Today I go on my pre-ordination retreat to Mirfield, when I return to Birmingham on Saturday I will be priested and then on Sunday preside at communion for the first time. As I write this my mind drifts back nearly a week when Paul was celebrating communion on the beach at Holy Island. The chalice in the picture comes from Assisi – perhaps the wood is from an olive tree that first began to grow when St Francis walked the streets of that beautiful Italian town. It is very apt to use a chalice that reminds us of St Francis as we sit on stones on the beach. Our singing is accompanied by the singing of the seals and the cry of the birds. As we read Psalm 121 we looked to the Northumbrian hills in the distance. We heard part of the story of St Cuthbert and then amazingly we saw a sea otter swimming in the water – legend has it these creatures kept Cuthbert warm as he spent the night praying. As we drew to a close we sang Be thou my vision, a song I had sung to myself as I walked the Pilgrims’ Way.
As I go off on retreat I take this memory with me, I wonder what it will feel like to celebrate communion on the beach but most of all I am looking forward to presiding for the first time as a priest on Sunday with my church family, friends and godchildren. We finished our communion with this blessing and I take it with me:
Holy God of Cuthbert and the saints go before us now.
God of the hills, God of the outposts, God of the margins, go before us now.
God of the streets, God of the people, go before us now…