules of writing we were taught in English at my school.  Along with this, we learned, ‘Don’t waste time reading Enid Blyton!’  
Looking down the drive, mist on the hills, Scargill

At the beginning of June a crowd of us ACW’s joined The Great Escape at Scargill, North Yorkshire, with Adrian and Bridget Plass and Tony Collins. Scargill is a very important place. It’s said to be where it’s safe to say dangerous things.

We had a very nice time. We loved it. More later.

So let’s talk about God’s Love

1971, getting over a broken relationship, my favourite go-to music was Joan Baez singing Love is Just a Four-Letter Word on a Dylan album. Dylan was not wrong. He described, with bitterness, the realisation of love as hormonal drive, dressed up in romance. As a verb, love’s multiple meanings work as well as nice the adverb. Mention God’s Love to those who may have been conned, abused, or simply not nurtured and it’s a non-starter. It’s a good feeling about nice food, great movies, moving music, fashionable clothes, interesting places … desirable guys who may or may not be nice.

Then someone talks about God's love ... a phrase that’s complicated by its apparent simplicity. And over-used by at least one vicar in a church near here. He means well, but … God’s Love. How’s the phrase being heard, for example, by those people who’ve arrived for a baptism, and who we’ll likely not see again? What does he mean?

Chapel window, at a safe place where love is lived
Sharing the love

Sharing the message, about God's love for the world, is Jesus’s command to the Apostles. Once the Holy Spirit had empowered them. But, ironically, Share the Love is as empty a phrase as it gets. A PR marketing phrase, jargon.

Scargill’s website banner headline reads Lives Shared, Lives Transformed. Sharing not love but lives. It’s eye-catching. So just another clever marketing phrase? 

But it is also true ...

So, here's the thing: how can a worn-out word (or world) regain truth?  There’s some apparently complicated teaching around truth, love, and knowing God. (For example, in John’s Gospel, and John’s Epistle…) How can that kind of love be communicated to the world? With love at about level with the usage of nice our teachers condemned, and where God’s name has become an acceptable swear word, how much is obvious about the difference when we add God to love?

The Community at Scargill works hard behind the scenes: in prayer, on team and community relationships, on keeping high standards of housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, maintaining the beauty of the gardens.
Barbecue evening meal, fun, well cooked, delicious 

Each arriving guest is welcomed. It all demonstrates they take sharing God’s love as something they live, they act it out.  This is the Scargill magic.  And like Narnia’s, this magic points to something beyond itself. An alternative reality. The reality of living in relationship with God. It takes hard work, no only spiritual but physical, to share this kind of love. And fun: fun is written into the Scargill commitment. It takes living out generosity, in a world sad enough to prefer to re-define ‘altruism’ as selfishness.

The impact of a Scargill weekend is holistic, a balance of good hospitality, good teaching, fun and human warmth. Scargill guests on The Great Escape experienced the reality.

Sharing dangerous things...
A session with Adrian

A discussion on swearing in novels was conducted by Adrian and Bridget with tact and gentleness. I think it ended with no conclusions or hard and fast rules. That didn’t matter: we shared ideas, dangerous or otherwise, explored under expert guidance, listened to others we might not agree with. We pondered why we didn’t and even whether we should. (If God’s love was demonstrated in Parliament, might public life run better?)

The walled garden: a great place to write assignments
People poured their lives into the writing assignments, and when they read them out to us all we laughed and cried along with them. We clapped and we nodded agreements. The plenary sessions were a safe place.

Worship at Scargill is simple and non-denominational. It’s heartfelt, it’s deep without being complicated, and it’s never boring. It’s inclusive, positive, thoughtful, and non-offensive. It makes you wonder why the church is so determined to wrangle over issues, forgets its message, and appears to be working to maintain divisions.

It's instinctive to look for love ... it's a responsibility to give it 

When Bridget asked us about our favourite stories as children, Enid Blyton’s adventure books came near top of the list – closely followed by Chalet School, and for some whose childhood was in the 1960s, by the Lone Ranger on black and white TV … Of course, lots of us also mentioned Narnia… Not the high style, but the sense of security ...

The Scargill experience takes just a weekend ... Can we give what we promise when we talk about God's love being central to our daily faith?

What stories spoke to you as a child? Did they demonstrate a special magic form of love?

Mari Howard is presently struggling to write novel number three in the Mullins Family series – a grown-up family saga about contemporary professional families in our diverse society. She is also looking forward to becoming a granny for the first time. Her favourite children’s stories included Beatrix Potter’s books, Alice in Wonderland, Swallows and Amazons, and Ballet Shoes. She now especially enjoys novels set in other cultures and women's writing. It is just possible that novel no. 3 may end up as a 'YA'.


  1. Great post Clare. You have summed up the ethos of Scargill perfectly

  2. The word 'nice' has gone through so many permutations according to this entry from the etymological dictionary. I prefer its meaning of 'precise' and so I tell my students 'I'm allowed to write 'nice comparison' in the margin of your books but you're not allowed to say 'it was a nice meal.'

  3. Oops - here's the link

  4. My own mischievous version of the Scargill motto: 'Olives shared, olives transformed'! (I love it there really - we're going back as a family in August and again at New Year...)

  5. Interesting blog, Clare. It brought back a happy memory. I'm hoping to visit a friend who is part of the Scagill community, later this month. It's a peaceful, friendly, loving place.

  6. This morning after the service I was telling another ACW member about our weekend. Lovely to see your photos and read your post.
    I wasn't allowed to read Enid Blyton. I remember rebelling later and reading all her Adventure series! Sue

  7. Lovely thought provoking post Clare I think Scargill is magical. As were Enid Blyton's books. I loved them and recommend them to my pupils who also love them :)