July 2012


 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you:
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want:
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going in and out of the door
where the two worlds touch:

The door is right there, look, it’s wide open!
Don’t go back to sleep.

 

From Rumi

 

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

 

Mary Oliver, At Blackwater Pond

It has been a very busy and intensive 10 days as clergy have gathered at St George’s house for a consultation designed to engage us all in a process whereby we might consider how we speak – and perhaps more confidently – about God.We have been blessed with some very skilled and knowledgeable speakers and explored each day the worlds of the church, law, medicine, social action, art, literature, finance and very much more.we have mined for wisdom and attempted to open ourselves up to new perspectives.

In a world that is ever more cynical about the church my heart has been hugely enriched by a wonderful quality of these women and men, some working in difficult and testing circumstances, to keep the rumour of angels alive, to listen and love and serve communities.

Much of the work has been done in small groups.we have read Scripture together and looked at novels, serious books  about contemporary issues such as equality and finance, and a couple of DVDs – including the first series of the BBC sitcom ‘REV’ ! We have done some theological reflection together on a range of issues and questions and each member of the group has brought with them a paper to share with fellow participants.

We have worshipped together. We have eaten together. We have taken wine together. We have looked curiously at each other.we have made new friends and there has been much laughter!

Here’s a snapshot of my small group and for the record thank you to Joabe, Jeremy, Michael, Andy, Barbara, Patrick, Bernard and Richard  for everything that you have so honestly and wisely shared.

I had the privilege of introducing the conference and its work 10 days ago and now I must offer some final reflections and these are the words and a piece of poetry that have emerged as I have reviewed these extraordinary past days:

God: Some Conversations 9th– 19th July 2012.  Final Reflections 

  1. Learning to listen and especially to voices and perspectives which differ from our own. Being prepared to live with difference and to change. We have all experienced that uncanny moment when a long familiar word becomes strange and remote. We have peeled away the facades of self- evidence and glimpsed the unaccountable otherness of what is there. Our listening has uncovered the difference, the uniqueness, the strangeness of this amazing life.

 

  1. Learning about our limitations, explaining the impossible, reaching the limits of our understanding. We have seen what happens when we allow ourselves space to ask questions. We have faced outwards and inwards as we look at who we are, what people expect of us and how much of ourselves we are prepared to show to others. 

 

 

  1. Learning about our world and what shapes the way we look at the world. We a have seen  some of the fragility  of our reality and searched for creativity and empowerment. We have listened to the dark forces of sin that perpetuate fragmentation, inequality, unrighteousness, isolation and fear.  

 

  1. Learning to share our faith, bringing people into commitment, enlarging their lives and hearts. We have been searching for where Christ might be found, and how we move people on and deeper in discipleship. We shall want to use all the opportunities of modern communication  to talk about God but not forgetting the liberating experience ordinary eye contact between new friends. Theology happens wherever we are drawn together into the congenial and annoying labour of conversing, listening and disputing – in short, where we are drawn into a collective struggle for truthful speech.

 

 

  1. Learning about what difference we can make; how we exercise power with love as we share God’s vision of a world where all flourish through the spheres of law, education, finance, Parliament, health, community, family, literature and art. We strive to offer a theology that embraces the whole of reality including all dimensions of our living, our being human and humane. Allowing one another to tell our stories and to find our voice to keep on thinking aloud.

 

  1. Learning to love the church and rediscover our vocation – as we place ourselves within the presence of God and ask what is required of us.   We might have the courage to take risks and discern new priorities for our ministry. We have helped each other to see  the rich diversity of the church and the many colourful ways God claims us. The church exists not for itself but for the sake of a reconciled humanity. We are a laboratory of human possibility, human flourishing, human belonging. And our materials are not test tubes and chemicals, but a book, a chalice, and the broken body of God.

 

Everything bends

        to re-enact

             the poem lived,

      lived, not written,

the poem spoken

              by Christ, who never

         wrote a word,

             saboteur

   of received ideas

who rebuilt Rome

        with the words he

     never wrote;

whether sacred,

          whether human,

                   himself a sunrise

         of love enlarged,

              of love, enlarged

 

–          Extract from A Church in Bavaria by William Plomer

so – my gratitude and much more to think about and do!

I have already indicated something of the  rhythms and patterns of the College – and this is very self-evident at the moment as we draw the summer term to a close.The school has started its summer holiday and the choristers are enjoying a well-deserved rest.Today the lay clerks sing their last services and change and holiday await them.There is a tangible sense that folks are ready for a break.For the clergy the rhythm of worship continues with said services and while we look forward to our respective holidays life and work continue.

As I write the Eucharist is being celebrated at the high altar and later this morning we shall gather for Matins followed by the Sung Eucharist. At the service this morning we shall say farewell to Sir Michael Hobbs the governor of the Military Knights of Windsor. Retirement finally awaits him and proper tribute will be paid to his long and distinguished service to this community particularly in the area of development and fundraising. we shall miss his presence, good humour and experience in and around the place.

At Evensong tonight we shall bid farewell to Canon John White who has spent a staggering 30 years here in Windsor. The college has a rather moving service of prayer and farewell built around Evensong and there follows a reception – hopefully outside – weather permitting! John is well-known throughout the Church of England for his independence of mind, his interest and appreciation of art, for his faithfulness, friendship and hospitality. There will be much to give thanks for this evening and we shall all wish him well as he moves into a new chapter.

Canon White ( bottom left)

July also brings the two-week clergy course (God: Some conversations) and we are enriched underprivileged by the presence of clergy from across this country and beyond.I shall reflect a little more about this in due course but it is good to have them here living alongside us and in their own particular way of style asking questions of us about our work! I have been particularly delighted by a wonderfully diverse group who I have been working with over the past six days – is much more to come but goodness what honesty, openness, skill and wisdom.

 

They keep me sober,

The old ladies

Stiff in their beds,

Mostly with pale eyes

Wintering me.

Some are like blonde dolls,

Their joints twisted;

Life in its brief play

Was a bit rough.

Some fumble

With thick tongue for words

And are deaf;

Shouting their faint names

I listen:

They are far off,

The echoes return slow.

 

But without them,

Without the subdued light

Their smiles kindle,

I would have gone wild,

Drinking earth’s huge draughts

Of joy and woe.

 

 

 

 

R.S. Thomas 1913-2000

 

 

Conjure something glowing
Take this day
You were born with hands for spinning
Talent for dreams and making them real

Roll the hours like yarn
Spin something that makes you feel full
And big and open to talk

Make this day your own square
In your own life quilt
So shining it brightens the whole of your years
This far
Make this day like one of God’s seven.

 

Ruth Forman, Even If You Grab A Piece of Time

 

EVERYONE suddenly burst out singing;
And I was fill’d with such delight
As prison’d birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

 Siegfreed Sassoon, Everyone Sang

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