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‘Sorrow’ at Ivy House closure

28 March 2014


IVY HOUSE retreat centre in Wiltshire is to close on 1 May, after months of uncertainty over its future.

The Friends of Ivy House had sought to reverse an earlier decision to close the retreat house (News, 6 December), but Canon Harold Stephens, spokesman for the Friends, said this week that they had failed to find a way forward.

The chairman of the Trustees, David Prior, said that the decision had been taken with great sadness, but they could no longer afford the six-figure sum needed to keep the retreat house open.

There is a possibility, however, that the Trustees may consider buying a smaller retreat house for "individual" retreats with the proceeds of the sale, he said.

"The tough decision was taken to close it and use our funds in other areas of mission. Indeed, the Community of St Denys was founded on the principles of mission and education, and a working party has been set up to explore the way forward. We might even consider the purchase of a much smaller house in the vicinity (with lower running costs) for individual retreats - an avenue we are also exploring."

Mr Prior said that Ivy House was losing £10,000 a month, and that "as responsible Trustees, we have to live in the real world and accept this couldn't go on."

Ivy House had originally been bought to provide a missionary college for the Sisters of the Community of St Denys. It was later turned into a retreat centre, which was originally run by the remaining Sisters. But, as they became toofew in number, employed staff had to take over running the retreat house.

In a statement, the Trustees said that the "rambling" building was no longer suitable for elderly or infirm guests, and that modernisation and repairs could not be afforded.

The Trustees are currently in negotiations with Warminster School, whose land and property surround the retreat house.

They said: "The Trustees have throughout their deliberations consulted those most involved and most able to help, including the remaining Sisters, the members of the Community (two of whom are trustees), and the Bishops of Salisbury and Ramsbury. They have had very much in mind that for some the loss of Ivy House will bring sorrow. But they have had to keep in mind that, though there are many who are devoted to the Centre as a place for retreats, change is part of the natural order of Christian faith and life. . .

"It is with the deepest regret that the Trustees have decided to close the centre. But the Trustees have reached the firm conclusion that the time has come to move on to different ways of using the financial resources of the Community to fulfil the mission of the Community of St Denys."

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