31 May 2010

A modern hermit faces eviction

Karen Markham.had hoped to l pursue a life of solitude and contemplation when she became one of Britain’s few officially recognised hermits. However, according to the Telegraph, the former music teacher faces the prospect of being forced out of her secluded hermitage after its owner decided to sell up.

Miss Markham has lived as a hermit for six years at the Hermitage of Divine Wisdom in Acton, Shropshire. Last year she was consecrated to a solitary life of prayer and contemplation by the Rt Rev Michael Hooper, the former Bishop of Ludlow.

Her daily regime follows the rules of solitary living laid down by St Benedict, the founder of western monasticism, and involves rising at 4am to spend three hours praying and chanting divine names, as well as spending time in contemplative silence. She is committed to a life of chastity. She has no television, takes no holidays and has very few personal possessions of her own. She weaves hand-loomed rugs using wool from local sheep.

She is understandably distraught at the prospect of losing her home. “The stability of having somewhere to live has been very important and if I have to leave I will have nowhere to go,” she said. “There are so few hermitages in England that it was hard enough to find this place.”

Senior clergy, including several bishops, have launched a campaign to try and save Miss Markham from losing her home and allow her to continue in the role which they describe as “invaluable”.

The Rt Rev Hooper is one of a number of bishops, including the bishops of Hereford, Warwick and Dudley, who are backing the campaign to raise funds to buy the cottage which is set to be put on the market in September for around £220,000. (Miss Markham had bee living rent free)

“It is of infinite value to have a solitary living in the community with this vocation, which supports us all and never allows us to forget God,” he said.
Modern hermits are usually either members of religious orders who live in separate dwellings or otherwise make vows to live a single, consecrated life, but they are as likely to be found living in a city as in a rural retreat.

There are no central records of the numbers of hermits in Britain but there could be as many as 200, based on the number of members linked to the Fellowship of Solitaries.

Whether she can stay in her hermitage or not she certainly has chosen a lifestyle that most of us would find impossible to follow. Personally I hope she can find a solution and carry on her life of contemplation..

Perhaps this may sound strange given my (far less than favourable) views on religions in general, but this she has made a choice to live that way and who are we to deny her. The spanner in the works of course is money.... Hi ho