Brunel Manor to be sold – an open letter from Woodlands House of Prayer

Dear Praying Friend of Brunel Manor,
All here at Woodlands House of Prayer hope and pray that you are well. We remain feeling very supported and uplifted by all of your prayers and messages of support as we carry on discerning the future of Brunel Manor estate and a new direction for Woodlands House of Prayer.
There was a Trustee’s meeting held in the Manor last week. This was the first face to face meeting since we had to take the decision to close the doors to guests. The online fortnightly meetings will continue as they have been over the past few months. This letter is to update you on many of the things that were discussed.
Not only did we meet but we also had an opportunity to have a small farewell to all the staff and volunteers that have had to leave because of CV19’s effects on our previous core business. Despite having to be spread out and restricted in numbers, it was nice to be able to say our sad goodbyes. Gifts were distributed and thanks were made to all who have been with us from a few months to 44 years. God’s blessing was called upon them for their futures. We continue to pray that the gentle arms of the Lord will support and uphold all present and past guests; our volunteers and staff; the Trustees and all of our supporters and benefactors.
At the meeting there were two main areas of discussion; the here and now, then future ideas. The finances are looking healthier than they did only a month ago, and we thank both the Lord and you for answering our calls to help us continue in the short term. However, even after we take into account our spending reductions, stopping services and canceling business contracts it costs us about £10,000 per month at the moment to keep the Manor and estate “ticking over”. We are grateful to have received a CV19 grant from the local authority. The mortgage is approved and we will be taking it to help secure for the medium term. Our donation target of £100,000 is nearly achieved, we are so very thankful for all of you who have donated and loaned us money. With your generosity we have kept the administrators from the door for now, however we are acutely aware that this possibility remains hanging over us.
With this in mind, and because there is no long term relief from the CV19 restrictions, the final decision was made to sell the Manor and the estate on the open market. With a view to selling in parts or as a whole. International estate agents Savills have been appointed for this and the marketing reports are being prepared for a late summer entry into the market. Under the Charities Act, the Trustees have a responsibility to ensure the best return for any sale ” and comply with all the Charity Commission regulations in completing any sale. It has been mentioned before but is worth saying again; this whole process has been hard for us all. We all have a love for the place, for the aims of the charity – hospitality and serving those who also have spiritual needs, all based in the gospel values. We are mindful of what the whole “Brunel” experience means to many generations of people. We are but God’s hands here on earth, the work was His, is His and will remain His.
Why are we doing this? Because we are all tasked to be faithful pilgrims and place our trust in the Lord. As a charity we have a duty to be continuing the work that Margaret and Vera started as an answer to the problems of a war ravaged country. WHOP is asset rich, cash poor, and by using our assets to the best advantage; i.e. selling the buildings and using the money raised; we will be able to focus on the needs of modern society in this CV19 world.
To this end, the decision was also made that WHOP will no longer be a provider of services. Instead we are refocusing the work of WHOP, adapting to the needs of today; e.g. the homeless and youngsters who are struggling with life. Moving from being a service provider to become a facilitator and enabler. This will allow other charities with a similar ethos to WHOP’s to bring relief in line with our objects, which are copied below. This is not a change of what we are doing but of how we are going to be doing it. We are aspiring to work towards a better future for those in need and using our assets to continue to help with this. Whilst at all times promoting Christian values and the faith of our fathers and mothers. We are continuing the discernment process as to what this will actually look like in the end. Without being able to reveal all the details however, there are a couple of very exciting prospects that we commend to the Lord to see where He leads us.
If this all seems rather too much, please allow me to share something with you all. Sorry if it makes a long letter longer. Only last week during a time of prayer and reflection I was reminded of the Easter Triduum, the three holy days over Easter. And how those most blessed of days are applicable to our present situation. On Holy Thursday the “last” of the Last suppers takes place as we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist. In my church the altars are stripped bare of their cloths, candles and colours. Purple sheets are draped over pictures and crucifixes. Then a time of watch and prayer with Jesus begins as we sit with Him in Gethsemane and wait for the events to come.
By Good Friday all seemed to be lost. Christ is crucified, and when He died the world turned dark, there was nothing left for the disciples. No hope, no future, only doom, sadness and regret of what might have been. There are no eucharist services, no praise, no joy. Hymns are sombre and bells muffled.
Then there is Holy Saturday. Where the “limbo” continues. There is no music or singing. All is sombre, dull and the church is feeling empty. This starkness reminds us of Jesus in the tomb. Where He is not just lying there, He is in Sheol, in hell, in death. Fighting the Devil for the final triumph over sin. The disciples knew nothing of this, we have the blessing of knowing what happens next. We anticipate, we await. The work is being done for us but we are not able to see it taking place.
Finally as dawn breaks on Easter Sunday morning, the stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty. Christ is alive, sin is defeated and we are able to be reconciled to God because of His loving act. The disciples were confused and when Jesus appeared after His glorious resurrection He was hidden from them, until He revealed Himself to them in His words and actions. In churches the altars are dressed in gold, candles are lit, flowers are back in their displays, bells ring out, the organ sounds and shouts of allulelia are on the lips of the faithful. A white cloth is placed over the now empty cross. All these are proclaiming the good news of our deliverance. The contrast to the previous days could hardly be any greater.
If you will forgive me for using this as an analogy where I think WHOP may be at this time, I feel that we are in “Holy Saturday ” mode. I believe that we have passed our “Holy Thursday” and “Good Friday”. Where CV19, a lack of new volunteers and the reduced numbers attending the Manor made all look lost. For me at least, I felt that a darkness had descended. We have the benefit of knowing what happens in the Easter story, we are blessed by this knowledge. There are things happening in the background, on the outside it may appear that we are treading water and nothing is changing but let me assure you that this is far from the truth! However, like the risen Jesus to His disciples, our future is yet to be revealed. Jesus was the same, but at the same time different. What the “new” WHOP looks like is not quite there yet. But it will be a transformed charity, with a renewed vigor to reflect the founding mothers’ vision and purpose. Fit for the problems of today, based in the love of the Almighty. So please continue to be with us as we wait for our own “Easter” to be revealed.
Pray for us, as we pray for you.
God bless you.
For the Trustees.
Woodlands House of Prayer Charity Objects:
  • The establishment and maintenance of a home for the purpose of affording the means of physical and spiritual help to those in need.
  • To advance the Christian faith in accordance with the Statement in such ways and in such parts of the UK or the world as the directors from time to time may think fit
  • The relief of those in need or hardship or distress or who are aged or sick in such parts of the UK or the world as the directors from time to time may think fit
  • To advance education in such ways and in such parts of the UK or the world as the directors from time to time may think fit
  • The preservation, conservation, maintenance, protection and improvement of the whole or any part or parts of the buildings, grounds and surrounding area currently known as Brunel Manor
  • To further such other purposes being exclusively charitable according to the laws of England and Wales as the directors may from time to time determine.

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