Frequently Asked Questions
-About the Friary-
-So are you all monks and nuns?
No. Some of the community are professed brothers who take life-long vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are part of the Society of St. Francis, an Anglican religious order. They technically aren’t monks, monks pray seven times a day, ours are friars, who pray four times a day. Some of the community are part of the Third Order of St. Francis, taking vows to live a Franciscan lifestyle in ordinary life, and the rest of us are living a Franciscan lifestyle while we’re here, but haven’t taken vows.
-How many people live at the Friary?
Numbers shift somewhat, as some people come to live here for shorter periods of time, but around 20-25.
-How does the Friary support itself?
Entirely through people’s generosity and gifts. The original property was a gift from the Earl of Sandwich to the Society, and we currently run the property and support ourselves through people’s giving. We don’t charge a fee to stay here, we just ask that visitors give what they are able. Some people are able to give generously, others cannot, and it all seems to work out through the grace of God.
-How do you make decisions?
There is a Chapter Meeting periodically, which makes decisions about projects, money, applicants etc. It is composed of the five resident brothers plus community members representing various areas of work at the Friary (land management, maintenence, the volunteers etc.)
-Do you have to be Christian to live here?
I am reminded of a sign that I saw in a workplace that said, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.” You don’t have to be a Christian to live here, but this life makes more sense if you are at least familiar with Christianity, or are willing to be open and learn more about it.
-What animals do you have here?
In terms of livestock, we have three cows, five sheep, four lambs, four pigs, and eighteen chickens. One community member has a cat named Olive, and we also have two barn cats, who are semi-wild and nobody ever sees. And of course all the assorted wildlife, foxes, badgers, deer, bats, birds, snakes, frogs, and myriad insects.
-Who does the cooking and cleaning?
We have a rota for cooking and washing up. Most people in the community take a turn at cooking, with two people in the kitchen every day, and it generally works out that we all cook one day a week. Cleaning is done by whoever is available when guesthouses need cleaning, and we’ve set aside an hour and a half every week to clean our own houses.
-How do you organize work?
We have a community meeting every morning to sort out who is doing what for the day, and to ask for extra help if one area needs it. We all tend to gravitate towards certain areas though, based on skills and inclination. Some people are responsible for particular areas of work, like the laundry or overseeing the garden.
-You don’t sound like you’re from around here?
I’m from Knoxville, Tennesse, USA. That’s in the American South, in the eastern part of the state, where it is mountainous and beautiful, and where the Great Smoky Mountains are located.
-How did you find out about Hilfield?
I was interested in working with other Christians who were doing conservation work. There is an international organization called A Rocha, which links different Christian conservation organizations, and I read about Hilfield on their website.
-What did you do before coming to Hilfield?
I did a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology at the University of Vermont, and then taught biology and environmental education at an outdoor education and raptor rehabilitation center. I have also done research work on birds, particularly songbirds.
-What do you do here?
Mostly work on the land. The outdoor work is very seasonal, so in the garden growing food, haymaking, working in the woods etc. Taking care of the animals all year round! I also take part in the life of the chapel. We have a rota for cooking and washing up, and I generally cook once a week.