By Tracy Williamson

Togetherness and belonging

A few weeks have now passed since the Open Ears holiday/conference break at Hothorpe Hall and I am still feeling the good effects. Although only a smallish group of us could go (18), the overriding feeling was of togetherness and belonging. We were housed in a new mini conference complex in the grounds of the big hall, comprising a single open plan meeting room, refreshment area and dining room. This was surrounded by our wooden accommodation, lovely modern but cosy twin and double cabins. This Woodlands Suite was nestled in the lovely wooded grounds of Hothorpe Hall and caused our time there to have a real feeling of intimacy and friendship.

Chaplain to the deaf, Rev Gill Behenna was our speaker, sharing with us on the theme of ‘living life to the full’ her talks were very rich, meaningful and inspiring to us all and encouraging many of us to think in new ways about our lives and share together our hopes and dreams.

Like many deaf people I can find socialising and making connection with others difficult but during this break there was such a sense of belonging, a sense that everyone mattered to the group and with the help of the lovely local signers Averill and Karen and speech to text needs masterfully covered by Susanne and Diane, all needs were catered for and it was a joy to see and experience being able to be part of a group, to share, to follow someone else sharing, to pray aloud, to sing at the right time, to laugh and to cry with others….

The break was not just about meetings, there was lots of fun too, exploring the old Hall and its amazing grounds together, Goldie my Hearing Dog finding huge old fallen apples everywhere, Nadine and Dominic, Susanne and Vic’s gorgeous babies bringing joy and fun to the whole group, early walks in the dark with Christine, shopping in Market Harborough, trying creative writing, colouring in, meditative drawing…Sharing lovely meals together and the Lord’s supper, so peaceful yet so holy. A most beautiful and enriching time and heartfelt thanks to all who made it so.