Regarding Hetton Hall, the original home of the Northumbria Community. ‘We asked Kev and Ellen Grimley from the Vine Community in Leicester to come to run the house and look after visitors. They were down-to-earth, no nonsense folk. For those climbing to the top of the tree, Kevin would be regarded as someone who ‘hadn’t made it.’ Truth is he was one of the wisest people I have met. He was a man of few words but when he did speak, you wanted to listen. Ellen was a curvy, cuddly, part-Italian Mama. She was everyone’s Mama, fiercely protective of vulnerable people. This was her strength and weakness.’
– Revd J.T.Skinner
Kev and Ellen exemplify the call to live out the monastic life in contemporary society. Having responded to the call of God upon their lives, ”leaving their nets” and following Christ, they are teachable, humble, willing servants, prepared to lay down their lives in pursuing their vocation. Embracing a new way of living, a rule of life, without any pretentions of exclusivism and devoid of religiosity, they endeavour to live what they believe, work hard in the outworking of their calling and have learned from mistakes and grown in wisdom. They demonstrate the fruits of a prayer-filled life in the ‘hospitality of the heart’, an open, generous table, welcoming and encouraging friend and stranger, in their living out the good news of the Gospel. I do as Paul in his letter to the Philippians wrote, “thank my God every time I remember you (them)”.
– Roy Searle
The first time I met Kev Grimley was when we shared a room on a men’s retreat to Iona in the early 1990’s. The Northumbria Community were exploring relationships with the Vine Community associated with the Roman Catholic Church in Earl Shilton where Kev and Ellen were members. This resulted in the invitation to come to the Nether Springs, the Community’s Mother House at Hetton Hall in January 1994 as ‘Wardens’ for almost one year “to train and prepare for opening a house in the Midlands.” They not only brought a discipline and a pattern of life at the Nether Springs, but they also became key first-generation partakers and made a significant contribution to the life of the Community in its important early formative period. They were not up-front scholars or academics (they provided that magnificently in their son Anthony, principal founder of Monos) but that is not to say that they weren’t teachers… they were. Or trainers… they were. Or mentors… they were! They exemplified the Celtic position to paraphrase Magnus Magnussen from his book Lindisfarne that ‘Roman clergy said ‘Do as I say and expected to be obeyed. Celtic clergy said, ‘Do as I do and hoped to be followed.’ With Kev and Ellen simply being themselves, it was a case of ‘watch and learn’, they were living the life, wisdom personified. Expressing each day, a life lived in openness and authenticity.
A personal example of this is that our teenage son was living at Nether Springs and working closely with Kev and Ellen. Referring to them, he said, ‘it was hard to resist a deeper commitment to faith in God, as I saw it lived every day’. They had fingers in many pies: Living the monastic day – Praying the daily Office, assigning tasks to the team to ‘establish the work of our hands’. Seeking to develop a balance of working with heart, head and hands, where prayer is life and life is prayer for themselves and others.
Hospitality – relational centred, genuine care for others, chili con carne to die for, (that was Ellen) all combined with godly ordinariness and humility.
Retreats – Kev’s coracle course was a great favourite, demonstrating the adage, ‘Take time for your soul through the work of your hands’ or pottering as we called it. Such craftmanship enclosing such wisdom, as the work was accompanied by stories of the Celtic Saints. And of course, building your own coracle gave a great sense of achievement to so many, although then literally having to try them out (a real test of workmanship) in the local river stream was scary but fun. Ellen leading guests on a private one-to-one retreat, using teaching on motivational gifts from Romans 12 to encourage ‘being who you are’ in God, acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses. Dealing with the brokenness of other people’s lives, often bringing an unwanted reminder of our own. And the joy at realising that God has used you to touch another’s life with encouragement and blessing. And what can I say about the experience of Freda and I leading Married Couples retreats together with Kev and Ellen; new to us but they were obviously past masters. They were such fun times but along with the laughter was teaching with great creativity and dance movements, honesty about the ups and downs of married life, illustrated by their own life experience, all from which Freda and I learned so much. They were both deeply involved in Dance ministry in both Monastery and Mission – taking Monastery on the road, giving powerful understandings of faith spiritual truth, and illustrating stories of the Celtic saints on retreats, at Easter workshops and places like Iona and Holy Island. This experience was not an easy task for them, having to leave home, family, and friends for such a long period. Learning to lead a Community team amidst its inevitable joys and sorrows and the times when unexpected happenings require difficult decisions or need forgiveness or gentle discipline. All in the context of their seeking God through ’availability and vulnerability’ while learning to grow in faith and trust themselves.
As I write in July 2021, 27 years later Kev and Ellen have realised and developed that calling and have continued to live ‘a discipline and a pattern of life’ in the Midlands beyond their dreams. “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
– Trevor Miller
‘In an age of rapid change, and now after Covid 19’s appearance, we are called I think to radical simplicity in our own lives, solid accountable stewardship and care of living creatures, and love and protection of this little blue planet, given us by God. The Celtic Monastics, harsh as they might have been with themselves, loved the voice of God in nature and the closeness to creatures, the Eastern Monastics drew inspiration from the ‘Indwelling Light’ of the Holy Spirit and saw God’s love in all things including the smallest encounters of each day. May you, whoever you are, draw much from The Little Way, which draws deeply from the gift of the well of Christ, who on the Cross, in answer to the good thief’s prayer, ‘Remember me’, says to us all; ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’. Amen’
– Fr Robin Gibbons
‘We have both known the Grimley family and especially Kev & Ellen for over 25 years now. It’s a privilege to be able to learn from them, sit alongside and sometimes laugh and cry with them both. The beauty for us is that they never-ever tell you what to do; which is refreshing (and sometimes frustrating lol) in todays culture and climate. One of the main things we have both experienced and observed is the gift of ‘sitting at the feet of the old man and woman’ and being able to see at first hand the ‘life’ lived…’
– Steve & Andrea Howe