Blood, Baptism and Mermaids

The path leads downhill through woods, to open park land with views over the sea. Turn right in front of the big house and you come to the village of Upper Sheringham. The church is dedicated to All Saints. It’s very beautiful, prayerful and welcoming. Visitors are invited to make themselves a drink. A kettle and all the other bits and pieces are left out on a table.

Outside the church a spring of bright water bubbles up from the depths of the earth,. It has been quenching thirsts since first humans passed this way. I wondered if the first Christians were baptised in this water. The walls that bound the springhead and the pool around it were built to celebrate the end of the Napoleonic Wars. An inscription reads “Peace 1814”. I imagined the water of baptism washing away the blood and grime of battle – the water and the blood! How the world needs that purification still!

Taking a little water on the tips of my right hand I blessed myself remembering my baptism. The words of the book Revelation and Jesus promise to the woman at the well came to mind. “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” “…..springs of living water welling up to eternal life!” I guess our thirst for peace and justice will never be fully quenched this side of Kingdom Come!

In the mean time I decided to go and have a cup of coffee in church. Inside the door there’s a 15th century pew-end - a carving of a mermaid! And attached to the pew framed short story tells how a mermaid sneaked into church to hear the Gospel. It occurred to me that all the baptised are like mermaids! We live in this world, but we’re not entirely at home here, we yearn for somewhere better. As Hebrews has it “Here we have no abiding city but we look for one that is to come!”

© Richard Woodham 2008


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