Those who have read Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts’ will attest that he is a delightful and informative guide to mediaeval thought and culture. This little book was produced for the postponed anniversary celebrations – Thomas was born in 1120, murdered in 1170, his remains translated into a new shrive in 1220. It is not a potboiler however, but a work of scholarly detection and a good read. It would be a perfect stocking-filler for anyone with more than a passing interest in Becket or Canterbury or mediæval art.
De Hamel loves manuscripts and tracking and tracing those who produced and owned them, with all their personal foibles, not to mention the scholars who study and care for them today. He brings a story teller’s art to an historical detective mystery, which includes two sainted martyrs and other archbishops of Canterbury, artists and scholars in Anglo-Saxon England and mediæval France – the Æ symbol is one of the clues – but I’ll spare the spoilers, except to pose the question, why is Thomas shown so often with book in hand, when he was not a writer like Dunstan or Anselm?
Not all will be revealed; Becket remains an enigma, was he a holy man, was he a scholar? Much of what remains of his library is in Cambridge, including manuscripts that de Hamel cared for. Of one he says, ‘I suspect that I handled it more often than Becket did. I used to show it to classes of students sometimes, and remarkably often one would furtively reach out a finger to touch the edge of a page, evidence that a sense of momentary encounter with Thomas Becket still carries a secret thrill.’ (p17) Yet for the mediæval monks, books were books, whosoever had owned them; they were not so personal as a lock of hair of a scrap of clothing. (My ‘reach out a finger’ moment came on a Cathedral Open Evening. Two ladies had a dish filled with sweepings of iron from the floor of a Saxon smithy in the precincts. From the time of Saint Dunstan, metal worker and one of the greatest of our Archbishops. Could it be metal he had worked? But that’s another tale.)
This little book should be bought in a touchable form, not an e-book. It is well presented, cloth-bound in martyr’s red, witness to the fascination of history. And it is eminently readable. You must know someone who would enjoy it!
I thought we might look at what St Thomas’s Catholic church was saying about the virus. I’d just copied the paragraphs below when my wife said, ‘He’s making is announcement now’, and my daughter, part of our household, called us to dinner. We could do something about dinner, but not about the Prime Minister.
As the Prime Minister considers a potential National lockdown across England next week, bear in mind that this could mean that our Church may be closed within a week so please keep informed by the various news outlets or phone the Parish Office before making your way to our Church. We are fortunate to be able to continue with our live-stream Masses if Churches across England do close.
Hopefully we will know more next week and will keep you informed on the implications of this potential lockdown on St Thomas’ and what we can do to help those who may need a little help. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been affected by Covid-19.
Please keep safe.
So it looks like another month without being physically present at Mass, for all the cleaning regimes that have been introduced, the social distancing within and outside the building.
As well to remind ourselves that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter happened once and for all; and to join St John Paul II in Christ’s offering ‘on the altar of the world’, before and ever after he suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose on the third day.
Every meal, we should remember, is a part of the Eucharist, especially when it is shared, and when the Lord is thanked for his bounty as we sit down. We are never far from the Mass, and the live stream will remind us of that.
Sharp eyed Kentish Maids and Men of Kent will recognise the coats of arms behind the altar: this is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, but in Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. Far enough from London not to incur the wrath of a turbulent Tudor; I don’t know when the dedication was made to our local hero but under Henry VIII more than a couple of churches in England were switched from Saint Thomas of Canterbury to the doubting Apostle.
When we were in Saint David’s they had this banner on display. Let’s accept their invitation, and put ourselves in the presence of God.
Today is the Feast of Saint Gregory the Great, who saw the Anglian slaves in the market of Rome, and sent Augustine to bring the Gospel to England, via Canterbury. Let’s imagine the experience of being sold into Slavery from John Buchan, writing in 1916, a few months before this window was made for Saint Thomas’ Church in that city. Slaves then and now were human!
I cannot describe that calm appraising look … I was a chattel, a thing infinitely removed from intimacy. Even so I have myself looked at a horse which I thought of buying, scanning his shoulders, hocks and paces. Even so must the old lords of Constantinople have looked at the slaves which the chances of war brought to their markets, assessing their usefulness for some task or other with no thought of a humanity common to purchaser and purchase.
John Buchan, Greenmantle, Ch 14.
Our next few posts will also be on slavery, using a manifesto published by John Wesley in 1774. A reflective response to Black Lives Matter.
Every week Bishop Rose and the three archdeacons for our diocese, along with other members of the senior team have invited us throughout lockdown to join them for a discussion, as to how things are going, with a theme each week – and today we focused on ‘safe places’ – places where we go where we feel safe, where we can be open to God – often in the quietness we hear that voice. For some it is sitting on a beach, or being in a garden or going on a walk; for others it is delving into a book – or a hobby in which we feel safe and secure. For many it is their homes, and very local environment, and the thought of venturing further afield, especially as lockdown eases is itself quite daunting; though one must remain ever mindful that with domestic abuse (and other abuse) the home has not always proven to be that safe place. My ‘bolt hole’ is the Quiet View at Kingston, somewhere where one can be still in the presence of the Lord; and it is important to identify these places – even during the course of the day, to have that Quiet Time. I use a free App: Pray as you Go – which has the gospel reading for the day, prayer and reflection, and is an excellent start to the day, but we are all different and God speaks to each and everyone of us in different ways. St Thomas More: On Monday we would have had our service in St Dunstan’s Church for St Thomas More, but like so many other things, that wasn’t to be; however Rev. Brian McHenry, who is part of our St Thomas More Committee will be leading a short service 7.00 Monday evening,. Medieval Pageant: This weekend was also going to have seen our Medieval Pageant pass through the streets, with the focus on Becket 2020 (so much was planned for this year!) However, the team who put it together are doing so virtually, and if interested please follow here: https://www.facebook.com/canterburymedievalpageant/
The weather vane on St Peter’s Church Canterbury shows his Cross Keys.
A few hundred yards from St Mildred’s, Canon Anthony Charlton’s team are facing simiar dilemmas.
I am delighted we were able to open the church for private prayer this week. Many thanks to all the volunteers who have made this possible. For the moment we are not opening for Mass. We need to organise stewards and a “Track & Trace” system to meet with current obligations. Practically we can only accommodate about 30% of our usual Mass attendance for social distancing compliance & organising is to be agreed. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still suspended and, when we do open, people will be encouraged to attend Mass during the week rather than Sunday to help manage attendance numbers. Sunday Mass, when we offer it, will be shorter. We are asked to keep the homily brief, no intercessions and no singing. Be assured—Mass will be available soon!
From Rev Jo’s daily briefing for yesterday, 12 June. Preparations are afoot to reopen our churches: it’s not just a matter of turning the key.
Good morning everyone, and hope you are well, as we continue to be here at the Rectory. A brief note this morning, as I have a funeral first thing (thank you John for leading Morning Prayer), and then meeting with Mary, churchwarden for St Mildred’s as we go into church to start planning the logistics for worship. Rachel (churchwarden) and I met yesterday at St Peter’s and did likewise. All St Peter’s folk – all is well, and we were working out seating in there – slightly easier as it is chairs. Of course it depends if the government reduces the social distancing from 2 metres. We were there with tape measure working it all out; it is also working out the flow etc – again a steep learning curve for us all! But that is what life is about – they say a lifetime of learning!I will send out service information for Sunday later today, and please access our youtube channel for Morning Prayer. From today’s psalm: 17: 8 “keep me as the apple of your eye, and hide me under the shadow of your wings” God Bless, and keep well, keep connected and keep praying. Jo🙏🙏🙏 Rev Jo Richards, Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
And here is an extract from St Thomas’s Catholic Church in Canterbury, tackling the problems in a different building, and one that traditionally is open for private prayer every day. REOPENING THE CHURCH From Monday, we have been given permission to open our churches for private prayer. Archbishop John Wilson in his letter to the clergy says “It is imperative that any church which does open is fully compliant with the obligatory prerequisites. It is important to emphasise that this date (15th June) is the date from which Churches may open and not the date on which churches must open. The limitations of particular church buildings, the availability of volunteers, and the requirement of the Risk Assessment, may all mean that some churches, perhaps the majority of our churches, may not be able to open immediately or in the short term”. The Parish Pastoral Council are meeting to finalise our Risk Assessment which will then need to be approved by Canon John O’Toole, the Episcopal Vicar for Kent. This is the first step on the road back to restoring the full sacramental, pastoral, and liturgical life of the Church. Please pray that we can move forward safely. Amen to that for St Thomas’, St Mildred’s and all our church buildings.
Pam was quite a character in our parish community and we miss her presence at 9:30am Sunday Mass and early morning Masses on Wednesdays. Whenever we were together in a group she would inevitably say quite spontaneously “I love the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd.” Indeed she was quite right to remind us of this powerful image of God’s love and care.
This is the beginning of Canon Anthony’s reflection in this week’s Newsletter for Saint Thomas’s Parish, Canterbury. Click for the full text: Canon Anthony Charlton. Click here for live-streamed Mass, tomorrow, 3rd May at 9.30 BST
Our pilgrimage should take us from Sandwich to Canterbury in easy stages. We have been planning it but we don’t know when we will be able to walk it together, but here’s a little taster for when our restrictions are lifted: the last day into the city.
This section of the walk is quite unchallenging. Should we be unable to walk together from Sandwich as a community, perhaps groups could walk this 5km stretch on successive days. The walk is almost completely off road, but on well-maintained national cycle track, footpaths or quiet residential roads until the city centre.
St Mary’s church at Fordwich is open from 10.00 so we can gather there for prayer. I spoke to a custodian who was about to cut the grass; he was relaxed about our pilgrimage. The church, though ancient, is wheelchair accessible; there are box pews but choir benches below the sanctuary. The church is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and is not used for regular worship. This Annunciation window at the East End is special; maybe an Eastern influence?
The Old Town Hall shown at the top of this post may be visited but is not likely to be wheelchair accessible! The path goes across pastureland with wooden bridges which have cattle grids but there were no beasts when I cycled in mid-March.
On entering woodland the path climbs away from the valley. In a more open stretch there is a motorcycle exclusion gate into Sturry Road Community Park. We are now on former War Department training ground, used from the Crimean War until recently. Another path runs from the WD boundary stone down to Tennyson Avenue. Our path goes down past the Northgate Community Centre. There is a chicane, designed for wheelchair access but not for lads on scrambler bikes who would be tempted to churn it all into mud.
Here we can chooe the river path or quiet streets to reach St Thomas’s shrine and on to L’Arche’s Glebe garden for a well-earned BBQ.
We just held the first planning meeting for this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage. It takes some planning, we can’t just hope for the best. There’s a lot to think about: ‘Not enough cake!’ And possibly guests from other communities to feed.
We know where we’re going – Canterbury – and we know where we are starting: Sandwich Quay, where Archbishop Thomas Becket made landfall on his return to England in 1170, to be murdered a few weeks later in his own Cathedral. As well as 850 years since then, it is 900 years since his birth in London, and 800 years since his second shrine was blessed and his bones relocated, or translated, into it.
The route needs planning in detail to be sure it’s accessible and safe from fast traffic; we need to plan our stops and seek hospitality for eating, toileting and washing, and a few minutes of prayer, three times a day. But what prayers, what Scripture will we read? Who will produce the art work* for the passports? Will all be done in time?
Come the end of May, it will be best foot forward again! The walk will feel like the easy bit. Mrs T and I are to test the first couple of miles tomorrow. I’ve cycled over it often enough, but that’s another story.