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Bid to save retreat centre

15 February 2019


CHURCH, community, and mental-health leaders have come together in an effort to save an internationally recognised therapeutic retreat centre.

They have launched an appeal for £1.25 million to buy Holy Rood House, in Sowerby, near Thirsk, in North Yorkshire. The house has been rented since 1993 by the Centre for Health and Pastoral Care, but its owners now want to sell the property.

The Centre’s executive director, the Revd Elizabeth Baxter, said that it presented a “unique opportunity” to continue helping people in their time of need.

“Over the past 25 years, Holy Rood House has helped many hundreds of people, of all ages, in crisis,” she said. “If we are not able to buy the house, we risk losing this unique, safe space, when people feel their lives are unsafe. People who are unwell, stressed, or distressed — especially those who have suffered abuse, as well as carers and those living with mental-health breakdown — find inner calm and peace within a gentle Christian ethos.

“Supported by the residential community, creative arts and therapies, counselling and spiritual accompaniment, our guests find themselves on their journey of healing and well-being.”

One example was “Amy”, a student referred by her university chaplain, who was in great distress after being attacked in her room. She had not wanted to tell her parents and did not feel safe at university. “After three weeks with us, she felt able to rejoin her course and, with the support of the university, completed her degree,” Mrs Baxter said.

The Bishop of Whitby, the Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, speaking at the launch of the “Building into the Future” appeal, said: “There are people alive here today who wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Holy Rood House. It is a special place, where welcome, hospitality, and reflection on God can come together. This launch is the first practical step into Holy Rood House’s next chapter, continuing to make an impact on our whole society.”

The chairman of York Council’s Mental Health Delivery group, Tim Madgwick, said: “For many years I have seen how the lack of appropriate mental-health care and support can devastate the lives of individuals and their families. There is an urgent, ongoing need for centres that provide professional care and respite for people who are struggling with aspects of their mental health.

“Holy Rood House is one of those unique environments and as such needs to be supported and developed to ensure a long-term future so it can continue to change the lives of individuals from across the region and the United Kingdom.”

The House’s work in developing counselling, healing, and inclusion for those marginalised by the Church was recognised last April by the presentation of the Langton Award for Community Service by the Archbishop of Canterbury (News 13 April 2018).

Among those supporting the appeal are the centre’s patron, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams; the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who is a former Chief Nursing Officer for England; and the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, the Church’s lead bishop for health.


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