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.