Minstead Past and Present – New Exhibition 13th-14th April 2013

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The ancient Yew that stands inside the gate of Minstead Church (Photo courtesy Michael Clarke)

Minstead’s Local History Group are making their fascinating exhibitions a bi-annual event and the next one is at the end of the Easter holiday period at Minstead Village Hall.

For me, it’s about a place, and people, I’ve known all my life, but most particularly about learning new things about a place I love, new connections with past history – national history and local history.

This years exhibition features displays about

  • The Military in Minstead;
  • Gypsies;
  • Furzey Gardens – this great little garden with thatched buildings dating back to at least the 16th Century, last year won a Gold Medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show for their garden built by young adults of the Minstead Training Project with the help of Chris Beardshaw;
  • Minstead School and Newtown (a particular area of the village);
  • Minstead Poor House;
  • The story of ‘The Hut’, now known as Minstead Village Hall;
  • The ‘big houses’ of the village;

    Ancient Tree Graffiti - what is this mark, and why was it put there? (Photo courtesy Michael Clarke)
    Ancient Tree Graffiti – what is this mark, and why was it put there? (Photo courtesy Michael Clarke)
  • Various records regarding gravestones, particular families and the local tythe map;
  • Ancient trees and charcoal burners of the village and New Forest – including some research by my father on the historic graffiti to be found on the ancient oak and beech of the New Forest;
  • A display of ancient tools, and another entitled ‘Golden Letters’.
  • Other history groups represented will include those from Emery Down, Copythorne and Fordingbridge.

Whether you know Minstead, love the New Forest, are a history fan or just want a nice afternoon out in a friendly community, you will enjoy this fascinating exhibition, and knowing the local baking fraternity the cakes will be fantastic! If spring has really arrived you can even make the very short journey up the hill to Furzey Gardens, or across the village to Minstead Church and make a day of it ūüôā

Minstead Past and Present 
Saturday 13th April 2013 – 12noon – 5.00pm
Sunday 14th April 2013 – 10am – 4.00pm
Admission £1.00

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Does loneliness still cause the greatest pain to ‘The Wounded Healer’?

Detail of a painting from a Crucifixion sequence by Kari Juhani Hintikka (recently of Alton Abbey)  "Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me." Ps. 22:16,17
Detail of a painting from a Crucifixion sequence by Kari Juhani Hintikka (recently of Alton Abbey) “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.” Ps. 22:16,17

I’ve just finished reading Henri Nouwen‘s ‘The Wounded Healer’ (in an updated form of the 1972 original) as part of background reading for my ‘Pastoral Care’ module.

Throughout this little classic, Nouwen identifies closely with the suffering and particularly loneliness of people, including ministers. He encourages the reader to acknowledge and understand their own pain, and especially loneliness, as a means of removing barriers to creating space for the hospitality of healing.

I love the image of hospitality being part of the gift of healing. Well before I understood my calling to the priesthood, I openly acknowledged and practised the gift of hospitality. In fact a broadening understanding of hospitality, and a frustration that study greatly restricts it’s practice, is becoming a constant thread to my ordination training.

I agree with Nouwen that we need to make space for hospitality in our lives. If I understand him correctly, we are to set within the hospitable space we create within our own strivings, something like a bowl of water with which we can refresh our senses with an awareness of our own suffering, to enable us to attune ourselves better to the suffering of others.

However, 40 years on from when Nouwen originally wrote, and whilst acknowledging that loneliness can be a very acute problem in the lives of some people, I am not convinced that loneliness is the dominant, life threatening, injury that we are most likely to meet in a pastoral encounter.¬†From my limited experience, I see today’s culture of busyness as being the festering wound that causes the greatest pain in both the world and specifically in Christian ministry.

I grant that busyness can itself create loneliness and isolation because it creates a barrier to the spaces in our lives that enable us to priorities love, and exist in the expectation of encountering Christ in others. The non-existence of busyness in the lives of the unemployed and dis-empowered, probably increases a sense of loneliness through the inappropriate assignment of guilt and a lack of opportunity to contribute to changing their own circumstances.

Perhaps, as an only child who has always enjoyed my own company, who is comfortable with a certain degree of¬†introspection and the company of a window, good books and great music,¬†I have yet to encounter true loneliness. But as I replay conversations with people I’ve met, and connections with those in ministry (often via their blogs), the greatest burden today repeatedly comes over as being busyness.

As we move towards Passiontide and focus on Christ’s suffering – the¬†archetype¬†of the wounded healer – I am trying to understand where lay the greatest pain of all his wounds on the cross.

We are used to the imagery of Christ’s lonely suffering on the cross; pain is after all a deeply personal experience (whether physical or emotional) that can not be shared or fully understood by any other living person. We are fond of saying aren’t we, that only Christ can truly understand our pain.

Painting from a Crucifixion sequence by Kari Juhani Hintikka (recently of Alton Abbey) "I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting. Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame." Is 50:6,7
Painting from a Crucifixion sequence by Kari Juhani Hintikka (recently of Alton Abbey) “I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting. Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame.” Is 50:6,7

However, if we read the Passion narratives, much of the busyness of accusation, beatings and denials, happens before first light – the time today when the stress of busyness torments the sleepless, before cock-crow.

Similarly, the male disciples may be largely noticeable by their absence¬†at the foot of the cross, but in common with any busy, out-0f-town, tourist attraction in the middle of a ‘Holiday Friday’, the taunting tumult of conversations, and offers of inappropriate beverages, form an overwhelming noise around the cross.

Is it not therefore, the constant barrage of questions, appointments with secular and religious officials, off-stage whisperings of fraudulent friends, and the intrusive clamour of the lynch-mob, that produce the wound of busyness around the central sacrifice, and which that actually causes the greatest pain to the wounded healer on the cross?

Writing this reflection on my recent reading I realised that there are links here with the ‘I’m not busy’ Lent campaign, and Stephen Cherry‘s ‘Beyond Busyness’ book, which I haven’t had time to read ūüė¶¬†

Any thoughts on what causes the greatest pain in our society, or recommendations on reading round the theme of ‘Wounded Healer’ as a model for pastoral care, would be greatly appreciated.

The Sky Dancers – an original poem

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Red Kite over Huntercombe Golf Club, Gangsdown Hill, Nuffield, Oxfordshire, 5th March 2013

Nothing is wasted, especially not my journeys to college. Driving back and forth I love watching for wildlife, and take particular joy in the Red Kites of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, which have previously inspired my Plough ‘Sunday’ grace.

I first fell in love with these birds in the 1980s as a teenager, holidaying with my family near Tregaron in Wales on land owned by Miss Frances Evans, who is attributed with saving the Red Kites of the Cambrian mountains. Since then I have photographed them at Gigrin Farm near Rhyader, been aware of and watched their spread back into the UK from captive release schemes, and now we sometimes even get them over my house in north-east Hampshire.

What follows is an original offering of poetry inspired of these beautiful birds.

The Sky Dancers

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Red Kite, Gigrin Farm, 2005

Sky dancers dip and rise
among the suns intermittent rays.
Silver crowning their russet mantles
they seek the breezes,
pirouetting between unkempt hedgerows
and struggling spears of grain,
tails like some well flighted
sickle-headed arrow
reawakened from among the dead.

Review is watchfully taken
among the rich tilth of worm-worn furrows,
or camouflaged in silhouette
among gnarled oaken fingers
rigid against winter’s stark horizon.
A piercing eye
scornfully regards its raptor relative,
regally disdaining hunched countenance
in favour of command.

The 'raptor relative' Buzzard, Gigrin Farm, Rhyader 2005
The ‘raptor relative’ a Buzzard, Gigrin Farm, Rhyader 2005

Such are lives rejuvenated
from Celtic soliloquies,
released to communal ascendancy
between the thoroughfares
of contemporary surmise.
Now among the ancient Wessex downland,
pinpricks of circling history
with fingers dipped in ink,
turn earthward
to distract the nearer gaze.

Though begrudged by some
a share of nature’s bounty
or stolen schoolyard pickings,
the gathering multitude,
lift, tack, yaw and jibe,
a twisting flotilla of eager appetites,
that frighten and mesmerise
with effortless beguiling.

Red Captive feeding, Gigrin 2005
Red Captive feeding, Gigrin 2005

As hypnotised,
we raise our eyes to follow
the constant tumbling
above the agricultural year,
let us celebrate
the sky’s dancing corps
of chestnut pilgrims,
and stop to praise the resurrection
of creation’ s call.

 

(Edited very slightly after reading it at our OMC review night, June 2013)

Is God waiting for the C of E? (Reviewing Maggi Dawn’s ‘Like the Wideness of the Sea’) #womenbishops

2013-03-03 21.02.40 (w)I read Maggi Dawn’s ‘Like the Wideness of the Sea – Women Bishops and the Church of England’ yesterday.

That tells you for a start that it’s not a very big book – I’m not that fast a reader, especially when I want to give some thought to what I’m reading. If like me you’re a busy ordinand it also shows you that it’s not a difficult read, and worthwhile fitting in among the studies.

There are three main chapters to this little gem. They seem to me to be loosely themed around that Anglican cord of three strands attributed to Hooker; scripture, tradition (or you might term it also ‘history’), and reason/experience (what I think Maggi describes as ‘participatory knowledge’).

I was particularly interested by Maggi’s association between the concept of ‘reception’ (in this case of women priests and a detail of the existing legislation I had a only a sketchy knowledge of) and the story of the Wisdom of Gamaliel in Acts 5. Maggi’s solution to the impasse that has the Church of England adrift in the middle of ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner‘ seems a simple one; is it really the light at the end of the tunnel that offers the hope of journeys with God in a new land?

I remember back in 2010 thinking that the Archbishop’s amendment at that stage in the legislative process was helping to obscure to the imaginative, vital and prophetic voice of the church and those who minister with it. It is clear that situation hasn’t improved, and our voice isn’t getting any louder.¬†I guess what worries me is if it really is as simple as Maggi suggests (and I want it to be), why has this solution not been thought of before, and what stands in the way of this being the solution that is being worked on right now?

I came late to the detailed history of the movement towards the ordination of women, despite my¬†mother’s strong opinions and work for this idea.¬†Maggi’s discussion of the theology of waiting within the scope of this history (Chapter 2) was very helpful. I was most profoundly struck by this, and her moving personal testimony in Chapter 3 of the damage that can be done by waiting to individuals and is being done to the Church’s ‘prophetic power for change’.¬†To read of the extreme behaviour that some have exhibited towards Maggi Dawn was humbling – she, as many others, bore the cross of rejection for too long, to Yale’s gain and our loss.

As I recommend the book to anyone remotely interested in the situation¬†that the Church of England finds itself in over women bishops, Maggi has left me with the very strong idea that she is right, and that God is waiting for the Church of England to pull it’s finger out, and make a clear and simple decision one way or t’other.

Bryony Taylor and Steve Taylor and Andy Goodliff have also written reviews.