Anne and Abby on their community house

It all started when Abby snapped her achilles tendon playing squash (let that be a lesson - exercise is bad for you!). Abby had an operation and was then discharged from hospital back to her house that she lived in alone that only had an upstairs bathroom. There was no way Abby could manage the stairs and so she came to stay with Anne as she also lived alone, but in a ground floor flat. Over the months that Abby stayed, we talked a lot about being single and living alone and the advantages and disadvantages that brings. We’ve both experienced periods of ill heath which have meant that living alone has been really difficult, and sometimes impossible.

We’ve both experienced periods of ill heath which have meant that living alone has been really difficult, and sometimes impossible.

We talked and prayed and thought that it would be wonderful if there was somewhere where people could go to be looked after when they’re not well, or have a couple of days’ break from caring for others, or have a change of scene when they can’t afford a holiday, or have some respite from difficult housemates. And so the idea of the Cwtch was born.

Cwtch (pronounced ‘cutch’) is the Welsh word for an affectionate hug. There's no literal English translation, but its nearest equivalent is ‘safe place’, so it seems a really appropriate name for what we want to offer. We decided to pool our resources and jointly buy a property that we could use to minister to others in this way.

The vision is that people can come and stay for a short period of time and have as much or as little involvement in daily life as they want.

The vision is that people can come and stay for a short period of time and have as much or as little involvement in daily life as they want. We will provide meals for them if they want and will also pray with them and come alongside them if they’d like that (or just leave them alone if they prefer!). The Cwtch is downstairs so that it’s fully accessible for guests who are ill, elderly or less able and there is a downstairs toilet.

We spoke to church leadership about our ideas and they were very supportive. One of our concerns was the assumptions that people would make if we set up home together, but our minister was helpful in reminding us that our responsibility is to live in a pure way and not deliberately mislead people, but also not be overly concerned about misunderstandings. Inevitably, there will be some people who will jump to the wrong conclusions initially, but we can’t control what everyone thinks. We seek to be open and transparent and when people come round they can see that we each have our own rooms. We’re fortunate that we’re not the only single people in our church who are modeling this way of living. There are two ladies in their 60s who have shared a house for 30 years and go on holidays together. There are also two girls in their 30s who share together and enjoy experiencing companionship and practising hospitality in that way.

We had the original vision for the Cwtch 5 years ago, but it’s just recently that everything has fallen into place. God’s timing is, of course, perfect! Anne has recently returned to full-time student ministry so our vision for the house has expanded and we now use the house for that ministry too. We very much see this as God’s house, not ours, to be used for his purposes. We moved in just over 6 months ago and have loved hosting student events, meals, prayer and Bible study groups and team meetings. We have also had a number of friends coming to stay in the Cwtch, including a friend who isn’t a Christian and is caring for her terminally-ill mum. It was a pleasure to be able to look after her and give her some respite from her responsibilities.

Another of the exciting things has been getting to know the neighbours. At first, I’m sure they thought we were a ‘couple’ but as they’ve come round and got to know us, we’ve been able to share more about our faith and our plans for the house. We’ve had a number of events where people from different social groups have come together - church friends, students, neighbours, work friends and family. It’s wonderful for non-believers to be able to experience loving and accepting Christian community.

It’s wonderful for non-believers to be able to experience loving and accepting Christian community.

So as to maximise the communal space in the house, we have made a meeting room upstairs which has various creative prayer stations. It’s a great place for people to hang out and to spend some quality time with God. It also means that we can be flexible when we have student events or host housegroup as we can split into smaller groups and go into different rooms to pray and share.

Shared living is a huge blessing to us too. It’s great to have someone else to share the responsibility of running a household, and have someone to talk to at the end of a long day.

We’re so grateful for God's provision and it's wonderful to see the ways he's been working even when for so long it seemed like the main answer to prayer was ‘wait’. Please join us in praying that our ‘ministry house’ will be a blessing to many over the years to come.

We believe that the church has much to teach the world about pure, committed friendship

We would definitely recommend this way of living in community to others. It’s been a long journey from our initial idea and prayers to where we are now, and it may be that you’re somewhere in that process. We believe that the church has much to teach the world about pure, committed friendship. If that’s something that you’re interested in, then praying and talking with others at church is a good place to start. It may be that there are other single people who have the same vision, and God is more than capable of answering prayers in miraculous ways.

Abby and Anne

 

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