Showing posts from 2012

Francis, Thomas and my Canine Friends

I'm told that Thomas Aquinas held that animals have no souls. St. Francis for his part could talk of sister/brother dog and I have had so many canine friends that I'm in no doubt that, if it is a soul that makes one a person, dogs have souls. I'm sure about that. Of course its true of horses too! And probably in a different way cats!

Well anyhow I've often thought it would be interesting to hear a discussion between Francis and Aquinas. So if my recent near death experience had a downside I suppose it was putting off to a later date the much looked forward to debate.

Then in what did not feel at all like a dream although it might have been. Perhaps a vision of the night (whatever one of those is!)  this:

I was with two other children of men who I knew to be Francis and Aquinas in a wide meadow - the Elysian Fields ? - and with us were  all the dogs I have ever known. Not just my friends: Spot my godfather's dog with whom the 8 yearold me went rabbiting; Toby my cou…


West of Sheringham, on the North Norfolk Coastal Path, there’s a hill with amazing views. From the top, next to the old Coast Guard lookout, one can see as far as the eye can see and sometimes a little further! On a sunny autumn afternoon it was the first hill I’d climbed in weeks.
Putting one foot in front of the other and fighting for my breath, I thought of the last hill I remember climbing. One’s summer’s evening I’d taken the rocky path from Castleton, in Derbyshire’s Peak District , up through a darkening Cave Dale and on to sunlit heights. From the hillside I’d watched a shepherd tending his flock in the fields below.It is very much 23rd Psalm country!
Little did I guess I’d soon find myselfpassing through valley of the shadow of death ! A cardiac arrest started me out on a journey through first aid, to a hospital bedand onto a life saving operation. Overall, the experience has felt less like a passage through a dark vale and more like walking along a cliff top, or a mountain …

A Cloud of Prayer (?)

Three and a half weeks after bypass surgery and  five and a half weeks after a cardiac arrest I'm beginning to get some perspective.
So much good will from so many people!
Standing in my Christian culture I'd call it prayer! It feels like I'v been upheld by a great cloud of prayer!
But the prayer has not been limited to fully paid up Christians, the good will transcends all the barriers and definitions!
Maybe Carl Rogers has a phrase I can borrow - Unconditional Positive Regard!

Yes, that does it! And I think the effect on me as a human being has been the sort of effect that Rogers imagined. I have a sense of myself as a more fully functioning human being:

1. Open to experience: both positive and negative emotions accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, but worked through (rather than resort to ego defence mechanisms).
2. Existential living: in touch with different experiences as they occur in life, avoiding prejudging and preconceptions. Being able to live and fully…

Remembering ????

His name is not important. He came to children's church when I was Vicar of Old Lakenham.

Then we would see each other week by week, at Assembly, at Edith Cavell School.
It was the head teacher's suggestion that he and I had some one to one time.
She knew I had some play therapy experience, and although I wasn't being supervised at the time, what was suggested was hardly therapy.

 So they set us up in a small annex of a classroom with a window in the door for safeguarding purposes. Over a period of weeks, aided and abetted by me, the lad imagined and assembled a village out of discarded boxes and old cardboard.

I thought it was going really well and never did understand what triggered the crisis.
I never saw it coming. In rage my builder began to destroy the village!

I stood up and remonstrated!
Wrong move!
Up he jumped, onto some spare desks.
He was as far away from me as he could get!
Dancing around on top of the desks!
Darting one way then another!

There was no way I co…

In the watches of the night

The notes from Papworth warn that some sleeplessness can be expected after heart surgery.It feels to me as if I have caught something of the Psalmist Psalm 665 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,*
   and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6 when I think of you on my bed,
   and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
   and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
   your right hand upholds me.

Day 10 after Bypass Surgery

Back home from Papworth with these coronary artery bypass grafts.
Following acardiac arrest on Friday 28th September

I awoke to find an otter in the dyke and a kingfisher diving for his breakfast. My thoughts went to Gerard Manly Hopkins

Texts have sparked and flashed with meaning and  high intensity as I have said my office. Yesterday I was reading Paul's Letter to the Philippians 1:
"For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me" There's still work for me to do then!
Today, in a collect, I was praying, "graft in our hearts the love of your name"

My New Patron

Back in 2008 I visited the tomb of Lazarus - see

I had some holy thoughts!  See /
Lazarus's friend Jesus gave him a fresh lease of life when he fell dangerously ill (John 11).  My friends Gary and Paul have just done the same for me! So along with Francis (its his feast day today!) and Richard of Chichester, Lazarus has now become special for me!

Liturgy Sparking and Crackling

Its Morning Prayer again and the words flash about me with  an intensity to 
wonder at. The opening canticle had me singing: 

Bless the Lord,  O my soul, •
and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, •
and forget not all his benefits; Who forgives all your sins •
and heals all your infirmities; Who redeems your life from the Pit •
and crowns you with faithful love  and compassion; Who satisfies you with good things, •
so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’
The plan is for me to have a heart bypass operation . i.e. for them to renew my plumbing!

Hope the outcome is my youth renewed like an eagle

Great Yarmouth: a near death experience

Elizabth Kubler Ross's reearch into death and dying 

(e.g.lifeafterdeath ) records how going down a tunnel to a place of light is a common place experience
I have lost the memory but my children retell the story I told to them as I recovered consciousness:
"I was going down (the River Bure ?  Acle Straiht? ) to Great Yarmouth, got to the Berney Arms and decided to turn back!

I learned that when my heart stopped Paul,Gary and the lady from St. John's Ambulence worked on me untill the ambulence men restarted my heart!

Is Great Yarmouth a place of light? Is it heaven or hell?

I'm sorry not to remember anything but I have a sense that in many ways it would have been OK to go all the way to  Yarmouth ( and to the God who is like an endless sea?)

Excited to find myself alive at 3a.m. this morning I decided to say Morning Prayer. How the words burned with meaning as I recited Psalm 71!

Forsake me not, O God,
when I am old and grey-headed, •
till I make known your deeds to the …

A Walk Too Near the Edge for Comfort

A week and a day after a cardiac arrest the Norfolk Pilgrim is sitting up and taking notice in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital
Like the boy Lazarus, whose friend Jesus raised him to live the rest of his life, his friends kept him going until the paramedics could set his ticker going again!
Many of his posts have been about walks on the edge. This past week has got him nearer to the edge than ever before!

Many of the earlier posts in this blog began life as articles in the Norwich Diocese magazineAcross the See. His aim is to use this place to log his insights as he continues to tread the pilgrim path on the edge

A MichaelMass Meditation in Summer

An advert for the  annual Norfolk Churches Trust bike ride reminded me what a joy church crawling by bike can be.  Swapping feet for wheels I set out under a summer sky.
East of  Beeston, St. Laurence  I found myself meandering down  quiet lanes towards St. Michael and All  Angels,Barton Turf. When I got there I found an open door, a warm welcome to visitors (make yourself a cup of coffee) and a vibrant stillness.
Its 15th century rood screen has St. Michael and the nine orders of angels. Wandering in the churchyard before taking my leave I saw that the local church has a care for other feathered friends too! There’s an owl box high in an old oak tree!
My next church destination would be  St. Michael, Irstead.  But on the way , I popped into the White Horse at Neatistead for refreshments and explored the edge of Barton Broad.
At Heron’s Carr  there’s boardwalk that gives wheelchair access through the woody marsh and on to a lookout point overlooking the broad. Norfolk Wildlife Trust ar…

St. Benet's Cross in the Light of Pentecost

Evensong at St. Benet's

The whole Company of Heaven

Sang out Peace

There was fire and wind

The Spirit brooded over the waters

Ranworth, St Benet's, Pacificus

The Broads are my local wilderness.  I love the landscape, the wildlife and the slow waters. Under the wide skies I can be at one with nature; re-imagine Jesus’ lakeside ministry; slow down and escape from our 24/7 lifestyle; all that’s needed to catch up with a 3 mile an hour God.
Long ago, on an island where three rivers meet, hermits established a community. Following the example of Egyptian monks, the tidal marsh and reed beds was their green desert!  In time the community became a Benedictine  monastery and, until Henry VIII’s reforms, St. Benet’s Abbey was a powerful centre for the Christian faith.  Still the abbey has a powerful attraction.
Wandering on foot or by boat, I find my eyes searching for the familiar outlines of its ruined gate-house and scanning higher ground to catch sight of church towers on the horizon.  Higher than most is the one they call The Cathedral of the Broads - St. Helen’s, Ranworth
Visitors are invited to climb “89 spiral steps and two ladders” to see…

Come apart and rest awile

Traffic! It felt I’d been tailgated every mile of the way - aggressive drivers in my rear view mirror and almost in my boot, pushing me to go faster! Finally, at journeys end I parked by Moreston Creek and let the tension drain out of me.  It is a sort of lands end!  The North Pole is 2222 miles away and , apart from Blakeney Point, there’s nothing in between but sea and ice!
I thought I’d join holiday makers as they went out to see the seals but when I’d arrived early the ferry still sat firmly on the bottom.  Round about it long billed waders delved the rich mud and  a Little Egret stalked its prey in the shallows pools.  The liquid trill of a Curlew’s call carried on the and on high Larks sang their hearts out!
Soon a  trickle,  had turned into a stream of water pushing into the creek , lifting the grounded vessels and turning their bows to the flood. With that the ferrymen quickly got their passengers aboard and we were manoeuvring between the muddy banks and an honour guard of O…


Ely was as much a holy island as Lindisfarne or Ionain Saxon times. To this day the cathedral stands on its little hill above the flat black fens, but since the meres and marshes were drained, on an island no more!
I had come to Ely in search of St. Withburg.In the 10th century monks stole her body from Dereham churchyard and enshrined her relics in the abbey church next to those of her royal and saintly sisters – Etheldreda and Sexburgh . Etheldreda founded the monastery in the 7th century and when she died Sexburgh became abbess.
The tides of time have washed away most traces of the holy sisters. HenryVIII’s commissioners made a thorough job of destroying their shrines. And, with the passing of the monasteries, the abbey church became the Cathedral for the Diocese of Ely.
I did find one direct link to the foundation years, parts of a memorial that once marked the grave of Ovin, Etheldreda’s steward. Dug up by chance in the 19th century, Ovin’s Stone now stands in the south aisle of th…