Mission and Vision
However, in the years leading up to 2000, the Church was sadly underused and the congregation dwindling. There was talk of closure. Then, Keith Lemar, our minister at the time, in conjunction with a few far-sighted members, turned the whole situation on its head with the idea and vision of creating a day retreat centre and other facilities out of the former Sunday school (built 1906). In faith, the congregation raised the funds necessary for the project and they were supported by additional funding from Central Methodist sources and the Friends of Kent Churches. The Sunday school room was transformed into a place of comfort, warmth and quiet together with basic modern kitchen and toilet
facilities. Two beautiful gardens were designed and laid each side of the chapel. The horrible cement rendering of the chapel walls was stripped away exposing the stunning Kentish flint walls – a vista which the first Bible Christians must have enjoyed. The church members then set out their vision and mission which, in essence, was to offer Hartlip Retreat Centre and Church as a place of hospitality, peace and calm as a gift to the community at large. It would not be run as a business and would be open to all comers, religious or secular – anyone, in fact, who God sent to us. Pivotal to our mission is our undertaking of welcome and the rendering of hospitality. In part this is based on lessons learned by Hartlip’s Retreat coordinators from the Benedictine Rule and their association with Buckfast Abbey and by connection to the then Methodist Retreat and Spirituality Association (now, ‘Reflect’) and the Retreat Association. The business of being there to meet and greet and welcome visitors is fundamental to those visitors, who in particular, are there to escape the rigours, stresses and strains of daily life or the work place or both! The providing of hospitality is a powerful element of Hartlip’s mission and an opportunity for us to show God’s love and care for all those who visit the Retreat Centre and our Church.