The truth is that we are always home. On this retreat day, we will explore coming home to our bodies, to ourselves, to the present, our own presence and The Presence, and to our place and purpose in the world. I will offer what I consider to be some important landscapes for exploration, but the journey and the destination are yours.
I was talking with a friend recently, and he mentioned the vision that Julian of Norwich had in which she saw God as a Lord and human beings as the Lord’s servants. I had to admit that while I understand that image of God in my head it doesn’t engage with either my heart or my soul, and it’s therefore not an image that has ever spoken to me. Obviously it spoke to Julian through her vision, and continues to speak to some today, so I found myself pondering why it doesn’t to me?
Recently a friend told me that she had been to receive Communion for first time for some months as her church was now open for worship: she was delighted to have been able to do so, as others are, as lockdown is beginning to be eased. Unlike my friend I haven’t been to worship in a church for a long time, worship there doesn’t currently feed my soul & it often leaves me feeling irritated & depressed. So its better for me to absent myself and look elsewhere. But rather than being a problem its become a gift, a challenge to think outside the box, and in a number of ways.
When I became a trustee of the Spiritual Counsel Trust (SCT), Bishop Dennis Hawker, then Bishop of Grantham, was soon to retire. I can still remember the words he used telling the trustees that he had been speaking with the new Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Hardy, about the work of the trust, and Bishop Bob had said to him that it “sounds like just the sort of thing I’d like to get involved with.” So, in 1987 Bishop Bob (as he liked to be known) became our chairman, and our trustees’ meetings were from then on held at The Bishop’s House, just across the road from the Cathedral. Bob indeed revealed a lively interest in spiritual direction and the tradition of Reginald Somerset Ward, (RSW). David Smith, a priest in Lincoln Diocese who had taken early retirement from parish ministry, was then full-time warden.
My friend Colin and I have met regularly to talk over many years. He retired early as his wife Joy was not well, and as her illness progressed and she was confined to her bed, he became her full-time carer. As he could no longer visit me I started to visit him at their home. Joy and I knew each other quite well, so one day when I was there I asked her if I could sit and talk with her for a while. She agreed and we ended up talking for most of the afternoon, to the surprise of both of us. Thereafter our afternoon conversations became a regular part of my visits.
I have been drawn to this painting by Ercole de Roberti in The National Gallery, for many years, but Chloe Reddaway in an excellent short series of videos [‘The Audacity of Christian Art’ available on You-tube, just search for her name] has helped me to see why. My friend James & I were talking about it recently, and our conversation further clarified it for me.
A person is walking along the street and a thought comes to her: “I ought to phone my Auntie Julie. I know it is boring, and I never know what to say, but she must be lonely stuck in her flat with no visitors.”
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard; Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world; And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.
Last summer I was reminded that the autumn would mark the 50th Anniversary of my ordination, and that prodded me to think about whether I should mark it and if so how. A personal review seemed like an obvious thing to do, but I reckoned that might benefit from some outside questioning. So I wrote to people who’ve known me over the years in a variety of different contexts, explaining what I hoped to do, and asking if they’d “be willing to help me by offering a thought provoking question? Any question they liked.” I ended up with a very stimulating set of questions. I mulled them through the autumn, wrote a considered response in early December, and shared it with all who’d helped me. Their reactions encouraged me to then publish what I’d written on this web-site. That in turn has led to quite a few comments, either posted on the web-site, or expressed to me personally. Some people have found that particular things that I wrote resonated with them, others have been prompted to consider a similar review of their own callings. With the latter particularly in mind it seemed that it might be useful if I published the questions, hoping they might stimulate others as they did me.. So here they are, in the order in which I received them. Please bear in mind that they were offered with respect to my ordination, so if your calling is other, you’ll probably need to adapt them.
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