Update on Regular Church Services

We have stopped all our normal activities and services for the time being. Do contact me, Reverend Steve on steve_stcuthberts@hotmail.com or 07873434617 if I can help at all. Plus let me know if you would like to join the group who receive my daily email of prayers and poems.

The good news is that we will be opening the church for prayer on Wednesdays 10-12 noon, and Sundays 11-12 noon. We start on Wednesday 24th June…

God laughs

In the beginning…God laughed
And the earth was glad.
The sound of laughter
Was like the swaying and swinging of thunder in mirth;
Like the rush of the North wind on a drowsy and dozing land;
It was cold. It was clear.
The lion leapt down
At the bleating feet of the frightened lamb and smiled;
And the viper was tamed by the thrill of the earth:
At the holy laughter.
We laughed, for the Lord was laughing with us in the evening:
For the laughter of love went pealing into the night;
And it was good.  

It has been wonderful travelling the Celtic path for the last 4 months with you. I wish you nothing but well and pray for your safekeeping on life’s bumpy old road. I found this, and although it isn’t an ancient piece of writing, it captures much of the Celtic view of life. Go well.

Chief of chiefs

Bless, O Chief of generous chiefs,
Myself and everything anear me,
Bless me in all my actions,
Make Thou me safe for ever,
Make Thou me safe for ever.
As tax-collector Alexander Carmichael travelled the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, he developed a deep love and admiration for the people he met. He saw that their lives were underpinned by the kind of faith that can weather storms and find joy in the most difficult of circumstances. He admired the simplicity of their way of life and the poetry at the heart of each home.
In this complicated modern world, I find the prayers that Carmichael unearthed to be a great corrective to the pace and fury of modern life. I hope that the lovely prayer to the Chief of chiefs is a comfort to you today.

Every day is like Sunday

Thanks be to Thee, Jesus Christ,
Who brought’st me up from last night,
To the gladsome light of this day…
As Morrissey lamented, ‘every day is like Sunday.’ Well Sunday is the day I get to lead worship, but I understand what he meant. When he wrote it, Sundays were the day when everything closed down – except the churches. If church wasn’t your thing, well, it was the day was a tad monochrome.
The older I get, the more I appreciate each day. Perhaps it is because I know that the majority of my life is behind me and I want to make the most of what’s left. I find myself taking a great delight in small comforts and blessings. Just this morning I have been watching my cat curled up on the sofa next to me. Today is a blessing, each day is a blessing, even when we don’t feel it to be so.

Let it all hang out

We are exceedingly frail, and indisposed to every virtuous and gallant undertaking.
St Augustine
One of the things I really like about the early Christian prayers, is how brutally honest they are. It is somehow deeply satisfying to read prayers from people who are really letting all their faults hang out. I find myself tiptoeing around this kind of thing – but the early Christians simply let rip.
The odd thing is that being honest about the things that are wrong about us isn’t depressing if it is accompanied by a knowledge of God’s grace. We take the darkness to God because we know he will never reject us. Jesus seemed to rather like obvious sinners – he hung out with them and this scandalised the great and the good. This prayer is from St Augustine who could sometimes be more than harsh on himself.
Strengthen our weakness, that we may do valiantly in this spiritual war; help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts.

The Prayer Hunter

My favourite tv series is (sorry) Salvage Hunters. It features Drew Pritchard and his friend Tee. They travel the country ion their white van buying odd antiques and vintage items. It is oddly seductive. I quite like the idea of travelling the country and buying antiques. It is the quest that I like and the great sense of fun involved.
I have become the Prayer Hunter. I love unearthing ancient Christian prayers and blowing the dust from them. There are so many and often they have been unloved and unknown for years. I have just taken delivery of an obscure old (1908) book called Prayers of the Early Church. It is packed with gems and the obscurity of the prayers only adds to their appeal. What follows is a lovely prayer written in the fourth century by St Augustine. It is exceptionally personal and feels as though it was written only yesterday. We all feel the need to banish the darkness.
O Holy Spirit, Love of God, infuse Thy grace, and descend plentifully into my heart; enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling, and scatter there Thy cheerful beams…water that barren soil that longs to be Thy temple…

I need to be taught

Accept our thanks, Lord God,
for the many wonders and gifts you have lavished on us.
Teach us this evening to look forward with joy
to when we shall offer you our praise…
Benedictine prayer
I have always felt that I have a lot to learn. Even as someone much closer to 60 than 50 I have still have the sense that I am a novice. This used to give me a feeling of insecurity, but now I see it as a strength. I am a learner. The great philosopher Confucius saw life a process of ongoing learning. Socrates is reputed to have said that the unexamined life is not worth living.
There is a common misconception that Christianity is purely a faith of the heart and not the head. I have heard people say that it is about ‘blind faith,’ but it is nothing of the kind. The big question for me has always been am I teachable? Am I able to take on the hard task of learning even when that seems dangerous? Jesus was a teacher as well as a miracle worker. I want to be taught by him. I need to be taught by him and by all the other experiences, mistakes, triumphs and reading that are part of my life. When I was a young person, I lapped up the learning my teachers had to offer. My prayer is that I am still as thirsty to learn right now.

God’s grace is always enough

The love and affection of the angels be to you,
The love and affection of the saints be to you,
The love and affection of heaven be to you,
To guard you and to cherish you.
May God shield you on every step,
May Christ aid you on every path,
May Spirit fill you on every slope…
What is it that makes life truly worth living? It is the kind of question we have probably all been asking ourselves over the last few months. When we lose so much, we wonder what we have and whether it is enough. What is it that the walk with God has to offer? What is God like? These are, of course, the great questions that theology tries to answer.
Travelling alongside the Celtic Christians has helped me immensely – partly because their theology was often presented as poetry. Poetry has a way of speaking to every generation afresh – we inhabit its ideas and metaphors and fill them with meaning. The Celts understood that the fundamental currency of Christianity is God’s grace. God is for us and he likes and loves us. God’s whole nature is to forgive, when we turn to him. Grace is undeserved, but it is what sets us free. God holds us tight and we know that we are loveable. In times of peril that is why we can feel safe.

Living in another world

The blessing of God and the Lord be yours,
The blessing of the perfect Spirit be yours
The blessing of the Three be pouring for you
Mildly and generously.
When I started these daily meditations, I wrote my first one on the 15th March, I thought I might be just doing them for a month. One hundred and twenty days later, here we still are. It has been a labour of love and had had a profound impact on my own faith and spiritual journey.
Essentially, I have spent all this time in the company of people from a different time – a different kind of world. What started as an exercise in finding a nice prayer, has led me to reconsider many deep questions about the faith. What is God like? How do we live the life of faith? What are we grateful for? How do we work as a community of love?
In these months I have begun to feel closer and closer to the ancient Christians. I have seen not so much the difference in their worldview, as the similarities that we have. Above all, I have been touched by their yearning for wholeness, for affirming that they are loved by God and a deep gratitude for all that is good in the world – despite the peril of it all. Thank you for accompanying me.

The fire of love

Kindle in our hearts, O God,
the flame of love that never ceases,
that it may burn in us, giving light to others…
St Columba
I am convinced that the biggest impact of this pandemic is, and will be, on our mental (and physical) health. In some ways, the pandemic exposed existing fault-lines. We were already a society that tolerated industrial-scale loneliness and isolation, especially of our precious elders. We set up memory cafe here at St Cuthbert’s to be part of the solution.
How are we to recover? It will take more than money from our government. Personally, I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to fighting loneliness and bringing hope and forging community. It is something the Celts well understood. They knew the sense of total peril that we feel – they had to contend with Viking raiders, disease and disorder. They never dodged the problems but they made it their watchword to work together for the good of all. They put their trust in God and they expressed their gratitude for what they had and what was good.
Today, please, ring someone who is living alone. Take the burning light of love Columba spoke of and pass it on. It is the least we can do.