Archive for the 'Places' Category

Bright field of dreams

I was introduced to The Bright Field by a friend, Robin, whilst we were on a course a few years back.

The Bright field

The Bright Field [Buttermere, Cumbria ©AlastairCutting]

Curiously, it is Hillsborough that has brought the poem very much back to mind. Let’s have a reminder of the poem first, and there is an audio/file of RS Thomas reading it himself linked below:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field
by R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Audio file via PoeticTouch.

 

But why Hillsborough bring this poem to mind?

I’ve blogged before that I was a local curate at the time, and involved in some of the immediate aftermath. One of my strong memories, as I walked back down ‘the tunnel’ a couple of times afterwards, was the contrast of the bright green playing field in the sun seen from the shadows of the tunnel.

Tunnel 1989

Tunnel 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field is so inviting. You can see it. You can almost touch it. There’s ramp, a slope down to it. It’s just … there.

There is an American sports movie called the Field of Dreams, encapsulating the draw – particularly but not exclusively  – for some men to sports, to team games, and to the playing field, or pitch, or ground.

Hymns don’t often make good theology – though they may be better at theology than movies are. But even here we may get glimpsesof heaven, as Ray Kinsella found in the film.

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
      [starts to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
      [Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.
            The Field of Dreams – 1989 Phil Alden Robinson Universal/TriStar

Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to treasure in a field, and to a pearl of unfathomable value, of great price; in Matt 13:44-46. Both are images that R.S.Thomas specifically references in the poem. Not a great surprise, perhaps, for the Welsh priest/poet that he was.

That field. Seen it. Forgotten it. But now having seen it again, illuminated, incandescent, Thomas goes on: I realise now that I must give all that I have to possess it.

These sports grounds, these football fields are often a focus for hurrying on to a receding future, [or] hankering after an imagined past. Many memories of matches remembered; of dreams and hopes for the future. The rise and fall of emotion; the tears wept, the joy unconfined. They hold a sense of the numinous about them – the singing, swaying, the shared liturgy and language – even prayers (!) – they are almost religious in their fervour. No wonder some talk of sport as their faith, of the great venues as their cathedrals, temples. Bill Shankly, powerfully linked to Liverpool, is famously quoted as saying “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.

I was recently reading back some of the witness stories of a number of Hillsborough survivors, and the camaraderie, the shared experience was a powerful memory; some saying the ‘we all came last year and we wanted to all come back again this year’ before the full portent of this particular pilgrimage unfurled before them.

Even after the catastrophe, faith remains a part of the story. I recalled in the previous blog post how 4 fans came in to our local church on the Sunday morning, just hours later. To another one of those ‘thin places‘ where heaven comes closer to touching earth. To come to seek, to pray, to place a loved one lost in to the hands of God. Nearly every anniversary since the first, there has been significant input of hymns & prayers, along with speeches & memories, at each of the ceremonies.

In the poem, Thomas looks: to the miracle … to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Looking back to the 15 April 1989, though much remains sharp in the mind of each of those most closely affected by Hillsborough, inevitable some of the memories become a little faded, a bit more transitory each year; the images of the ever-youthful 96 remain unchanged, even as ‘those who are left grow old‘. Perhaps that is why there is still such a strong sense of hope around Hillsborough – a very Liverpool – characteristic, the city with two cathedrals linked by a street called Hope.

For RS Thomas, the brightness that has shone on this field leads at last to the eternity that awaits you. May it lead to eternity for you too.

 

The BBC has a Profile of each of the Hillsborough 96, and the Liverpool Echo has created an image grid that links to each of the 96 too.

 

 

 

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Holy Isle

A few years ago, with members of two local parishes, I joined a pilgrimage to Holy Island, Lindisfarne. It is a significant place of pilgrimage still, as it has been for nearly a millennium and a half, when St Aidan came from that other famous holy island Iona, to found the new monastery in AD634.

Click to download the 17Mb pdf photobook

Holy Island Pilgrimage 2008 – click to download the book

A chance to re-visit recently reminded me of my previous experience, and I looked out some old photos, and a book of the journey, which some may be interested in glancing at.

St Aidan and St Cuthbert have been important characters on my northern horizon, particularly since my ordaining bishop David Lunn was a great fan of ‘our long established British christian saints, here spreading the gospel long before Augustine or any of those other johnny-come-lately Romans’.

The Celtic Cristian saints used to speak of ‘thin places’ where heaven comes very close to touching earth.

Lindisfarne, Holy Island, is one of those.

A glimpse of a castle

A glimpse of a castle – 2014

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Is this ChristChurch’s Christopher Wren moment?

I’ve been visiting Christchurch for over 20 years, and love it’s iconic cathedral which dominates the horizon is such a prominent feature of the Cathedral Square. Or was. Until the first earthquake, a magnitude 7.1, on 4 September 2010; which caused enough superficial damage for the cathedral to close for three weeks; and then the supposedly smaller but much more devastating 6.3 one on 22 February 2011 which toppled the spire, and the 6.4 one on 13 June 2011, that took out the main Rose Window on the west wall, and made most of the rest of the building so unsafe.

Christchurch Cathedral - Before & After

Christchurch Cathedral - Before & After

This was not the first major earthquake damage the cathedral had suffered – quakes in 1881, 1888, 1901, and  1922 all resulted in damage – the spire falling twice. When I visited the area this week, there were only about 6 tall buildings left in the CBD, all unsafe, one due to come down this week. The shocks still continue. There was another one this week measuring a mere 5.2, but enough to get the whole restricted area completely evacuated again.

Part of the reason for our visit to the area was to see a number of friends, and be with them, and to see and feel at least a little of what they were going through. We met our former neighbours, with their 9-year-old who for 6 months only felt safe enough to sleep if he was under a table;  Continue reading ‘Is this ChristChurch’s Christopher Wren moment?’

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Another View

Things are not always what they seem. Recently on a visit to Chartres, the cathedral, diocese and city twinned with our own Chichester, I was struck – as many are – by the history, the architecture and the culture of the place. On previous visits to France I had observed that even the utilities such as the bridges are crafted with an elegance and poise that we in the UK sometimes consider frivolous and superfluous on an object created for such a menial purpose.

Chartres en Lumières

Chartres en Lumières

However, on this visit, I was aware of a couple of rather uglier presences around Chartres city centre. About the size of Dr Who’s Tardis police telephone box, pressed steel structures painted battleship grey. They were probably useful or important in some way, but dull. Only once darkness fell did the surprising raison d’êtres of these otherwise boring boxes manifest itself.

They housed massive commercial projectors that in the evenings became the source of Chartres’ electronic fireworks, a festival of ‘Lumières’, light extravaganzas, a Continue reading ‘Another View’

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Three Strikes, &…

So, the British Airways strike. In my current sphere of work, close to Gatwick airport, I know quite a few folks working in the various aspects of the airline industry.

BA strike

BA strike

The ongoing BA strike is a major issue around here, with people’s jobs and livelihoods at stake, and both the company’s and the Unite union’s reputations potentially in tatters.

It dawned on me that strikes in a major national industry had significantly coloured 3 of my last 4 jobs. I was appointed to Woodlands, Doncaster in the South Yorkshire coalfields, soon after the end of the 1980s miners strike.

Brodsworth Colliery

Brodsworth Colliery

Woodlands was the model village built to house the miners from the nearby Brodsworth Colliery. Photos from the time show the distinctive spire of All Saints church in the background of images of the pit. The strike was over by the time I arrived, and the miners were back to work – but the tensions that had ripped families apart between strikers and ‘scabs‘ were still Continue reading ‘Three Strikes, &…’

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The Arundel Tomb

Chichester Cathedral is the ‘mother church’ of the diocese, and as a Sussex priest, I find myself there from time to time. I love wandering through the cathedral when I get a chance. It has so many superb features about it; but one of my favourites is ‘The Arundel Tomb’.

The Arundel Tomb - credit Tom Oates

The Arundel Tomb - credit Tom Oates

It is a fourteenth century table tomb on which lie the effigies of Richard Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, and his second wife Eleanor. One of the most charming features is the way that they are both holding hands, Richard’s hand having been removed from the gauntlet still held in his left hand.

Arundel Tomb hands - credit bmeabroad

Arundel Tomb hands - credit bmeabroad

Continue reading ‘The Arundel Tomb’

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One small step…

In 1969 I had been at a boarding school in South India for some 6 months. A rather terrifying Australian dorm matron, Audrey Bateman, did have a very helpful habit. If there was anything significant on the BBC World Service, she made all of us in Middle Dorm sit and listen to the large wireless in her room.

Footprint on the Moon

Footprint on the Moon

That’s where I heard of the first moon landings, the crackly voice of Neil Armstrong, the apparently un-planned: “One small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind”. Powerful words then, iconic now.

What I hadn’t picked up until today was Ruth Gledhill’s Times posting of Bosco Peter’s article on the first lunar reception of the bread and wine of Holy Communion. There is something bizarrely wonderful about that.

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Fathers’ Day

There have been a couple of posts on Father’s Day recently. John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, started the roll, and Dave Walker has a number of other links here on the Church Times blog.

I retain a little scepticism at this new-found festival. Not that I have anything against fathers – I have an excellent father, and indeed I have been one myself for nearly 2 decades. It’s just that Fathers’ Day seems to have arrived somewhat out of the blue in the early 20 century (dare one say it, from the States) as a complementary celebration to Mothering Sunday. Well it must be for real now that the Church of England have prayers for it. And actually I quite like the What Dads Add link site, so perhaps I am just being churlish.

In 2008, Michael Colclough, previously my Team Rector in Uxbridge, moved from a subsequent position as Bishop of Kensington, to be a residentiary canon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Michael promptly started calling in favours from many of his previous contacts, including a number of the previous team clergy, inviting people to preach at the cathedral on the weeks Michael was ‘canon in residence’. It was a surprise and a joy to be asked to preach at St. Paul’s in June 2008, on what transpired to be Fathers’ Day, and also one of the church’s newer ‘saints’ Evelyn Underhill, remembered on 15 June, which happens to be being commemorated today, exactly a year later.

Outside St. Pauls Catheral, London

Outside St. Paul's Catheral, London

St. Pauls Cathedral Service Order 15-28 June 2008

St. Paul's Cathedral Service Order 15-28 June 2008

Preaching at St. Paul’s is a unique experience – never have I been ‘wanded’ by a wandsman to my place in church, or had to climbing so many stairs to a pulpit, or measure each spoken phrase so carefully as to allow the natural reverberation of the building to subside. I think it added about 10-15% additional time to the sermon delivery time (making me slightly over-run my allotted time!).

For the 5 years I was at Uxbridge, St Paul’s was ‘my’ cathedral, and it was always awe inspiring to gather with fellow clergy for the ‘blessing of the oils service’ in Holy Week under the majestic dome. So I loved the opportunity of being there – chances like that don’t come very often. And thanks particularly to Bishop Michael for sharing that with me, another example of the generosity of the man I typically experienced as a colleague in his team. Incidentally, the service order above also mentioned that the preacher the following Sunday at evensong was one of my other colleagues from Uxbridge days with +Michael, Carolyn Headley, for whom I had to be ‘priests hands’ for a while, until she was ordained priest herself. The preacher on the morning I was there was Andrew Watson, who very shortly after, was announced as Bishop of Aston.

You can click on the page below to download the sermon, or follow it in the full sermon text further down. I found some nice bits from Mark Twain, and some from Evelyn Underhill – and even manged to gently question this transatlantic infiltrator of a festival, without offending too many of the American cousins in the congregation.

Fathers Day 2008 Evensong Sermon at St Pauls

Father's Day 2008 Evensong Sermon at St Paul's

You can also find the original article on my ‘Papers‘ page.

The full text follows:

Evensong Sermon – St Paul’s Cathedral – 15 June 2008

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

A number of years ago, before Bishop Michael was Canon Pastor; before his episcopal, or even archidiaconal responsibilities, when he was a humble Team Rector, I was a junior part of that Team. So all these years later it was a privilege and a joy to be invited by him to speak at his new pad. Or at least that was what I thought until I saw the readings for Evening Prayer set for the day, and I quickly cottoned on to why he was so generously inviting me on this occasion… As one who usually starts with the scriptures in preaching, on the basis that at least where I am not theologically sound, at least the Bible is, I struggled a bit with these passages: Beelzebub in the NT; and in the OT, King Achish says “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me?”. Frightening words for any visiting preacher to hear in a reading!

Had this been a Eucharistic service, I am sure I could have worked on some interesting reflections picking up on King David’s request for ‘five loaves of bread’, even if he did not mention fish. But this is not a Eucharist. So I started to explore other possible themes.

My home parish is Copthorne, near Gatwick airport, just into Sussex if you were on your way down to Brighton from here. One of my congregation reminded me that I ought not to lose sight of the fact that Magna Carta was signed on 15 June in 1215.

King John, who as AA Milne reminds us, was ‘not a good man’, had a run-in with the church. About how the Crown appoints bishops.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. How things change (!)
However King John forgot that if you are having a row, it is risky to have it with those who write the history books. Those monks were not called “clerks” in holy orders for nothing – and perhaps that was the start of his losing his reputation, becoming known as ‘not a good man’.
Magna Carta however enshrined a number of rights that remain in the law of the land even today. Not only the ‘almost late lamented’ habeus corpus if we are to understand David Davis, but also some pertinent Church law too. I brought a copy with me. Apparently there were many copies made – it is probably the sort of thing St Paul’s has an original copy of, in a drawer downstairs somewhere:

    Clause I says: FIRST, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable.

The freedoms of the Church of England were at one point from the constraints of a monarch; but were later used against as a protection from those across the Tiber too. No point in letting a good law go to waste.

There are perhaps some other themes around today we may pick up on. Our American brothers and sisters have brought us many good gifts, but I am sometimes a little dubious about some of imports that have made it across ‘the pond’. Not all of them fit easily into British Culture as perhaps rock & roll, or McDonald’s have been able to. Take trick or treat, for example – or, for today, Father’s Day. They have the reputation of being rather tacky, commercial enterprises, with little substance.

I paused to think over fatherhood a little though. I have two teenage girls, who keep me from becoming too complacent about my place in the world. They greeted the news of my being at St Paul’s this evening with the degree of indifference only teenagers can. One said she was working, attempting to earn some money to offset the looming Student Loan; – or to buy another pair of shoes – I forget which. The other decided to – er – stay at home. Probably watching ‘Scrubs’.

One American certainly knew where my teenage children were coming from was Mark Twain. Even if he later changed his opinion, he famously said of his father:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.
But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

In our family we have been privileged to have some excellent role-models of fatherhood, though I am aware that for some individuals that is not the case. It is interesting to observe for example that though Twain made a joke about his father, in reality his father died of pneumonia when Mark Twain was 11 years old. For some, fathers have been absent, for others they have been abusive – which gives us such great difficulty when trying to bring to people the prayer that Jesus taught us. Our Father.

That leads us to perhaps another echo for today. A local saint. – Well almost local, and almost a saint.

Almost a saint, because Evelyn Underhill the Anglican writer on mysticism & worship, who lived between 1875-1941, is commemorated on 15 June in the Common Worship lectionary.

And almost local, because she was educated at King’s College for Women, London, where she read history and botany; and later elected a Fellow.

She was in her thirties before she began to explore religion. At first, she wrote on the mystics, most notably in her book Mysticism, published in 1911. Her spiritual journey took her from the Church of England, through the Roman Catholic Church, and brought her in 1921 back to the Church of England, in which she had been baptized and confirmed.
From the mid-1920s, she became highly-regarded as a retreat conductor and an influential spiritual director. Of her many books, Worship, published in 1936, embodied her approach to what she saw as the mystery of faith.
To quote from one of her meditations, possibly a retreat script:

From Abba – a treatise on The Lord’s Prayer
In those rare glimpses of Christ’s own life of prayer,
which the Gospels vouchsafe to us,
we always notice the perpetual reference to the unseen Father;
so much more vividly present to Him [Christ] than anything that is seen.
Behind that daily life into which He entered so generously,
filled, as it was, with constant appeals to His practical pity and help,
there is ever the sense of that strong and tranquil Presence,
ordering all things
and bringing them to their appointed end;
not with a rigid and mechanical precision,
but with the freedom of a living, creative, cherishing thought and love.


Throughout His life,
the secret,
utterly obedient conversation of Jesus with His Father goes on.
He always snatches opportunities for it,
and at every crisis He returns to it
as the unique source of confidence and strength;
the right and reasonable relation between the soul and its Source.

I’m not very good with word’s – though here Underhill has done well to capture my imagination too. I often use graphic images in my home territory, projected on to a screen that subtly appears, and can then disappear, whilst I am preaching – though I understand that practice has got some clergy into deep trouble.

The image I think I would be projecting now, had I had the opportunity here, would be Rembrandt’s Loving Father or Prodigal Son.
Painted in his old age, Rembrandt’s portrayal is of one who has discovered that ‘the old man has learned a lot’, – as has his son. Here is a father, an abused and ignored father, who still reaches out to caress his wayward offspring, welcoming the prodigal home again.

So on this – Father’s Day – let us reflect on our God and our Father

    Of the Son’s relationship with the Father
    Of the prodigal son’s relationship with his father
    Of our relationship with our own human father, if we knew them
    For those who are fathers, of our relationship with our children
    For single parents who have had to be both mother and father to their children
    Let us remember the pain of strained or broken parental relationships
    Let us seek ways to enhance the status and quality of fatherhood in our families, communities, and churches
    Let us remember our Heavenly Father’s desire to welcome and to forgive

We return to Evelyn Underhill, in her meditation called Abba, the word Jesus used to speak to God, the word sometimes respectfully translated as Daddy:
Our inheritance IS God, our Father and Home.
We recognize Him,
[Underhill, referring to St. John of the Cross, quotes]
because we already carry in our hearts a rough sketch of the beloved countenance.
Looking into those deeps,
as into a quiet pool in the dark forest,
we there find looking back at us the Face we implicitly long for and already know. [The Spiritual Canticle. 2nd Version, stanza . 17]
It is set in another world, another light:
yet it is here.
As we realize this, our prayer widens,
until it embraces the extremes of awe­struck adoration and confident love
and fuses them in one.


Let us pray:

    A Collect for Evelyn Underhill
    O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures:
    Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill,
    guarded evermore by your power,
    and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth,
    may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving,
    and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life,
    which you have promised us by our Savior Jesus Christ;
    who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God,
    now and for ever. Amen.

The Rev’d Alastair Cutting, Vicar of Copthorne
15 June 2008

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Got up with Gav

Affectionately known as ‘Get up with Gav‘, the BBC Southern Counties Sunday Breakfast programme is hosted by Gavin Ashenden. Gavin is a good friend, who I have significantly more respect for after seeing him ‘behind the wheel’ of a live 3-hour programme. For someone who gives the impression of being slightly affectionately and delightful disheveled in life, he is amazingly in control of the multitude of threads needing to be woven together for such a live broadcast.

Alastair in the Brighton Studio with Gavin at Stupid oclock

Alastair in the Brighton Studio with Gavin at Stupid o'clock

It reminded me a little of visiting the local Radio Nottingham studios as part of a my pre-ordination training, and seeing a young ‘DJ’, who we knew from our local church at the time, deftly flicking records on to the decks, whilst handling a mid-morning phone-in, and managing to take time to talk to a group of ordinands visiting the station. On returning home, I said to Kay “That broadcaster is going to go a long way; we will have to keep an eye out for him.” Within weeks, he had been transferred to Radio 1. His name? Simon Mayo.

A minute is a very short time to say anything sensible at all, really (though local colleague Kevin managed to keep his ‘sermon’ within the 60 seconds a couple of weeks before me!).

Having been through a few Robin Hood related places recently, the affable outlaw became my subject. (See these links for more on Robin.)

Click the Play arrow below to hear the interview/sermon

[audio src="http://acutting.co.uk/files/aud/AlastairGavin14June2009.mp3" /]

One of the interesting asides I came across whilst researching for the ‘sermon’ was a feeling of being stalked by Robin. Or I suppose, more properly, as I was following him, I was the stalker. Not only did he have the familiar Nottingham connections, where I had done my training at Theological College; but my two following curacies in South Yorkshire also had Robin connections. My first parish post was at All Saints Woodlands, just north of Doncaster, where there is not only a Robin Hood stream, but stories of Robin being in the local Barnsdale forest (the area is not far north of Sherwood forest).

My second parish placement was at the parish church in Wadsley, in Sheffield. On the edge of the parish was the village of Loxley, possibly also spelt Locksley, where in some traditions Robin Hood was born. I was involved in planting a new congregation from the church, based in a school in Loxley during my time in the parish. Fascinating that these three ‘place links’ should show up around three of our successive homes. My investigations have not revealed that Robin Hood has any connections with Copthorne

1 Minute Sermon - 14 June 2009 - Robin Hood

Text of the 1 Minute Sermon - 14 June 2009

You can also find the original article on my ‘Papers‘ page. Other recent epsiodes for Sunday Breakfast may be available on iPlayer here.

The full text follows:

I’ve been through Robin Hood territory a couple of times recently. Yesterday I was in Nottingham, and I recently passed through where Robin is reputed to have been born, in the village of Loxley, which now rather overtaken by it’s neighbouring village of Sheffield; and Hathersage where Little John is supposedly buried. I will spare you my rendition of any of the Robin Hood songs, especially at this time in the morning!

But most of us know some of the tales of Robin Hood, and his band of men, stealing from the rich to give to the poor; righting wrongs, battling on behalf of the oppressed, fighting for justice. (I am pleased to observe that this group included a cleric; though Friar Tuck does not always personify priests in their best light!)

Of course, both Robin Hood, and his band of followers were no favourites with the authorities. Being pursued by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Guy of Gisborne, and bunches of soldiers is the stuff of so many action adventure books or films. A hero.

Another hero, with a band of followers; pursued by the authorities, on the side of the little people, recognising and supplying the needs of the poor, was of course Jesus. So no wonder there are so many stories of him too, not just in the written Biblical record, but in songs and mystery plays; in paintings and in films – throughout the world, and throughout history.

The authorities thought they had him, bound, nailed, crucified – dead. But more dramatically than any fictional action hero, with a single bound he is free: risen, his foes vanquished!

No wonder so many of the tales of Robin Hood are so appealing – and interesting to see their precursor, in a way, in the radical Jesus of the gospels.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding through the glen,
(Robin Hood, Robin Hood, With his band of men,)
Feared by the bad, loved by the good,
Robin Hood! (Robin Hood! Robin Hood!)

Drat – I promised not to sing…

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Following Celtic footsteps

In May 2008 I joined a handful of others on 5-day pilgrimage. I had been to Iona several times, but only ever seen LindisfarneHoly Island – from the train window. A year later, reminiscing our little pilgrimage to the North East, I thought I would put some photos etc. up.

Lindisfarne Island from Cuthbert's 'Cuddy' Island

Lindisfarne Island from Cuthbert's 'Cuddys' Island

Today (26 May) may be the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, but I am reminded of comments by a previous Geordie Bishop of Sheffield, who over 20 years ago spoke to a group of us young curates of the diocese: his faith was built on the foundations laid by the British Christian Saints such as Cuthbert, Aidan, and Hilda, and he had little time for “those Johnny-come-lately Romans such as Augustine”. If memory serves correctly, it was these saints that adorned the stained-glass windows of the Woodlands parish, where I was then curate.

Cuthbert’s base in Lindisfarne became a key launchpad for Celtic Christianity in North-East England in the 7th Century. The island, still cut off from the mainland by the tide twice a day, is traditionally approached by pilgrims wading barefoot across the causeway. (We cheated, went by bus, and then walked the causeway at leisure a day or two later.)

Pilgrims Feet

Pilgrim's Feet

Being on Lindisfarne – in blustery May – was surprisingly idyllic. I can still hear the skylark’s singing in the sky above the meadows near Lindisfarne castle. Far from the physical extremes of weather, distance and austerity that drew Cuthbert and the early settlers there. We were a bit ‘fair-weather’ pilgrims; but the feeling of being in a ‘thin place‘, as the Celtic Christians called such holy places, where heaven and earth are somehow much closer, was still very evident to us. A short, but very inspiring and refreshing and spiritual few days.

Some of the photos from our time are in this online Lindisfarne photo gallery; and we made a short photo journal book, which can be downloded in pdf format from the link below.

Lindisfarne Pilgrimage photobook - click for 16Mb pdf download

Lindisfarne Pilgrimage photobook

Oh, and here’s another panoramic photo, also in my Flickr panoramic set. I probably have way to many photos – it could have beeen more! – per page on this blog, which probably makes it load very slowly; but they are fun…

Lindisfarne Panorama - links to original on Flickr

Lindisfarne Panorama

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