Tag: Poetry

The power of place

A group of us at my church recently shared in a Quiet Day led by our Archdeacon Vanessa.

Her addresses were about different aspects of Prayer – Prayer and silence; Prayer and Place; Prayer and Time; Prayer and the Senses.

Each one has its own way of inspiring and creating reflection. We were encouraged to engage with the gift of silence to ourselves, each other, and especially to God. We were also encouraged to receive the Gift of prayer to us from God and seek the Holy Spirit at work within us. In a beautiful phrase we were to sense ‘God speaking to God from within.’

Looking at Prayer and Place, Vanessa prompted us to think of the places where God has been easily found. She herself, spoke to us of Lastingham in the Cleveland Hills in North Yorkshire. Here the Saxon monk Cedd, pupil of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, set up a monastery. This same Cedd brought the Gospel to Essex, to Bradwell which was consecrated by his presence and his prayer.

I haven’t been to Lastingham for many years but Vanessa opened up the memory and the experience within me. Below is the poem that I felt encouraged to write.

With it is a poem by Piers who was at the Quiet Day. Inspired, this time by the Abbey of Bec Hellouin in Normandy. Bec in the past supplied us with three Archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc, Anselm and Theobald. Bec still has a special relationship with Canterbury Cathedral. Today, only the tower remains of the Norman Abbey but a community of monks live in buildings near the tower. A sister community of nuns live in a convent a short distance away and on Sundays and Feast Days, the monks and nuns worship together. The serene and beautiful worship in their chapel inspired the first of the poems.

Both locations express the essence of what Vanessa spoke of to us. Thin places where heaven touches earth and God feels very near.

l’Abbaye du Bec

In my mind’s eye, I return:
cream quietness…
light bathing ordered stone,
the scent of sung prayer hanging low.

Immanence re-discovered.

Piers Northam
10 July 2021



Lastingham

I come to this place,
deep in the hills,
where silence and conversation
meld into stillness.

God is here,
his sanctuary a stone rainbow
over the seeker after meaning.

What am I looking for in this place,
where the one who drew others to their knees,
poured out his soul?

I sense and seek the company
of the one who prayed here first,
in the shadows of sweeping arches,
pillars and faint light.

Seemingly impermeable rock  
– steeped in suffering and joy;
pain and perfection; faltering hope
and confident determination – 
enfolds me as I kneel with Cedd:

exhaling uncertainty…
…inhaling God’s blessing and his love.

Geoffrey Connor
10 July 2021

Photos:
The Apse Chapel Pennant Melangell Church Mr.G
Abbey Church Bec Hellouin Piers Northam
Crypt, Lastingham Church. Parish of Lastingham

Cuddy’s Isle

Cuddy’s Isle (St Cuthbert’s Isle) on Lindisfarne, Northumbria. This photograph was taken by my friend Helen Gheorghiu-Gould earlier this week. She is currently having sabbatical time and this visit is part of her time away from her ministry. It is a time of reflection, prayer, rest and opening her heart to God’s possibilities for her.

The photograph took me back to the many visits and associations I have had over the years and stirred the heart-strings both of memory and of my halting spiritual pilgrimage. It has always been, for me, a place of encounter with God where He has guided me with love.

Holy Island (Lindisfarne) is a deeply special place for the story of Christianity in our land. It was to here that St. Aidan came from Iona to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ for His people. Here St. Aidan trained up twelve Saxon boys, including four brothers, to spread the Good News of Jesus. It was here, the day after Aidan’s soul was taken up to heaven that a boy named Cuthbert came to dedicate his life to God after first testing his vocation at the Abbey in Melrose.

When Cuthbert was called to be a great leader of the church and weighed down by the many tasks he undertook, he escaped to his special meeting place with God. As Lindisfarne became (and becomes) an island twice a day, so the little island known as Cuddy’s isle is the same. Here Cuthbert crossed before the tide cut him off and left him to simply be with God.

Here’s a poem I’ve just written inspired by Helen’s photograph and the thoughts it has stirred.

An Island

There is an island
made holy by the prayers and tears of saints.
A holy, set-aside place where souls in search of God
find him waiting.

It is a thin place
where earth touches heaven
and barriers are paper-thin:
tissue hiding nothing,
darkness transparent,
light warmly radiant.

I have been there,
down the rough path
past the church to a bend in the road
where expectancy parts the air.
The sea drifts to shore,
benign and welcoming
or pushing waves to the limit of its power.

Go there.
It beckons and seeks you.
Clamber and scramble the rocks of your desire.
You have a meeting, a moment, an arrangement.
God waits and stretches out his hand in welcome,
shelters safe and holds.

You are there
at the place of speaking,
listening,
being still.

Even as the wind swirls and chills,
you are warm.

And this place?
Cuddy’s Isle of Lindisfarne.
Or perhaps…
your heart.

[Mr G. 1st July 2021]

Hidden Beauty

This photograph was sent to me by my friend Lynn. We are not sure of the origin.

It is an unusual view of an earwig
They may look dull—until they open their wings, shimmering structures that expand 10-fold and lock without the use of muscles. Earwigs are usually reluctant to fly. Unlike most insects, a female earwig is a good mother. She lays 30-50 eggs and protects them through the winter. When they hatch, she feeds and tends the nymphs until they are able to fend for themselves. Despite their name, earwigs are unlikely to venture into a human ear!

Beauty Within

I do not just open myself to anyone.

I am cautious, even afraid that you may judge me

without knowing me.

That’s often the way in the human world too.

Yet, if we but have the patience to sit and go deep,

we meet people clothed in all their rich diversity.

I do not reveal myself  fully,

except to my Maker

and those I trust;

those who will sit still with me,  

who are prepared to wait and take time

to drink in the loveliness of God in me

and maybe so help others see the beauty of God

in themselves and

in you too.

[Mr. G]

Cyclamen in the Snow

Cyclamen in fresh Snow photographed by my friend Gill Henwood in the Lake District.

Gill sent me this photograph a little while ago. It moved me very much at the darkest time of the year just as we were entering the 3rd Lockdown. At the time I couldn’t decide how to respond to it. There were allusions to lockdown, hope, struggle at a very difficult time for us. Gill used the word endurance.

As I continued to mull over it, I discussed it with my friend Piers and he came up with this reflection:

Initially I looked at this image and thought of the ice and snow as something that was holding the flowers back; through which they had to struggle – and this made me think of feelings thrown up by this current lockdown. But actually, as I thought more and read Geoffrey’s poem, it dawned on me that the ice and snow protect and insulate the seed as it germinates and emerges to flower. The struggle is filled with new hope and possibilities.
We tend to see being in lockdown as a negative, threatening thing but of course it’s a collective act in which we’re protecting each other and ourselves – and looked at that way it feels far more positive. And just as the dormant plant flowers to new life, we can also use it as a time to discover what is truly important: what values and priorities will help to sustain our lives, our society and our planet.
What if the snow and ice of lockdown are allowing us to emerge into really new life?

PN

Here’s a poem I have written on this photograph.

Lockdown wake-up

Earth’s untidy clutter
of hurried hibernation
covered over with scattered flakes
of heaven’s protection.
Opaque cloak of winter
wraps warmly around dormant seed.

Early buds break open crusty ground
scattering melted crystal.
Coloured life announces
Nature’s lockdown ended,
beckoning us to New Beginnings
at last!

Alleluia!

[Mr G]
Photo | Gill Henwood.
Reflection| Piers Northam