This is an autobiography of a spiritual activist who declares that faith without action is not real faith, and action that is not nonviolent is not right action. Sustained by this conviction, Colin Hodgetts became director of Christian Action, founded Refugee Action, and in one way or another has always been active in the field of social and spiritual transformation.

I first met Colin in 1968, at a time when Europe was gripped by youth action. Paris, Rome, London, Berlin and many other cities saw student revolt against the Vietnam war, the nuclear arms race, social injustice, patriarchy, hierarchy and oppressive capitalism. In such a situation, how should activists such as Colin and me act? Act we must, but our action should be nonviolent, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. So Colin and I established the London School of Nonviolence, to train and equip young people with tools, techniques and the ethos and philosophy of nonviolent action.

In parallel with the student revolt at that time, there was a strong peace movement, as well as movements of change such as feminism, rock music, CND and the counter-culture: activities that were all largely peaceful and transformative. Christian churches were also affected by this turmoil, and there were many clergy who became engaged as worker-priests, liberation theologians and opponents of apartheid and racial discrimination. Colin was one of them. Many established priests looked with suspicion at him, with his duffel coat, sandals, beard and long hair, but there were other radical Christians for whom he was a breath of fresh air.

Among Christian saints, Francis of Assisi has been the iconic inspiration for Colin. Living simply, practising self-sufficiency and finding fulfilment through music and teaching has always been the way of life for him. He is a modern Renaissance man: a writer, a builder, a chef, a composer, a gardener, a teacher, a singer, and much more.

When we established The Small School in Hartland, north Devon in 1982, we were looking for a teacher who could not only teach but also be an example of holistic education as well as a good manager. I could not think of anybody better than Colin to fulfil this role. To our delight, he agreed to move from London to this remote part of the country, and for 11 years he inspired the pupils to study: not merely to pass exams, but to discover themselves and develop their potential and their skills in the service of people and the planet. Those who studied with Colin will remember him as a friend and mentor for the rest of their lives.

All this is beautifully narrated in this engaging autobiography, which is full of stories, anecdotes, struggles, doubts and hopes. Colin’s life is a shining example of how a Christian priest can live in the world but not be of the world. In this adventurous journey his wife Julia has been a committed companion and co-worker. It has been my honour and pleasure to know them both and work with them. Reading this account of the trials and tribulations as well as the achievements and accomplishments of Colin’s life, readers are bound to be inspired and impressed in equal measure.

Satish Kumar’s is Editor Emeritus at The Resurgence Trust. His autobiography No Destination is published by Green Books.