So… less than a week since we returned to London a handful of us trotted across town to help Rachel Jordan paint her bathroom. The reason for this paint job is that Rachel wants to get her house ready to sell, on the market and find a new place in Wapping. Currently, while intricately part of our community she lives about an hour away in Clapham, south London… still in London … but just not local!
There are two things that excite me about this… or two things that this demonstrates that I love about MH. One is the commitment to one another. I find that the commitment and care for one another in MH is extraordinary. We don’t get it right all of the time but we are really trying to figure out what loving well looks like.
So whether painting bathrooms, doing up properties in France, delivering meals for new parents, helping others move, taking in people without homes or simply eating meals together we are demonstrating love in both practical and radical ways everyday. In a time and city where people are more and more isolated this demonstration of love for one another and hospitality is profoundly counter cultural and transformative.
The other thing that excites me is that people are really feeling this pull to move east, to move into the neighborhood. God seems to be uping the ante here.
Revelation 21: 3-4
“Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone — all the first order of things gone.”
All the friends sat down on wooden benches to a sumptuous feast they had cooked together. There was the best cheese in the world. There was bread and wine.
One friend stood up to share about how special it is to thoughtfully eat bread and wine together. There’s more to it than tastebuds tingling and then digestion. Something spiritual happens. It’s like a metal spiral through the notebook of history.
I was one of those friends. We were resting during the building of a friend’s house. Most of us had been doing this work with our bare hands. We fell through floors, stacked tile after tile, wore holes in our shoes and trousers, burned hay (and ourselves!), pulled up weeds and balanced along roof-beams. All of us – such as a former manager to the stars, a trainee vicar, a web content editor, a psychotherapist, a typographer – had more dignified jobs back home. But we happily pitched in together among the dirt and the laughter.
Why build a home together?
Because, like communion, there is far more to it than 400-year old bricks and home-made lime mortar.
– Rachel Nunson
A week may be a long time in politics, but it’s always too short a time at Chateau Duffy. That’s not to say we didn’t achieve our roofing goals – far from it, the roof is present and felted – but that we leave wanting more.
Well, perhaps not more work. Our bodies, generally unused to day after day of physical exertion,are broken and aching and couldn’t take much more. But we would love more time together, and plenty more of Richard’s fabulous cooking.
On our last evening work continued late into the evening, with the last piece of felt nailed in as the sun began to set. This momentous achievement was celebrated with champagne at the site and a swift return to the gites for showers and a final meal together.
Using a beautiful artisan loaf of bread, each of the group made a toast to the week and the future. Listening to the ways in which this project has touched people was truly inspiring & uplifting. The words I’ll take away from that moment were from Eric our Texan builder who had spent a week monkeying about over the roof:
“Thank you Lord for building so much more than a house.”
He’s right. Something that is so much more than a house has been, and will continue to be, built.
We Brits love optimistic Americans, but often take their confident declarations with a pinch of salt. On Sunday night, Carl and Eric (the most qualified building people in the team) declared that the following day would see some construction taking place at Chateau Duffy. Given that there was still nearly half a roof of tiles to remove (and it had taken the best part of a week to remove the rest last summer), we were rather dubious.
But we were to be proved wrong. The combination of a bright and early start; a large team; more experience; and a day of no rain and plenty of enthusiasm, construction actually happened. By lunch time the first part of the replacement beam had gone in and Carl had got rather emotional that the last time someone had worked on the old one was a French man 400 years previously. By early afternoon, the final tiles had been removed – meaning that in 5 hours we had achieved what had probably taken 3 days last August. A few hours later, all the old rafters had disappeared and new ones were being put in their place. It really was quite incredible progress! And we Brits clearly ought to be more American in our optimism…
A lot of the progress is down to the skilled people we’ve got on board this year, and the fact that some of them were able to get on with roof building while another group removed tiles. Plus, those of us who were here last year have remembered the skills we’d acquired and the problems we overcame, so all of a sudden moving scaffolding takes 15 minutes instead of 90; a tile organisation system was already in place and could be continued by Queen of the Tiles Rachel N; and, as it’s spring, we have impetus to get as much as possible done while the sun shines!
[Photos to follow when we have better internet!]
When the return trip to Chateau Duffy was planned, it was a joyous realisation that we’d be away over Easter. While working on a building site might not seem the most appropriate way in which to mark Holy Week, Sunday was kept special. The most recent arrivals (i.e. the professional builders) got to visit the site, while an Easter feast was prepared thanks to the skills of Richard our chef. [Yes, that’s the same Richard who cooked at Thanksgiving – we’re hoping to take him everywhere with us!]
On a brilliantly sunny evening, we sat down to eat French lamb together. For the first time the entire team of 14 was sat around the table eating together. The resurrection didn’t go uncelebrated – before we gave thanks for our food, the story of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus was remembered, highlighting the parallels of our own journeying to this place, Jesus’ presence with us, and the importance of sharing food with our loved ones.
The Easter fun didn’t end there. Lindsey had arrived from London the day before with all the ingredients needed for an egg hunt and had spent the entire afternoon composing clues and hiding eggs all over the gite. Turns out that no one is ever too old for an Easter egg hunt! Or perhaps the appeal of chocolate never wanes? There was much eggcitement when it was revealed that more eggs had been hidden than the clues suggested – in fact, there are probably still tiny Lindt eggs in the gite that haven’t been discovered yet.
Sitting around on a sun-drenched patio, eating chocolate and drinking wine with old and new friends seemed to be a perfect example of how life in the Matryoshka Haus community should be lived…
[Photos to follow when we have better internet!]