Sometimes a phrase that I read sticks in my head. On our retreat last week I read Michael Mitton’s Seasoned by Seasons. In it he quotes Walter Brueggemann saying that ‘only grief permits newness’ and goes on to say ‘if we want springtime newness in our souls, we must learn to grieve well’ (p.17). The picture is of Cuthbert’s Island from the beach. Part of our worship was to ask if anyone wanted to pour out some wine on the earth to honour sacrifices made. This was something Paul had done in this place many years ago and for him was an act of grief too. But in engaging with ritual, offering things to God we become a little freer to enter into the newness God has for us.
Michael Mitton Seasoned by Season Abingdon BRF 2017.
I believe that there are thin places, where it is easier to encounter God and this was the week I got to visit one of ours, Holy Island or Lindisfarne. The photograph is from our final communion, where we were reading the psalm of gratitude we had created the day before with the refrain his love endures forever. Each year we use a liturgy which seems apt for the island and share prayers, bread, wine, the peace and words which have a deep meaning. I have returned home inspired to start a gratitude journal again by Rachel Hudson’s input to us – three things a day. And I will take it back next year and look back on what God has done. I recommend a retreat if it is at all possible to access one, it is a precious time that I draw on throughout the year and feel blessed that I can be a part of a very special group.
I heard this phrase from our speaker yesterday, breathing in the presence of God, and it resonated as I am back in one of our sacred, liminal places, Holy Island. Blessed.
I love these reclaimed boats on Holy Island. I am becoming more aware of our responsibility towards the environment and the potential to reuse, or recycle or reclaim. I also like the notion that old does not have to equal obsolete, particularly as I age! It isn’t always easy to make the wise choices day in and day out and sometimes convenience or expedience over rules. But today I am wearing a tshirt that is probably 15 years old that I must have bought on one of my thinner phases! A friend was showing us a bag she had made out of recycled clothes – an idea I loved as fabric has memories for me and being able to create something useful out of something that otherwise has become unusable sounds great. I am writing this as an encouragement to me to be more mindful in my day to day life.
You can just spot Paul’s arm at the edge of this photograph – he was pointing out seals. They were amazing as we gathered for communion on Cuthbert’s island – some of them looking more like dolphins and them seeming to respond to our singing of gather around and be thou my vision. One of the precious things about being on retreat with a group was the shared noticing. In our times of walking, reflecting the insights of others helped me to see God more clearly. We paused on our pilgrims’ way walk, we shared each evening with wine and nibbles and in times of prayer, over meals… Seeing God through the eyes of others helps me to see God in a fuller, more rounded way. I am very grateful for each person who was with us on the retreat, I have come back a richer person.
Still drawing on the Holy Island Retreat. I have no idea who created this cross in the sea but am grateful for their creativity. Standing on the shore, unable to reach Cuthbert’s island, this flimsy cross which looked like it might not weather much of storm drew me to look at the much more robust cross on the island. Both spoke to me.
I am on Holy Island today, on our annual MCYM retreat. A place I first encountered twenty years ago and ever since it has had a very special place in my heart and mind. The picture is of North Shore – the destination of a walk round the island – big open spaces where the wind blows the sand across the beach in a way that reminds me of the work of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful for this oasis, this sacred place, seeped in prayer over many years, the hospitality of Marygate, the creativity of the Scriptorium, the memories of times at Open Gate, the 8am Eucharist that starts each day, the conversations, the friendships, the memories that give life and sustain.
We started our retreat on Holy Island by walking to the place where the marker posts lead, the tide was in, leaving the island was not an option. We talked about transitions, about bridges, about crossing places as we began a short season in a new place in a different way of being. Some of us made bridges as we spent time reflecting – mine is in the picture and was made from things I found on the shore. I shared this poem from Joyce Rupp which I will keep revisiting as I reflect on some of the transitions I am facing at the moment…
Crossing over into the unknown,
crossing over from a secure land
to one whose roads I have never walked.
Companion and Guide you are my transition coach.
You say to me:
“Cross over the bridge.
Go ahead, come on over. It’s sturdy enough.
Don’t look down, though, or you might get terrified
and never walk across.
Don’t look back too long or you will lose courage
and want to stay right where you are.
Hang on. Keep going.
That’s what bridges are for, to get you to the other side.
Trust me to protect you.”
For all of us in transition who have bridges to cross,
bless us, God of the journey,
gift us with the desire to go ahead.
Help us to trust that the bridge will be strong
and the risk will be worth it.
From Joyce Rupp Out of the Ordinary Notre Dame Ave Maria Press 1999 p218.
We heard this phrase from one of our speakers on our MCYM Holy Island retreat last week. Kate Tristram was talking to us about what sustains us as leaders as well as drawing on Aidan and Cuthbert as examples of very different leadership styles. It is very much a value of Celtic spirituality to have regular disciplines and expressions of values. This advice can can keep us from making unwise and short term focused decisions.
However, it assumes our practices are healthy, helpful, constructive and godly. Maintaining practices such as our daily prayers, readings, reflection spaces, retreats, hospitality, even when we are discouraged, tempted, tired, feel like giving up is wise advice, These are the things that kept us safe, focused, flourishing, so why not rely on them in the barren times?
This mentality maybe of a past generation, but in the midst of an immediate gratification
culture, they are wise words for every generation.
This week is one of my highlights of the year – the MCYM retreat to Holy Island. A part of the transition from one academic year to the next, the point after which I begin to look forward not back. It is a time for a lot of walking and talking – we don’t do a silent retreat – there are lots of places you can go for that. I love this quotation from Julia Cameron – it says something profound:Walking and talking humanize my life, draw it to an ancient, comforting scale. We live as we move, a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me of how I must live if I am to savour this life that I have been given. Savouring this life becomes an automatic and appropriate response the minute I dispense with velocity and pressure.
Julia Cameron. Walking in this World. London, Rider: 2002:1.