Charity Newsletter December 2022

Hello everyone

Welcome to HOD Charity’s annual newsletter. We begin with some personal reflections, then updates from some areas of our work and ministry, followed by dates in the diary for 2023, and a reminder of ways you can help if you are in a position to.

We hope that you have experienced the Lord’s goodness in your life over the last year, and we pray that you enjoy and are blessed by how He has been leading us over the last year.

“Gratitude and Joy”

Lynda Watson

The two words “Gratitude” and “Joy” have been very important for me over recent months. Two other words accompanying them are “in everything” and “always”!  Really? These instructions are surely not realistic.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:18

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

The texts were not written by someone living in luxury and ease, with every earthly reason to be grateful and full of joy, but by St Paul. They challenge us because he also wrote “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep” 2 Cor. 11:25.

Life is full of many forms of suffering and even if our own lives seem comfortable at present, we can’t help but grieve and suffer for others. To be a follower of Christ doesn’t exclude following on the road of Calvary, whatever that road looks like for each of us. The conviction that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is the truth enabling us to give thanks and rejoice. It is the foundation of our faith and hope.  

We are grateful for our Chapel at HOD, a special place where we can pray and receive grace to live with gratitude and joy, as witnesses to the Love of God, wherever we are. We pray for the Holy Spirit to fill the lives of all followers of Jesus, and for the church to become a bright light in a dark world.

For the Joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross…..
Hebrews 12:2

“Letting Go”

Klara Smrčinova

As some of you will know I am currently living in my homeland, Czech Republic, and working as a nurse in a mobile hospice team. Again and again I walk with people, young and old, as they are learning to “let go”. Caring relatives letting go of their beloved, the dying gradually letting go of independence, and finally of earthly life itself. 

What a struggle it is to let go!  What beauty, when holding on gives way to peace!  I will always remember a sixteen year old granddaughter, whose grandad had just peacefully died. Teary eyed she said smiling: “I didn’t know dying can be so beautiful”.

May we all know the peace that comes when we let go and let God…

Our Response to the Ukraine Crisis

Silvie Jelinkova

(In March Silvie wrote a blog post about Ukraine).

One of our callings at HOD is to welcome and care for the orphans. Who is “an orphan”? Not necessarily a child without parents. An orphan is anyone who needs holding and support in becoming who they are meant to be in Christ. An orphan needs love. Many of us have been there and we have received help from other Christians who loved us, held us and helped us along the journey.

During this last year we have felt this calling even more, especially when we were faced with the need for God’s love in so many different people. Of course, we can’t do everything, but welcoming, serving, holding in love and prayer, is what we try to offer to those in need who come through the doors of our lives. Among these have been young people, already deeply hurt or challenged with the difficulties in the modern world. Others have been lonely and longing for friendship. And this year, of course, those coming from the war-torn country that everyone reached out to this year – Ukraine.

When the war in Ukraine started, we prepared to receive anyone from there needing a shelter here at HOD. Apart from prayer and some financial support, our response to this deeply sad and distressing situation of war was to open our doors and offer what we could, when we received specific requests from people in need, through the ENC (European Network of Communities) which we are part of. We made a decision that we would set aside some of our guest accommodation to provide a safe space for whoever might come.

Since July we have hosted two young women and helped them during their stay towards independence. However, another family of a mother with two children from Western Ukraine have needed more help and holding in love. The situation for this family is hard, learning English, in a foreign country with two dependent children. Please join us in praying that God’s plan for their lives comes into reality more and more.

Seeing the everyday terrible news from the war in Ukraine, our hearts continue to break for that country and its people. This conflict has also made the war somehow very close and real for us. So our eyes have now opened even more to others in similar situations, who perhaps don’t get as much help and support in this country as the Ukrainians. We think of Afghans, Syrian refugees, and others from many places of conflict and poverty, and we are seeking the Lord’s will and His leading on how we could be of help.


John Trimming

Our Vision quotes Isaiah 56:7, “My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations”. Prayer is the first of our community Charisms (with Hospitality and Ecumenism), and the first of five purposes of Community which we identified in 2018: Prayer, Belonging, Discipleship, Service and Mission. Our prayer life is the foundation of all we do in the Charity and the community, as we intercede for the church and the world at this turbulent time, and offer space and events supportive of prayer and the Christian life.

Community’s prayer life combines many elements from different traditions. Morning prayers and our Fellowship Friday nights are two key elements which offer room for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and for God to speak to us, in addition to praise, worship, adoration and intercession.

Among the prophetic themes recurring often in Prayers this year has been the theme of “rootedness”. Some trees cut almost to the ground can sprout back from nothing but the stump – as happened to this tree in my garden this year – provided the roots are strong. The prophetic word was that it was Spiritual Roots that mattered – for each and all of us to be rooted, grounded and growing in the Lord, and perhaps sometimes not to judge too much by what is visible above the surface!  

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…”  Eph. 3: 17-18

Our connections with the wider body of Christ continue in many ways. As HOD is ecumenical, members attend various local churches and take part in church life. Some of us have been invited to give teachings to local churches and ministries, or to serve in roles within the European Network of Communities and the Charis Diocesan Service Committee.

Our Fellowship meetings are on most First Fridays of the Year, advertised beforehand on our Calendar of Events and our Facebook page; since we last wrote we have welcomed Yoofi Clarke, Rev David Cooke and Fr Simon Penhalagan as invited speakers. Speakers for our Discipleship Course and Gateway 2022 included Pippa Baker and Daniella Stephens. Community speakers also contributed reflections and teachings throughout the year. Recordings of some of these talks are available on our YouTube channel.

In many more “hidden” ways we hope we have been a blessing in 2022 to all our guests, disciples, friends and visitors, in whatever way we have connected with them. Again this year we have seen lives brightened by God’s blessing among us, as He works in very different ways in each one, usually in just the ordinary things.

If you have a particular need for prayer, please contact us and we will pray for you. We thank you all for your continued prayer for us.


Gaetana Trimming

Our Discipleship Course has been in place for many years, helping young people aged 18-30. Having gone through the pandemic, we recognised that this was one of our ministries that needed a change, and we needed to discover how the Lord wanted us to move forward. At the beginning of September 2021 our first young person came to live with us till January 2022. It was a different kind of discipleship training: not so much a regular program of teachings, etc, but more an experience of everyday life together, and as always, with a focus on developing personal faith. Others followed and we settled into a different way of hosting these young souls. We carry every single one of them in our prayers and in our hearts, and although saying goodbye to them is never easy, there is great joy knowing that the Lord has used our poverty to bless these very precious young lives.

Gateway Conference 2022

Chiara Pelazza

After two years without our usual summer conference for young people (due to COVID), in 2022 we finally welcomed them back. What a joy!  From 18th -31st July, we held our Gateway Conference 2022 and had two amazing weeks of friendship, worship, laughter, going deeper with the Lord, and much more. Personally, I felt blessed by the presence of each of these young people. It was a privilege to watch them rediscover how much the Lord loves them after a year of hard university studies. It is a privilege to listen to their stories and struggles and to share how Jesus has always been faithful to me. We had lovely speakers who came to share their love for the Lord and their knowledge of the scripture with us, including Daniella Stephens, Pippa Baker, Esther Price, and Brother Loarne Ferguson.

My desire is that the flame that was lit during these two weeks will keep burning in the months to come, that the seeds that have been planted will produce good fruit.

ENC Next Gen

Chiara Pelazza

HOD is part of the European Network of Communities (ENC), and the communities in ENC have formed ENC Next Gen as an associated Youth Movement, which I am blessed to be working with on behalf of HOD. Next Gen connects youth from different parts of Europe. I am a member of the core which seeks to help to equip our young people to live a life according to the Gospel.

The young people meet online every second month, hosted by a different ENC community organising the worship, a talk and small groups for discussion groups. HOD hosted this meeting in October.

Every two years, ENC Next Gen hosts a conference, and this summer, around 40 young people gathered in Poland for a week. In August 2023, ENC Youth plans to gather as many young people as possible to make the journey to part in World Youth Day in Lisbon.

Being part of NextGen is like being part of another family. Although I haven’t met many of them in person, we all feel very much connected with each other by journeying with the young people of each ENC community.

News from the Retreat Centre

Lynda Watson

In our last newsletter we said that before the Covid pandemic was ever heard of, we had already decided to convert our accommodation to include self-catering facilities in the Retreat House, and this option became available to our guests in August 2020. A kitchen for self-catering had already been installed in the Cottage. This change proved to be very providential under the circumstances!

The self-catering facilities have been welcomed by many, for the flexibility they give. Although most of our guests join us as self-catering for retreats, rest and quiet, individually, as families, or in small groups, we have occasionally catered for larger groups by special arrangement. We love being able to offer the quiet space available at HOD, our home, and look forward to welcoming many more friends, whether we already know you, or if you are still a stranger yet to become a friend!

The community has continued to host day events for quiet and prayer. Creative retreat days are an invitation to use art, poetry, pottery or simply to sit or walk in the grounds and gardens, reflecting on the beauty in nature which reflects the beauty of our wonderful Creator God. There have also been days of reading and meditating on Scripture, “Hearing the Still Small Voice of God”, and a weekend retreat on “Narnia, Middle Earth and God’s Creation”. These days will continue in 2023 (see our website Calendar), along with other events and opportunities to “come away” with Jesus to find help and strength for everyday life. 

A visit to Alabaré

Gaetana Trimming

It was really wonderful for Silvie and I to visit John and Lee Proctor of the Alabaré community in Salisbury last June. John is one of the trustees of our Charity and also a member of the ENC Council. Together with his wife Lee, he founded the Alabaré Community. They started as a charity supporting homeless adults. They now care for the disabled, veterans and people with learning difficulties. We were very blessed to see what the Lord can do with a “Yes”!

Volunteer days, helping with our Gardens and the Plot 

Andy Swinford

A personal reflection from Andy Swinford on his experience of helping regularly as a volunteer on the Plot, in the HOD gardens and as our beekeeper

Hurrahing in Harvest!

In this season of harvest we’re rejoicing at HOD in the fruitfulness of the earth and all the Lord’s goodness to us. His faithfulness is shown in the rainbow of produce we’ve gathered from the re-established plot this autumn: tomatoes, radishes, peppers, chillies, rhubarb, carrot, swede, butternut squash, sweetcorn, potato, parsnip, onions, garlic, celeriac, spring onions, courgettes, celery, lettuce, mangetout, French beans, runner beans, cucumber, swiss chard, purple sprouting, beetroot, and aubergine. As well as that of course we’ve had a superabundance of apples, blackberries, pears, and grapes. 

This has all been possible thanks to the unstinting efforts of supporters and volunteers who regularly turn up from near and far, to join community members with their work on the plot and in the Gardens.

“Hurrahing in Harvest’ indeed, as the poet Hopkins wrote: “Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise Around… I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes, Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour.’

Honey Report

Andy Swinford


In January our beehives were moved into their new luxury accommodation in the Apiary constructed by Brother Loarne and the team (see our Blog post from 2022). Since then it’s been an eventful bee season and the plot has become a land flowing with honey, if not milk. We have harvested 70kg (that’s about 150 large jars), including a good crop of soft-set spring honey. At an impromptu tasting of three straight-from-the-hive honeys, the HOD summer honey was thought to have a particularly delicate and delicious taste!

I have conducted major heart surgery on some of the hives to clean things up and get them to a place where they should romp away next season. Along the way I’ve made some dire mistakes and been on a steep learning curve. Trouble is, the bees are masters of the unexpected, as for example when they created masses of amazing wild comb in the roof of a hive instead of on the new frames I had so generously given them.

A colony which, for reasons best known to themselves, turned aggressive over the summer has been re-queened with a “Buckfast” queen. This is a strain developed by Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey in Devon to be gentle, prolific, and produce mega amounts of honey. Here’s hoping. Another colony mysteriously vanished while I was away on holiday, every cell cleaned out, presumably a victim of robbing by wasps. There were a few dismembered bodies left on the hive floor.

The bees have been busy on the borage and clover in the new wild flower meadow beyond the plot, which provided late summer forage when other sources of nectar and pollen were drying up. Now it’s all about making sure they have enough stores to keep them going through the winter.

It was a delight during the Gateway conference 2022 to take small groups of young people into the enclosure to observe the bees and their nests at close quarters. The honeybees never cease to amaze in their complexity, resilience and ingenuity. They are to us a sign of plenty and of hope.

My child, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, you will find a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
(Proverbs 24.13-4)

Prison Ministry

Tom Gorman

For many years teams from the Community have visited local prisons, including Long Lartin maximum security prison, Eastwood Park Ladies Prison, Bristol Prison and the Open Prison at Leyhill. Sadly, the “Covid” restrictions preventing group visits to Prisons, imposed over 2 years ago, have not yet been lifted. Our visits will start again when the way is open.

The Prison Fellowship at HOD

The Prison Fellowship is a national ecumenical Prayer Fellowship that has been active in most prisons for the last 30 years. The Long Lartin PF Group that meets monthly at HOD has been active since then. Normally one of the Prison Chaplains comes to meetings.

Every year the team sends Christmas presents to the children of the men in Long Lartin, including a personal greeting from their dads, who choose the presents they want us to send. Over the years we’ve built up contacts with Christian churches from every denomination, and we never fail to raise enough money to pay for the presents and postage in this country and abroad and in the last couple of years to send presents to the children of the prisoners in the Bristol area. “Wrapping Day” this year is on December the 7th in the dining room. 

Men’s Ministry at HOD 

Tom Gorman

Following COVID we were unable for a while to hold Men’s Breakfasts or Men’s Days at HOD, but this gave rise to a weekly Prayer meeting on Saturday mornings on Zoom which keeps many of us in close touch. Some of the guys joining this meeting are local but many come from all over the country. Two of our members now lead monthly open air Praise sessions on Saturday afternoons in Tewkesbury. 

When we are able to meet again in person we will advertise the Men’s events on the HOD website  Calendar. Please contact us if you would like to know more about the Zoom meeting or our future events.

Ecology and Faith

Silvie Jelinkova

During this last year I have become increasingly interested in ‘Eco’ living and sustainability. I have learnt a lot about many companies and products and about what is ecological and ethical, as well as what is nothing more than so called “greenwash”.

Seven years ago, Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si” invited all Christians, in fact all people everywhere, to undergo an “ecological conversion”. I believe that we at HOD have now set off on this journey and we want to do our best in this environmental call. We can see that our daily lives and our vision for our future can’t be separated from the global perspective – from how our actions and behaviour impact the earth, and ultimately the poor. Caring for the environment is part of being Christian. To be “ecological” doesn’t mean to love nature and animals more than people. On the contrary, to help the environment is to help the people who rely on it.

I enjoy being on this journey of ecological conversion. There are always new challenges, and areas we know we could improve in, but a lot of little steps that make a difference. It’s a journey of realising how simple life could be (such as when you decide rather NOT to have something where there is no sustainable option) and rediscovering how beautiful nature around us still is. We have had so much joy from all the produce we grew this year and all the home-made food and preserves we prepared. We hope to do more of that!

About a year ago I started using a very helpful guide to ethical and ecological shopping. Now, most of our shopping is done more locally when we can (vegetable, fruit, eggs etc., unless we have our own!), or in supermarket chains that care a bit more for people and the environment than others. Our coffee and cocoa come from sources that are proved to be fair to the workers, avoiding slave and child labour. And our attitude to waste is now, where possible, to “re-use’ and “reduce’, rather than just “recycle’.

There is so much more awaiting us on this journey. One of our next aims is to move towards renewable energy, and we are taking steps to improve our energy efficiency with better insulation.  

Long term there is so much potential through the land the Lord has given us. We have set aside space for a meadow to sustain our bees and for its balanced ecosystem. Other plans for the future include an edible forest. It is very exciting!

If you want to know more about what we are doing and how, please, get in touch! If you would like to help us in any way – to advise, volunteer or to support us financially in our sustainability transformation, please, let us know!

How you can help…

John Trimming

We hope that this newsletter keeps you in touch with what we do through our registered Charity (charity number 1183268), which was founded in 1997 to support the Christian activities of the community. 

Online Donation

It wouldn’t be a charity newsletter if we didn’t mention the possibility of donating!  We are grateful for any donations to our Charity which will help to financially support the ministries of the community. Every contribution, large or small, will help our work, but we would be very grateful if you would consider making a regular donation if you are in a position to do so – thank you. Donations can be received through a simple and secure online donation form on our Website.

Our Supporters’ Group

In our Newsletter last year (online here), we wrote about our newly created Supporters’ group, which we set up in 2021 to support the Charity’s work. The group is for those who support us with regular donations, prayer or volunteering, and are in a position to do so. If you are not already a member, and are in a position to join, then the invitation is still there. Full details are on the Supporters’ group page on the website. It is simple to join as part of the online donation form mentioned above.

Thank you to everyone!

We thank God for all our many friends and the help and support we have received from you over the years. Every single one is a blessing from the Lord, in whatever way you are able to support us, whether by practical help, praying for us, or donating. Thank you!

 Be assured of our own prayers for all our friends, and we hope to see you if possible in 2023.

Coming up in 2023

Some dates are subject to confirmation. We will publish dates for invited speakers at our Friday Fellowship meetings as soon as possible. Please keep in touch by checking our Calendar of events on the website, or liking our Facebook Page to be notified about changes. 

Saturday 21st  Hearing the Still Small Voice of God
Wed. 1st Feb – Sun. 30th April  Discipleship Course 2023, Spring Term
Friday 3rd Friday Fellowship Meeting
Tuesday 14th  Seasons Creative Retreat Day – Winter
Friday 3rd  Friday Fellowship Meeting
Saturday 4th  Quiet day for Lent
Friday 24th – Sunday 26th  “Grace and Strength” Ladies’ Fitness and Faith Weekend 
Saturday 15th  Hearing the Still Small Voice of God
Friday 5th  Friday Fellowship Meeting
Tuesday 9th  Seasons Creative Retreat Day – Spring
Friday 19th – Sunday 21st  Narnia, Middle-Earth and the Way of Life
Thurs. 1st June- Sun. 6th August  Discipleship Course 2023, Summer Term
Friday 2nd Friday Fellowship Meeting
Saturday 3rd Hearing the Still Small Voice of God
Tuesday 4th Seasons Creative Retreat Day – Summer
Friday 7th Friday Fellowship Meeting
Mon. 24th July – Sun. 6th August  Gateway Summer Youth Conference 2023
Friday 8th Friday Fellowship Meeting
Saturday 16th Hearing the Still Small Voice of God
Sun 1st Oct.- Fri 15th December  Discipleship Course 2023, Autumn Term
Tuesday 3rd Seasons Creative Retreat Day – Autumn
Friday 6th Friday Fellowship Meeting
Saturday 21st Hearing the Still Small Voice of God
Friday 3rd Friday Fellowship Meeting 
Friday 1st Friday Fellowship Meeting
Saturday 2nd Quiet Day for Advent


Finally some photos from 2022, to remind you what beautiful things await you all here at HOD!  We would love to see you – please see the website Calendar for upcoming events; or contact us to book in as a guest in our Retreat Centre, or for details about coming as a Volunteer or Disciple


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