May 2009


pentecost

Almighty God, who on this day
didst open the way of eternal life
to every race and nation
by the promised gift of thy Holy Spirit:
Shed abroad this gift throughout the world
by the preaching of the Gospel,
that it may reach to the ends of the earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth
with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

 

Pentecost 1

 

 God the Holy Ghost
Who art light unto thine elect
Evermore enlighten us.
Thou who art fire of love
Evermore enkindle us.
Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life,
Evermore live in us.
Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace,
Evermore replenish us.
As the wind is thy symbol,
So forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge our dross
Christina Rossetti (AD 1830-1894)

 

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Christ Jesus,
before ascending into heaven,
You promised to send the Holy Spirit
to Your apostles and disciples.
Grant that the same Spirit
may perfect in our lives the work of Your grace and love.

Grant us the Spirit of Fear Of The Lord
that we may be filled with a loving reverence toward You.

The Spirit of Piety
that we may find peace and fulfillment
in the service of God while serving others;

The Spirit of Fortitude
that we may bear our cross with You
and, with courage, overcome the obstacles
that interfere with our salvation;

The Spirit of Knowledge
that we may know You and know ourselves
and grow in holiness;

The Spirit of Understanding
to enlighten our minds
with the light of Your truth;

The Spirit of Counsel
that we may choose the surest way of doing Your will,
seeking first the Kingdom;

Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom
that we may aspire to the things that last forever;

Teach us to be Your faithful disciples
and animate us in every way with Your Spirit. Amen.

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, kindle in your Church the Never-failing gift of love, that, following the example of your servant Josephine Butler, we may have grace to defend the poor, and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Heavenly father, whose incarnate Son Jesus Christ said to a Sinner brought before him for judgement, I do not condemn you–go and sin no more: Mercifully grant that we, like your servant Josephine Butler, may follow in his footsteps by working for the dignity, freedom, and restoration to wholeness of all those who are enslaved by sin or outcast by society; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

 

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Josephine Elizabeth Grey was born in Northumberland in 1828. She was schooled at home, where she read English and Italian literature, and translations of the Church Fathers. When 24 years old, she married George Butler, then a tutor at Oxford. She was an early advocate of better provisions for university education for women (see her contributions to Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture, 1869). Later, she focused her energies on the plight of women on the fringes of society. Having settled in Liverpool in 1866, she helped to establish homes and refuges for friendless women, housing large numbers of them in her own home. The Contagious Disease Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869 in effect established government brothels for soldiers and sailors. They placed prostitutes under police supervision while essentially making it impossible for them to leave their line of work. The Acts applied to seaports and garrison towns (although it was proposed eventually to extend them to the rest of the country), and they were defended on the grounds that it was inevitable that soldier and sailors would have sex, and that it was better that they do so under government supervision, so as to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (safe sex), and so that men, having an ample supply of prostitutes at their disposal, would leave nice girls alone. Mrs Butler led the campaign for the repeal of these Acts, which finally succeeded in 1886. This included the abolition of similar arrangements in British India.

Meanwhile, Mrs Butler extended her concerns to the continent of Europe. She was able to show that in Brussels a number of under-age English girls were being involuntarily held as prostitutes with the connivance of the police, and the Police Chief and his second in command were accordingly dismissed. It was largely through her influence that the laws for the state regulation of vice were reformed to prevent the enslavement of prostitutes in Switzerland, Holland, Norway, France, and Italy.

In 1886 her husband (who had given his full support to her work) fell seriously ill, and she retired from public life to care for him. She died on 30 December 1906.

 

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Water

 

If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My litany would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

 

Philip Larkin

 

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O Lord our God, who by your Son Jesus Christ called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless your holy name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

The Christian Church was established in the British Isles well before 300. Some scholars believe that it was introduced by missionaries from the Eastern or Greek-speaking half of the Mediterranean world. Celtic Christianity had its own distinctive culture, and Greek scholarship flourished in Ireland for several centuries after it had died elsewhere in Western Europe. 

 

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 However, in the fifth century Britain was invaded by non-Christian Germanic tribes: the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. They conquered the native Celtic Christians (despite resistance by, among others, a leader whose story has come down to us, doubtless with some exaggeration, as that of King Arthur), or drove them north and west into Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. From these regions Celtic Christian missionaries returned to England to preach the Gospel to the heathen invaders. Meanwhile, the Bishop of Rome, Gregory the Great, decided to send missionaries from Rome, a group of monks led by their prior, Augustine (not to be confused with the more famous Augustine of Hippo).

They arrived in Kent (the southeast corner of England) in 597, and the king, whose wife was a Christian, allowed them to settle and preach. Their preaching was outstandingly successful, the people were hungry for the Good News of salvation, and they made thousands of converts in a short time. In 601 the king himself was converted and baptised. Augustine was consecrated bishop and established his headquarters at Canterbury. From his day to the  present, there has been an unbroken succession of archbishops of Canterbury. 
     In 603, he held a conference with the leaders of the already existing Christian congregations in Britain, but failed to reach an accomodation with them, largely due to his own tactlessness, and his insistence (contrary, it may be noted, to Gregory’s explicit advice) on imposing Roman customs on a church long accustomed to its own traditions of worship. It is said that the English bishops, before going to meet Augustine, consulted a hermit with a reputation for wisdom and holiness, asking him, “Shall we accept this man as our leader, or not?” The hermit replied, “If, at your meeting, he rises to greet you, then accept him, but if he remains seated, then he is arrogant and unfit to lead, and you ought to reject him.” Augustine, alas, remained seated. It took another sixty years before the breach was healed.

 

Today we commorate The Venerable Bede

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Almost everything that is known of Bede’s life is contained in the last chapter of his Historia Ecclesiastica, a history of the church in England. It was completed in about 731, and Bede implies that he was then in his fifty-ninth year, which would give a likely birth date of about 672–673.  A minor source of information is the letter by his disciple Cuthbert which relates Bede’s death. Cuthbert is probably the same person as the later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow, but this is not entirely sure.Bede, in the Historia, gives his birthplace as “on the lands of this monastery”. He is referring to the twinned monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow  near modern-day Newcastle-on-Tyne and Sunderland, respectively; both have been claimed as his birthplace, and there is also a tradition that he was born at Monkton, two miles from the monastery at Jarrow. Bede says nothing of his origins, but his connections with men of noble ancestry suggest that his own family was well-to-do. Bede’s first abbot was Benedict Biscop, and the names “Biscop” and “Beda” both appear in a king list of the kings of Lindsey from around 800, further suggesting that Bede came from a noble family. His name is uncommon, only occurring twice in the Liber Vitae of Durham Cathedral, one of which is assumed to be the writer. There is also a Bieda who is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 501, but these are the only mentions in manuscripts of the name. The name probably derives from the Old English bēd, or prayer, and if it was the name given Bede at birth, probably meant that his family had planned on his entering the clergy from birth.

At the age of seven, he was sent to the monastery of Wearmouth  by his family to be educated by Benedict Biscop and later by Ceolfrith.  Bede does not say whether it was already intended at that point that he would be a monk. It was fairly common in Ireland at this time for young boys, particularly those of noble birth, to be fostered out; the practice was also likely to have been common among the Germanic peoples in England. Wearmouth’s sister monastery at Jarrow was founded by Ceolfrith in 682, and Bede probably transferred to Jarrow with Ceolfrith that year. Four years later, in 686, plague broke out at Jarrow. The Life of Ceolfrith, written in about 710, records that only two surviving monks were capable of singing “with antiphons”; one was Ceolfrith, and the other a young boy of 14, thought by most historians to have been Bede.

When Bede was about 17 years old, Adomnan, the abbot of Iona Abbey, visited Wearmouth and Jarrow. Bede would probably have met the abbot during this visit, and it may have been Adomnan who sparked Bede’s interest in the Easter dating controversy. In about 692, in Bede’s nineteenth year, Bede was ordained a deacon by his diocesan bishop, John, who was bishop of Hexham. The canonical age for the ordination of a deacon was 25; Bede’s early ordination may mean that his abilities were considered exceptional,but it is also possible that the minimum age requirement was often disregarded. There may have been minor orders ranking below a deacon; but there is no record of whether Bede held any of these offices. In Bede’s thirtieth year (about 702) Bede became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John.

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In about 701 Bede wrote his first works, the De Arte Metrica and De Schematibus et Tropis; both were intended for use in the classroom.He continued to write for the rest of his life, eventually completing over 60 books, most of which have survived. Not all of his output can be easily dated, and Bede may have worked on some texts over a period of many years.His last surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734. A sixth century manuscript of Acts that is believed to have been used by Bede is still extant. Bede may also have worked on one of the Latin bibles that were copied at Jarrow, one of which is now held by the Laurentian Library.  Bede was a teacher as well as a writer; he enjoyed music, and was said to be accomplished as a singer and as a reciter of poetry in the vernacular.

In 708, a number of monks at Hexham accused Bede of heresy, because his work De Temporibus offered a different chronology of the Six Ages of the world theory than the one commonly accepted by theologians. The accusation occurred in front of the bishop of Hexham of the time, Wilfrid, who was present at a feast when some drunken monks made the accusation. Wilfrid did not respond to the accusation, but a monk present relayed the episode to Bede, who replied within a few days to the monk, writing a letter setting forth his defence and asking that the letter be read to Wilfrid also. Bede had another brush with Wilfrid, for the historian himself says that he met with Wilfrid, sometime between 706 and 709, and discussed Æthelthryth, the abbess of Ely. Wilfrid had been present at the exhumation of her body in 695, and Bede questioned the bishop about the exact circumstances of the body and asked for more details of her life, as Wilfrid had been her advisor.

In 733, Bede traveled to York, to visit Ecgbert, who was then bishop of York. The see of York was elevated to an archbishopric in 735, and it is likely that Bede and Ecgbert discussed the proposal for the elevation during his visit. Bede also traveled to the monastery of Lindisfarne, and at some point visited the otherwise unknown monastery of a monk named Wicthed, a visit that is mentioned in a letter to that monk. Because of his widespread correspondence with others throughout the British Isles, and due to the fact that many of the letters imply that Bede had met his correspondents, it is likely that Bede traveled to some other places, although nothing further about timing or locations can be guessed.Bede hoped to visit Ecgbert again in 734, but was too ill to make the journey. He died on 26 May 735 and was buried at Jarrow. Cuthbert’s letter is mainly concerned with relating the last days of Bede, and mainly has interest for two things, one that Bede was still struggling to complete works right before his death, and two, the relating of a poem that Bede composed on his deathbed.Bede’s remains may have been transferred to Durham Cathedral in the 11th century; his tomb there was looted in 1541, but the contents were probably reinterred in the Galilee chapel at the cathedral.

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rejected things

 

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
If the rejected things, the things denied,
Slid over the western cataract, yet one,
One only, one thing that was firm, even

One thing remaining, infallible, would be
Enough.

 

from Wallace Steevens, The Well Dressed Man With A Beard

The British don’t talk about death, says a survey, because they fear it. So if you are going to have a chat about, for want of a better word, dying, how might it go?

It’s got to be the party pooper to end them all: “Hi. What’s your name? What do you do? Do you think about death much?”

According to theology think-tank Theos, we don’t talk about death enough. ( http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/Britons_fearful_of_dying,_new_study_reveals_.aspx?ArticleID=3112&PageID=14&RefPageID=5)

If we did, then maybe half of us would not fear death as a survey this week found.

So the Magazine decided to take Theos at its word – by inviting its director to have a chat about death with a expert on ageing.  

Paul Woolley, 32, is director of Theos, which conducted the research

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Malcolm Johnson, 65, is a professor of gerontology at the University of Bath

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Paul: Death today is handled very differently from the way it was in the past. For example, in the Victorian period, it was common practice for people when they had died to be kept in the home that they lived in, in an open coffin. Relatives paid their respects and would see a dead body, so death in terms of the frequency of it and people’s day-to-day contact with it was higher and less removed.

Malcolm: It would certainly be healthier if people talked about the coming of the end of their lives and what they feel about it, what they fear about it and what they want to do. For the first time in human history, death is in the province of old age. And that is why things have changed and as this process went on in the last century, we became a death-denying society, so we stopped talking about death and handed death over to the doctors and the funeral directors. And all those public rituals that were difficult but healthy and all the talk and all the cultural experience fell away and we are only now just beginning to return to some of that.

Paul: It’s interesting people reacted in different ways to the death of Jade Goody, how it was presented in the media. People responded both positively and negatively to that but in general, in the research we’ve done, people found that helpful. A moment in someone’s life that is usually pushed to the margins and hidden, took centre stage. There was some voyeurism, but people identified with what she was going through. We also need to encourage people to have conversations about these subjects too.

Magazine: Fair enough. How might be such a conversation begin?

Malcolm: It depends who you are. If you’re a young person and you’re facing death then you will talk about it, as Jade Goody so evidently did, but deaths under 40, the majority of them are road traffic accidents, so there’s no talking time and no preparation. Then 40-60, people have life-threatening illnesses and on the whole, they talk. But the overwhelming majority of deaths are older people and I can tell you from my own research that when older people say to their families, ‘I want to talk to you about my funeral’, which is a way of wanting to talk about death, a typical response is ‘Oh, you don’t want to talk about that stuff, that’s depressing, you’ll go on for a long time’. So if we can create opportunities with people who will listen carefully and be non-judgemental, then you can give them a real lift, because as older people face what we call finitude, the coming of the end of life, many of them become very, very anxious and full of guilt and they’ve got no-one to talk to.

Magazine: So organising the practical side of things is one way to broach the subject, but what about the spiritual dimension?

Paul: We found in other research that if you ask people about their beliefs in terms of the after-life and the existence of some sort of life after death the majority of people think there is something but it is this issue of uncertainty that creates anxiety. So it’s not that they rule out the idea that there’s life after death or the idea of a soul or heaven, but they are not sure. None of us knows what the process of death is like and because it’s unknown, that creates anxiety within us.

Malcolm: You’ve stated that very well. Magazine: Do you think about your own death much?

Paul: I probably do more than the average person and some of the issues drawn out in this research are ones I identify with – the uncertainty and what the process of dying looks like. Ultimately where I’m coming from theologically, I have hope. I believe in the hope of the creation of a new heaven and new Earth. I believe in Resurrection and that shapes my attitude towards death but it doesn’t take away the fact that death can be a very painful process. Death is painful when we lose people we love and we don’t know how our own death will come about. And when we stop to think about that it can cause anxiety.

Malcolm: I think about it on a personal level when a friend of my age dies. That’s quite challenging. Or I’m just a month off the age when my father died and I’m beginning to feel slightly queasy about that. I say this because I think it’s the personal cues that make you think about it, something you hear, a bit of gossip about someone you knew, reading something in the newspaper. But on the whole it’s not something that turns you upside down unless it’s very close. When it’s very close it does turn you upside down. So I think I’m saying similar things to you but in a different way because I think I’m a lot older than you.

Paul: When we encounter death, when a relative dies or a relative is terminally ill, that causes us to reflect on death and our own mortality but that is usually something that we push to the back of our minds. There are practical issues too. It’s striking that in the research, you would expect as people age they would put in place arrangements for their funeral. But the figures are small and over half the people had not made a will.

Malcolm: The great majority of people die intestate, without a will. That shows that people worry about death but feel unable to do anything about it. They somehow feel paralysed by the choices and never make themselves go and do it. The more we talk about it, the more people will realise it’s not that difficult to go off and write a will or even buy a funeral in advance.

Paul: People feel like they need permission to talk about these things and feel odd in raising the subject. But it’s important in every sense, important practically for their relatives to deal with the consequences of their deaths and also spiritually and emotionally for themselves.

Malcolm: There are people in our society who are capable of spiritual thinking but don’t have the language for it but what they do want is what religion used to give in the past – forgiveness, redemption, relief from guilt – and as people get very old and close to death they realise that the opportunities to put things right have all gone away and that puts them in a state of acute anxiety. Beneath the surface of the lack of discourse, the lack of open conversation, is a huge amount of anxiety, much of which could be diminished or even removed, by careful listening.

Paul: One stat I found very striking and I’d like to get your thoughts on was that 37% of 18-24 year olds had seen a dead body, which seems incredibly high.

Malcolm: I think your data might not be all that strong there. The great majority of people don’t see a dead body until well into middle age, usually in hospital. Not many young people have seen a dead body. They haven’t seen death other than death in the media, which is everywhere in films, television and so on. So people are familiar with death but not the reality of it and the reality of it often shocks them because they are not prepared for it.

Paul: You’re right. Because we don’t see dead bodies like we did in the past, when we do in the later stages of life, that in itself can be quite a frightening encounter. It’s frightening because we don’t have the resources to cope.

Malcolm: But it’s not frightening. Most people who die are old, and when you see an old person who’s died, usually they’ve died a quite straightforward death. When you see them, they are not contorted, they are at ease and if their body is laid in a composed way, it looks very calm and often very serene and it’s not threatening and it’s not distressing, unless you’ve got the distress in your head before you go. I think it’s important to say that most deaths are not frantic, they’re not acute, they’re not full of pain.

Paul: There is often a natural time to die and perhaps one of the challenges for our culture is we seek to avoid it at all costs and we seek to delay the inevitable which is completely understandable but maybe we don’t see that there is a time when it is natural to die.

Malcolm: My very latest research shows that dying in a care home is almost better than any other setting. Nearly a quarter of older people die in care homes every year. Because it’s 24 hours a day, because they welcome families and because there is an embedded “caringness” and none of the frantic atmosphere of an acute hospital, people die peacefully and with people around them that they know. So I’d like to commend care homes who get such bad press and you see something that needs to be cherished and nurtured and not just criticised.

Paul: So death need not be as scary as people think?

Malcolm: It need not be, no, but we shouldn’t say that all deaths are serene and wonderful. We can do other things to make death less physically and psychologically painful, but we’ll never be able to eliminate all of that. So it’s not surprising that people feel anxious about that but the reality is that when most people die, they die without great anxiety and – to use a word we use a lot – peacefully, so their fears in a statistical sense are much overdone

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