Tag Archives: love

16 November: The ruined chapel

ruined chapel

This derelict chapel is lost in the Herefordshire countryside. The church at nearby Richard’s Castle is no longer in regular use for worship. Has God abandoned the Marches (the Welsh/English border country) or have the Marches abandoned God?

It’s more complex than that. People have gone. Farm work is done mechanically; the railways that employed thousands have closed or greatly reduced the number of workers, and so on. But also people have indeed turned away from Sunday worship.

This chapel was built around 1810 by local people who responded to the Methodist Revival led by the Wesleys. They wanted to live the Christian life more fully and when they were cold-shouldered by the established Church of England, they erected chapels that look as much like dwelling places as churches. Other  groups were also building ‘dissenting’ chapels, like the Baptists and Congregationalists. One of my ancestors is believed to have ministered at Bethel Chapel in nearby Evenjobb, across the border in Wales.

It is a shame to see the building abandoned, the lawn gone to nettles, brambles, and buttercups – we can welcome the buttercups, but the others will soon be preventing people from entering. It is unloved. Perhaps no descendants of the worshippers live nearby, or they don’t know about the chapel, perhaps they don’t care.

So do we Christians pack up and go home? Or do we try to tune ourselves to Christ, live as he would do, in season or out of season?

In a final plug for Rowan WIlliams’s  Luminaries, a few words from his reflection on Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

You’re free to offer God’s love quite independently of your own security or success. Sometimes the world may be in tune and sometimes not; sometimes there is a real symbiosis, sometimes a violent collision. But the labour continues, simply because the rightness of the service does not depend on what the world thinks it wants and whether the world believes it has got what it needs from the Church. (p116).

 

 

 

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15 November: Light on the Christian Way.

Luminaries: Rowan Williams (author)

Luminaries: twenty lives that illuminate the Christian way.

by Rowan Williams

Published by SPCK 2, London 2019

ISBN 10: 0281082952

A review.

 

 

How do you choose just twenty shining saints for a little book like this? Dr Williams offers us four of his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury – Augustine, Anselm, Cranmer and Michael Ramsey – in this selection of sermons and other extracts.

Williams is especially compassionate regarding his first predecessor, the reluctant and blundering Augustine in whom fear and humility grind together painfully. He never wanted to come to Kent, he tried to turn back; he was ‘almost endearingly nervous and  anxious’ (p23), but he stuck at it and made a difference. 

Doctor Williams himself is remembered in Canterbury with great affection too: ad multos annos!

An interesting juxtaposition occurs because the subjects are listed in chronological order, William Tyndale, whom we met yesterday, rubs shoulders with Saint Teresa of Avila. a man and a woman from very different backgrounds, both determined to bring about church reform.

it is possible to draw out similarities between them. Here is Tyndale: ‘Look, what thou owest to Christ, that thou owest to thy neighbour’s need. To thy neighbour owest thou thy heart, thyself and al that thou hast and canst do. The love that springest out of Christ, excludeth  no man, neither putteth difference between one and another.’ (p56-57)

Teresa was conscious that her Jewish ancestry put a difference between her and some others, but in the convent where she lived there were differences between sisters due to wealth and social standing of their families. This made her more and more uneasy: it was not true community life! True community life excluded no woman, but was based on friendship in shared poverty, which allowed Jesus to be present in friendship with each one. Friendship with Jesus is a big claim, but that friendship is to be cultivated in prayer; and Williams sketches out Teresa’s experience of the prayer of friendship with Jesus. A chapter to read and re-read.

Every subject is interesting and human, so the whole book is to be read and re-read. And since it is that time of year, a book to buy for a friend, since it may be some time before you get it back if you lend it out. Not that it will be gathering dust and forgotten: it will be read and re-read.

 

 

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12 November, Readings from Mary Webb XXII: The Lad out there.

 

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I had forgotten this war poem by Mary Webb. ‘So young he is, so dear to me’: this was not just written in sympathy for others, but from her own heart. Her three brothers enlisted, and one was gravely injured. Even so, if we cannot feel with those left behind, there is something wrong with us. Pray for all mothers, wives and families and friends worrying, worrying, at home, as well as the men and women on service.
Oh, Powers of Love, if still you lean
Above a world so black with hate,
Where yet–as it has ever been–
The loving heart is desolate,
Look down upon the lad I love,
(My brave lad, tramping through the mire)–
I cannot light his welcoming fire,
Light Thou the stars for him above!
Now nights are dark and mornings dim,
Let him in his long watching know
That I too count the minutes slow
And light the lamp of love for him.
The sight of death, the sleep forlorn,
The old homesickness vast and dumb–
Amid these things, so bravely borne,
Let my long thoughts about him come.
I see him in the weary file;
So young he is, so dear to me,
With ever-ready sympathy
And wistful eyes and cheerful smile.
However far he travels on,
Thought follows, like the willow-wren
That flies the stormy seas again
To lands where her delight is gone.
Whatever he may be or do
While absent far beyond my call,
Bring him, the long day’s march being through,
Safe home to me some evenfall!

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19 October: Mission to Reset the Mindset.

 

commonwealth flag

Although it is Pope Francis who set us looking at Mission this month, we are also sharing stories from elsewhere in the universal Church, including a group from the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which serves the Anglican Communion, in England as well as overseas. Reflections from ‘Pray with the World Church’, available on the USPG website.

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The Revd Dr Evie Vernon, Deputy Director of Global Relations, USPG reflects:
‘London is the place for me,’ sang Aldyn Roberts, aka Lord Kitchener, the Trinidadian calypsonian, as he alighted from the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks on June 22, 1948. ‘Kitch’ and 492 fellow West Indians were responding to a call to rebuild Britain, devastated by theWelcome-poster

Second World War. This was nothing new. Caribbean people had been coming to take care of the UK for centuries. With others from the outposts of empire, they had served during the two world wars. Indeed, many of the Windrush arrivals were former servicemen and women. Many believe that those people who came to Britain from around the world, in the 1940s and after, transformed British society into something more vibrant and colourful. Those Caribbeans who came before 1971 arrived as British citizens to serve what they considered to be their mother country. Nevertheless many of them and their descendants experienced significant prejudice and discrimination. Yet with the poet Scratchylus, they continue to declare, ‘We extended love, humbleness, manners and received hate, but … we are on the mission to

RESET THE MINDSET’.

 God who is gloriously revealed in the diversity of the Trinity, we give thanks for the varieties of culture, talents and ethnicities embodied in humanity. May we celebrate our unity in the midst of our differences. Reveal yourself in the oneness of the Trinity. Amen.

And may I always be ready to adjust my (mind)set!

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18 October: Qualities for mission.

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Yesterday we looked at some of the practicalities of following a mission: the structures and rules that make personal commitment possible. What are the personal qualities of a good missionary? I think this prayer, that springs from the Lord’s prayer, goes some way to defining them: confidence, idealism and love, but also closeness to the Father, so that his love will be visible to the world. May our hearts beat in time with the Lord’s!

Father in Heaven, God of men and women,

So far away and yet so near:

Give me the confidence of a child,

The idealism of a dreamer

And the love of a saint.

Let your name be in me and beside me.

Wherever I may be,

may your Kingdom Come:

A new world with heavenly colours.

Let me be an icon of your friendship.

And give to the heart of the world the rhythm of your heartbeat.

Amen.


This prayer by Erwin Roosen appeared in the Dutch Dominicans’ website, ‘Preek van de Week’ on 28 July.

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6 October: praying with Pope Francis: Come Holy Spirit.

 

We have just celebrated St Francis’ day, so here is Pope Francis’s mission prayer for October. This is shared with us by Mission Today Magazine.

The poor man of Assisi brought about a new missionary dawn in his day; let us take courage from his example in today’s needy world.

May the breath of the Holy Spirit bring about a new missionary ‘dawn’ in the Church.

We have to remember that the first missionaries were not academically trained professionals as we would expect today. They had, however, been trained in the peripatetic school of Jesus, wandering Palestine and beyond in his company. And they were given, at least on this day, the gift of tongues, so no slog trying to learn African tonal languages (or even more difficult, one English missionary confided in me, Polish!)

We are all called to be missionaries, like all the 120 men and women – it was not just the apostles – in the upper room. What that means in practice depends on where we are, who we are with. To begin with, the outside observer ought to be able to say, Look how those Christians love one another. That’s a challenge in the wake of the scandals of recent years, but one we should always be up for, regardless – we should not be putting on a show, but just loving each other.

The rest flows from there. Our neighbours are our sisters and brothers and should be treated with respect; in over-simplified terms, if I respect someone then they themselves and others around them will feel that they are worthy of respect. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.

The new missionary dawn must shine on you and me, and show us our part in the work of the Spirit.

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5 October: May we be missionaries too.

amsterdam.attic.dove

Following yesterday’s reflection on Pope Francis’s prayer for the Holy Spirit to bring about a new dawn of Mission, we have ‘An Extraordinary Month of Mission’ during October, as a response to Pope Benedict XV’s call to Mission ‘Maximum Illud’, a hundred years ago.

This prayer for the month is at the Missio Website.

God our Father, when your Son Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he commissioned his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’.

Through our Baptism you send us out to continue this mission among all peoples.

Empower us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be courageous and enthusiastic in bearing witness to the Gospel, so that the mission entrusted to us, which is still far from completion, may bring life and light to the world.

May all peoples experience the saving love and generous mercy of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Not much to add to that! Except that we will need courage and enthusiasm to bring love and mercy to the people around us, and perhaps courage most especially when the enthusiasm is slow to get into gear. It happens.

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2 October, The Franciscans come to Mount Alvernia V: All through the night

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While his companions slept in the ruined church, Saint Francis threw himself on his knees to pray; and behold in the first watch of the night there come a great multitude of demons, exceeding fierce, with a great noise and tumult, and began to do him grievous battle whereby the one plucked him this way and the other one dragged him up and another down; one threatened him with one thing, and the other accused him of another; and thus they sought to distract him from his prayer; but they could not, for that God was with him.

Therefore whenas Saint Francis had enough endured the assaults of the demons, he began to cry in a loud voice: “O damned spirits, ye can do naught, save what the hand of God alloweth you: wherefore in the name of God Almighty I bid you do unto my body whatever is permitted you of God; for gladly shall I bear it, sith I have no greater enemy than my body: and therefore if you avenge me of mine enemy, ye will do me good service.” Then the demons with great fury and violence took hold of him, and began to drag him through the church, and to do him greater trouble and annoy than at the first.

Thereat Saint Francis began to cry aloud, and said: “My Lord Jesu Christ, I give Thee thanks for the great honour and charity that Thou showest me ; for it is a token of great love when the Lord punishes His servant for all his faults in this world, so that he be not punished in the next. And I am ready gladly to endure every pain and adversity, that Thou, my God, dost will to send me for my sins.”

Then the demons, put to confusion and vanquished by his patience and endurance, were away,
And Saint Francis in fervour of spirit left the church and entered into a wood that was there hard by, and threw himself upon his knees, in prayer; and with prayers and tears and beating of the breast he sought to find Jesu Christ, the spouse and the delight of his soul. And at the last finding Him in the secret places of his soul, he now bespake Him with reverence as his Lord, now made answer to Him as his judge, now besought Him as his father, now held converse with Him as with a friend.

I won’t attempt to diagnose away the experiences Francis’s companions witnessed in that dark night in the ruined church. But at the end he held converse with Jesus as a friend. May we do so in our turn.

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26 September. Brownings : nothing has humbled me so much as your love

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“At first and when I did not believe that you really loved me, when I thought you deceived yourself, then, it was different. But now … now … when I see and believe your attachment for me, do you think that any cause in the world (except what diminished it) could render it less a source of joy to me? I mean as far as I myself am considered.

Now if you ever fancy that I am vain of your love for me, you will be unjust, remember. If it were less dear, and less above me, I might be vain perhaps. But I may say before God and you, that of all the events of my life, inclusive of its afflictions, nothing has humbled me so much as your love. Right or wrong it may be, but true it is, and I tell you. Your love has been to me like God’s own love, which makes the receivers of it kneelers.

Why all this should be written, I do not know.”

(from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” by Robert Browning)

EBB wrote for an audience of one, but we can read over Robert’s shoulder, and contemplate and be thankful for our own sources of personal joy, the channels through which God’s love washes over us.

 

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September 25: Brownings: Hair 4, Robert’s response. Relics XIX.

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‘Relics’ seems not quite the right word for the ring with Elizabeth’s hair that Robert has just received, but it serves the same purpose of making her present in a special way. Of course they overcame the obstacles preventing their marriage, and were happier and richer as a result of their boldness.
December 2, 1845.
I was happy, so happy before! But I am happier and richer now.
My love—no words could serve here, but there is life before us, and to the end of it the vibration now struck will extend—I will live and die with your beautiful ring, your beloved hair—comforting me, blessing me. Let me write to-morrow—when I think on all you have been and are to me, on the wonder of it and the deliciousness, it makes the paper words that come seem vainer than ever—To-morrow I will write.”
From “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” Edited by Robert Browning

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