Tag Archives: children

Going viral LVI: Jo’s Joy


Here is the latest bulletin from Rev Jo Richards of St Dunstan’s, Canterbury. Advent has been a bit different this year!

I must share with you the joy of yesterday – I was invited to take a Christingle service in a local primary school – last year they packed St Dunstan’s church, twice over, and for obvious reasons they couldn’t come to St Dunstan’s and I went to school. Two assemblies – one year R 4&5 year olds, and then year 3: 7 & 8 year olds. They are making Christingles, and I took my ‘giant Christingle’ and we talked through the symbolism of it all….despite all the covid disruption these children were a delight and so interested and engaging. Then we had Q&A session. The most profound questions that came from the Yr 3 children: If Jesus was such a good person, why was he killed, where is Jesus now? How did the Resurrection take place? And this went on for about 20 mins – just amazing, and all so thoughtful, and again the children all so incredibly well behaved. It was an absolute joy to share the morning with them.

You’ve probably noticed that the ‘Going Viral’ posts are well and truly out of sequence, and have doubtless concluded either that Will has lost it, or that some posts are scheduled a little in advance, while others are posted on or soon after we hear from someone with an interesting tale. Thank you, Jo. for today and other days!

Will

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Christian Unity, corona virus

November 29: Doctor Johnson and the Survival Tree.

The once lone rowan, dubbed The Survivor, near Moffat is now surrounded by emerging native woodland.
The Survivor Tree

More than 200 years ago Dr Johnson was visiting Scotland, and commented often on the desolation caused by the lack of trees. It’s taken the climate emergency for action to be taken but that action is paying off. First, Dr Johnson:
“It is natural, in traversing this gloom of desolation, to inquire, whether something may not be done to give nature a more cheerful face, and whether those hills and moors that afford heath cannot with a little care and labour bear something better?  The first thought that occurs is to cover them with trees, for that in many of these naked regions trees will grow, is evident, because stumps and roots are yet remaining; and the speculatist hastily proceeds to censure that negligence and laziness that has omitted for so long a time so easy an improvement. To drop seeds into the ground, and attend their growth, requires little labour and no skill.  He who remembers that all the woods, by which the wants of man have been supplied from the Deluge till now, were self-sown, will not easily be persuaded to think all the art and preparation necessary, which the Georgick writers prescribe to planters.  Trees certainly have covered the earth with very little culture.  They wave their tops among the rocks of Norway, and might thrive as well in the Highlands and Hebrides.

He that calculates the growth of trees, has the unwelcome remembrance of the shortness of life driven hard upon him.  He knows that he is doing what will never benefit himself; and when he rejoices to see the stem rise, is disposed to repine that another shall cut it down. Plantation is naturally the employment of a mind unburdened with care, and vacant to futurity, saturated with present good, and at leisure to derive gratification from the prospect of posterity.  He that pines with hunger, is in little care how others shall be fed.  The poor man is seldom studious to make his grandson rich.  It may be soon discovered, why in a place, which hardly supplies the cravings of necessity, there has been little attention to the delights of fancy, and why distant convenience is unregarded, where the thoughts are turned with incessant solicitude upon every possibility of immediate advantage.

from “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson)

And here is a hopeful story from Scotland; a video clip on a remarkable and inspiring tree being helped out of loneliness.

This is still a good time to plant trees in our neighbourhood.

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Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces

14 November: A cat.


A Cat by Edward Thomas from Last Poems.

She had a name among the children;
But no one loved though someone owned
Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime
And had her kittens duly drowned
In Spring, nevertheless, this cat
Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales,
And birds of bright voice and plume and flight,
As well as scraps from neighbours’ pails.
I loathed and hated her for this;
One speckle on a thrush’s breast
Was worth a million such; and yet
She lived long, till God gave her rest.

smart

This is a war poem insofar as it was written when the poet was waiting to go to war. Edward Thomas was aware that joining the army was a dangerous decision during World War I. Of course, we know he did not come home.

The all-killing, all-devouring cat herself lost her own kittens. That is outside her control. She herself kills because that’s the way she is, till God gives her rest. And the war lived long and killed multitudes, because that’s the way it is; out of control.

When I arrived at L’Arche’s Glebe garden the day after reading this poem, I met with this sight. There are at least three cats that patrol the place and one young blackbird the less.

We pray that God may give us a changed heart, so that His world may have a rest from War.

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Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, poetry

16 August: Gilbert White III, living comfortably.

We have read how Samuel Johnson encouraged friends to make detailed personal observation, scientific enquiry in other words. No-one appears to have found this activity anti-Christian or against Bible teaching. Gilbert White of Selborne, Hampshire, was an Anglican curate who observed the Natural History of his parish and shared his discoveries with friends in letters that became his book, The Natural History of Selborne. WE celebrate his tercentenary this summer. Our first selection comes from letters to Thomas Pennant, himself an associate of Johnson.

England, in the second half of the eighteenth century was much more rigidly divided by class than today. Many countrymen, out of doors in all weathers, and not unobservant, were illiterate and unschooled, so were unable to contribute as much to the growth of knowledge than if they had received an education. However some parishioners did help White by bringing specimens or telling their curate about a sight worthy of his attention.

LETTERS TO THOMAS PENNANT, ESQUIRE. V

The village of Selborne, and large hamlet of Oakhanger, with the single farms, and many scattered houses along the verge of the forest, contain upwards of six hundred and seventy inhabitants.

We abound with poor, many of whom are sober and industrious, and live comfortably in good stone or brick cottages, which are glazed, and have chambers above stairs; mud buildings we have none.  Besides the employment from husbandry, the men work in hop-gardens, of which we have many, and fell and bark timber.  In the spring and summer the women weed the corn, and enjoy a second harvest in September by hop-picking.  Formerly, in the dead months they availed themselves greatly by spinning wool, for making of barragons, a genteel corded stuff, much in vogue at that time for summer wear, and chiefly manufactured at Alton, a neighbouring town, by some of the people called Quakers; but from circumstances this trade is at an end.  The inhabitants enjoy a good share of health and longevity; and the parish swarms with children.

Notice that the villagers live in good stone or brick cottages, and that White feels the need to remark upon the fact. The field above is sown with maize using a seed drill, invented by Jethro Tull. It made hoeing the crop easier and less wasteful, but imagine hoeing that field all day!

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10 July: Foraging Season in Kent.

I think we can declare the foraging season open! There have been a few wild cherries that the birds have not eaten, not enough to make a mall jar of jam, but the first blackberry was picked today, 6th July, about 9 days earlier than expected. Like the cherries, it was a little tart, but early, like the first apricots – a revelation to 9 month old David!

Last week I was harvesting lime – linden – flowers by the river, when a man, who looked Mediterranean, saw me. He grabbed a handful of the flowering branch-tips and plunged his face into them, inhaling the scent deep into his lungs. What memories were quickening for him?

This evening I went to look at a tree I had marked as likely to be in full bloom today. So had someone else. Being taller than most people, there were still a few flowers within my reach. I went home along a path I rarely take, and soon reached another lime tree in flower, scenting the wind. Plenty for me and those who might come after me.

Our other discovery was two walnut trees in public thoroughfares, ripe for foraging the soft-shelled nuts for pickling. As our daughter said, the longest day is past, Christmas is coming!

Let us pray for good harvests throughout the world, an end to the locusts in East Africa, and freedom for those fighting famine to do their work in peace.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces, Summer

3 July: Praying with Pope Francis: Our Families.

Adrian and Carolyn get married

 

We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.

Mrs Turnstone and I took pride in being around for our children. Then they started to grow up, and we had to as well! Actually, it was often the children who accompanied their parents with love, respect and guidance.

Love: how about breakfast in bed sometime before 6.00 a.m. – dry cereal in a sardine can, because the pre-schoolers could not heave the milk down from the fridge, and the can did duty for various games, usually as a doll’s bed.

Respect: as in wanting to go to work, gardening with one or the other parent, doing as we did.

Guidance: for example, shaking their father, guilty of falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, or dictating a dress code: If you ever come to school in that coat again …

Trivial examples which point to the love, respect and guidance there should be within the family. Sometimes it’s difficult: ‘Will,’ one mother said to me, ‘Annie is the first of my four kids to do exams. I can’t help her because I never did them either.’ Such families are often honestly doing their best and need support, not condemnation.

Let us remember them this month. Perhaps it’s as well exams were scrapped this year because of the corona virus!

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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Mission, Summer

9 June; Of Syllables and Steps, Singing and Silence: II

chris-preaching

There is a moment of truth in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when the latent emotions of the rude mechanicals’ play emerge to touch their audience at the wedding feast. At Mass there should be moments of truth. Despite the crooked translation, it is for ministers, to the best of their ability, to speak the words, to love the Word as though it were alive, as though they believe it, as though it were awesome; from ‘In the Name of the Father’ by way of ‘The Word of the Lord’, ‘Through your goodness’, ‘This is my Body’, ‘the Body of Christ’ (looking the communicant in the eye), to ‘Go in Peace’. A challenge, truly.

There are moments in liturgy as in life, when silence can and should be observed:

Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another —

Let us hold hands and look.”

She, such a very ordinary little woman;

He, such a thumping crook;

But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels

In the teashop’s ingle-nook.

John Betjeman, ‘In a Bath Teashop’

Silence can bring focus and awe: when I led Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the parish Mass I used to ask my ‘very ordinary’ child readers to count to ten in their heads to allow reflection between the bidding – let us ask God to …, and its prayer – Lord hear us.

Silence between the consecration and the acclamation; silence before inviting everyone to join in the Lord’s Prayer, silence after communion: these can inspire a sense of awe. All should participate in these silences, unlike the silence of the old rite with the priest mumbling prayers and not really silent at all, and the congregation praying the Rosary.

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30 May, Tagore: no time to destroy.

"There is not time for us to clasp a thing
and crush it and fling it away to the dust."
			from "The Gardener" by Rabindranath Tagore

‘Clasp a thing and crush it and fling it away’ – that is us today. That is exactly what we Turnstones do with supermarket plastic milk bottles. When our milk was delivered in glass bottles to the doorstep, it was often stolen, our children left without milk for breakfast.

So we see sin and the effects of sin: someone clasped our milk bottle, drank the milk and flung the bottle away; we were forced to buy supermarket milk, and crush and fling away the plastic bottle. At least that is recycled nowadays.

Let’s use our time and resources to let the dust bloom, not accumulate our rubbish.

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23 May, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight

scaales
Just and true measurements

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”   Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked ‘VR’ underneath to tell that they were trustworthy because they had undergone official testing. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

No, Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight.

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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May 1. Hopkins: All this Juice and all this Joy

campion.cowparsley.pilgr.2019.sm.jpg
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.”
 “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
‘Weeds in wheels’: Wheels in Hopkins’ time would have been wooden, with spokes radiating from the central hub, not unlike the petals of flowers such as the red campion above. The white cow parsley’s florets stand at the end of spoke-like stems; perhaps something like these flowers was in his inward eye as he wrote. Pear trees then would have been tall, not the dwarf orchard plantations generally seen today; brushing the blue would have seemed a more natural metaphor. 
Listen to the thrush at this link.
Hopkins straightforwardly links earthly nature with its creator and with human, childish innocence; children of God chosen by Christ, and so ‘worthy the winning.’ A bold assertion for a Victorian! 

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry, Spring