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The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

WithHTBDitchingham community a haven for youth groups 

The With Community in Ditchingham, which provides rural retreats for youth groups and leaders, is currently looking for more members.

The ecumenical community, which is based in the former All Hallows Convent, currently has just two members. Canon Jutta Brueck, the Dean, leads the project, assisted by Sarah from West Sussex, who has a background in forest schools, and so is the perfect person for introducing children to the attractions of With’s rural setting. Beth, a recent graduate, was part of the community for six months, but has now moved on.
 
At the centre of the community’s life is a rhythm of prayer inspired by the monastic model. Visiting individuals and groups are invited to join four services a day usually comprising a psalm, Gospel reading, time of silence and opportunity for open prayer. Youth groups from around the country send in prayer requests, which are included in the petitions. 
 
The community also contributes to the programmes of the visiting groups by providing historical tours of the site, an introduction to contemplative prayer and guided opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature. This last feature has especially been appreciated by groups coming from inner-city areas such as Bermondsey. 
 
Alongside the Bermondsey group, which has now stayed three times, there have been bookings from a Salvation Army youth group, a youth group from the Diocese of Norwich seeking a deeper experience of prayer, and the youth work team from Holy Trinity Brompton. 

Groups have fed back that the best thing about With is “the great outdoors, hanging out, and finding peace in the countryside,” or “the attitude of ‘we want to bless young people’” or “a safe place from which to 'draw deep' from the Community's rhythm of prayer”.

“It’s very encouraging when groups tell us that they have had a wonderful time and that they want to come again,” said Jutta. “We so much appreciate seeing the joy of the young people as they work in the garden or worship around a bonfire at night.”
 
People working with children and young people have also come on retreat as individuals and have had the opportunity to stay in the community house.
 
With is an independent Christian charity, and is currently receiving start-up support from the Church Army, especially in the areas of Human Resources and Operations. The number of retreatants is growing but does not yet cover running costs, which means that With is always grateful for donations in this launch phase.
 
Just as importantly, it is seeking new community members who are passionate about praying with young people, want to live in community, and are willing to put their hand to anything. People who enjoy gardening would make a good fit, as the community is currently developing a vegetable garden, and aiming to become more self-sufficient in food. There is a minimum commitment of one year, and community members receive accommodation, food and small stipend. 
 
You can apply to join the community, or donate to its work, through the With website here.
 
Pictured above are visitors from Holy Trinity Brompton in the community’s greenhouse and, below, Canon Jutta Brueck in the With chapel.

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Eldred Willey, 10/03/2022

Eldred Willey
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