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.

Connections – Monday

Sometimes a sight or sound or smell can bring memories to mind. As a boy, I used to love going to Heathrow Airport to watch the planes. It seemed a place of great glamour and I was always wondering about the exotic-sounding places the passengers were going to. I wanted to be an airline pilot because I imagined myself travelling the world in a rather suave way.

Memory is triggered by our senses. We draw parallels with different parts of our lives. There is one beautiful Celtic prayer where the writer is enjoying kindling his fire in the morning. The fire triggers a thought about God. The whole world connects, it seems.

God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbour,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall.

 

 

Bless the tools of the trade

I trained as an editor and writer. I have been writing for many years and for most of my life earned my living as a writer. At the time, I took it for granted; but looking back it was a huge privilege. These days, the tools of the trade are a decent laptop computer and a phone. But when I started, I used to enjoy going to work at a magazine or firm and just taking along my pen (and my brain).

The Celts had to work for a living and the tools of their trades were important – if they broke or were stolen than poverty beckoned. Jesus worked in the family business – he would have owned the tools of a builder and they would have been precious to him. Everyday life, working life, is holy and there is a dignity in labour. Try this Celtic classic blessing for the weaver’s loom.

Bless, O Chief of generous chiefs,
My loom and everything anear me,
Bless me in every action,
Make thou me safe while I live…

 

Every web, black, white and fair,
Roan, dun, checked and red,
Give Thy blessing everywhere,
On every shuttle passing under the thread.

 

 

The real Thing

What makes something authentic? I once did a really interesting project in my previous life in branding and marketing. I spent a month reading old cookbooks to see how the authors signified things like taste and quality. The idea was to see if we could learn from the past about how to describe food – not just the ingredients, but the experience of it. I came away with a great admiration for the language of food from the past. Our own modern lexicon was worn thin.
When we read the Celtic prayers, we immediately recognise authenticity. The prayers and poems feel like the real thing. The language they use if fresh and not over-used. We all, I think, are searching for authenticity and in the Celtic way we find it.
I offer you this morning the wonderful prayer for the end of toothache – very authentic indeed.
The worm that tortured me,
In the teeth of my head,
Hell hard by my teeth,
The teeth of hell distressing me.
Amen to that!

A resting prayer

We seem to be starting to head out of lockdown. Perhaps we are on our way out of this ghastly crisis, step-by-step. Just a few months ago, who would ever believe that we would be sheltering from a deadly disease and that so many things would be changed?

Today, on our walk up to Harrow it was most odd. the world was going on, with people everywhere and cars and busses. But we live a double reality – we try to be normal, but we have the kind of threat to life that is frightening. This fantastic Celtic prayer for protection might help.

God shield the house, the fire, the kine,
Every one who dwells herin tonight.
Shield myself and my beloved group,
Preserve us from violence and from harm;
Preserve us from foes this night…
On this night and every night.

 

We are back in Scotland

A year or so ago, I made a very good purchase. I bought the complete edition of Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica. Carmichael was an Excise Officer from the island of Lismore off the coast of Argyle. His work took him across the Highlands and Hebrides and as he met the local people, he wrote down their prayers and poems.

 

 

He realised that, because of the tradition of remembering and passing on stories, these poems and prayers came from deep history. They were a gateway into the way the ancient Celtic Christians saw the world and lived out their faith. The book runs to 600 pages and, despite reading it every day, I am still finding gems. Prayer 241 is a classic – informed with a poet’s love of language and rhythm, with a surprise in every line.

 

 

O God of the weak,
O God of the lowly,
O God of the righteous,
O shield of homesteads:

 

 

O may I find rest everlasting
In the home of Thy trinity,
In the paradise of the godly,
In the sun-garden of Thy love.

Silly season

My heart sang at the wonderful story in yesterday’s papers. A ‘cheetah’ was spotted in Billionaires Row, Finchley. A police helicopter was dispatched and officers with machines guns and tazers turned up. After exploring a few gardens, they found the offending creature. I am happy to report that it was, in fact, a Savannah cat, which is a cross between an African wild cat and a domestic moggy.
The police officers were unable to catch the cat, but it was friendly and apparently, it poses no risk to life or limb. I cannot tell you the relief I felt at reading this story. Perhaps there might be room for more silliness. Which reminds of a friend of mine who was a reporter for BBC Norfolk. He told me that his best assignment was a live broadcast from the beach at Cromer where a wild penguin had been spotted swimming in the sea. His report consisted of him telling people that he’d had look and hadn’t been able to spot it. Great stuff. I hope that this Celtic gem brings some cheer.
O apple tree, may God be with thee,
May moon and sun be with thee,
May east and west winds be with thee,
may the great Creator of the elements be with thee…
Feel free to substitute apple tree for any other creature or thing. O Savannah cat be with thee…

Thou, my soul’s healer

Thou, my soul’s Healer,
Keep me at even,
Keep me at morning,
Keep me at noon,
On rough course faring,
Help and safeguard
My means this night.
I am tired, astray, and stumbling,
Shied Thou me from snare and sin.

I often feel tired and astray and that I am stumbling. When i was a boy, I used to look at my parents and think that life got easier when you grew up. They seemed so strong and in control of life. I think I was wrong. Life is beautiful and hard, whatever age we are. If we were able to accept this and see God at work in the everyday we might be more content.

What I know, is that sometimes life seems perilous and that I want to be protected. I feel a lot better now that I rely so heavily on God. I am happy to acknowledge my need for divine help and it has helped to make me happy, even in unhappy times.

 

Steve

 

 

 

 

Back with St Benedict

I think I’ve said before, that I have been using the same prayer book each morning for about 10 years. I never get bored with it, and it feels like an old friend. I love reading the old prayer service each day, because it feels like I am praying along with all the people who have prayed over the centuries.

C.S. Lewis advised us to mix the old with the new, when it came to reading about the faith. I think he was right. I take my morning prayer (and evening) from St Benedict’s Prayer Book and I heartily recommend it. I am still finding little gems in it.  How about this one?

Let your Holy Spirit guide my life so that my soul may bear the fruit of love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness and self-control. Renew my desire to be your faithful friend...

Looking at this list, I pray that I have more of these beautiful qualities. Maybe you do, as well.

 

 

 

 

The old ones are brilliant

This prayer speaks for itself….

Give me insight to see through the exterior of things
to the interior truth.
Give me your Spirit of discernment.
O Lord, you know how busy I must be this day,
if I forget you, do not forget me.

It is by Jacob Astley who lived 1579-1652. What I love, is how modern it sounds. it could have been written yesterday. The ancients speak to us if we only take a little time to listen. Reading a prayer ;like this gives a great feeling of connection with the past and tends to put my problems into perspective.

I have found myself very busy in lockdown – maybe even busier than I was before.  I could pray this prayer just about every day. I am going to pray it today as well.

 

 

Under attack

I am beseeching Thee
To keep us from ill,
To keep us from hurt,
To keep us from harm…
The Celtic Christians understood being attacked. They have a wealth of wonderful prayers on the subject. They loved family and community and prayed that they would be safe. Their prayers are interesting. The Celtic Christians are often portrayed as pastoral nature lovers – a kind of Hobbit-people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Celtic Christians were just like us. They were practical people and they knew danger and unfairness when they saw it. If you feel under attack today or are worried about people you love, why not try this gorgeous shielding prayer.
Shepherd us this day,
Relieve our distress,
Enfold us this night.