Behind the scenes

This is the second of five reflections following my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. As I was walking, I quickly realised that I was not only part of a community of walkers, but also of a community that extended far beyond.

Behind the scenes

Even before I set off on my pilgrimage, I already felt part of a community of walkers (and cyclists): friends who had already been and were ready to give me good advice, both practical and spiritual. Walking the Camino gives you something in common very quickly.

IMG_0316This sense of belonging to a community was also my experience as soon as I arrived in Madrid. At the train station I met an Italian walker, who was also heading to Leon to start her journey there. We talked a little, and then made our way to our allocated carriages. I saw her again a few times in the following week. Although I did not set out to make great friends, the conversations and encounters on the way were moving and profound, whether we shared a common language or not.

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Sometimes it rains

This is the first of five reflections on my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. During ten days over half-term, I walked from Leon to Santiago. Although it was by no means the full length of the French Way, it was long enough to make it a worthwhile experience.

Sometimes it rains

When I was thinking what to do with my two-week break during half term, I landed upon the thought of walking a stretch of the famous Camino. Having done my research, October seemed a good month to walk as the weather is generally settled and the number of pilgrims is lower than during the summer months. Without much time to train, I decided that about 20km per day would be a reasonable distance, with enough time to rest, think and pray, presumably in the late autumn sunshine.

Having waited booking my flights, trains and first night’s stay until after the start of term, this became a rushed job between lessons and other activities, so it was not until a couple of weeks before I started that I realised that my starting point should have been Ponferrada, not Leon. Well, 315km is not that much further than 200km!

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Children of God

Homily St George’s Preshute, Remembrance Sunday 10th November 2019
Luke 20.27-38

cenotaphToday we are joining people throughout our nation to mark Remembrance Sunday. In our Act of Remembrance that follows this Communion service, we bring to mind those who have lost their lives fighting for peace and freedom. As we hear the names of those of this parish who died during the two Great Wars, we are once more reminded of the scale of loss that this country, and other nations, suffered.

Remembering is at the heart of our Christian faith. It is what Jesus told his disciples to do, every time they eat the bread and drink the wine: do this to remember me. The act of remembering is not just a mental exercise of calling to mind those things in the past, but it is a collective act of bringing to the fore those events and people who have shaped us into who we are.

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Be a blessing to others

Sermon 3rd November 2019, All Saints’ Church Stanton St Bernard
All Saints’ Sunday:  Ephesians 1.11-end, Luke 6.20-31

Today the Church celebrates All Saints’ Sunday, so it is lovely to be here with you in All Saints’ Church. When I took a school assembly for All Saints Day last week, I asked the children how they thought that they might recognise a saint. The first answer was that saints may be dressed in robes, which is a fair point if we look at a lot of traditional paintings and artwork. The second answer was that a saint is someone who does ‘good’ for other people. Maybe my favourite one was someone who answered that you could ask the person themselves. Although I’m not sure what a person would need to say to convince me.

all saints

Of course the question, in a way, was the wrong one to begin with, as the most accurate Christian definition of a saint is someone who the Church trusts to be in heaven after having lived a holy and virtuous life. So that means we can only know who were saints in their life-time, not those who are. Continue reading “Be a blessing to others”

Thank you, please

Sermon St Mary’s Upavon & St Matthew’s Rushall, 6th October 2019
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
Lamentations 1.1-6, 2 Timothy 1.1-14 & Luke 17.5-10

Saying ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ is probably what most people learn from a very young age. It is showing respect to one another to acknowledge that someone has done something for you, or when you’ve made a mistake. However, when and how often we say these things, is partly cultural.

I  grew up in the Netherlands, where we definitely say these things less often than here. If, for example, you would say ‘thank-you’ to a bus driver on leaving the bus, chances are that you have terribly offended him or her. After all, driving you safely to your destination is surely just their job? So on a very basic level, I can emphasise with Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading today, when he tells us not to expect any gratitude after completing what we ought to have done in the first place.

rushall.jpg
St Matthew’s Rushall: not a bad place to think about thankfulness!

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Renewing our sense of the sacred

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 29th September 2019
St Michael and All Angels: Genesis 29.10-17 & John 1.47-51

Today, on the 29th September, the Church celebrates the Feast of St Michael and All Angels. A belief in angels, I suspect, is one of the more problematic Christian beliefs in an increasingly secular society.

angelA few years ago, I read what I thought was a helpful book about approaching a belief in angels (Earth Angels : Engaging the Sacred in Everyday Things by Shaun McNiff) . Its first chapter starts by saying that “Angels are a way of looking at the world, infusing life with creative vitality and renewing our sense of the sacred”. It may be a bit too ‘spiritual’ rather than orthodox religion, but I do feel that this way of looking at the world and God’s presence within it, is valuable, as it can help us to reflect on the importance of material objects and places.

Indeed, our own Bishop Andrew uses the reading from the Old Testament that we just heard as a starting point for his theology of place (Parish: An Anglican theology of place by Andrew Rumsey). A theology of place and objects is ultimately an exploration of the relationship between God, people and the world around us. Places, such as churches or pilgrimage destinations; objects, such as the water in Baptism, and the bread and wine at the Eucharist, only gain their significance in as far as they are essential in the expression of God’s being and our relationship with him.

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The power of a story

Written for the Marlborough LitFest edition of Tower and Town.

Oct2019_500When I was asked recently what I had been reading theologically, I had to admit that most of the books I read over the summer had been novels. Some were recommended by friends, others I had picked up because they looked interesting and not too heavy for a summer’s evening. I don’t think that was the expected answer, but I suspect I have learnt at least as much from reading good fiction as I have gained understanding by reading more academic works.

Although I am by no means an expert, for me a good book tells me something about myself, and the world in which I live. In one way or other I can identify with the characters, or recognise some of the scenarios which are brought to life. One particular book that has stayed with me is ‘The Cut Out Girl’ by Bart van Es.

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