Tag Archives: welcome

3 May: In the Gloom of the Evening.

Doctor Johnson is on his travels in the Isle of Skye, in Autumn of the year 1773. The places named were homes of the local gentry who unfailingly welcomed Johnson and his friend James Boswell.There were no roads on Skye at this time and a trusted guide was absolutely necessary for safety.

More than 200 years later, I cannot help but think of the violence, terror and uncertainty that so many unwilling travellers have experienced in recent months, and the welcome they have received from strangers in their unexpected hour of need. Let us hope and pray that a ‘degree of cheerfulness’ may be granted them through the kindness of others, enabling them to sustain their children and vulnerable dependents.

In our way to Armidel (Armadale) was Coriatachan, where we had already been, and to which therefore we were very willing to return.  We staid however so long at Talisker, that a great part of our journey was performed in the gloom of the evening. 

In travelling even thus almost without light thro’ naked solitude, when there is a guide whose conduct may be trusted, a mind not naturally too much disposed to fear, may preserve some degree of cheerfulness; but what must be the solicitude of him who should be wandering, among the craggs and hollows, benighted, ignorant, and alone? The fictions of the Gothick romances were not so remote from credibility as they are now thought. 

In the full prevalence of the feudal institution, when violence desolated the world, and every baron lived in a fortress, forests and castles were regularly succeeded by each other, and the adventurer might very suddenly pass from the gloom of woods, or the ruggedness of moors, to seats of plenty, gaiety, and magnificence.  Whatever is imaged in the wildest tale, if giants, dragons, and enchantment be excepted, would be felt by him, who, wandering in the mountains without a guide, or upon the sea without a pilot, should be carried amidst his terror and uncertainty, to the hospitality and elegance of Raasay or Dunvegan.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson.

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27 April: Tea’s company


Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
  Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
  And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
  Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
  That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
  So let us welcome peaceful evening in.

These lines by William Cowper are taken from his long poem ‘The Task’, written in response to a challenge from his friend Lady Ann Austen. Many readers will recognise ‘the cups that cheer but not inebriate’ but perhaps, like me, did not know the source.

I’d like to put alongside Cowper’s image the photo on this book cover.

Jésus, l'homme de la rencontre

Bishop Claude Rault was a teacher of mine before he became Bishop of the Sahara, at least the part of it in the great empty quarter of Algeria. His book has been my Lenten reading this year, but what I want to share today is from the introduction by Fr Christophe Roucou, himself a missionary in North Africa.

Roucou explains why Bishop Rault chose this picture for his cover. It shows

“a teapot in the embers of a living fire, ready to make tea that will be drunk and shared in this corner of the desert between friends, or offered to the passer-by in token of welcome and hospitality.

“The tea of meeting!”

The word ‘meeting’ is hardly adequate as a translation of rencontre; ‘encounter’ does not, for me at least, convey the warmth and welcome implied in ‘rencontre’. Claude’s book is a commentary on the meetings Jesus had with people, as described in Saint John’s Gospel; and we know how deeply he welcomed all manner of people. A review will follow.

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5 April: Strange refuge

The symbolic Gateway to Britain at Dover, where Channel swimmers’ crossings to France may begin and crossings in the opposite direction may end
So I have a new name, refugee.
Strange that a name should take away from me
My past, personality and hope.
Strange refuge then.
So many seem to share this name, refugee,
Yet we share so many differences.
I find no comfort in my new name.
I long to share my past, restore my pride,
To show I too in time will offer
More than I have borrowed.
For now the comfort that I seek
Resides in the old yet new name 
I would choose, friend.

Written by a twelve year old Afghan Refugee.

Mrs Turnstone spotted this poem in an exhibition at Canterbury Baptist Church.

During my lifetime our country has made room for different groups of refugees: to name a few, exiles from Eastern European Communism, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people, people oppressed for their sexuality or because of their opposition to dictatorships. They and their descendants are part of our society, offering more than they have borrowed.

So why are our shores so unwelcoming today? And why do people not only flee their homes but also seek to come here to Britain? Welcoming or rejecting the stranger, which is our true self?

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Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Lent, Mission, PLaces, poetry

10 March: Pope Francis prays that migrants be made welcome.

A Lampedusa Cross, fashioned from the timbers of a migrant boat wrecked on the island.

Pope Francis’s prayer calls on us to welcome and reach out to the exiles who find their way into our community, into our parish. With restrictions lifting, let us be conscious that there are new people among us, people, too, who are tentatively coming back to worship after several months away. Let’s say a word or two to those we meet or end up sitting next to. Francis wrote this prayer before the war began in Ukraine which only increases our need to welcome the stranger among us.

Father,
grant the followers of Jesus
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.

Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the 'we' of community and of the Church,
so that earth may truly become a common home
for all people. 
AMEN.

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5 March: Lent and Fasting

Homeless campers, St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

What is Lent all about? One answer is that it is about being conscious of our relationships with God and our neighbours. This is well expressed in the following prayer from Lenten Vespers in the Byzantine Rite:

 While fasting with the body, brothers and sisters, 
let us also fast in spirit. 
Let us loosen every bond of iniquity; 
let us undo the knots of every contact made by violence; 
let us tear up all unjust agreements; 
let us give bread to the hungry 
and welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them, 
that we may receive mercy from Christ our God.

From The Lenten cookbook by Scott Hahn and David Geisser p31. Reviewed here on 12 February.

The churches are an important part of Canterbury’s work to get people off the streets. Being allowed to camp in the churchyard at Saint Mildred’s is perhaps as much help as these particular people can accept at this time.

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25 December. St John XXIII: a Christmas Message.

On Christmas Day, 1933, Bishop Angelo Roncalli was preparing to leave Bulgaria after 10 years, to become Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece. This passage is from his farewell sermon that day.

In accordance with an old tradition of Catholic Ireland, all the houses put a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve, as an indication to Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary, in search of a refuge on that holy night, that inside the house round the fire and the well-stocked table, a family is waiting for them.

Wherever I may be, though it be at the ends of the earth, if a Bulgarian away from his country comes past my house, he will find in my window the lighted candle. He has only to knock on my door; it will be opened to him, whether he be Catholic or Orthodox: friend of Bulgaria, that will be enough. He can come in and I shall extend to him a very warm welcome.

How good it will be to welcome family and friends this Christmas! Let your little light shine!

With our best wishes to all our readers for a Happy Christmas and a hopeful and healthy New Year, 2022. Will Turnstone and the Agnellus Team.

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21 May: The risk of Gentleness

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is attic-mary.jpg
From the Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam

It’s Mary’s month, I know, and we could have said more about her, so now here is a good, challenging read about motherhood – parenthood, even, but mostly motherhood – and the risks of welcoming a new person into one’s body, home, family. A risk that Mary accepted. This article from The Plough Quarterly, The Risk of Gentleness by Gracy Olmstead, is subtitled: Welcoming the baby I did not want.

But Ms Olmstead found room for her son, and is still adapting and changing to make him welcome.

 It is a shock to see the midwife or doctor hold up a freshly birthed baby, red and crying and real. For all our intimate knowing of each other, this is our first encounter as separate individuals. For the newborn, the reality of our separation is sensed through vulnerability, cold, and brightness – unpleasant sensations to be hushed and soothed by a mother’s arms and breasts. For the mother, however, this meeting is the moment in which we say “hello” to the unique human we’ve, by some miracle, sustained inside of us, yet now fully see and know as other …

Like Mary, we must make space: to accept our feebleness and embrace the mystery, knowing that God is good even – and especially – in our weakness and our poverty. Do read the article! Will.

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18 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day I.

DAY 1 You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16)

Genesis 12:1-4 The call of Abraham
John 1:35-51 The call of the first disciples

Prayer
Jesus Christ,
you seek us, you wish to offer us your friendship
and lead us to a life that is ever more complete.
Grant us the confidence to answer your call
so that we may be transformed
and become witnesses of your tenderness for the world.


Questions
• Have you ever been aware that God was asking you or someone you know to begin a new journey in life – whether literally moving to somewhere else, or ‘changing direction’ in some other way?
How did you respond?
• What changes could your church or group of churches make to empower God’s people to walk more faithfully the path God has set for you, or to discern God’s guidance more clearly?
• What are some of the stories of the ‘new’ members of your community, whether they have crossed a county boundary or journeyed across continents to get there?

The booklet for Church Unity week can be found here.

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24 December: Myrrh


Rather like Saint Francis, Father Andrew, the pioneer Anglican Franciscan, was very attuned to Christmas, and wrote many poems about the feast. I wrote about the gifts a couple of years back.

Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?

Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?

Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-glad company.

‘Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ‘neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.

We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.

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21 November: Peaceful tourists

After an arduous journey Doctor Johnson has arrived at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. He is made welcome by Lady Macleod, and writes:

Here therefore we settled, and did not spoil the present hour with thoughts of departure.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, Samuel Johnson

Johnson, of course, was not a travelling missionary, but a tourist. However, I’m reminded of Jesus’ word to the 72 disciples as he sent them out:

Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house.

Luke 10:7-9

And there is plenty to be said for being at peace in our surroundings. May we be welcoming, and may we be the sort of tourist or visitor who does not have hosts thinking longingly of our departure.

Photograph of Dunvegan Castle: Pam Brophy, via Wikipedia

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