ONE of a small number of hermits in the Church of England is to be forced out of her home, unless a last-minute appeal can raise enough money to keep her there.
Karen Markham, who is 44, has lived at the Hermitage of Divine Wisdom in Acton, Shropshire, for six years. Last year, she was formally consecrated to a solitary life of prayer and contemplation by the then Bishop of Ludlow, the Rt Revd Michael Hooper, who remains the patron of the hermitage.
Bishop Hooper said: “It is of infinite value to have a solitary living in the community with this vocation, which supports us all and never allows us to forget God.”
Ms Markham, a musician and former lecturer at Leeds College of Music, began her spiritual training in a Sufi community in the United States. She has also studied the Eastern Orthodox eremitical tradition. Her spiritual practice combines Anglican and Orthodox Christianity with Sufi wisdom.
She rises at 4.30 a.m. each day to chant the divine names and the name of Jesus. Her life consists of prayer, keeping a cottage garden, and weaving hand-loomed rugs using wool from local sheep.
The hermitage had been lent to Ms Markham by a benefactor, but the global financial crisis has forced him to put the building, which consists of a cottage and a piggery converted into a small chapel, up for sale. Ms Markham will have to leave in September, unless the £220,000, needed to buy it can be raised.
Clerics in the area are actively supporting the appeal. The Rural Dean of Clun Forest, Prebendary Richard Shaw, said local people were also backing Ms Markham. Last week, she introduced a church near by to the practice of the chanting of the divine names. “It was a very moving experience,” he said.
Ms Markham said: “As a hermit, people haven’t really seen me close up — I have been getting on with praying — but people are now beginning to approach me. My work in the community is really beginning to blossom now, and it takes years to build up the kind of trust to allow that to happen.”
She is inspired by another hermit in the C of E, Sister Ruth, who is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The concert pianist Martin Roscoe will be giving free recitals in aid of the hermitage appeal. The first is scheduled for 30 June at Walcot Hall, Lydbury North, in Shropshire.
For details of the appeal, phone Karen Markham on 01588 630057.Cheques can be made payable to "Hermitage of Divine Wisdom" and sent to Hermitage of Divine Wisdom, Llysty, Acton, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, SY9 5LA