Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Pilgrimage or Morris Tour?

Pilgrimage of Morris Tour ? 

A good question! In the end, I thought the best answer was,"Yes !" And, when I began to treat it like a pilgrimage something changed.
Travelling down to Kent from Norfolk, we speculated about Thomas a Becket true martyr or something else? Silly fool, he bit the hand that fed him! That is the King's hand! What did he expect!
Unlike Oscar Romero of El Salvador, gunned down in his own cathedral church for supporting the poor, Becket was trying to extend the rights of the Church. Not quite the same thing. And, of course, extending the rights of the Church was to the Pope's advantage. So, of course, he made Thomas a saint! 

Who gained from Becket's martyrdom ?  Who still gains?

It has even been suggested, on the basis of heraldry, that Canterbury Cathedral are offing pay day loans to cover the entrance fee!

Later, dancing at the White Horse at Chilham, we were able to contrast and compare the welcome pilgrims receive at Canterbury and Chilham

On the subject of Turbulent Priests,  John Ball took centre stage. Imprisoned in Maidstone, Ball was releasaed during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381 before preaching his, famous, Blackheath sermon, "When Adam delved and Eve span who was then a gentleman?"   In a music session in the pub, we sang, Sydney Carter's, "Sing John Ball ."  

Who’ll be the lady, who will be the lord 

When we are ruled by the love of one another 

Who’ll be the lady, who will be the lord 

In the life that is coming in the morning 


Sing, John Ball and tell it to them all 

Long live the day that is dawning 

And I'll crow like a cock, I'll carol like a lark 
For the life that is coming in the morning 

Eve is the lady, Adam is the lord 

When we are ruled by the love of one another 

Eve is the lady, Adam is the lord 

In the life that is coming in the morning 

All shall be ruled by fellowship I say 

All shall be ruled by the love of one another 

All shall be ruled by fellowship I say 

In the life that is coming in the morning 

Labour and spin for fellowship I say 

Labour and spin for the love of one another 

Labour and spin for fellowship I say 

And the life that is coming in the morning 

           1381 that sermon was preached and it is still echoing today!

Monday and two more Sydney Carter songs come to mind

"Said Jesus to Mary "

And, unsurprisingly  Lord of the Dance

After which, the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway prompted thoughts of predestination

Finally, on the way home what a joy it was to meet pilgrims from St. Michael's Wood End on their way back from Walsingham.

Chaucers Pilgrims met at the Tabbard. We met at the Barton Mills MacDonald's!

Pilgrimage of Morris Tour ? Yes!

There were thoughtful conversations on the way; it was a time apart and an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on life; and, this is the clincher for me:  coincidences, synchronous happenings and providence conspired to give the journey spiritual meaning and deepen understanding. For me it was the Pilgrimage of the Turbulent Priest. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

An Awkward Silence - St. Who?

How is it that a founding father was forgotten?

When Herbert de Losingia built his new cathedral church in Norwich, he wanted to stress the continuity with the church that had been. Yes, he was a Johnie-come-lately Norman,  but he was a genuine successor of the founding father. So he placed an deliberately antiqued image of the first Bishop of  East Anglia - St.Felix - above the bishop's entrance in the deliberately antiqued north transept! http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=1109. It is a door still used by the Bishop of Norwich.

My servant Google searched high and low to see if he could find reference to the saint within the Diocese of Norwich. Save for an obscure mention in Norwich Cathedral's latest music scheme, to say 8th March is the feast Day of St.Felix, nothing! nada! zilch!  Why would a diocese not celebrate the feast day of a founding saint?

St.Felix is said to have founded minsters in South Elmham, North Elmham, Reedham, Loddon and Babingley

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Post Christian Pilgrim Destination

It was a long overdue visit for this Norfolk Pilgrim. Seeing a re-creation of the informal shrine - with flowers, candles and messages -  outside Kensington Palace, on the 20th Anniversary of Princess Diana's death reminded me. to make the journey. In the 20 years that separate us from the events of that autumn, informal shrines have become the norm. The last I had visited was beneath the fire blackened Grenfell Tower at the other end of the Kensington.

This week I finally got round to visiting Kensington Gardens. The Google Map shows the relative positions of the palace, the Memorial Playground and Memorial Fountain. Seen as a whole, it could be one big Princess Diana Pilgrimage destination. Not the only one, of course, her grave is on an island at the Althorp Estate is another.

My visit to the Memorial Fountain gave me most to think about. Like other pilgrim destinations,  the  fountain is :- 
1) Elemental  - made from Cornish granite, with water splashes borne by the wind, beneath a sun blessed sky and sited beside the still waters of the Serpentine; and 
2) Liminal - Water bubbles up from the depths of the earth and three 3 bridges allow access to the centre of the circular sculpture.  In addition, the fountain is positioned close at the foot of the bridge over the Serpentine.

 And right next door, amazingly, is an image representing the Egyptian goddess Isis!  Diana was a goddess too! I know a Wiccan song about that https://youtu.be/1fQ03Om_lwo !

As at shrines of all sorts, this one dedicated to Isis,  you are asked for your support with an implied offer to answer prayer! At the foot of the image is a slot into which you are invited to make an offering, "Make a donation, make a wish."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jim Cotter, Aberdaron and Mortality

St. Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron  sits at the end of North Wales' Llyn Peninsular.  It was once the jumping off point for pilgrims on their way Bardsey Island  - Ynys Enlli  -  The burial place of 20,000 saints.
"Sauntering Around St.Hywyn's : a brief guide to our church" is the work of a previous Vicar. Its final paragraph gives pause for thought:
If you think of a lifetime as a pilgrimage, say half a mile a year down the Llyn Peninsular, when you reach Aberdaron you will be near the end of your life. The peninsular narrows, the sea (the eternal?) gets closer and closer on both sides. Eventually it ends at a point. It is yet another "eye of the needle".
You can no longer return. You are slimmed down to get through that eye. Think, though, of how much can be stored on a microchip invisible to the naked eye. And the day comes to trust ourselves to that point, and launch into the beyond from the tip of the peninsular. Pilgrim soul, fare forth. Fare well.
Jim Cotter was the author of these lines. Both he and another former vicar, the poet R.S. Thomas, are buried in the churchyard of St.Maelrhys Church a mile or so south of Aberdaron. Thomas too wrote of Ynys Enlli .
There is an island there is no going
to but in a small boat the way
the saints went,

Did he write of death, or that island of the blessed towards the setting sun?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Apolgies due........

Just back from church and an important discussion with Sylvia and Sue! I had read the gospel with my usual dramatic flair. They had heard it and nearly walked out! Why wouldn't you? St.Matthew's Sermon on the Mount - 

‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'

I should have said something in a sermon to put it in its context! As it was, our discussion afterwards went someway to putting it right.
What I think is,  the teaching is related to that at Matthew 15.5  which is about people's hardness of heart

But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, 'Sorry, I can't help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.'

A divorced woman might not have any means of supporting herself - save for prostitution. 
As I understand matters, men were permitted by Jewish law, but not advised, to have more than one wife. Whilst, a wife, who objected to a husband taking another wife, was entitled to a certificate of divorce.  So for my money, Jesus is saying  to husbands, " You can't just shake off your responsibility when you feel like it! 

The earthly Jesus is speaking to his first century audience and first century culture. What he might say today would be quite different.

For me, 'til death us do part' means just as much the death of a relationship. If the 'mutual society help and encouragement that one ought to have of the other' no longer exists, the marriage is dead.

On another vexed question, which the Church does not discus often enough, and with which some will take objection, where 'the mutual society, help and encouragement ' exists, as in some same sex relationships, then marriage ought to be possible!

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Candle Mass Pilgrimage

When she died in 1507, Agnes Parker owed a pilgrimage to St. Tebbald (St.Theobald) at Hobbies. In same year Thomas Wood of Coltishale left a legacies to the Guild of the Virgin at the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Hautbois and to paint the new tabernacle of St. Theobald in the Church. Thomas and Agnes were going to be my Simeon and Anna.

Riding through Coltishall and past the Guides, Patterson Lodge Activity Centre,  I chained my bike to the fence and walked down the track to the ruined church.  To the right is the Golden Gates Pond where generation of village kids have grappled - without success - for the said, golden gates. I often wonder if the gates in question were from the tabernacle of St.Theobald and deposited there after the shrines were suppressed by Henry VIII in 1538.

Candlemas Bells - Snowdrops - are sprinkled around the churchyard.
Woodpeckers drum, Buzzards call overhead and  Anna's warning echoes in my ears -"a sword shall piece  your soul". How bitter were those days! And for all the silver (sanctus) bells, (pilgrims')  cockle shells and Pretty maids (nuns) of Queen Mary's reign there was no going back . Only forward!

In spite of it all, the faith was passed on, 'else why would I be here saying the Angelus, thinking of past generations who passed the faith to me and the generations to come, whose pattern of Christian devotion might be completely different from mine. Whatever! There's no going back! Only Forward!

Before I returned to my trusty bike, I spent a moment by the grave of the Miss Pattersons -  the house that is now the Guides Activity Centre was their bequest. I have stood there often, but today I read the scripture verse beneath Phillipa's details for the first timr. They are from the Song of Simeon,  "For my eyes have seen thy salvation"

Agnes, Thomas, Charity and Phillipa:
May they rest in peace
and rise in glory.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Wrath of God

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” This explains how some who claim the name "Christian" have used the idea of the Wrath of God to excuse their own inexcusable wrathful behaviour and use the threat of God's Wrath as a means of evangelism.

So for example, the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 is excused by God's Wrath. An eyewitness account tells the history:

Now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, we saw some wonderful sights. Some of our men — actually the more merciful ones — cut off the heads of their enemies. Others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers. Others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. One had to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon. You would not believe it if I told you. Suffice to say that in the Temple and porch of Solomon men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.

Jerusalem - the City of God's Peace! The Jews of Jerusalem fought with the Muslims and were killed alongside them. Indeed,  the rank and file of the invading Crusaders did not differentiate between Muslim and Jew. The Crusaders attitude was this. "They had killed Jesus Christ, so they  deserved everything they got!"

No understanding of a Christlike God is evident in the Crusader camp. Crusaders were predominately from the West, giving allegiance to the Pope. By this time Eastern Christianity had split from Rome and their approach was quite different. They had lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbours before the Crusades and did so for centuries afterwards. The Muslim leader Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem, had Christians among his high ranking officials. It was not until the image of the unjust Crusader was used in anti-imperialist propaganda in the 19th and 20th centuries that relationships soured. 

Thankfully, there was at least one person from the West who was embarrassed by the Crusaders' behaviour. St.Francis travelled to the camp of the Caliph during the Fifth Crusade with the intention of preaching the Gospel. He was concerned that they might have heard the good news of the Gospel. The Caliph listened, declined to convert, and sent Francis on his way unharmed. Francis was clearly a man of peace.

Another example of the way in which God's Wrath excuses one's own is the antisemitism. It has been encouraged and indulged in by many  who claimed the name Christian. As a person who calls himself a Christian,  I burn with shame for what has been done in Christ's name.  I  stand in solidarity with Francis and the Eastern Christians and rejoice in my friendship with people of other faiths.

It was a crude attempt to convert those who had gathered to mark the passing of a neighbour that raised the subject for me. The pitch was simply "Turn or Burn" and it was I think sincerely meant. Both the deceased and his minister seem to understand God as God of Wrath. OK if you submit but otherwise..... "And see we are giving you another chance." I observe that their brand of Christianity is strong on post-mortem judgement, something the C of E (wrongly in my view) tends to back peddle on, but it seems to me, they have a twisted notion of the Holy Trinity.  They appear to believe in a  Holy Trinity, in which God the Father does punishment and God the Son takes your punishment but only if you sign up for membership of their club.

That is not good news.  I don't like it when people try and manipulate me with threats. I certainly would not have such a person as a friend. I feel the same way about gods. Contrary to their understanding, I believe Jesus shows us what God is like. He is not wrathful, neither is he punishing. Rather he shows kindness in action and offers friendship if you want to travel the way he is going.

Where then does judgement come into the equation? It is simply this, if God is the source of life (love, truth, beauty, justice, peace etc..) then being cut off from him/her,  is being cut off from all those things. They  all  have an eternal dimension and one could have no existence in  eternity without being rooted in eternal things.  It follows, no life after death if you have no investment in them and  a poor quality of life in the here and now too.