Ampleforth Prayer Group – origins

 SHEILA ON THE TRAIN  1974

 I had been involved with the Day of Renewal at Harrogate for some months when I was returning from London on the train to York.  I sat near the door of the carriage on a pair of seats which had one opposite.  Since the train was full many people passed through the carriage looking for seats but no one say opposite me in the empty single seat.  I wondered casually who was the persons whom the Lord had chosen to sit there.  It was not a firm focused thought by an idle speculation of a  lighthearted kind.  Eventually a young woman came , asked  if its was vacant, and smiled.  I noticed that she had one of those open friendly smiles which indicate a relaxed, put together personality, and I helped her get her case on to the overhead rack.  When it was there we began to talk which is very rare for me in a train.   It transpired that she had come back from israel where she had been staying with Messianic Jews (Jewish who believe that Jesus is the Messiah). She then talked abut her community  which as at Holly Bush farm which I had faintly heard of.  It was started outside Thirsk by a local farm, Jim Wilkinson, and had grown rapidly until in 1990 they had build a complex of assembly and meeting rooms.  As we drew near York she reached into her pocket and produced a slim paperback.  Take this and read it, she said.  I was concerned that with little money should not be giving me a book, but I would take the title.  It was Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers.  As I was getting out I left it for her on the table between us, but she insisted I put it into my pocket.  Back at Ampelefort I began to read it, and three hours later I finished it.  It was the most remarkable and powerful story which I had read in  all the various  books which had come my way since we I had been involved in charismatic renewal.  I took it along to my 15 year old RS class and having read part of it, we formed a prayer group open to the working of the Holy Spirit. and this was the beginning of the Ampleforth prayer group which led to the Ampleforth Student conference which began in 1978, and to the Youth Network. 1992