Tag Archives: welcome

25 January, Church Unity Week. Unusual Kindness VIII.

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Receiving and giving

And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever, and of a bloody flux. To whom Paul entered in; and when he had prayed, and laid his hands on him, he healed him. Which being done, all that had diseases in the island, came and were healed: Who also honoured us with many honours, and when we were to set sail, they laded us with such things as were necessary.(28:8-10)

Reflection

I thank the stranger for privileging me to receive You.

I thank the Samaritan for making me accept Your care and the love I thought wasn’t in You to give.

I thank Jesus for drawing me to Your precious death to receive Your poverty  as riches that outweigh the world.

I thank the others all who gave to me so much to give.

Prayer

God, giver of life, we thank You for the gift of Your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us.

We pray that our churches may be always open to receive Your gifts from one another.

Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity.

We ask this in the name of Your Son who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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January 4: Coming together at Christmastide.

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A short while before Christmas Janet, John from Uganda and I turned up at the ancient church of Saint Mildred in Canterbury for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. L’Arche being L’Arche, we often find ourselves straddling the denominations like this. Saint Mildred’s is a home from home: The L’Arche garden occupies the Glebe here1. We use their kitchen, have refreshments with the ladies on Friday mornings, and help with Harvest Festival; we have barbecues in summer, watch birds in January, and our pilgrimage across Kent finished here last May.

To represent L’Arche, now an important part of the parish, I was invited by the Rector, Jo Richards, to read the Matthew infancy narrative at the service. Saint Mildred’s is a far cry from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge whose Nine Lessons and Carols is world famous. Saint Mildred’s is not beset with Tudor self-justification and aggrandisement, as King’s is, but it looks as good, in its own way, by candlelight.

This old church remembers our little local Saxon princess who did things her own way, which was the Lord’s. She was one of those determined 7th Century princesses who wanted to study and pray in a religious community: her community is now established back at Minster Abbey where our contributor, Sister Johanna lives out her calling.

And if a few more of today’s young women were given their chance to discover, discern and live out their vocation within the church where would we be? And we are most grateful for the faithful witness of friendship extended to us by the ladies of the parish, together with Church warden Mary and Rector Jo. That helps to bring the Church back together; we should not do things apart that we could do together; we can see this maxim working well locally with the shared welcome for homeless people given by the churches.

Here is the statue of the greatest Christian woman of all time with her Son, within Saint Mildred’s church. It was candlelit for the Nine Lessons and Carols.

1A Glebe was land set apart for a parish priest to support himself – an ecclesiastical allotment.

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November 29: the Apostle Andrew and Dover.

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With November slipping into December, it’s time to remember Saint Andrew, Apostle and mariner, missionary and martyr, whose feastday is tomorrow.

We passed through his parish in Dover on our L’Arche Kent Pilgrimage in May. All walkers received a sticker with a fish, designed by Ines, one of the community.

The Parish website tells us:

The ancient Buckland Yew Tree suggests that Christian worship has taken place on the site for many centuries, possibly as long as the Christian message came to these shores.

Yew trees are evergreen, and so have been seen as a symbol of eternal life. Ancient yews are to be found at many of the churches we visited on our pilgrimage, including Coldred, Barfrestone, Patrixbourne, and Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury, which is hollow enough for Abel to hide in! Some yews are reckoned to be older than the church beside them: not the first nor the last pagan sites to be Christened.

The present church dates back to 1180, but the Doomsday Book records the fact that there was already a church on the site by 1086. The church is dedicated to St Andrew, Apostle and Martyr (feast day 30th November).  The East window depicts St Andrew kneeling at the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ clutching the church of Buckland in his hands.

The Saint holding the Church: we saw that also at Barfrestone and at Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury: an image of the Communion of Saints we profess in the Creed. ‘Our’ saint, our patron, will pray for us and bring our prayers to God.

So we thank God for the welcome we received at Saint Andrew’s – we did fill a couple of pages in the visitors’ book to say thank you at the time, and left a sticker! And we pray for the parish, especially as they ar given a mission to new families on the old paper mill site.

Saint Andrew, pray for us.

Saint Andrew, pray for Dover.

Saint Andrew, pray for those in peril on the sea.

 

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3 November: A place to reflect

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I was surprised to be welcomed at the North Door into the Crypt at Canterbury Cathedral and to have a leaflet thrust into my hand. I barely glanced at it – ‘a place to reflect’ sums up Agnellus’ Mirror’s feelings about this ancient part of the Cathedral – and put it safely in my bag. Reflection is our business in the Mirror, so I promised myself to read it later.

As always, the silence of the Crypt needed to be filtered out of the background noises. Hear each one, Will, then set it aside. Bangings, sawing noises, crane engines and hydraulic lifts: the army of masons, paviours and other tradesmen were about their work, as they always are. Have  I ever seen the building without scaffolding somewhere?

Young voices behind me, coming from the nave. School children? Do they whoop and yell? I remembered that at least two little Turnstone chicks, when babes in arms, discovered the acoustics of the nave, and allowed their happy screams to roll around the space, but they were a choir leader’s nightmare. Worth a smile and a prayer for all the younger Turnstones. At least I’d put aside the whoopers, and found silence, undisturbed by comings and goings around me.

When I got up to climb the stairs to the nave, a solid oak door barred the way. I heard an amplified voice speaking, and remembered seeing a young man in academic dress in the street: I realised it must have been a degree ceremony occupying the nave. Whoops and yells are fair enough under the circumstances.

Let’s pray that the graduands enjoyed their day, and always have room in their lives for reflection and silence.

Oh, the leaflet: it is an excellent guide to the crypt. I learnt that there is a Baptismal Font down there in the Holy Innocents’ Chapel which is encouraging: the main font in the Nave has the Royal Coat of Arms over it, which has always seemed inappropriate to me.

 

 

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October 9: Month of Mission: Pilgrims or Missionaries?

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When we planned this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage, we did not see it as a missionary enterprise. It was a chance for the community to spend time together, which is not going to happen unless we make space for it, as we now number more than 100 people with and without learning disabilities, living and working together in a mosaic of different ways, but sometimes not seeing a friend for weeks or months at a time.

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There was a fairly simple shape to the pilgrims’ day: pray, walk, eat; pray, walk, eat being the plan. Looking back, it seems to me it was a missionary journey. We began at Dover beach, with prayers in the open air; but most of our formal praying took place in churches we visited on our way. The invasion of upwards of fifty walkers was out of the ordinary for each church we visited. We were made welcome everywhere.

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‘It’s so good that our church is being prayed in,’ was one reaction to our visit. Other congregations laid on refreshments. Another asked that we sign the visitors’ book, which we gladly did wherever we found one. ‘It will help us to get grants and permission for toilets if we can show that we are welcoming pilgrims.’

Toilets as a missionary activity? We would say so, based on our experience. At one point on our journey maybe 20 people used the facilities in the home of a centenarian friend (or should we say member) of the community.

Saint Paul does not go into such details!

We came to each church to pray and refresh the outer man or woman as well as the inner. We came to visit the Lord, but we, and our dogs, visited the body of Christ that Paul did talk about, and, I believe we helped to build it up wherever we called.

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So it was a missionary journey in many ways that I at least did not foresee. Mutually building up the body of Christ in our L’Arche and parish communities. Perhaps we will be more aware of that next year!

MMB.

L’Arche Kent, 18a St Radigunds St, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AA.  Telephone 01227 643025

www.larchekent.org.uk

 

 

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17 September: X is for Exeter

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A city that was badly bombed during World War II, that has lost its town centre shipping, though the quays are in demand for filming; a beautiful old cathedral, the river inviting you to follow it down to the sea at Exmouth; the beautiful and fertile Devon countryside … all this you can find in the guide books.

My brother and sister-in-law’s allotment garden is not in the guide books, but you can find it … if you know where to look.

Here they grow their fruit and vegetables. When we visited we were invited to join the harvest, and a couple of hours later to sit down and enjoy the results. Which we gladly did. It helps that both of them are professional chefs, but they are also generous hosts. We don’t see enough of them.

I’m afraid the photograph of their allotment and shed disappeared between computers and memory sticks, so here is a harvest breakfast with Kentish rather than Devon fare. And here below a harvest loaf. Not as good as my brother’s efforts in past years, but I’ve already been asked to make one for this autumn.

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A reminder to pray for the farmers in these uncertain times, to thank God for our families and friends, and to share our blessings.

 

 

 

 

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9 September: A Pilgrim from a distant land.

 

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Another extract from Maria Montessori’s ‘The Child in the Family’. Mary and Joseph had to treat Jesus in a less than ideal way, born in a stable, then a quick flight into Egypt. Parents should not feel too guilty if all is not ideal when the baby is born. But we should all feel guilty that we do too little to help and receive so many babies, such as those born every day,to start their lives as refugees.

At birth [the infant] is ejected from his home [in the womb] to live in the air. Without the least transition, he is pushed from perfect repose to the exhausting work of being born. His body is crushed almost as if he had passed between two millstones, and he comes to us wounded, like a pilgrim who has journeyed from a distant land.

Death, like birth, is a law of nature, and one to which we must all submit. Why do we seek to ease that terrible moment of death in every possible way? Why, knowing that we cannot conquer death, do we at least want to render it less painful? Yet we never think to alleviate the suffering of birth. But what do we do to help and receive him?

Maria Montessori, ‘The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp20-21.

 

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August 7: He that hath dirty hands and a clean heart.

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My friend’s husband was of course invited to his sister-in-law’s ordination as an Anglican priest and so was I.

Years had flown, stomachs sagged, hair gone beyond blond, but our handshake was as firm as ever. I looked down at his hand, unnaturally clean, for him. Much of his leisure time before retirement was spent restoring 1950s cars to drive for a while, then sell on. He probably earned about £1 an hour in profit, but he took great pride in his work, which demanded a great deal of practical knowledge not to be learned from books, even the Haynes manuals.

I once spent an afternoon with him, touring the scrapyards of South Staffordshire, looking for a couple of small parts. A manufacturer had tried to  save money by substituting plastic for brass in a moving part of the wiper motors. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. My friend was reluctant to buy new motors when he could salvage what he needed for next to nothing.

You see why the clean hand was unnatural. But there are preparations to work into the hands and nails and fingerprints, leaving them looking respectably clean. Half an hour rubbing in green gunge the evening before the ordination and husband and wife were ready to go.

 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. Ps 24, 3-4.

Not that he was any less welcome on the mountain of the Lord before applying the heavy duty hand cleaner, but since he was dressed in his best, he had to go the whole hog.


Somehow the original idea for this post slipped away. It was the importance of that small part; important enough for the car to be dangerously incomplete without it. While we should not inflate our sense of self importance, we should remember that the Good Shepherd leaves 99 behind while he looks for the lost one.

Two lessons in one reflection. That’s Agnellus’ Mirror for you!

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Family and neighbours.

We thought readers would appreciate this homily from Bishop Nicholas Hudson, sometime assistant priest here in Canterbury. Text via Independent Catholic News. Bishop Nicholas talks lovingly about his father’s example of humility and service.

 

 

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29 July: Saint Martha

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Looking ahead to Pilgrimage 2020, Vincent lent me a guide to the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury, which claims that the Church of Saint Martha near Guildford is the only one dedicated to this friend of the Lord. There’s one nearby, but it’s Catholic, so doesn’t count for this writer! But then he also notes the Reformation loss of Saint Peter’s in Winchester without mentioning that the beautiful Catholic church nearby bears that Apostle’s name. No doubt Simon Peter was welcome to the home in Bethany of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Martha is the welcomer, just as much as Mary.

Here in Canterbury we are well into the swing of summer, which means visitors, tourists and pilgrims, most people a bit of both: hundreds of continental school students every day; Americans, Japanese and Chinese on package tours, and some travelling independently; families feeling the heat – altogether more varied than the crew who travelled with Chaucer. Some of them produce questionnaires testing my knowledge of Canterbury history – by no means A*; or asking which shops I use most often – I could not identify ten from the list, even if I found five I never visit with consummate ease.

Like Martha, we must be welcomers, some hidden in the kitchen, some paid to serve visitors, all of us readily pointing out directions or speaking a few phrases of whatever language we picked up at school. Is it my inner Martha or my inner Mary who answers the questionnaire, points out the way to the cathedral coach park, or railway station? Peu importe, as they say; does it matter?

It was Martha who went out to meet her Lord after her brother died. Perhaps she’s the one to look to when a visitor to our church has not heard of Saint Thomas, or at the other extreme, wants to reverence the relic; when two coachloads, that is 100+ teenagers, are crossing the road in an orderly (German) or ragged (French) line and holding up traffic, meaning me on my bike.

Welcoming visitors, even when I don’t want anything to do with them, is welcoming the Lord. The day after writing this I sat in the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral; at first the two coachloads were very intrusive, but that gave way to quiet. Some of them stopped to light candles; they were being shepherded along, so could not stay to pray; they let their little light shine though!

 

 

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