Monday, December 10, 2007

St. Agatha's Easby

Until the owner of the house in the foreground cuts down the non-native conifer hedge you wont see this picture again! None-the-less the ruins of St. Agatha’s Abbey, two miles down stream from Richmond, is as atmospheric as it was when Turner painted it in 1816.

Parking at the Old Station at Richmond, we crossed onto the north side of the River Swale and followed the track that leaves the road beneath the churchyard. By keeping to the right it follows the river all the way to Easby.

During summer months the church is open, when we called in the autumn it was closed. I think it is a good prospect to join the Small Pilgrim Places Network and will approach them as soon as SPPs new website is functioning. In spite of my disappointment in finding the church closed the Priory site, managed by English Heritage, was open and welcoming. I stood in the Priors Chapel, joining my prayers with theirs across the ages, then settled on a comfortable garden seat to have sandwiches and hot soup.

Continuing down stream we crossed to the south bank over the old railway line and returned to the Station along the rail bed. A leaflet describing the walk is available in the Tourist Information Office.

Pilgrim Prayer at York Minister

In the south transept is the seat of custom. Here they take your money and issue tickets.

If you have come to the Minster for a service or for private prayer and they will wave you through.
Away from the buzz of tourists and guided tours there is peace behind the doors of the Zouch Chapel. It is set aside for private prayer. I think it counts as a small pilgrim place – a pool of silence, close to the still centre of the turning world!

Beneath the east window, in the middle of a terrifyingly expensive restoration, is the Lady Chapel. Who should be presiding at the 12.30 p.m. Eucharist but The Very Rev’d Henry Stapleton one time Vicar of Wroxham et al and Dean of Rochester. Afterwards his eyes shine as he speaks St. Peter’s, Belaugh and asks to be remembered to God’s people on the River Bure

York Minster Pilgrimage

The statue is of Constantine lolling in a chair, just outside York Minster’s south door. On the other side of a pedistrianised roadway one of the great columns of the Roman Garrison’s Principia building has been re-errected. As I stood and surveyed the scene I was very close to the place where in 306 CE the IX Legion proclaimed Constantine Emperor, the successor to his father Constantius.

Constantine died in 337 CE he had converted to Christianity and the privileges and status that had once belonged to those who promoted the cult of the Divine Emperor fell to well placed churchmen. Some thought the privilege, power and status too much and retreated into the cleansing austerity of the desert. Other’s relished in it, climbing the dizzy heights of hierarchy and enthusiastically taking over Imperial Rome’s loveof monumental buildings pouring endless resources into the building, beautifying and maintenance of Christain basilicas.

I am inclined to say, “This is where, or at least one of the places where, the rot set in!” Of course, those who lived through those times would have argued that if kings had great palaces, the King of Kings should have even more splendid buildings dedicated to him! And yet I cannot avoid thinking that most were not simply built to the glory of God. And here, in York, we have what is said to be the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world still sopping up great wodges of money just to keep it upright!

Do I think we should let it fall down? Probably not! It is a good thing that the Archbishop of York and Cathedral Staff in their stewardship of the building are steadfast in their allegiance to the Carpenter King.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Pillar of Cloud by Day

I parked by Buckenham Station in the depth of winter. You could come by train! The potholed road leads south across the marshes to the River Yare. Birds are everywhere ! On either side of the road thousand upon thousands of widgeon. Some grazing, others overhead, filled the air with their whistling cries. Like shoals of fish on a reef, they swooped, wheeled, parted and merged - an intricate, carefully choreographed dance.

I‘d come on St. Nicholas’ day – 6th December – not just to see the Widgeon, nor the rare Bean Geese, nor yet the wildlife spectacular when tens of thousands of Rooks and Jackdaws gather at twilight before roosting in the trees. I’d come to pray. I find it easier to be mindful of the Creator in the midst of the Creation.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the church I could glimpse through the trees belonged to St. Nicholas, Buckenham. St. Nicholas is patron saint of sailors, churches bearing his name often doubled as navigation marks. In days gone by, when the river was wider, before the marsh was drained, did they place a guiding light atop the tower? “A pillar of fire by night”?! As I remembered the words of the Exodus story I was surprised to catch sight of “a pillar of cloud by day”! It was issuing from Cantley’s sugar beet factory chimney! In the wilderness the presence of God had been signalled by pillars of fire and cloud. Of course God was there! Always had been but I sensed myself to be on holy ground!

At the fag end of the year, I was trying to get my bearings and see my way ahead to Christmas and beyond. Where was I on my pilgrimage in life? Dare I allow myself to be led and fed by God as in the Exodus? Or to follow the steps of saints who shine like beacons in a dark and sometimes stormy world?

I remembered that Nicholas, patron of children as well as sailors, had by his own generosity saved three young women from a life of prostitution. Would any of my Christmas giving do anything as positive for the Kingdom of God? I hoped so!

Buckenham Marshes are a R.S.P.B. nature reserve adjacent to Stumshaw Fen ( see Buckenham Church is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust a key is available from a neighbouring house.

©Richard Woodham 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

In Search of St. Withburga

I wanted to honour a founding mother of the faith but even before I started I feared I was on a fool’s errand. The old books tell how the monks of Ely Abbey came to Dereham and stole St. Withburga’s body! So what relics could I hope to find?

She, a royal princess, is said to have founded a religious community in Dereham in 654AD. The town sign depicts her with deer - two does - whose milk, it is said, sustained her community in its early days.

One can’t imagine many deer in Dere- ham today! So instead of going straight to her holy well, I turned left in front of the church, into St. Withburga’s Lane and headed for what looked as if it might be country. On the right I found Rolling Pin Lane. Crossing into an open space, I followed a path downhill and turned right along a little brook. At a T-junction I went right again and approached the church from the valley.

For the first time I thought that I might catch the sight of a deer as the path passed through some Alder Carr. I was surprisingly pleased. The legend recounts that it was to a bridge crossing the stream, close by the church, that the sisters came to meet and milk the deer. I could easily imagine how it might have been.

Once up the hill and into the churchyard I went straight to the holy well. Tradition says it is a healing well that sprang up when St. Withburga’s body was snatched away! Here it was! But the sceptic in me imagines the spring has always been there! To have a church and community by a source of clean water made a lot of sense in 654 AD! In any case, it was still St. Withburga’s well!

The present day church is open during daylight hours. There are good guide books and lots to see. But if, like me, you travel as a pilgrim you will want to take some time in the Lady Chapel. As I stilled myself in that beautiful space I saw all round me evidence for the continuing work of the church and remembered it had begun 1353 years ago. As I prayed I had a sense of someone, there and then gone, like a deer passing through a glade. The Saint? I wondered! Hmmnnnn…..

©Richard Woodham 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pilgrim Path

Fursey Pilgrimage?

Saturday 6th October 2007


  • We join the Fursey Pilgrims for their annual pilgrimageto Burgh Castle.
  • We meet outside Great Yarmouth Station at 10.07 a.m. and will leave on foot from there to Burgh Castle as soon as the Norwich train arrives.
  • The train departs Norwich at 9.36 a.m..
  • Those arriving by car might like to know that on past occasions we have parked in the, adjacent, Asda Car Park!
  • It is 4.5 miles to Burgh Castle along the southern shore of Breydon Water
  • We arrive at Burgh Castle at about 12 noon.
  • Lunch is available at the Church Farm pub. They do a great carvery! Please let Maureen from The Fursey Pilgrims know if you are coming so she can reserve places. Contact her on :01493-781747
  • Church Service, preacher Bishop Graham, at 2.30 p.m.
  • Followed by a walk to and prayers at the site of St. Fursey’s monastery within the walls of Burgh Castle.
  • Then refreshments at the village hall
  • We will either beg lifts or catch the No.7 bus back to Yarmouth. It departs the Cherry Tree pub at 4.44 p.m and arrives in Great Yarmouth 5.17 p.m.
  • Norwich train which departs at 5.47 p.m. and arrives Norwich at 6.22 p.m.

Look forward to seeing you on the day! Bring a friend!

For further details be in touch with Richard and Margaret Woodham on 01603-736411 or at

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hethel Old Thorn and Church

Roll up! See England’s oldest hawthorn tree, the smallest nature reserve and a church with a history spanning a thousand years and more!

Hethel Thorn and church are away from the Lotus works and wartime airfield, on the far side of the wood. It is said the thorn was a meeting place for rebels in the reign of King John! A legend links it to Joseph of Arimathia’s staff. Whatever the truth, the tree is certainly very old! A figure of 700 years is often given! Today it is in the care of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and stands in its own micro nature reserve.

The name Hethel comes from the Old English meaning heather hill but visiting the parish I failed to find anything that resembled a heather hill. I couldn’t even find a hill! But the thorn grows at one end of what looks to be an ancient earthwork. Was this the heather hill? I wondered. Perhaps there had been a meeting place there long before a church was built!

Whatever the case, the church is certainly old! Its tower, with long and short work and the ghost of a doorway in Roman brick, seems to be a genuine Saxon build. It is set in a yard, rich with wildflowers and remains a place of meeting to this day. Week by week a small congregation gather to worship, keep the doors open and makes sure there’s a welcome for tourists and pilgrims alike! Among the pilgrims are those who come to honour the American 389th Bomber Group. From 1943-1945 the Sky Scorpions flew from Hethel airfield. A memorial by the church door records their wartime service.

The roar of Liberator B-42 aircraft is now just a memory. Inside, the stillness of the church’s plain nave, quietens the racing mind and draws one out from the swirl of historical events into the timeless world of prayer and an awareness of the eternal!
Hethel Church and the Thorn are both on the Kett’s Country long distance path. There are several permissive conservation paths around Church Farm, Hethel that take the rambler past the thorn and through the meadows. You can access the paths from the Church. Across the road, beneath a sign announcing the Hethel Nature Park is a map showing all the footpaths. By car turn west off the B1113 in Bracon Ash, pass Bracon Ash church on the left and keep going straight ahead for about half a mile.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Martham Part 2

Return to your car the same way you came but if you want a longer walk continue westward on the same path. At Martham Staithe turn left towards the town and head towards the church. It’s a Gateway Church of the Open Churches Project.You will find an open door and welcome for pilgrims and tourists alike.

St. Blide, the mother of St. Walstan , princess of the royal house of East Anglia is buried here! Walstan chose to live a life of prayer as a humble farm labourer. One imagines it was his mother who introduced him to the faith!

St. Blide’s Chapel in the south aisle is a sensitively re-ordered modern prayer space overlooked by some high quality 15th century Norwich glass. Time and eternity interweave as you pray before resuming your pilgrimage, Here the Communion of Saints can feel very real. Princess, holy working man, glassmakers, the church at Martham (past and present) and you all following the Carpenter King!

Leave town on the West Somerton road, just before the Martham town sign turn left. A track leads down to a T-junction and a metalled road, turn left, then just past Rectory Cottage right . The footpath will bring you back to Staithe Road, West Somerton. A round trip of 5 miles.

© Richard Woodham 2007


There is a secret place, a clearing in the woods, where clear water laps upon a sandy shore. Tread softly and let the green music of the place slow you into the rhythm of its stillness…….

To get there, park at West Somerton by the Green, head south and turn right into Staithe Road, then right on the footpath that goes along the dyke side. Soon the path goes away from the water and runs along the south side of the Martham Broad Nature Reserve. In summer hidden warblers twitter and churrr and Marsh Harriers swoop and glide low over a sea of reeds. If you are in luck you may catch sight of Cranes circling high in the sky. After about 15 minutes walk you come to a place where tall trees separate the path from the reeds. Find a path off to the right. It leads you to the water’s edge - Boathouse Broad!

On a hot day its almost impossible to resist a paddle! On a very hot day a swim might be in order. Remember your baptism!

© Richard Woodham 2007

Little Terns

© Chris Gomersall (, Ref: 1614076_00093_002) used with permission

On a sunny day at the end of June I had come to North Denes. It is at the other end of Great Yarmouth from the Pleasure Beach and about as far removed from the rides and the candy floss as anything could be! A large part of Jesus’ ministry was exercised around the Sea of Galilee and whenever I am beside the seaside I keep hearing echoes! On that particular day two sayings of Jesus held sway: “Come apart and rest a while!”; and “Consider the birds!”

I like consider and its’ Latin roots: con = together and sider = sit down! Better than walking by, or just sitting down , I had come to swim close to where the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds guard an important breeding colony of (rare) Little Terns!

In 2002 vandals trashed the site, now the R.S.P.B keep watch throughout the breeding season. The eggs and chicks are at constant risk from raiding hedgehogs, foxes. cats, gulls and birds of prey as well as human-beings!

Little Terns - swallows of the sea – are dainty birds with v shaped tails. As I floated on the tide, they were flying in with whitebait sized fishes in their beaks and the air was full of sound! They seemed not to notice me as they fished, hovering to spot their prey, then folding their wings to dive into the sea close by.

I remembered that I am one of the baptised, a bird hovering over Jesus at his baptism and Simon Peter sploshing fully clothed from boat to water as he raced towards the risen Lord. I wonder, was it fanciful to feel the presence of the same Lord as I swam towards the shore ?!

To visit the colony, park or take a bus along
Yarmouth’s North Drive to a point north of the boating lake, head towards the sea and then go north until you see the fences around the colony. Swimming is not compulsory!

More about Little Terns, the work of the RSPB and how you can get involved can be obtained from the RSPB via their website at or from

The Eastern Region office at :

Stalham House
65 Thorpe Road


Tel: 01603 660066

Friday, May 11, 2007

Botolph and Black Shuck

On a warm summer’s day there’s nowhere more beautiful, nor peaceful, than Iken Church! It stands the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into the tidal mudflats of the Rive Alde! You can get there by foot following the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Path that begins in Lowestoft! The day visitor might find it easier to walk, cycle, or motor from Snape Maltings only three miles away.

However lovely on a summer’s day, in winter with the wind straight from Siberia via the North Sea it would be quite different! Summer and winter you will find an open door during the hours of daylight.

Within an 11th Century Norman nave, is a 9th century Saxon cross, first erected to mark the place of a monastery burnt by Viking raiders.

The monastery was founded in 654 AD, the year Anna, king of East Anglia, was killed in battle against the pagan Mercians.

Its first abbot? Botolph!
St. Botolph brought the Rule of St. Benedict to
England. He was sought out by the Ven. Bede’s abbot, Coelfrith, who called him "a man of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit"! Among the laity Botolph was famous for doing battle against evil spirits of the marshes. For those who dismiss such ideas as ancient superstition, remember Black Shuck! He still has the ability spread fear and there are few in East Anglia today who walk marshland paths by night!

What better place to rest and remember in prayer those caught up in the violence of war, all who dwell in fear and those who live under the shadow of evil. On Fridays there is a vigil of silent prayer from 12 noon until 1 p.m.. Pilgrims are welcome to attend.

Returning home by way of the A12 why not stop off at Blythburg church . It was to an earlier church on this site, overlooking the river, that the body of king Anna was brought after the battle of Bulcamp. On the present church door burn marks can be seen! “Left by the paws of Black Shuck,” it is said, “ Or perhaps the Devil’s hoof-print, when the steeple fell down in 1577!”. Enough of darkness! Inside the church is flooded with light from the clerestory and intricately carved and painted angels adorn the roof! “He will give his angels,” charge over you…” sings the Psalmist!

© Richard Woodham 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

St. Piran, Trethevy, Cornwall (not back home yet!)

From the Reformation until 1941 the chapel was used as agricultural buildings. It was returned to the Church by Sidney Harris - may he rest in peace and rise in glory!

© Richard Woodham 2007

St. Piran and the Conversion of Cornwall

Walking on from the Rocky Valley Labyrniths we turned left at the main road and walked up-hill to Trethevy.

St. Piran's Well and Chapel are just off the main road on the right.

I found the still centre I had been looking for here. In the cool darkness of the chapel.

Coming out into the light, I blessed God for St. Piran and the light he brought to the people of Cornwall. I prayed for the success of the continuing Christian mission here and throughout the world. And reminded myself of my own baptism, as I blessed myself with water from the well.

I set off with a new spring in my step refreshed on my earthly pilgrimage, thankful for those who keep the church open and welcoming

© Richard Woodham 2007

Still Abroad ! The Rocky Valley Labyrinth

We parked by Trevalga Church famous now through Rev'd Christine Musser and the TV programme "A Seaside Parish". Trevalga is on the sea side of the road from Tintagel to Bostcastle. From the church we went through the farm-yard and down the lane towards the coastal footpath. Turning left towards Tintagel, we enjoyed the sun, wind, flowers, birds and scenery as we looked out for puffins, razorbills and guillemots nesting on Short and Long islands - but had no luck.

There's no mistaking Rocky Valley. The path zigzagged down to a stream, which we crossed and turned left. Shortly at a ruined mill we came to the famous carvings. A week before I had run my finger around a copy made by the arts and spirituality project Breathing Space Arts ( ) The effect was to make the hairs at the back of my kneck stand on end! The originals were carved sometime between 1400 and 1800 BC! Kneeling before them and running my finger around the lines again I found my way to the centre. But found no stillness, no calm!

Strips of cloth, votive offerings I imagine, hung from trees. Stones, rocks and rolled invocations (I suppose!) were wedged in cracks or ledges of the rocks. I walked onwards and upwards!

© Richard Woodham 2007

Norfolk Pilgrim Goes Foreign

St. Winwaloe appears in Norfolk weather law - First comes David, Then comes Chad, Then comes Winnold roaring like mad (i.e. March 1st, 2nd and 3rd) . He also gave his name to the horsefair at Downham Market. How does a 5th century Cornish saint get to be remembered in Norfolk?

In France, St. Winwaloes is known as Saint Guénolé or Guennolé. His relics were transferred from a moanastery he founded at Landévennec, Brittany to Montreuil-sur-Merand away from the Viking raids in 914 AD. Following the Norman Conquest the monks of Montreuil-sur-Mer were granted land at Wereham. And so his fame and cult came to Norfolk.

Winwaloe is patron of the Lizard Peninsular and where he established a Cornish monastery. Last week I parked at Poldhu Cove and walked over the hill to Church Cove. The path was surrounded by wild flowers - bluebells, wild garlic, thrift, sea campion and the golden flowers of the gorse. High above a raven and buzzard disputed territory and newly arrived swallows swooped after fresh hatchings of mayflies.

The first sight of St. Winwaloe's Church revealed it as a perfect location for a 5th century monastery. It is sheltered from the south and west by the bulk of a hill that doubled as a coastal castle from ancient times. Close by a clear running stream discharges into the surf on a sandy beach. Nothing of the original church remains but the free-standing bell tower is said to incorporate the original hermits cave.

The deep stillness and subdued light of the church contrasted with the wind, waves and sunshine outside. The prayerful atmosphere is remarkable. Many holiday makers and pilgrims find there way here. The visitors book and book for prayers both provide evidence of how moved people are and what a precious place it becomes for them. Truly a thin place, where God may be encountered.

The church has been called - The Church of the Storms! I'd really like to be there when a Force 1o south-westerly is raging and mountainous surf is crashing on the beach.

© Richard Woodham 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Castle Acre

We parked by the West Acre church and walked east. It was too early to stop for refreshments at the Stag public house, instead we turned right and crossed the river on a footbridge. At the way mark, we went left through woods to arrive by another ford and footbridge, ignoring these we took the way-marked path just down stream. It is part of the Nar Valley Way, a long distance path that connects Kings Lyn with East Dereham.

On a summer’s day one can imagine families and children playing in the river at the fords. The river is one of the finest lowland chalk streams in the country supporting a wide range of wild life. We saw trout going against the current and a grass-snake swimming from one side to the other. The trees and meadows were full of birds and the path was not too soggy underfoot.

Our destination was Castle Acre where the Peddar’s Way crosses the river Nar. The crossing was fortified by the Earl of Surrey soon after the Norman Conquest. Its earthworks and ruined buildings are impressive to-day, what the conquered Saxons thought of them one can only guess?! The Priory, founded in 1089 is impressive too and must have given hope to the conquered! Cluniacs were independent of the local aristocracy and were promoters of the Peace of God movement which did much to protect the innocent and reduce violence in feudal society. They even promoted town councils!

Entry to the Priory is £4.70 for adults. Its open from 10 a.m. –6p.m. in summer English Heritage do a wonderful job of maintaining the ruins and interpreting the past, but it is a dead past! The Church is different! It is living heritage! The Cluniacs were great enthusiasts for pilgrimage and offered a welcome to travellers. Castle Acre Church keep up the tradition. They were Tourist Church of the Year in 2006. And there’s no entry fee! The church is dedicated to St.James, who appears on the Rood Screen wearing a scallop shell badge and carrying a pilgrim staff. He had answered our Lord’s gracious call “Follow me!” a call that still challenges pilgrims and tourist

© Richard Woodham 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Oxnead, St. Michaels and All Angels

From Buxton Station, on the Bure Valley Path and Railway, I crossed the tracks and walked into open fields. A gentle gradient led over the crest of a hill, where my spirit rose as a skylark provided the appropriate sound track! The path fell away to a wooded valley. Here a bridge over River Bure provided the opportunity to play Pooh Sticks. It’s a good occupation if there are things you need to let go of, believe me! I reflected about some of those things, forgiveness and baptism. There were no doves to be seen, but a chorus of birdsong gave me much to consider! Pensively I took the path that led up-stream, through green pastures and beside still(ish) waters! Two mares, each with a foal, lifted their heads as I passed by. At the main road I turned right, crossed the bridge, avoided going to the Haflinger Stud and took the next road on the right. After about a quarter of a mile, I turned right again, just before the out-buildings of Oxnead Hall. No sign announced it but, at the end of a rutted track, lost in the woodland, was Oxnead Church!

An enchanted glade ?! Holy is better than enchanted! There seems to be a presence! Angels?! Go yourself! Taste and see! If walking or cycling are out of the question, then, when the ground is dry, you can drive right up to the church!

The building has a stillness that is almost tangible and provides a history lesson in itself. Some of the brick is Roman, some Stuart and some 19th or 20th century – bricks Ancient and Modern! It is a place “where prayer has been valid”! So bend the knee! Elaborate monuments of the Paston family dominate but a garden seat, against the south wall of the church, is in memory of “Tim Bush a most treasured and wonderful Dad”! I sat in warm spring sunshine and said the Our Father!

The way back? Return to the metalled road and turn right. Pass Oxnead Hall, the large house adjacent to the churchyard, then take the next farm track to the right – there is a way-mark! This leads down to Pooh Stick Bridge, from where you can retrace your steps to Buxton Station. (distance 3.5 k) For a longer walk, go left along the river bank to Buxton Mill (2k extra).

The people who walked in darkness........

Before central heating, electric lighting, sodium street lights and supermarkets, the harshness of late winter and Lent scarcity was experienced first hand. It was cold and dark. The waxing of the moon and lengthening of days, the growing warmth, Good Friday’s hot-cross buns and Easter’s eggs, were looked for and longed for. In the 21st century none of us experience these things with the same intensity but they need not be lost to us entirely, especially if we get outdoors a lot.

The when of Easter is really important. It was settled for us long ago, in the 7th century, at the Synod of Whitby. The principle for fixing Easter is simple. It should fall on the first Sunday, after the first full moon that follows the first day of Spring. Its about new beginnings and darkness and light! We do things with candles in church but outside the full moon shines and, for the first time in the year, night’s darkness is shorter than the length of the day’s sun!

Reflecting on these things in the 8th century the Ven. Bede wrote about “ the sun of righteousness (Jesus) , in whose wings is salvation, …….. by the triumph of his resurrection, dispelled all the darkness of death, ascended into heaven, and” filling his Church with grace. The Church, in this extended metaphor, was represented by the moon! Like the Church the moon’s glory is reflected from elsewhere!

Some of us are privileged to live in places without street lamps and need go no further than our back gardens to experience winter’s cold, darkness and the splendour of night sky. Others may need to go further afield.

Do go! Beneath the starry sky you should expect to find fresh meaning and intensity in the Psalms – try 136, 147 and 148! In the glory of the Easter full moon you will find that Psalm 8 sings in you:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them

(Cultural Notes: In
Norfolk the phrase human being is pronounced human bean. Gardener’s plant their spuds on Good Friday to be ready for Ascension Day.)

Picture copyright: © NOAO/AURA/NSF used with permission

Otherwise © Richard Woodham 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dominus Flevit

The path that leads down the Mount of Olives gave Jesus and his fellow pilgrims a panoramic view of the Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Overshadowing all, mid-stage, was the great bulk of the Temple. Similar views of Norwich are visible as one walks down from Mousehold Heath. In the midst of the cityscape, the Anglican Cathedral.

Above Gethsamane is another olive grove. In spring the green of the grass is punctuated with the brilliant red of anemones, reminders that Jesus sweated blood on this hill! In the corner of the grove is a tear shaped church - Dominus Flevit! The Latin translates as The Lord Wept. It marks the traditional place where pilgrims to the Holy Land stopped to remember that Jesus had wept over the city and prophesied its destruction.

Destroyed and re-built it is a different Jerusalem the modern pilgrim sees today when she stops to pray. In place of the Temple are the Al Asqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. There is tension in the air, and to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, peace is yet to come! If Jesus shows us what God is like then we cannot doubt that he weeps forJerusalem still! Nor that he weeps for our city too!

Seeing clearly that the world needs a saviour, there is nothing more frustrating than finding the Gospel falls on deaf ears! It’s enough to make one weep! As a mini-pilgrimage, showing solidarity with your Lord, you might park a car on Britannia Road and walk onto the lookout point on St. James’ Hill to watch and pray for our city, the Holy Land and all the lands God counts as holy. Best of all park at the Silver Road end of Mousehold Avenue and take the footpath that leads along the top of the allotments and over the grassy hill behind Heathgate flats.

Below you are the law courts where thousands of tragedies unfold day by day. Up on the hill to the left is our prison, full to overcrowding! Spread out before you a city peopled by those whom God loves and calls to be his own. Among them servants of God live and work as salt in the stew, leaven in the lump and light in the darkness. You might complete the pilgrimage by following the roads down to the cathedral and ending with a prayer there.

© 2006 Richard Woodham