In 1986, Ellel Grange in the North West of England became the first home of Ellel Ministries. Now, once a year, we throw open the big doors and welcome in anyone who comes. We never know how many people will come, or who they will be. Are they neighbours who’ve wondered for years what happens in the big house up the long drive? Maybe they’re coming tentatively as a ‘first step’ towards encountering God on a journey to healing and fullness of life? The house is full of flowers and bunting. People play croquet and games on the lawns. We give them cream teas and share with them what we do here. The place buzzes with life. But the thing I love is that it provides such an opportunity for us to pour grace upon any and everyone.
I do the tours. I love it. So often, as I skip up and down the grand sweeping staircase, I imagine myself a hundred and fifty years ago, in my big dress, lady of the manor. Actually, I’d have been a maid, awake at 4am, cleaning out the fireplaces and lighting the fires!
Now, of course, this is a house available to more than one privileged family. Now it belongs to God and we use it for His glory. But as I’ve prayed about what to say and how to give our local neighbours more than just a tour round an old house, I’ve realised there are so many Jesus connections in this beautiful place.
Value: Whether we’re royalty or normal working people or struggling to survive, our lives matter to God. Every life is known intimately by the Creator of the universe. He sees all of us. And He longs for each of us to know Him better.
Welcome: when William Preston, who built the house, became High Sheriff of Lancaster in 1865, he threw an enormous party. The local press said: ‘In the exercise of his acknowledged hospitality, the High Sheriff threw open his spacious mansion, and all who presented themselves… received a cordial welcome. There was, in fact, an open house... not fewer than from 700 to 800 persons shared in the festivities so amply provided.’ One of Ellel Ministry’s key principles is, as Jesus did, to welcome the people. I love that this big old house has always given a welcome.
Redemption: Buying back that which has been lost. In the 1600s, the Ellel Grange estate was lost to the family until, 200 years later, Willian Preston bought it back. It’s such a picture of what Jesus does with us. We wander far from Him. We get wounded and broken and we do all kinds of things and live in all kinds of ways that aren’t His. We’re lost to Him. And we can’t save ourselves. So, He comes. At such great cost, against all the odds, Jesus reaches down into our lives and rescues us. He buys us back and brings us the hope of life in all its fullness.
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