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July 22 Action Card
The legacy of Yorkshire monasticism is rich and varied and by the end of the week our list of
what our society has received from the monasteries was long and challenging.  It included:
COMMUNITY; VOCATION; A BALANCED LIFE; EDUCATION;  MUSIC ARTS &CRAFTS; 
WOMEN’S MINISTRY; PARISH MINISTRY; PILGRIMAGE;  IRON WORKING; 
FARMING;  SHEEP FARMING; MONASTIC COMMUNITIES TODAY
Gervase Phinn spoke about education - the greatest gift we have received from the
monasteries.  He brought a wide selection of his books for us to peruse.  He gave us an
evening of amusing entertainment which was also full of wisdom.  A working life as a schools’
inspector in the Yorkshire Dales taught him that a good teacher listens and watches the
children and loves to learn throughout life.  A good teacher empathises with his or her
pupils/students and understands teaching as a way of life.
Steven Skinner also spoke about a way of life.  He introduced the benefits of achieving
monastic balance and harmony in our lives and talked about ways forward, including learning
from Eastern religions.  He referred to the ‘World Happiness Report’ which indicates that most
people would like a balanced life and that most people in Finland and Malta are successful in
enjoying this.   He looked at ways of reaching balance and of enabling others in the Western
Christian traditions, including mediation, healing ministries and in the Benedictine tradition. 
No-one could have presented the monastic way of life as adventurous, challenging and
sustainable as vividly and attractively as Mary Lewis did. She showed wonderful, inspirational
photographs of her journeys in search of early monasteries in the Hebrides which left everyone
asking how they might go there.
John Bennett introduced the Franciscans, mendicant friars who are always on the move and
who came to England before the death of Frances of Assisi.  John talked about our rich
inheritance from the Franciscans, including the Christmas crib, the valuing of children and
young people and love of the poor.
Farming was a major legacy which has come down to us from the monasteries.  We had two
presentations on farming. Stephen Ramsden introduced his farms on Middlesmoor at the top of
Nidderdale, and we enjoyed an afternoon visit.  We drove high up onto the moors and after
lunch in the churchyard with a wonderful view for miles around, we went even higher and
walked on the sheep and red grouse moorlands.  The road up was untarred and bumpy.  The
car drivers were challenged but successful and we all arrived back in the village safely.
The difficulties facing today’s farmers are hard to overcome.  The biggest difficulty is climate
changeThe challenge is to care for the environment, to produce more food and to maintain
the rural population.
It is a daunting challenge. Stephen Ramsden has written a piece for the Autumn magazine in
which he also refers to another challenge - the great gulf between rural and urban Britain and
how therefore to bring new people into farming.
We spent an evening with Stephen and John Dawson.  Stephen is a parish priest and John is a
farmer.  The brothers are both committed to keeping the rural communities alive by drawing
them into lively and committed parishes and by excellent and environmentally friendly farming. 
We saw photographs of parish life, we listened and we discussed how to be a farmer and an
environmentalist.  John talked about his role as a custodian, working to create a good future for
farming and for the country.  One important way forward is to nurture permanent pasture,
grazed and fertilised by cattle and sheep, thus keeping the carbon in the good, healthy soil.
In Christians Aware we plan future resources and events which emerge from our engaging and
compelling summer school.
Barbara Butler
Summer School Photos