Monday, October 05, 2009

Via Beata (1)

Going to mid-day prayers with the Carmelite sisters at Quiddenham I encountered a mother and child. The child was grievously ill – all floppy in his mothers arms as she carried him out of the Children’s Hospice. Two nurses accompanying her gave support and carried the oxygen that was keeping the little lamb alive.  It was a heartbreaking! And yet the love and care was beautiful to behold. Such love! Such pain! I was privileged to catch a glimpse of something so precious.

After prayers, contemplating the  Stations of the Cross,  I was able to put the experience in context. Such love! Such pain!  As I set out on the next stage of my journey there was plenty to turn over in my heart.

By footpath, bridleway and quiet lanes, I was making my way from Eccles, via Quiddenham to Steve and Gill Eggleton’s home in Banham. The route forms part of a project that they and friends are working on.

Via Beata (2)






Imagine a string of beads – precious gems - stretched out across the heart of England and Wales, from Lowestoft Ness in the east to St. David’s in the west. Each bead representing an artwork communicating the Christian Gospel, set up in a place where people can stop and ponder.  The string that joins these way stations  is a pilgrim path – part of which I had walked - by which seeker and pilgrim  can travel either the whole length ,or over shorter sections. They call it the Via Beata. (Way of Blessing)











The first artwork has already been set up in a summerhouse/shelter by the front gate of  Steve and Gill’s garden. It is a carved triptych telling the story of the Return of the Prodigal Son.  You are invited to visit. The address is: Rowancroft, Kenninghall Road, Banningham. NR16 2HE .

During the summer a small organising group has begun to pioneer some of the paths, talk with people about suitable artworks and places to display them and given some attention to publicity. If you think you might like to be involved do contact them  Their phone number is 01953-887579 or on their website at: www.rowancroft.net/viabeata

Over a  simple shared meal, around their farmhouse kitchen table,  we met, chatted and prayed.  When I took to the road again it felt as if Banham was a lot like Emmaus (Luke 24.13 ff) .

I had been greatly blessed on the Via Beata! You may be too!

Give Peace a Chance (2)



Walking around the town I thought I had glimpsed dawning light against the darkness of  warring madness.  As well as the castle, churches and old coaching inns I’d seen the Abbey, the Grammar School and the statue of Thomas Paine, Thetford’s most famous son.

The monks who built the, now ruined, Abbey had pioneered the Peace of God movement. It urged barons to use force as a last resort and insisted on protection for non-combatants as a Christian duty. In post-Reformation times their concern for education found expression in the Grammar School that lists Paine among its old boys.  His words inspired the American Constitution and the emancipation of slaves.  The publication of his Rights of Man marked a huge step in the recognition of human rights.   While his creed, “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”  still has the ability to challenge.

The birds of war still flew in and out of USAF Mildenhall  nearby I sensed the  brooding dove of peace!

Give Peace a Chance 1




















From Britain’s highest medieval castle mound the sea of green forest stretched to the horizon. I had followed the Heritage Trail around Thetford and climbed  the hill to watch and pray.


The town has an image of  being an unlovely London overspill and a centre for European immigrants, but  is much more.


Since early days it has been the Gateway to Norfolk . The first fortifications were built 500 years before Christ. It was from Thetford Queen Boudicca set out to avenge the rape of her daughters and when the revolt was over the Romans came and burnt it to the ground ! Saxons followed Romans and then came the Vikings, time and again, laying waste and burning. After them the Norman Conquest brought more of the same!

To-day, atop the castle mound the Normans built  all is peaceful but in the west I could see planes flying in and out of the USAF Mildenhall and I knew soldiers were training on the Battle Area.  In Iraq and Afghanistan victims of war still suffer as they had here. As I stood and pondered I saw a patch of woundwort  growing at my feet. Was this old stock of some long forgotten herbalist who had used their leaves to heal the wounds of war?  The words of hymn informed my prayers. “For the healing of the nations Lord we pray with one accord.”