There is a rhythm to daily life at L’Abri: breakfast at 8, work or study from 9.30 till 1, with a tea break in between, lunch for an hour and a half, work or study in the afternoon from 2.30 till 6 and dinner at 6.30, which is sometimes followed by a film or free time. As Denes from Hungary said to me, you don’t have to make decisions at L’Abri, they are made for you … what you eat, your daily chores, the time you need to be somewhere.
Saturday was really relaxed. Heather and I were not on the list to do chores – guests who stayed for just a weekend were usually let off the hook. So while the ‘students’ went off to prepare lunch, clean or do gardening, Heather and I went for a walk into the tiny village of Greatham and explored the grounds of the Manor.
In the library at L’Abri there is every kind of Christian book including ones about the history of L’Abri and how it was founded. L’Abri is French for ‘shelter’ and was initially set up in Switzerland in the 1950s by American pastor and theologian, Simon Schaeffer, and his wife Edith. The Schaeffers opened up their home to people wanting to find answers to life’s questions, especially concerning faith and spirituality. Further branches of L’Abri have been established in other parts of the world, such as Canada, Germany, Brazil and this one in the UK.
Lunchtime at L’Abri is a time of lively discussion and debate. Anyone can put forward a topic for discussion. I didn’t enjoy this so much on the first day. Maybe it took a bit of ‘getting into’ and perhaps I found the topic a little heavy going (‘what is human nature?’), so I found myself clock watching for most of it. On reflection, I can see how valuable the lunchtime discussions could be for people wanting to work through various questions. If I stayed longer at L’Abri I think I would really get into them.
In the evening we ate a southern American stew, cooked up by one the students, followed by a delicious homemade pecan pie. I don’t know why but I wasn’t expecting the food to be so good at L’Abri or there to be so much of it. Everything was homemade, thoughtfully prepared by the students. The stash of snacks that Heather and I brought with us remained in the car, uneaten.