Sunday, 22 May 2011

Another Thomas - and a small room

In this morning's Gospel reading (John 14) it's the disciple Thomas who speaks out: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

If there's a temptation to associate Thomas with a tendency to doubt, then first I would want to say that the key thing about him is his honesty.

Reflecting on this and Jesus' promise that "in my Father's house there are many dwelling places / rooms" - or indeed "mansions" (AV) - I found myself talking about the priest and poet, R. S. Thomas:

... His final reputation was that of reclusiveness mixed with a tendency to venture onto the public scene with some outrageous political views. His Welsh nationalism was mixed with a keen regret that he found himself able only to write poetry in English. For all his long ministry as an Anglican priest he was not immune to uncertainty in matters of faith. But he would not hide from the contradictions he recognised in himself. Not least as a man of words, he relentlessly explored the silence he perceived: silence in which he prayed, but also silence which could denote the terrifying absence of God, silence in the refusal of answers to appear, a silence which he might long to find broken, but in which he had the courage to dwell. It would be rash to state any final conclusions as to the sort of faith with which he ended his life. But we do have some clues from his own words….

R. S. Thomas concludes what he calls his Autobiographical Essay with a picture of himself kneeling in a room furnished with chairs and books, seeing Orion and Sirius above the bay, and knowing it ‘difficult to hold the two in proportion.’ It is an image he reproduces in a poem from his last collection, ‘At the End’:

Few possessions: a chair,
a table, a bed
to say my prayers by,
and, gathered from the shore,
the bone-like, crossed sticks
proving that nature
acknowledges the Crucifixion.
All night I am at
a window not too small
to be frame to the stars
that are no further off than the city lights
I have rejected….

Thomas never comes to easy conclusions about God. He resists the temptation to domesticate a God he finds strangely revealed in the created order, a God who so often eludes him in prayer. But at the same time he finds the reality of God meeting him just where he is – living amongst the few possessions which are necessary, in a small room, with a window not too small to frame stars which seem so near. It’s a poem of maturity after a life of searching – and it points to God in utter simplicity, and says, “We meet him here. We know God because he reveals himself in those things which have become familiar to us.”

Just an excerpt of what I had to say. Click here to find the whole of it.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A great day at the Hall

... And an apology if you went looking for our new St. Cuthbert's Hall page. "Blogger" which hosts the page has had rather grievous problems over two or three days. It meant that we lost all the material uploaded to the site on Thursday.

Some of it has come back - and I've restored the Hall page and the tab by which it's accessed. So it's all there (at least as I write!) - please try again, especially if you were frustrated by a previous absence of content. Access the Hall material by using the tab which is now back near the top of this page.

Meanwhile thanks to all who worked so hard for a very successful Open Day today - not to mention our caterers and stall-holders. We had a steady stream of visitors to the Hall, wonderful food on sale as well as an abundance of plants, books and cakes. Members of Hall user groups were to hand to welcome visitors - and the general impression they gave was that they were very impressed by the new facilities.

And here's our new brochure - for any who'd like to download it.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Ready to open...

The picture is an action shot taken at our Tuesday Lunch Club earlier this week. I took it while photographing the various parts of our Hall which we'd like more people to see - and here's how...

We're holding an Open Day at St. Cuthbert's Hall this Saturday, 14th May, to show off the new and renovated facilities in the Hall extension. The builder's van was parked outside again this morning, but we're confident that all will be ship-shape and sparkling. Running alongside the Open Day we have "Coffee Plus" which is rather more than a coffee morning - lunches too + books, plants and cake stalls. Please come if you can between 10a.m. and 3p.m.

To celebrate the new opportunities and possibilities there's now a dedicated "St. Cuthbert's Hall" page on this blog - simply click on the tab at the top of this page.

While you're up there we now have another dedicated page - for our Parish Magazine and homilies / sermons preached at St. Cuthbert's... and elsewhere in the case of the last few days. The most recent entries are both offerings from the Vicar: the first is for Sunday 8th May from the Parish Eucharist; the second he delivered in his capacity as Rector of the Durham and Newcastle Chapter of the Society of Catholic Priests when it met in Byker on Monday 9th May. Just click through to either of them.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Weddings, Walks & Easter continues

11a.m. last Friday found me up a hill - Catbells in the Lake District. It wasn't any lack of royal feeling on my part, but because it was the last part-day of my post-Easter break before I had to get back that afternoon for a wedding rehearsal at St. Cuthbert's. I couldn't get home in time to watch the royal wedding on the box, so much wiser, I felt, to put the brilliant weather to good use and take in a quickly ascended fell.

At the top we found people with an aerial up. At first I felt they must be tuned in to the TV coverage, but then realised it was a radio aerial - I think they were tracking ospreys. Back down the hill in Keswick the festivities were in full swing with a special street market, give-aways and giant TV screen in the High Street. A great day! - and that includes watching all the recorded coverage once we got home.

Back in the parish it was the first wedding of the season - of Carl Nevin and Emily Reed, daughter of the previous occupants of our Vicarage. Congratulations to them!

And so to Sunday - which felt rather better than people expect of "Low Sunday." You can find Rosie's sermon by going to the "Magazine and Homilies" page on this blog - and with it I've now up-loaded her sermon for Maundy Thursday. You should be able to open new links on this page without difficulty, though if you don't have Microsoft Silverlight it's recommended that you download it if you want so see the page at its best - as I have just had to for my old desktop computer (without any problems - the link to the programme presents itself; just click to run the programme).