Living and working at Othona. Have you got what it takes? And would our lifestyle suit you? Tony Jaques, warden since 1995, writes:
As members of the Core Community, we live here so that other people can visit – whether once or many times – and share in the experience of community that is Othona. Our role is an enabling one. We look after this lovely place. We do the necessary administration and plan the programme. We run some of the events ourselves. We tackle everything from loo cleaning to walk leading. And we do our best to maintain a caring, accepting atmosphere based on open Christian values. Plenty of other people help from time to time, but as residents we bear the fullest responsibility.
Othona is unusual. Our particular model of community is unique. If people 'get it', if Othona gets under their skin, it can go very deep. And so, many in our wide network of members and supporters feel strongly about this place as their 'other home', their 'spiritual haven' and so on. We who live and work here are maintaining something very precious.
What does this mean in practice? For one thing, the volunteer help of all sorts offered by non-resident members can be phenomenal. And so can be their hopes and expectations of us! In that way life here is demanding, I won't pretend otherwise. It's also demanding because of the sheer number of people with whom we try to interact in an authentic and rounded way. We are not 'service providers' to customers, but mutually valued members 'in community' with them. All of us have our introverted sides, of course, our need to be quiet and alone at times. But to enjoy life at Othona I think you need to be happy extroverting too.
You need resilience and emotional stamina. I believe all of us are 'work in progress' throughout our lives. But if your primary focus at the moment is on your needs or your therapy, then working at Othona will not be for you. Can you cope with sometimes long working days and very varied demands? Have you discovered a joy in the service of others? Are you aware of the impact your behaviour has on them, and able to adjust it accordingly? If so, life in the core community might be for you.
Demanding then, but rewarding too. In what sense? Well, you won't grow rich, that's for sure; our salaries are very modest. But the benefits in kind are considerable. A shared house (council tax paid by Othona) overlooking the Chesil Beach, surrounded by National Trust meadows and our own woods. No commuting and no rat race. Good home cooking every day of the week. What's not to like?
And there are the riches of friendship, fulfilment and – dare I say – wisdom. Friendship: at Othona I've been privileged to meet outstanding people, some of great vision and public distinction, some of anonymous but remarkable courage and goodness. Fulfilment: I find Othona at its best gives us the rare opportunity to live and work in an environment shaped by the values we believe in. Wisdom: core members usually testify to the deeper understanding of self and others which this lifestyle not only helps, but almost forces, them to develop. The My Othona Story page includes a taste of other core members' experiences.