Blog Columba's Barn Society of St. Columba

Arriving at Home – St. Columba’s Next Step

The excitement of securing planning approval for our home at Great Farm Barn in Chanctonbury West Sussex, has now settled down to the realisation that as a growing local and extra-local new monastic community, we must take the last few steps that will culminate in our arrival at the barn doors of our new community home. Arriving at a new home is always a moment of fulfilment as well as a recognition that the hard work of making a home has only just begun. What will our new place be like, what are its idiosyncrasies, who will come and visit, how do we decorate, furnish, cultivate and most of all make it a place where we can sit in safety and say I am home? In many ways our pilgrimage to Great Barn Farm has been a metaphor and reflection on the Christian life. A step of hope, faith, vision, trepidation, vulnerability and fulfilment. Where God calls, God also equips and although we all believe these sage like words, like every community that responds to Gods call, it will require us to move beyond the comfort of what we know and into the realm of the unknown. This is the step of vulnerability we choose to take and my prayer is that many others will be moved to take the step with us.

In the following blog, I will outline the final few steps we need to take leading up to signing our lease with the landlord and the immediate work we will undertake once the lease is signed. What God has called us to, is not a small undertaking, it is stretching and challenging.

Discharging the conditions on the planning application.

The Great Barn is a grade II listed building, a stunningly unique heritage barn that is central to the farmstead. Our approved plan involves a simple oak framed, straw bale wall up to the tie beam that will enclose a chapel for prayer and reflection. An open community space in the centre of the barn, with a community kitchen under a mezzanine floor where people can sit, eat and drink, meet together and admire the barn roof space from a unique vantage point. Due to the historical significance of the barn we must prepare a very detailed methodology statement of how we are going to undertake this work and improve the fabric of the building. This must be prepared by an approved heritage buildings expert.

Alongside the central work of renewing the Great Barn, the other buildings will also require detailed methodology statements as we seek to transform the old run down farmstead into a thriving community retreat space, living organic farm and sustainability and conservation centre. If the Kingdom of God requires a manifestation of heaven on earth, then we have the perfect location in the heart of the South Downs to work towards this goal.

Signing the lease.

We have agreed with the landlord and the current local farmer (who is vacating Great Barn Farm) that we will look to complete the legal paperwork and transfer of the lease and small farm tenancy (30 years) at Michaelmas, which is traditionally the end of the agricultural year – 29 September. This gives us six months to get all our transitional plans in place, such as utility changes, Soil Association and Natural England certification migration, phone lines etc. So much to do that is invisible but vital to a successful arrival.

Architects drawing of The Great Barn

Establishing our fledgling community farmstead.

As a community, hospitality is at the heart of who we are and what we want the Great Barn Farmstead to offer. Therefore we intend to establish the simple basics on the site that will enable us to start as we mean to go on.

  • Set up and plumb in our Columba’s Kitchen trailer for hot food and hospitality.
  • Shepherds huts to accommodate volunteers and members of the community for over night stays.
  • Composting toilet and hot shower rig so we can be clean and tidy.
  • Prayer and the daily office will be in the Barn – a simple cross will act as our focal point.
  • Set up temporary HQ and community space in what will be the library study rooms – make weather proof, temporary roof etc.
  • Mini digger to landscape and dig out ditches for stabilising the water flow on the site.

From the very start, we want to be able to offer visitors and volunteers a taste of our community rhythm of prayer, work and reading. We do not need to wait until every building is perfectly finished for us to be able to do this. If we can work together, pray together, eat together and stay clean and warm, then the basics are in place for any community to flourish.

The farm plan for Great Barn Farmsteads 23 acres. Lots of work and lots of fun.

The farm plan for Great Barn Farmstead’s 23 acres. Lots of work and lots of fun.

How you can get involved and participate.

As God begins to form us as a community in our new home, there is a recognition that this move is a move for everyone. What is happening here is a ‘sign in the land’ of the slow rebuilding process that is going on across the community of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit breathes his Kingdom again with the words ‘It is time to start all over again’. As the community of St. Columba moves forward into establishing a community home for all, we know that without the support, prayers and blessings of others we will not be complete. Therefore we are inviting people to participate in one of the following ways in the next step of our Kingdom community journey. In order to accomplish the above we need to raise £45,000. You can help us do this through the following means.

  1. Donate to Society of St. Columba. By making a donation to to SSC¹ and agreeing to Gift Aid² we see 25% added to your donation. This genuinely makes a huge impact on your generosity. Bank transfer details are below.
  2. Become a shareholding member in Columba’s Barn Community Benefit Society. Our CBS was set up by the community to express a more inclusive and participatory way of being economical involved in the life of the farmstead. It is our desire to create a circular cooperative expression of economic life. As a member you will receive an interest payment as a % of your shareholding and can vote at the CBS AGM.
  3. Volunteer and Visit. There is a lot of work to be done, and we are encouraging people to come and visit the farmstead and volunteer time in digging gardens, planting vegetables, landscaping, caring for livestock, learning about heritage building and restoration, helping with the hospitality and administration and welcoming visitors, wayfarers and walkers as they arrive seeking a friendly face and hot food. Volunteering will begin after we have signed the lease, so hold on until September…

If you are wanting to donate or become a shareholder, please make your contribution using the following reference: ‘Stage 2′. This will allow us to account for the money accurately. If you wish to print off a summary of Stage 2 then please click CBSPhase2Developmentupdate

Charitable Donations to the Society of St Columba (registered charity no. 1160486) by Bank Transfer to:

The Charity Aid Foundation Bank (CAF)

Sort Code: 40-52-40

Account Number: 00026561

If you need a Charity Gift Aid Donation Form, fill out and return to SSC, 40 Hay Road, Chichester. West Sussex. PO19 8BE.

Community Benefit Shares can be brought by either downloading the Columba’s Barn Prospectus, and completing the back page application form and posting to our address, or via the PayPal link at the bottom of the Columba’s Barn web page. Bank transfer details can be found on the application form at the back of the Prospectus.

To conclude, we have all been incredibly blessed by how positive everyone has been to the simple vision that is a new Monastic Foundation at Great Barn farmstead. Our pilgrimage to this place has been a wild one, and knowing that we have such a wonderful opportunity in God to create a place where people can find refuge, purpose, meaning and encounter God is a truly blessed step. Thank you for taking the time to read this and if you have any questions about how you can participate in the call God has laid before us then please do email Simon Thomas (Chair of CBS) or myself Greg Valerio (Chair of Trustees) and we will do the best we can to sound intelligent and articulate.

Big blessings,

Greg Valerio

The Community of St Columba is an expression of new Monastic Christian spirituality drawing inspiration from St Columba of Iona and the Celtic Christian tradition of encountering Christ in community and creation.

¹Society of St Columba is a registered charity in England and Wales no.1160486

²Gift Aid only applies to UK citizens that pay tax in the UK

You Might Also Like...


  • Maureen
    November 24, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Hello Greg,

    It was good to meet you yesterday at Singleton and to learn of your monastic settlement in Sussex. I was interested to learn more from Pete about why you have chosen st Colum cille as your patron ?

    Colum Cille as he is known in Ireland descended from the O’ Donnell clan in Tyrconnel

    O’Donnell is my family name and I am very familiar with st Colum Cille and his exile, his work on Iona and the west coast of Ireland.

    He was a warrior saint and the Catach ( which ‘housed’ the Psalter that Colum Cille allegedly copied resulting in his exile from Ireland) was used before battle. I’ve seen the actual Catach.

    O’Donnell Abu was the battle cry (a song that is still sung and played today, in fact it was played by a lone piper at my aunt’s funeral in Ireland)

    Our motto is ‘in this name we conquer’. Referring to the staff of St Patrick on the O’Donnell shield.

    We have history!

    So you see why I was interested?

  • Greg Valerio
    December 28, 2018 at 11:08 am

    So good to hear from you. What an amazing connection. be wonderful to meet again and keep talking. Also be good to know where we can find a rendition of the lone piper playing the Battle Cry.

Leave a Reply