Monday, 5 November 2018

Refreshing the Spirit

Sorry that this issue of the Parish Magazine is appearing late. It’s entirely due to my taking my “summer holiday” at the end of October (it’s been a complicated sort of year), but at least I managed to top up with sunshine before the holiday itself ended with cloudbursts and thunderstorms.

I bring back lots of memories - and things which I need to go over again to see what I made of them: many too many photos - and a notebook full of the accounts of what we did and where we went.

What do I remember most from this visit to Rome? Uppermost in my mind is the experience of going to church! Actually we visited many churches, but there were three places where we joined other Christians in worship. One was the Anglican Centre which is squeezed into a set of rooms in the Doria Pamphili Palace. There’s a wonderful art gallery there too, but you can visit the Centre for free. Go on a Tuesday at 12.45pm and you can usually join in the weekly Eucharist which is followed by prosecco and lunch. The chapel was packed - and interesting folks turn up, this time including a pilgrim party from the Church of Norway.

We went to Vespers as well at the Cistercian Abbey of Tre Fontane - after a day of tramping around looking at things it was good just to sit and stand as the monks did the hard work of prayer. But the place I keep going back to is the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches of Rome. I spoke last Sunday about the sermon - what I managed to hear, despite not being able to understand most of the language. But the worship is still more. It’s helped by the beauty of the place. But it’s grounded in the offering of prayer and the faith from which it stems. It’s a place of welcome. Children particularly play a part - simply by being there. One week it was First Communion candidates who were put to work as acolytes, joining en masse in white robes with candles. The next Sunday they welcomed cubs and scouts - who kept their caps on in church; half of them found themselves deployed with candles. And during the Gloria and Gospel Alleluia many of the congregation ring bells (they seem to bring their own). But all of it ties in with a great spirit of joy.

That worship stems from faith. The church itself is in the care of the Sant’Egidio Community which works with the poor and homeless - and more widely promotes peace and reconciliation. Its members meet each evening at 8.30pm to pray - but first they go onto the streets and feed the poor. Round the corner they run a restaurant ‘Gli Amici (The Friends) which is run as a partnership between people with learning difficulties, volunteers and professionally trained staff. And it all comes together in the offering of worship - in meeting with Christ.

Where is Christ to be found? In worship, of course - but also in his people. Perhaps it came together most for me as I watched a disabled man who’d prayed devoutly behind us go forward for Holy Communion - and after receiving, he kissed the priest. What was the gift? Who was the giver?
Martin Jackson

From the November issue of St. Cuthbert's Parish Magazine - find it on this link

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