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‘Holy Spirit told me to build a monastery’ in Sussex says jeweller
A jeweller claims the Holy Spirit has ordered him to open Sussex’s first new monastery for nearly 800 years.
Greg Valerio claims God has instructed him to build a “Christian retreat centre” in two derelict barns near Chichester.
Now he is on the hunt for half a million pounds to make his religious vision a reality.
The project is spearheaded by Mr Valerio and Dr Micha Jazz, founders of the Contemplative Network, who have been meeting at St Mary’s Church in North Marden to pray.
Mr Valerio said: “Opposite the ancient and secluded church are two sadly derelict, traditional Sussex flint and brick barns.
“I was walking past the barns after morning prayer at St Mary’s, and I heard the Holy Spirit say, ‘Greg, these would make an excellent site for a Christian retreat centre’.”
With co-founder Dr Jazz, the duo plan to convert the barns into a monastic centre based on Saint Columba of Iona’s principles of prayer, work and reading.
Visitors will rise early each morning for “prayerful chanting” and will pause for prayer seven times a day.
The monastery would keep its own cattle and chickens, with a community orchard, bee hives and a restored ancient flint-lined well for water.
Mr Valerio is a Chichester-based jeweller and fair trade campaigner who practises “indigenous Celtic Christian spirituality”.
He said: “Our vision is that it will become a dynamic, contemporary outworking of the early monastic Church of Britain and Ireland - a thriving and fruitful part of the Sussex landscape.
“We want it to be a living demonstration that Christian spirituality connects to the land as part of our worship, so that it becomes a place where people encounter God in the simplicity and work of daily life.”
Young people would also be encouraged to visit the monastery to “get their hands dirty”, according to cofounder Dr Jazz, a mediator who leads pilgrimages around the UK.
He said: “There’s an everrising tide of people who are trying to simplify their lives and slow things down.
“We won’t be forcing our faith down people’s throats.
But we will be unashamedly saying that unless you have a greater understanding then it’s difficult to deal with our own selfishness.”
The duo needs to raise £500,000 to secure the land and have pledges of £55,000 so far.
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