May 2012


 

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

 

Robert Frost, The sound of trees

It’s Monday morning at the start of the working week and the beginning of three weeks of being Canon in residence here at St George’s Chapel Windsor.The May sunshine continues to exceed expectations and it gives everyone such a extraordinary sense of holiday.many many visitors crowd the Castle and it’s difficult to negotiate oneself through them as eagerly they attempt to absorb much of the experience of this ancient place.gladly my parents are still with me and so I decided to join the tourists for three quarters of an hour while the guard is changed.This is   a colourful tradition with the music of a band and all the movement and  ceremonial of the Army and air force at its best.I capture a few rather inadequate pictures and my parents, I think, are glad to have had the experience.

This morning we began reading the book of Joshua and I’m looking forward to how how this great narrative moves forward.it is a great skill reading scripture in public and one that needs to be constantly practised and attended to.  My colleagues handle the reading of Scripture in different ways and there is much to be learned from the way in which they attend to the verses chapters of both the Old and New Testaments.

At the Eucharist we are challenged by the story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.a good man who has dutifully obeyed all Commandments seems unable to respond to the challenge of Jesus to go away and sell all his possessions. It is the profoundest and most radical of the teachings of Christ and as someone who has just recently moved back into his refurbished house it demands that I look again at how much investment I have in possessions, and indeed what my attitude to wealth really is.

After some bits and pieces of the administration I chair the weekly diary meeting necessary for all departments to get together and coordinate what’s going on in and around the college.Tonight is the annual St George’s house lecture in the presence of his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and her  Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra.together with over 500 guests we shall listen to Asst Commissioner Cressida Dick explore some of the challenges of modern policing.Dinner follows and it’s always an opportunity to meet at new people and have the privilege of engaging in stimulating conversation.

Events like these take a huge amount of time and effort to prepare and the team at St George’s house have been busy for weeks ensuring that the details of drawing such an event together are all attended to.

I know little about law and order and in a busy and complex city like London it’s important that we should listen to those in charge of the Metropolitan police as they seek to fulfil their responsibilities in this ever more fragile world.

 

The College of St George as a rhythm and pattern – a routine of three terms fitting neatly round the cycle of the Church’s year.Today with Christians throughout the world we have marked the feast of Pentecost.This is a celebration of holy disturbance, of transformation and change.At the heart of it there remains a central paradox and contradiction and even tension that we Christians must learn to  articulate and live with.

Put simply what is the relationship between community and Temple; between person and shrine? Have not all renewals Christianity been in part of breaking out of our natural tendency to legalism and control, structure, stability, power and hierarchy? Was not the revival of Methodism with John and Charles Wesley the profoundest of direct challenges to the complacency of Anglicanism? Was not Vatican II an attempt to renew and refresh the Roman Catholic Church in its mission and ministry?

The first story of Pentecost does not need a building or structure or a shrine – it is the narrative of a powerful movement of the spirit of God in and through the desires of men and women to follow Christ and to proclaim his redeeming love.It is sometimes difficult and indeed almost impossible to translate this movement of the spirit into the traditional structures of historic Anglicanism. We run into very serious difficulty if we imagine that somehow we can contain the power and fire and truth of the holy spirit within our partial, incomplete and transitory structures and patterns of worship. Some of the hymns of Pentecost pickup these themes so beautifully and disturbingly.

So it is against this background that after a relatively late start the nave of St George’s Chapel became full of family and friends of 25 confirmation candidates who had gathered before Bishop David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, for their confirmation.The space at the height and the light of the Chapel; glorious May sunshine streaming through the West window; the open West door allowing some air and the interesting noise of the outside world to intrude upon our worship were some of the physical features of our Sung Eucharist and confirmation for Pentecost Sunday.

It was moving to hear the candidates affirm their faith and commit themselves as best as they were able to follow Christ and to put his love into action through the living out of the gospel. There were of course a mixed group, mostly schoolchildren from St George’s school but also residents from the Great Park and other adults who had come to this point of decision. it was a privilege to participate in this act of commitment.

The Choir sang Mozart which lifted our spirits and an active congregation were asked to consider what the candidates were doing in this service.

These larger services form part of our regular pattern of Sunday worship here at St George’s and working in a clergy team allows me more than most other of my priest friends to participate and worship in the space and engagement and   attention to God. the liberation from having to hold the worship allows one the opportunity to listen carefully, to reflect and to dig deep into Christian wisdom. So today I’m praying for all those confirmation candidates who affirmed their faith in this service and asking God to bless them as they journey into the future.

A family party followed when I was glad to be able to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday (rather belatedly) with a lunch out of town.the searing heat did not seem to put off many tourists wandering around the castle and we retreated to number 6 for some refreshment.Evensong followed at 515 and now I think after some further conversation a relatively early night beckons.

Another day – God’s day –  the sabbath day.

 

 

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

I started my blog nearly 4 years ago when I was fortunate enough to secure a sabbatical in the United States of America.I had spent 10 years in  Temple Balsall engaged in parish work, the support of the church school and the constantly demanding work of overseeing the organisation and delivery of care for older people.

The blog was kind of diary – a way of trying to process some of the experiences of Washington DC and Chicago – perhaps also a way of trying to achieve some sense of measured wisdom about both my life and ministry.It was also a place where I enjoyed having a little fun – gently teasing some of the peculiar realities of America and perhaps also asking one or two deeper questions ! It was also a place where I was able to show some of my photographs and capture some of the people and conversations that was so enriching during that time.

The blog has continued and  this month has clocked up over half a million visitors – I suspect mostly by some kind of accident but I’m told there are one or two faithful followers.

Very soon after my return from my sabbatical and engaged on a process of discernment which led to my moving from the West Midlands to the Thames Valley and the very particular and peculiar at ministry of St George’s Chapel within Windsor Castle. There are of course a number of important sensitivities in Ministry and holding one’s counsel is part of the proper professionalism that belongs to any priest.So much of my musings has been contained within my journal and indeed within the periods of quiet prayer that punctuate the day.

There are number of people who have asked me to return to some kind of personal journal simply because they are intrigued by what life is like here, what happens in the shape of the work. So I thought I’d engage in a little bit of reflection by way of some of the little snippets of my week that certainly provide me with a hugely enriching, stimulating and sometimes challenging ministry.

The alarm went off as usual at 5:45 AM and I’m grateful for a fairly cheery disposition which allows me to jump out of bed and move downstairs for a good pot of coffee. I was intrigued by an early-morning programme on radio four about rambling and especially the conversation with a man who had struggled with depression.it was a reminder that things are rarely what they seem to quickly we can take some kind of refuge in not realising that for many people life is a struggle and the most have to live with the shadows within and around them.I wonder if we would get so upset or impatient with others if we simply stopped to ask what it was they were living with and what might be the cause of their particular way of doing things?

The College is quiet and living in my house set into the north wall of the castle there is a huge sense of space and the sky. From my bedroom window I can see one or two   delivery vans and I think the first train from Windsor and Eton Riverside has set off for London Waterloo. From this standpoint the Thames hugs the edge of the town and the streets are empty which is quite a sharp comparison to the noise and activity of last night’s partygoers.

I get into Chapel at about 7:10 AM and sit in the Quire watching the sun dispel the darkness and gloom of the morning through the stained glass of the West End just above the Albert Memorial Chapel. This is time for prayer and reflection offering one’s hopes and fears, the activities of the day ahead of the many things left undone in tidy piles on my study desk. Matins begins as I’m joined by three others, including one of my colleagues, for this service of prayer and reading. This is a time set apart for God to forget self and open up to the promptings of God’s love. It’s  rhythm and pattern is an anchor point at the beginning of the day.

Matins ends and I moved to the Bray Chantry to prepare for the celebration of the Eucharist. This is the feast Day of Augustine of Canterbury and we properly remember those many men and women who brought the message of Jesus Christ to our shores, whose pioneering and creative ministry change the very nature of life in this country for the good. It seems particularly appropriate to pray for the Church of England and its work in so many ordinary ways in parishes and deaneries and dioceses – and at this moment of transition for Rowan Williams and those responsible for choosing his successor to lead the Church of England into a new stage of its mission and ministry.

By the time I get to behind the altar the sun is streaming into the chapel lifting one’s eyes upwards. The prayers left by visitors to the chapel are read and we name before God all those who are in particular need of Gods Love or indeed have recently departed. There is a powerful and mysterious sense of being part of something bigger and greater – of being enriched by Scripture – of being fed by the bread and wine of holy Communion.

And so this is a small glimpse of how the day begins. Matins and the Eucharist acting as an open door into the conversations activities and tasks that lie ahead.

And today I need to catch up on soem desk work and prepare for a visit of my parents and sister from Durham.

 

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

 

Robert Frost, The sound of trees

 

 

 

Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.

 

Ted Hughes

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