A Place to be Real Together

The Othona Community's Beginnings

Othona began as an experiment in Christian community back in 1946. Our founder, Norman Motley, was a Church of England priest. He served as a young chaplain in the RAF during World War II.

His style was very unusual for that time. He made no distinction between officers and others. And he welcomed completely open discussion of 'life, the universe and everything'.

He and his friends had found a comradeship in wartime that lowered many social and religious barriers. They wanted to preserve something of that in peacetime. So they began to gather as a community each summer.

They found a place with exciting Christian roots going back almost 13 centuries. This was the Chapel of St Peter's near Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex. It's a hauntingly simple little barn of a church on the edge of the Essex marshes, where Othona still has a centre in the next field.

Norman's fledgling community took the name of an even older settlement on that site – the Roman fort of Othona. With permission to worship in St Peter's, they spent each summer in tents and old huts.

It was all very basic – the nearest water source was a standpipe two fields away! But basic conditions seemed to help people explore fundamental issues together. Such as how we could try to avoid yet more terrible wars. And what Christians and other 'people who care' (as Norman put it) could contribute to a better world.

From these humble first steps the Othona journey began. For thousands of people over the years it has become a precious part of their own journey. The Othona Community is now a network of people stretching over the UK and beyond. It's a bit like a big extended family in many ways – good and sometimes not so good, as families often are!

The original Othona site in Essex now boasts a permanent centre. And it was from there that pioneers came to open the West Dorset centre near Burton Bradstock in 1965.