Monday, August 08, 2016

An Open Letter to John Dominic Crossan

Dear Dom,

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic and I wondered if you celebrate it as your name day. I woke up this morning thanking God for both you and the saint. Who would you be, without your formation as a Dominican? 

I am a bear of small brain and it feels as if I am almost untouched by scholarship. What a joy, that within the Body of Christ, I have brother who not only has scholarship and a wonderfully analytical mind but ears to hear and and a lucid, easy to follow writing style.

In  Jesus and the Violence of Scripture you have set out clearly, argued convincingly and further than I have ever attempted, what I mean by saying,"I am a Christ-ian and I understand what that means by being a follower of Jesus." Thanks for that!

I was particularly taken with your account of discovering your third metaphor the Biblical Iconic Focus in the Benedictine Basilica at Formis where Christ in Triumph in the apse is the focus of all the other biblical icons. Iconography, or not and the remaining evidence of Reformation  arguments are to be found in  many of our heritage churches in Norfolk  - e.g. http://www.hungate.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/hungate-trail-6fw.pdf. 

I love it that  the faces of the saints on the Belaugh rood screen were scratched out by a godly trooper from Hautbois in the Civil War. Perhaps icons/not icons is also the beating of a heart'
Although the roods, the Christ on the cross most often attended by Mary and John, were taken down by order of HenryVIII, the screens remained. But in the place of the Cross of Christ was placed the Royal Coat of Arms. The non-violent suffering servant replaced by the violence of the state. At St. Catherine's Ludham they dealt with the change of monarchy, and permitted iconography, by quickly producing a painted rood in the reign of Mary and then painting  Elizabeth's Royal Coat of Arms on the opposite side for her accession. Rescued from obscurity in Victorian times both sides of the panel are now visible - the rood from the nave  and the royal coat of arms from the chancel.

One wonders if there would ever have been a British Empire and a Pax Britannica (Peace through Victory)  if the roods had been left where they had been placed at the chancel arch. The theology was clear and true, the faithful  enter the mystery  of communion with God through the sacrifice, example and teaching of Jesus and the saints.

The Oxford Movement did lead to some of the roods being replaced but often it was a Christus Rex that was put in place. I think that allows for Peace through violent Victory. I suppose the icon/no icon is a false dichotomy. It is really, "Which icon?"  -The Reformation in England first gave us ,  the Crucified Christ or My Lord the King. Later,  as the Reformation gathered speed, statues and paintings may have disappeared but the icon was the Bible.  In reconquest Spain, at the extremes were Christ the Moor Slayer and  John of the Cross's  Beloved in the Song of Songs where the Paradise Garden was familiar idea to converting Muslims.

In the end, thank God for Francis as well as Dominic. He, more than any, championed the cause of the Peace Donkey!

With prayers and best wishes,

Richard



Friday, August 05, 2016

A Conversation with the Coot Club

It came as no surprise to pass "Death and Glory" as we made our way back up the Bure from a short cruise on Cygnet. I had been having an internal dialogue with the Coot Club ever since we came through Horning.

Back in the golden day, when I was a lad, before the old the Ferry Inn had burned down and the wherry Albion was still trading, there was nowhere near the river traffic there is today. It seems to my inner dyspeptic, grumpy old git that nothing will ever be the same. "Take a grip!" The positive. open, hopeful self replies. "Its change. All things change and yet nothing changes." The Coot club reminded me that although the Hullabaloos have taken over the pub, they tend to congregate in  certain places and the Broads are still a magic breathing space. More than ever  guardians of the Broads are called fight to protect, nurture and celebrate this unique environment.



You are right boys and the good news is there are lots of us at it. Horsey, where we had moored for two nights is in the care of the National Trust, Hickling and Barton broads in the care of Norfolk Wildlife Trust. We'd seen Hathor of the Wherry Yacht Charter ( http://www.wherryyachtcharter.org/index.php) out on Barton Broad and moored at How Hill.  Hunter's Yard Fleet boats (http://www.huntersyard.co.uk/)  were in evidence everywhere, as were the Martham Ferry Boiatyard fleet (http://www.marthamferryboatyard.co.uk/)




There are new developments in hand, the is nearly complete Three Rivers Way,  and a bike routes network that is expanding (https://norfolkbroadscycling.co.uk/).

Before long a riverside path from Ludham Bridge to St.Benet's will be open and there are plans afoot to improve and improve the  access to Hoveton Great Broad http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/2m_of_lottery_cash_awarded_for_work_on_private_broad_1_4147300)

Even now Hoveton Great Broad (access from the river or by ferry from Salhouse Broad http://www.salhousebroad.org.uk/ferry.html) provides a haven of calm away from one of the most congested part of the Broads river network. What do you expect?  Its August!  Out on the river a 45 foot hire boat, skippered by a child and encouraged by adults is powering past a day boat at 7 knots, or more,  creating a prodigious bow wave! Hallabaloos ! Unimpressed Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies feed quietly on Hemp Agrimony.

On Wednesday night the White Horse, Neatishead there were morris dancers - Kemp's Men and an appreciative audience. Beer and dancing, cakes and ale - what could be more English?

And the built heritage was being maintained too - work on the Horsey Wind pump, St. Benet's ruins freshly restored, church towers raising eyes heavenward and windpumps, soon to benefit from the Water, Mills and Marshes project (http://www.broads-authority.gov.uk/looking-afte
r/projects/water,-mills-and-marshes)
I


















There are places where the Broads river network is over crowded. The increase in the size of hire boats over the years has reduced the number of boats that can fit on moorings.

The increase in air draught limits where the biggest boats can now go.
And so at some spots like the Bure by Salhouse Broad, with Hullaballoos racing to the next congested pub mooring, the river is pretty busy. In other places, the southern rivers and above Wroxham and Potter Heigham bridges there is less pressure.

In fact, the 6 foot air draft of Potter bridge acts as a Hullabaloo filter. There was plenty of room on the morrings - all very Swallows and Amazons (to stay with Arthur Ransom but to leave the Coot Club behind) ! A walk across the meadows to the beach revealed few humans bathing and sunbathing.


Seals were something else!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Churches and Tourism - Progress


Sometimes I'm so focused on the task in hand, I forget to sit up and take my bearings.

For 7 years I've been pushing on, hoping that the Church would get serious about tourism and Tourism serious about the church. And, Yes! There has been some progress:

  • I am chuffed to see the remit of, the soon to be appointed, Archdeacon of Norwich, will  include tourism. 
  • I am delighted that the Diocese of Norwich will be launching an Open Churches map (free for third party users to re-frame and embed in their own web sites) in the summer, and that
  • Premier Inns, King's Lynn recognise the warm welcome provided by St. Margaret's for hundreds of years.
Lets hope that those who are responsible for our heritage churches, step up to the plate and find effective ways of communicating our ancient Faith to new visitors.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another Day at the Office : a day of meetings


Thi outdoor spirituality thing I do, its gruelling!
Left home in Coltishall at 9 for a 10 a.m. meeting in Burgh next Aylsham.

Time for prayer time. for reflection.

As I peddled my bike to the Bure Valley Railway path there was an opportunity to consider the flowers, on roadside verges and along the railway track.

Each flower a bead on the rosary:
campion, borrage, cumfrey,
white nettle, forget-me-not,
Queen Anne's lace,
bluebells, herb Robert,
and the last of the primroses.

On the 400 th anniversary of Shakespear's death,
  
the primrose path that leads to the everlasting bonfire ?

Each hamlet or village I pass
are chapters of a rosary.

Anchor Street, St. James's
Coltishall
Great and Little Hautbois,
Buxton, Brampton
Burgh.
Each is prayed for,
each is blessed,
in the sense, that I give thanks for it!

As I crossed the river 
I was blessed by a barn owl
hunting on hushed wings 










This afternoon,
its off to the Fur and Feather at Woodbastwick for more talks, with different people.
After 15 miles in the saddle I'll go by car

Sunday, May 08, 2016

If you meet George Herbert..........

"If you meet George Herbert on the Road, kill him":
 a reaction to Justin Lewis-Anthony's excellent book.

No Silly!                                                             
If you meet with George Herbert 
on the Road                                                      
Say, “I am going fishing?”
Answer?                                                             
 “We’ll come with you.”

Across the years                                              
there’s you and I;
Simon, Andrew and the Sons of Thunder;
with  George comes John Donne, 
Izaak, the Ferrar boy                                     
Young Thomas and his sister.*

This is, “The contemplative man’s recreation.”
Well said Izaak!                                                      
What do you think George?

Me?                                                                            
A failed courtier? Failed accademic? 
With failing health?                                                
 God’s a fisherman.               
Listen:                                                                       
 When God at first made man, 
Having a glass of blessings standing by, 
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can. 
Let the world’s riches, which dispers├Ęd lie, 
Contract into a span.” 

So strength first made a way; 
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure. 
When almost all was out, God made a stay, 
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, 
Rest in the bottom lay. 

“For if I should,” said he, 
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature, 
He would adore my gifts instead of me, 
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature; 
So both should losers be. 

“Yet let him keep the rest, 
But keep them with repining restlessness; 
Let him be rich and weary, that at least, 
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
May toss him to my breast.” 

 The Pulley  ........                                                   
What you moderns call a reel.
Thus God draws us to him                        
 misfortunes are our fortune.
Windows 10 upon my screen,                     
I hear your voice  
The eye that looks on glass
On it may stay his eye,
Or if he wishes through it pass
And thus the heavens espy.

If you meet George Herbert on the road,
Say I am going fishing



* Izaak Walton the author of the Complete Angler was a fishing chum of Nicholas Ferrar, John Donne and George Herbert. Izaak was Herbert's biographer, husband to Thomas Ken's elder half sister and guardian to the young Thomas. They along with the fishermen Peter, James, John and Andrew and you (?)  and I are invited to be friends with Jesus of Nazareth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Little Perspective.............











At a mid-point of a walk from St. Andrew, Wickhampton towards the Berney Arms and windmill, I stopped to take stock. It is amazing what a little perspective can do! I am so frustrated at the failure of people to see and celebrate the value of our Broads National Park heritage landscape, I could scream! But out here it would be lost on the wind and the limitless sky. Instead I turn my binoculars onto a group of curlew poking in the marshy earth with beautifully curved bills and wonder. "Consider the birds........
Across the marsh, beyond the station, was my terminus. The Berney Arms mill, sadly the pub remains closed. The lyrics of Slim Dusty Pub with no Beer come to mind - nothing so lonesome morbid or drear. More seriously, I wondered what I could possibly do to raise the profile of the church in the landscape with those who hold stewardship for the National Park.

There maybe opportunities to celebrate the church in the landscape as part of the up-coming Water, Mills and Marshes Project  but I'm not sure how that could be taken forward. It is not that local churches would particularly want to make a claim on the pot of money granted for the scheme. The fact is churches get a good share of HLF grants already, but why on earth would you not shout from the roof tops the heritage value of a church like St. Andrew's Wickhampton.  If only for the tombs of  Sir William and Lady Gerbygge















Oh and lets not forget the amazing wall paintings. Among them are the acts of mercy, the three living and the three dead and a St.Christopher.

Indistinct but recognisable still, St. Christopher has fishes and crabs beneath his feet - reflecting the historical reality, that in the days when it was painted, before the marsh was reclaimed,   Wickhampton was by the sea. A fishing community.


 If it were possible to raise the profile of heritage churches in the consciousness of the guardians of the Broads National Park, it would still leave work to do with the church in general. There is no one person on the Bishop of Norwich's staff who has responsibility for the National Park and nothing, I can discern, in any church communications of the spiritual value of our unique East Anglian ecosystems, nor the place, value and importance of the church in the landscape.

Would it not be good that those with the  stewardship of the National Park and those with the stewardship of our ecclesiastical heritage had taken aboard the wisdom to be found in the National Ecosystems Assessment (2011) especially Chapter 16?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Some Candlemass thoughts





I am just back from a winter holiday in the Canary Islands.

 As I looked out from the balcony of my rented holiday flat I wondered what was the story behind the cross on the beach and the mural close by.

It turns out we were staying at an important historical site. Back in the days before the Spanish conquest, two Guanche shepherds discovered a statue of Our Lady. Echoes here of the discovery of another Black Madonna,  Our Lady of Lluch.


The statue was kept for a while in a nearby cave. To this day there are cave dwellings in El Socorro. Once again there are echoes. On one hand, the cave in Bethlehem is one and, on the other, the sheer ordinariness of the dwelling - he became flesh and dwelt among us.
After a number of years the image was relocated to  another cave on the sea shore. A mile or so north around which has grown the Town of Cadelaria. The original image was was lost when a tsunami swept into the cave and carried it out to sea in 1826.  
The present day image is a copy.

It is very grand. Both Virgin and her son appear overdressed for the occasion. But the basilica in which they now reside is airy and peaceful. Somewhere to come apart and rest awhile.









I liked it that the guardians of the shrine still take childrens' spiritual development seriously. I guess Mary did!






Best of all I liked the cave where the statue used to be kept.
And the bronze statue that resides there.
Its more ordinary! Less fussy!











In the statue Mary has a candle in her right hand - hence the the name Cadelaria .
She, through the mystery of the incarnation has,
indeed ,brought light



The feast day of the Virgin of Candelaria is Candlemas  to be celebrated here in the UK tomorrow!


I like it that the snowdrops are out around the ruins of the Church of St. Mary, Hautbois

Among the names given to the snowdrop is Candlemas Bells!