In the south of England, eight miles from the West Dorset coast, in a tiny hamlet, David Aupperlee ’03 milks cows in the barn adjoining a 17th-century manor house. His wife, Helen, weeds the vegetable garden while their two children play nearby. A bell rings, and they join a handful of others in a tiny, 14th-century stone church for midday prayer. Lunch in the manor house follows— homegrown, homemade food shared among 25 or so people at long tables. The conversation is lively.
This is Pilsdon Community, and though it sounds too good to be true, it is both true and good. But not idyllic.
“Pilsdon was formed to be a welcoming refuge to people who have experienced some form of exclusion,” Aupperlee said. “Most people who are guests at Pilsdon are working through a major life crisis—addiction, for example, or bereavement, or homelessness. Time here can help folks regain strength to reengage with life on the outside.”
Pilsdon also welcomes “wayfarers,” people traveling England’s network of footpaths. They arrive at all hours and are allowed to stay a night or a weekend.
Anchoring the community for all these guests are core members like the Aupperlees. They and three other members take responsibility for
the community’s organization. But the labor itself—preparing meals, cleaning, caring for the animals, the gardens, and the grounds—is shared among all.
“We’re not therapeutic in any clinical way,” Aupperlee said. “But working with animals and plants, preparing meals, eating healthy food, being sought out in conversation—people have purposeful work and meaningful relationships here. That’s what we all need, and it’s healing.”
Founded by an Anglican clergyman after WWII, Pilsdon Community welcomes people of any faith or none. Everyone, of any description, is welcomed.
“Our family has been here almost four years,” Aupperlee said. “We’ve seen that people pushed to their limits often have an understanding of God that is both liberating and deeply hopeful. It’s been eye-opening and humbling. We learn from one another every day.”
To learn more about the Pilsdon Community, visit pilsdon.org.uk.