Heather I stumbled in through the door of L’Abri, which is set in a Manor house in the village of Greatham, Hampshire, a few minutes before 6.30pm on Friday evening. It was all very relaxed – a group sat gathered by a big wood burner as we entered, talking and laughing. Sarah, an American girl working there, greeted us warmly and showed us to our rooms.
We were just in time for dinner. There were around 30 people, mostly Americans in their 20s and 30s, sitting round long candlelit tables. It was all very atmospheric and felt a bit like something out of a ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery… we just needed some rain lashing against the windows and a sudden flash of lightning!
We ate soup and toasted cheese and fell into conversation with others at the table – most of whom were ‘students’ and were staying at L’Abri for a term. I noticed that most people were wearing coats. The guy next to me, Ellis, who was wrapped up in a blanket, explained that the house was often cold in the winter as it was so expensive to heat. He was over for a couple of weeks from the L’Abri in Switzerland, which he had been a part of for more than 25 years. He explained that people came to L’Abri to take time out to explore questions they have about their faith through living in community with other Christians. The daily rhythm of life at L’Abri is one of study and work.
Following the meal we joined in on the weekly lecture, which this week was on the topic of Calvanism through the eyes of Dutch politician Abraham Kuyper.
Initially I found the whole experience of L’Abri rather overwhelming. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. There were a lot more people there than I was expecting, all of whom seemed to know each other really well. It felt a bit like walking in on a gathering of old friends.
We slept in dormitories of around eight people. It appeared I had drawn the short straw. I was high up on a bunk that I could only get onto by either stepping on, and launching myself off a small, rickety wooden desk belonging to the girl beneath me, or by attempting to climb up the side of the bunk bed where a pile of clothes were draped. Somehow I managed to climb up onto the bunk and slept pretty well on the whole.