On the last day of September a group of us from Axmouth and Uplyme Churches met in the warm afternoon sunshine at Lee Abbey for a ‘Narnia’ weekend. Those of us who had never been before weren’t sure what to expect of this ecumenical Christian community. Would it be welcoming? Would there be a lot of evangelical or charismatic religious eccentrics?
We needn’t have worried. Everyone we met was friendly and kind and unthreatening. We were quickly made welcome and shown to our rooms. Afterwards we compared notes. How was it that Rose had got a room in the quiet area with a view over the sea while Elisabeth, Mary and I had a view over the scaffolding and car park? But we accepted this as being all part of God’s plan for the weekend, and gathered in the dining room for an evening meal.
Lee Abbey has a few permanent staff who are supplemented by young people from many nationalities. They come to Lee Abbey to learn English and to enjoy the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity and to worship in a variety of ways, quietly or with a lively group of musicians accompanying their praise. Two students sat with us at the head of each table and served the meal, talking to us politely, to get to know us, and to practise their language skills.
As this weekend had a Narnia theme we were treated to a series of excellent, well researched and academic talks by Dr Michael Ward, an authority on the C.S.Lewis, who had presented the BBC TV documentary on the Narnia Code.
Dr Ward reminded us that the planets were not just lumps of rocks or balls of gas spinning in space but that they were also reflections of the Creator and sang out the glory of God. But the very sun which he was extolling was becoming his competitor and was luring us outside. We longed to step onto the beautiful green lawns and explore the little cove in the distance below the abbey. Some of us gave in and ventured outside. So we found ourselves missing one or two sessions as we were drawn to walk around the grounds and down to the beach.
Still on the last day we all gathered for a large communion service, joined by all the children who had been kept occupied throughout the weekend by helpers, and who had enjoyed many activities, including a walk in the dark to the dancing lawn.
As we passed the bread and wine to our neighbours we felt we were part of a community, part of the body of Christ in a glorious part of Devon- and we could only rejoice at all God’s blessings.