The end of an era for many European Christians as famous Christian hotel closes for ministry after 45 years
Situated in a tranquil location on the south coast of the beautiful island of Jersey – which is part of the Channel Islands — the Highlands Hotel has views of the stunning, sandy beaches. The La Corbière lighthouse is a few minutes’ walk away.
|Front of the Highlands Hotel|
Guests relaxed on the south-facing sun terrace, and enjoy the heated outdoor swimming pool. Many of the bedrooms have country or sea views, and some have private balconies.
Since it was established in 1965, the hotel became a haven for Christians from the UK and other parts of Europe, with a team of Bible teachers who would spend a couple of weeks teaching from the Bible.
Sadly, the hotel ceased trading as a Christian organization at the end of the 2010 season, but has been leased to another hotel and is now operating as a general hotel.
ANS founder, Dan Wooding, who visited the hotel last year during a reporting trip to Jersey, has asked me to put together my recollections about the hotel, of which I was a regular Bible teacher and am also a director, so here it is:
How it all began
“Come aside and rest awhile,” Jesus said to His disciples. Back in the early 60’s this was very much in the mind of the Rev. Ben Peake, the then General Secretary of The Movement for World Evangelization (MWE) and the joint founder with A. Lindsay Glegg of the Filey Christian Holiday Crusade, which for many years held spiritual vacations at the Butlin’s Holiday camp in Filey, Yorkshire, to which thousands of Christians flocked.
Following the success of “Filey,” Ben suggested that a more residential facility was needed to provide teaching and fellowship on a smaller but more intimate scale than was possible in a Holiday Camp. He and the MWE Board eventually came up with the idea of MWE buying a hotel on the beautiful island of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands. With the help of local Christians on the island who invested in the project, an old Inn (The Highlands) was purchased near the Corbiere Lighthouse, a major tourist attraction on the island.
One of MWE’s Board members was John West, the designer of the famous cruise liner, the “Canberra.” He re-designed the Highlands in his own particular style. This included the now much-loved “Tower Lounge” which was circular and resembled the crow’s nest so that you could look out and admire the sea-views from almost every direction. It also had many passages and stairs to make you feel you were on a ship. Sadly, this was not helpful for disabled guests and over the years there have had to be many modifications to conform to modern day rules and regulations.
When it began
The Highlands Hotel opened for business in 1965 to a rather shaky start. However, the following year, 1966, the newly appointed Board of the Hotel (mostly MWE men) invited a local policeman, Ron Brint, to take over as manager. (Ron’s parents had been hoteliers and so he was not without some experience.) He and his wife Betty soon settled down to the task and under their joint care and attention the hotel never again looked back.
By the time that the Germans had invaded The Channel Islands most of the young men had already been evacuated to the mainland – including Ron. Betty however remained on the island throughout its occupation. The old “Highlands” Inn was commandeered as a billet for the German Officers serving in that part of the island. Who would have guessed that 20 years later it would have become a high quality, comfortable holiday hotel for Christian guests?
A Breathtaking Responsibility
My own interest in the Hotel began in 1977 when I was invited to take over the responsibilities of administrating MWE and Filey as their new General Secretary. Although Ben Peake had relinquished his role as General Secretary a couple of years earlier, it was still breathtaking for me to be invited to take on such a large task knowing that it had been handled previously by such giants of the faith.
MWE had been founded by Thomas Cochrane back in the 1930’s and the MWE Board had consisted of such people as Geoffrey King, A Lindsay Glegg, George Duncan, Gilbert Kirby, and so many others – names that have now passed into history and are largely unknown by today’s younger generation of Christians.
A Shock to the System!
One big surprise came to me during my first week as General Secretary of MWE while I was sitting at my desk in May 1977. It was a phone call from one of the MWE Board members reminding me “not to forget about the Highlands Hotel”. I have to confess that, up to that moment, I had never heard of the Highlands Hotel – I must have had my head buried in the sand! I came to understand that the MWE Board had been slowly handing over the full responsibility of running the Hotel to a more local Board of Directors. This was, however, with just one exception – that of the spiritual oversight of the hotels ministry including the organizing of a “Speakers Program” for the summer season.
Guest Speakers Program
Since Ben Peake’s departure, Ron Brint had been booking the speakers – a list that had established itself over the years with MWE’s approval. The Board made it clear that MWE was still responsible for the speakers program and that one of my first tasks was to work out with Ron how this could continue successfully. It was agreed that Ron would continue to prepare a list of proposed speakers for the following season and then submit the list of speakers to me for approval and for me to extend the invitations on behalf of MWE.
|Ron and Betty Brint, the managers of the hotel for over 30 years beginning in 1966|
This worked out extremely well with Ron making all the various travel arrangements. As a result, over the years Ron and I built up what has turned into a valuable and lifelong friendship. In the early 80’s Ron graciously placed me onto the speakers list and, apart from two occasions, the Lord has enabled me fulfill this responsibility every year right through to the closure of the hotel in October 2010. What a privilege!
In 1985 the Board and the shareholders of the Highlands Hotel invited me to join the Board as a director. This was the same year that I founded World Action Ministries (www.worldactionministries.org.uk .) I gladly accepted the invitation and I’m glad to say that I am still a member of the Board today and still enjoying the challenge and the excitement of being involved in what has been a great work for God over the years. Each board member is unpaid and, if they wish to do so, can put themselves up for re-election at the Annual General Meeting of the Hotel every four years. It is my privilege to have just been re-elected by the Shareholders at their AGM for a further 4 year period (March 2011 to March 2015).
During the 90’s Ron Brint’s health began to suffer and he had to retire as manager and pass on the role to his assistant, Tim Anderson. Ron was then invited to join the Board and, at his suggestion, the Board asked me to resume the full responsibility of not only approving the list but also of planning the Guest Speakers program and inviting the speakers to the hotel. It soon became evident to me that many of the speakers had been on “the list” for many years and that quite a few were entering what could be called that more “mature” stage of life! It was not an easy task, but I set about seeking to introduce some younger men into this ministry and also expand the list of potential speakers.
The Impact of the Ministry
The way it worked was that each speaker came (ideally) for two weeks and took a morning Bible Study and an evening session each day. They would also make themselves available during the day for the guests who might have problems or just want to chat to someone about things. Over the years there have been thousands of guests sitting under the given daily ministry and many important personal and often life-changing conversations held between guests and speakers. I know this from my own personal experience as a guest speaker! Who knows what impact this has had on the church and on God’s Kingdom over the last 46 years of summer seasons?
Fawlty Towers it was not! This was the classic British BBC TV series that was inspired by the rude behavior of the proprietor of a hotel in the seaside town of Torquay on the “English Riviera“. The hilarious show followed Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), the irascible Torquay hotel owner in his running of the fictional Fawlty Towers hotel in the same area. Besides Cleese, it also starred Prunella Scales as his domineering wife Sybil—his “little nest of vipers”. Connie Booth played Polly the dependable maid and general assistant, and last but certainly not least, little Manuel superbly played by Andrew Sachs—the tyrannized waiter from Barcelona, dogs body and subject of frequent physical attacks by the demented Basil!
The “welcome” that guests received at the Highlands Hotel was completely different to that at Fawlty Towers and was consistently outstanding. The the hotels’ reputation for food quality and quantity was second to none. Following the retirement of Ron Brint, the hotel appointed Tim Anderson, the then assistant manager, as manager but after 5 years Tim decided to move on to a more challenging job at Jersey Airport. The Board then appointed a new manager in 2005, Alan Irving, and with the help of his wife Sandra, the hotel continued its historic commitment to provide the very best of Christian hospitality and ministry.
There have always been great characters on the staff – not least our very own Manual Ortega from Madeira in Portugal. Manuel came to us many years ago serving first as a waiter and then as head waiter during the season and helping in the renovation and restoration work (painting, tiling etc.) during the winter period when the hotel was closed. Manuel became one of the reasons guests so often returned to the hotel. How many times have I heard the phrase, “It wouldn‘t be the same without Manuel.” He and his wife Luz (pronounce Loose) – who served the hotel as housekeeper – remained with us faithfully right to the end.
Two summers ago one of our older male guests got into difficulties in the hotels outdoor swimming pool. On hearing the commotion Manuel ran from the dining room and, arriving at the scene, without hesitation jumped in and rescued our guest from drowning, reviving him on the poolside. Manuel was officially commended by the police and received an award for his prompt and selfless action in saving a man’s life – a truly proud day for our Manuel, the Hotel and guests alike!
“There is a Time for Everything!”
The financial climate began to change for the hotel about 5 years ago and, despite the Boards very best efforts, the slow decline in the number of guests and the subsequent reduction in income forced the Board, with great reluctance, to come to the conclusion that 2010 had to be the last operating season for the Highlands Hotel as a Christian Hotel in Jersey.
It was my privilege to be the final speaker for the season and therefore for the hotels history. A great privilege! On the final Sunday we held a Communion service that was attended by Ron and Betty Brint, the former managers, and also Alan and Sandra Irving, the managers for the last 5 years. I spoke on that passage from Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything” and we gave thanks to God for the vision given to our forebears in raising up the hotel “for a season” back in 1965 and for guiding us now to recognize that its time had come to an end. Never easy in any Christian enterprise!
To God Be the Glory!
The writer in Ecclesiastes also so says, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.” That’s what those of us responsible for the hotel and its activities have sought to do throughout its history – to honor (revere) God in everything. For everything achieved through the hotel – “To God be the Glory!”
Philip B South, Executive Director of World Action Ministries and a Director of Highlands Hotel Limited
Phil South left the business world in 1969 to give himself to use his administrative and preaching gifts for God’s work in the UK. In 1974, after some years as the director of “You Need Christ Crusade” in London, Phil moved to the English Midlands with his wife Betty and their 3 daughters Naomi, Carolyn and Miriam. There he continued his preaching and administrative ministry until, in 1977, MWE (The Movement for World Evangelization) invited him to become their new General Secretary. He took over the administration of the Movements ministry and also that of the Filey Christian Holiday Crusade. “Filey Week”, a unique holiday week blend of ministry and fun held annually for up to 7,000 Christians, continued through to 1988 when, for a number of practical reasons, the MWE Board decided that it was time for “Filey Week” to come to an end. Because of these extra activities outside of the MWE agenda, Phil was encouraged by the then Chairman of MWE, Rev Gilbert Kirby, to found his own ministry. Consequently, in 1986, Phil founded World Action Ministries (WAM) as a Registered Charity to facilitate him in the serving of the Lord through his administrative and also his preaching ministry gifts. WAM continued to administrate MWE and Filey and also made itself available to any other ministries that needed Phil and his team’s administrative expertise and experience. WAM immediately attracted a number of Christian organizations and is always open to consider helping other ministries who need administrative help in the UK. Alongside his administrative responsibilities, Phil’s preaching ministry has been to local churches throughout the UK and in many other parts of the world. He has preached in and visited North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Far East and the Middle East. He can be heard from time to time in over 200 countries on local radio stations who broadcast programs produced by Good News Broadcasting. WAM relies on the support of the ministries that it serves and also the support of individual Christians but rarely appeals for financial support. It is essentially a “Faith” ministry and, this year, 2011, WAM is celebrating its 25th Anniversary – “Our God is a Faithful God”. To invite Phil to preach or talk about his ministry (Why not have an “Native American Indian Night”?) at your church of conference or to talk with WAM about how they might help you in your organizations administration, what might be involved and what it might cost… To visit WAM’s website at: www.worldactionministries.org.uk or email WAM at firstname.lastname@example.org