Oh, the things you can learn!

Gwen came all the way from California to join us at Chateau Duffy – en route to another European adventure on the Camino:

This Easter at Chateau Duffy was a wonderful first experience! The mix of Americans and British folks was a beautiful thing. Oh, the things you can learn! Such as what “pants” means in the UK. But really…the space provided by this experience allowed everyone to be who they are and to be in the space they needed.

Gwen at work in the house

Gwen, hard at work in the house.

On this week long Easter adventure I expected to work hard and do some massage (and I did). I dug up some serious roots, and pick axed stones out of a 400yr old floor, built some scaffolding with two other ladies, and used a chisel to remove grout (pointing) around the rocks that the walls we built of, massaged some shoulders and backs and then spilled my life story in a way that shockingly quick with a few peeps….

The female scaffolding team

The all-female scaffolding team.

As a result I wanted to run and hide. The combination of the physical labor and relational stuff was a real healing mix. It was the perfect place and people for me. As the week progressed my heart opened the sharing was reciprocated and Chateau Duffy continued to provide a little piece of freedom.

The adventure did not stop. I jumped onto the Camino de Santiago not without incident… However, Chateau Duffy was still the perfect jump start the Camino process.

Thank you guys for being so transparent and giving me the space to do the same. That week was a great mix of people and could not have been better timing.

Gwen, Duffy & Sarah Gwen, Duffy & Sarah on the newly finished Mezzanine.


The Ballad of Trip Five

Full-time plumber and part-time poet Mike’s tribute to Chateau Duffy #5:

And so to France! The time had come!
C’est ça and look alive!
Et oui, “Mon Dieu” in ancient barns
On Visit Number Five!

To Chateau Duffy everyone!
And none of us were late,
in picking up the pieces of
Our Hero’s real estate.

Our days were fired by frambled eggs
and all our diets binned,
on Cathers-wielded nights we’re fed
and three gîtes to the wind.

DIscussion pirouetted on
the Chateauneuf-du-Pape
and if we drank enough of it,
we talked a load of….

…really interesting theological issues.

The Texan task force turned and said:
“Let’s clear away these brambles.”
And everybody made to grab
the only pickaxe handle.

The scaffolding goes up and down
and pointing all raked back.
The willing team all dig and scrape
and generally attack.

Rachel Jordan dug her hole
with coffee spoons in truth
she dug so far, so deep and fast
she finished on the roof.

The plumber was exhausted then.
Every day he flinches
turning French and millimetres
into Feet and Inches.

The roof and floor were done before
So structure could go in
As concentration takes a hold
with patience wearing thin.

No-one’s really sure of why
it’s come to doing this:
taking all Matryoshka Haus
and pointing it at Chris.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter why.
The fact is that we do,
where bonds are formed, emotions had
and prayers hang over crew.

The earth of dirty process goes
to making old things new
the metaphor’s a hackneyed one
most cliches prove they’re true.

The final night’s a Bay Bay Qway.
We show them how it’s done.
And fête the village with our food
and serve it in a bun.

We’re filmed and fed and fired now
and so are French and Dutch,
Our courage in inviting them
the final crowning touch.

Then finally we separate
by planes and trains and cars
returning back to other lives
and once again Lone Stars.


Chateau Duffy was more than just a project…

Jo, a first-timer at Chateau Duffy, reflects on her experience:

A holiday..?
Well, kind of, and a great big melting pot of building, sharing, crying, hoping, eating, drinking, laughing, giving, receiving, learning.

Jo ready for anything

Jo was ready for anything on site!

Chateau Duffy was more than just a project, driven by American vision and British compliance. (Ha.) It was an exhausting and exhilarating experience, things shared and gained in the context of community chaos.It was unique, leaving you with a feeling that impossible things can be achieved. Shannon steered it all with attention to people and encouragement. There was a great sense of being in something together, sharing the good, bad, ugly and which in general people embraced with a good sense of humour, even after the odd accident! The spiritual dynamic was a complex pattern, people with many different views and experiences, but times to reflect and encouragement to be open and responsive to God were all a part of it.

The church at St Denis

The church at St Denis des Murs.

Personally, I was blessed to find a church, right next to our gite, on Easter Sunday, open, empty, with a single candle lit, nestled within the setting of rural, meadow swept, silent France. I felt communion in this place and was blessed to be able to have my guitar and sing. Such a massive contrast to my London life!

Also there was the community aspect, where evenings were filled with delicious food, good wines, and cross culture mixing, chatting. Complimented by Gwen and her magic hands, offering massages.

Meeting a group of Dutch guys (also building and renovating in the area) started an interesting dialogue, and they came to our final night BBQ celebration, where one of them said to me how totally amazed he was that we were all doing this. They also got involved in our camp fire prayers..

I faced fears, embraced new challenges, met some incredible people, and saw life through a new lens…

No regrets. Chateau Duffy, is recommended.

Introducing Brenden

The Matryoshka Haus community in London always loves having visitors – especially when they’re here for a long time and especially when they’re here to work with us! At the start of February, we welcomed Brenden Palmer back to London and are delighted that he’s going to be with us until July.

Brenden Borough MarketBrenden at Borough Market last June with the Learning Lab.

Brenden’s going to be blogging some of his experiences with us (just like Lauren and Caroline have done before him), but before he gets started, we thought it was a good idea to get to know him a bit better…

Why did you decide to come & intern with MH?
After visiting MH with the Learning Lab last summer, I felt God calling that there was more for me to do and learn here in London. Fortunately, everything came together over the past few months for it to be possible for me to come and volunteer at MH when Shannon was over in the States last fall. I’ll be in London through July, where I’ll return to my 3rd year of university in Dallas, Texas.

What are you hoping to do while you’re here?
Well, I’m very much looking forward to learning from the MH community and seeing how God is working in London and around the world. I’m hoping to see how God is using the MH community to have an impact on the city of London to build his kingdom. Of course, I’m also hoping to do some traveling while I’m across the pond and perhaps attend a few eSports events. I’m sure you’ll hear me talk more about my travels and what “eSports” are on future blog posts! 🙂

What are you most excited about being in London?
Besides getting to know the MH community better, I think I’m most excited about getting a chance to explore the rich history of London and UK by extension. One of the subjects I study at university is history, so I’m very interested in seeing as much of the city as I can! Hopefully I can make it out to see Stonehenge and visit the British Museum again.

On Placement

It really hasn’t been a quiet summer for the Matryoshka Haus community! Over the next few days we hope to fill you in on some of the highlights, before we head into a full-on autumn schedule. First up, a glorious fortnight with Merry Evans…

Merry is an Church of England ordinand (like Liz C she’s training to become a vicar) who studies at a theological college in Durham. As part of her course she had to spend some of her summer on placement at churches and communities that would diversify her experience. So, for two weeks in July and August she shadowed Shannon to find out what makes Matryoshka Haus tick.

From the point of view of the community, it was great to welcome someone new, particular someone who wanted to hear our stories and ask interesting and challenging questions about why we do what we do. Over the fortnight, she was involved in preparing for the first of our Good Brunches; joined in with community meals and birthday celebrations; and helped Rachel J host Mark Pybus – who also came to do a short placement with us.

Sarah & Merry

Merry & Sarah at the first of the Good Brunches.

In Merry’s own words, this is how she found the experience:

“I cannot thank you enough for letting me come and experience life with you! It was such a blessing to me. I feel that I have learnt a lot more than I can actively articulate, it is difficult to explain exactly why I think that Matryoshka Haus is such an excellent example of incarnational mission and the deep love of Christ but I know it is! That I, a stranger, felt so involved, valued, useful and welcome and embraced by all those I met; is a real tribute to a community of openness and freedom inspired by the way life is lived by yourself and those you bring together.”

We’re hoping to develop an ongoing partnership with Cranmer College in Durham in hosting ordinands, so Merry may the first of a long-line of trainee vicars to work with us!