Peregrines at Winchester Cathedral

P1100408c
Male Peregrine, Winchester Cathedral, 16th April 2018

I’ve been keeping a secret, and finally I can share it.

Back on 21st March, I had finished a meeting at Winchester Cathedral, and got in the car, when I heard an incredibly distinctive noise that had me behaving like a terrier on ‘point’. It was not a sound I’d expected to hear at the Cathedral, but it had me out car and over to the iron railings with the binoculars that live under the car seat, faster than you can “Church of England”!

There, sat on the roof of the north aisle, flying to the west and end and back, were two individuals of a species I’d only ever seen briefly and at great distance on Cornish cliffs, or in organised, camera assisted watches at Salisbury and Chichester Cathedrals. Peregrines. I only had my phone, pictures on which showed but specs on the roof, but the video of the distinctive calls were good enough to send to Keith Betton of Hampshire Ornothological Society (HOS), to check that I wasn’t going mad. Returning to my car, a passing bishop seemed rather bemused to see me peering at the architecture with binoculars, but thankfully didn’t query the behaviour of one of his junior clergy!

P1110049c
Male Peregrine, Winchester Cathedral, 15th May 2018

Keith assured me I wasn’t bonkers, that a nesting tray had been freshly inserted into the (cathedral sized) gutter that had flooded in these birds 2017 attempt at nesting, and that fingers were crossed (and perhaps prayers being said). These were birds that HOS had been aware of for years, and which had been ousted from their previous site by the demolition of the old Hampshire Police HQ in winter 2016-17. The news that they were nesting on purpose built, hopefully flood proof, accommodation at the Cathedral this year, was however to be kept quiet at this stage, at the request of the Cathedral staff. So I stayed ‘stum’.

My camera has accompanied my two excursions to the cathedral since, nestled among my robes when arriving to volunteer as a Cathedral Chaplain. I’ve taken what photos I could: the male showing well on the first trip, male and female visible most recently. Quiet conversations with the birds guardians (the virgers) were had. I also reported in to Keith when I saw them.

P1110071c
Female Peregrine, Winchester Cathedral, 15th May 2018

Last week Keith did me the courtesy of letting me know there were three chicks that needed ringing, and this was achieved on Monday 21st May. At that point the Cathedral staff also agreed the news could be made public, so you may have seen it on their Facebook feed, or on the local TV morning news on Tuesday 22nd May. I hope this success story might encourage Winchester Cathedral to work further towards become an Eco-cathedral as the diocese works on become and Eco-diocese.

To be able to photograph Peregrines on ‘my’ cathedral, in the city my father grew up in, and in which my grandmother lived all her life, was thrilling. Then I was offered the chance to be among a small group who could watch the chicks on a different nest in south Hampshire being ringed 22nd May, and the diary was flexed to make it possible. So this week I watched four chicks of these Schedule 1 species, having their ID fitted under license, so that they can be identified, and their future distribution and success tracked.

The population growth since the first Hampshire pair in the 1970s, is one of the success stories of conservation post WWII (when they were shot so as not to stop the passage of vital carrier pigeon messages to the resistance in continental Europe) and post-DDT. I’ve now witnessed two of the nineteen successful Peregrine sites in Hampshire this year!

P1110134c
Three of the four Peregrine chicks I witnessed being ringed in south Hampshire, 22nd May 2018.

 

Advertisements

Harvest prayers #VisitorChaplain #WinchesterCathedral

2017-10-03 14.09.14
Harvest at the Nave Altar of Winchester Cathedral, October 2017

One of the particularly lovely bits of my monthly cycle of ministry is acting as a Visitor’s Chaplain at Winchester Cathedral. My normal pattern of activity during a shift is to perambulate the Cathedral, chatting to fellow volunteers (often guides) and staff like virgers, any visitors who want or need time to talk, and sometimes members of Cathedral Chapter or Diocesan staff. 

I make a habit of sitting quietly for a few moments and writing fresh prayers that are pertinent to the moment: the activities in the Cathedral that day, the liturgical season, and world events. These I then use when I lead the ‘Prayers on the hour’ that punctuate the Cathedral day and remind visitors of the purpose and significance of the building.

And lastly, I tend to keep my mobile phone camera to hand, to catch the light through windows, the Cathedral decorations or community displays, or anything else that strikes me as significant or important ‘in the moment.

This week, the harvest display was still up after last weeks celebrations, so my photographs and prayers reflect that:

2017-10-03 14.09.37
Harvest Flower – Winchester Cathedral 2017

Dear God,
As we take time in this holy place to acknowledge your presence, we remember that you do not rest simply in buildings dedicated to your worship, but through your Holy Spirit walk beside us as the crucified Christ, in the joys and traumas of our daily lives.
As we celebrate the gifts of your creation in this Harvest season, we ask you to encourage the political leaders of this world to work for peace, that we might beat the swords, guns and armaments of our nations into the ploughshares, water wells and irrigation systems that will enable us to feed the world family.
We pray that together, in this way, we might bring hope in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

2017-10-03 15.33.31
Fine needlework on the lecturn of Winchester Cathedral – Harvest 2017

Lord God,
Around us we see the work of human hands wrought from your creation in stone, and wood, and glass, in stitch-work and flowers. So often this place resounds to the human voice in prayer and song.
Thank you for the skills of all those who celebrate your Word and Power and make for us this place of peace and restoration. Continue to gift those who care for this building with the wisdom and love that enables it to glorify your name,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Power and Glory #givingitup Matthew 4v8-11 12th March #Lent2014

A card given me at the start of training showing the prayer of Mary Sumner, and inked by the calligraphers of Winchester Cathedral.
A card given me on my birthday last year, showing the prayer of Mary Sumner, inked by the calligraphers of Winchester Cathedral.

Power. Something the devil offered Jesus, and he turned down. At least it was a certain sort of controlling power that, as with the second temptation of Jesus, wasn’t remotely related to the sort of power he had been given as God’s Son. As Maggi Dawn explains in the reading from Matthew 4 she selected for today in her book ‘Giving It Up’, Jesus’ was a power that was harnessed to serve others, to heal, and to bring justice, not to bully people into submission.

Power. It’s something that we rightly fear when exercised by others over us, especially when it results in injustice, suffering, and abuse. But I wonder if we’re becoming over sensitised to it? More suspicious of power than we need be, or should be, especially in the context of Christian leadership.

During some conversations that I’ve had this week, all revolving around the same set of circumstances, people have talked a lot about ‘top down’ management as a bad thing, a form of power to be feared. Why, I find myself wondering, is this worse than a ‘bottom up’ approach, or one that takes more account of consultation with a broad spectrum of voices and opinions?

For me, this gives rise to a series of questions to which I don’t have answers, and to which I am sure the answers vary from case to case:

  • Is our increasing concern and fixation with how people exercise ‘power’ (for which you can read ‘those in authority’) actually motivated by a desire to have our voice heard, our needs met, our ideas and priorities to be the ones that are taken up and used by those with power?
  • If this is the case, does it fly in the face of a humility that knows we might not be best equipped to see the big picture, and the need to employ some level of trust as servants of God, in the wisdom and discernment of those whose job it is to lead us in his name?
  • Is there also a danger that if we’re constantly doubting the integrity of our leaders, we might be limiting their prophetic power in situations that are crying out for change?
  • In the very act of challenging people’s power, are we in a paradoxical situation of actually exerting too much power ourselves, when it’s not ours to exert?

I know that when I think of, or become aware of something that I don’t feel is an appropriate decision or use of power, I’m often among the first to question it; and I probably shouldn’t give that up completely for Lent, or at any other time, because I’ve done that not so long ago, with distressing results. But perhaps I should be a little more aware of how God might be perceiving my words and actions, and the power that they are trying to exert over others – whether I relate up, or down, to them!

Graham has I suspect, given the music he’s been looking at, come up with some rather different thoughts, so I do encourage you to go and look at them too.

Stones into bread #givingitup 10th March #Lent2014 Matthew 4v1-4

Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that :-)
Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that 🙂

If anyone tells you that the Church of England, or the Diocese of Winchester in particular, don’t do change… DON’T believe them!

Today was Deacon’s Day in the Diocese of Winchester, and despite what I’d been led to expect it was a really good day. I got to see friends, existing and yet to be, as we sat together as a cohort of 12 for the first time. Important information was made as fun as possible, and our Bishop didn’t pull any punches in a seriously inspirational talk making quite plain what we were letting ourselves in for as far as being and ordained minister in the Diocese of Winchester is concerned. He was willing to make himself vulnerable to our sometimes searching questions, and very honest when the answer was ‘we haven’t got there yet’ whilst giving us as much of the ‘game plan’ as he probably could. It was obvious, that if we’re not up for ‘living the mission of Jesus’ now is definitely the time to say so, and take a step back. I remember being part of the Vacancy in See consultation a few years back and the whole of my group told the relevant folk that basically we wanted someone who would bring fresh ideas and a fresh way of doing things. We got exactly what we asked for, and now I get to help be part of the change, part of proving that the Church of England “aint’n’t dead yet”!

We also got to meet the lovely Precentor Sue, newly installed last week at Winchester Cathedral. She and the Bishop hadn’t had a chance to meet about this yet, so it was slightly like a game of tag. This was the point where we managed to get the Bishop’s head in his hands, poor man. I almost felt sorry for him as conversations about robes and stoles got very silly in a variety of ways; apparently patent pink DMs aren’t appropriate because pink is not a liturgical colour, and the laces would take too long to sort at the point in the service where the Bishop/s washes our feet!

Then I felt sorry for myself. I really must learn that if I’m going to be organised and efficient and get things done well in advance, I can expect to get my nicely laid plans well and truly shot out the water. Winchester has always (as far as I’m aware) have always ordained in white stoles, and as regular readers will be aware I’ve got my deeply significant ordination stole all finished and tucked away ready. Or at least I thought I had.

After they’d left us to the finer details of tat grants, the Bishop and Precentor had a little conversation, and the Bishop popped back in: were we up for being ordained in red stoles (signifying the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)?! Much excitement ensued from most, and in the end, I and two fellow early pre-planners, sort of gave a lopsided grin recognising that we’d be in danger of inhibiting change that signified the movement of the Holy Spirit if we didn’t go with the idea. It wasn’t like I’m not getting a red stole, and have a particular personal connection with Pentecost, and it IS a red letter day on 29th June (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul), so… I told the Bishop I’d be ‘fine about it in the morning’ 🙂

So, after that snapshot of having to accept change when you’ve asked for it, Maggi Dawn gets me turning to Matthew 4:1-4 for tonight’s Lent reflection: the devil tempting Jesus, who is fasting in the wilderness, to turn stones into bread.

My immediate thought is that it’s not a rock that needs softening to feed our bodies, but our hearts that need softening to feed our souls, and the souls of others; we mustn’t get ourselves set on there being only one way of doing things!!!

Maggi talks about a period of 40-somethings (days, years, whatever) signifying a concentrated period of preparation and transformation in Bible-speak (as per the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the desert). How long it was in reality might not involve the number 40, and that isn’t actually a concern – the point of there being concentrated preparation and transformation is much more important. So like ordination training and formation then 😉

Maggi notes that the temptation with food whilst fasting emphasised Jesus was as human as you and I, and in turn emphasises our physical existence. I would add that this in turn emphasises that all that we are called to do can ONLY be done through the power of the Holy Spirit but that we need to know when it is appropriate to invoke God’s power in this way.

And what better time to do that, than at an ordination service! Red stole it is then!!!

PS: Graham’s blog for tonight is here.

PPS: Now very excited that I’ve realised that Canon Missioner to Exeter Cathedral and Diocese, Anna Norman-Walker is conducting our ordination retreat! At least I think that’s what the Bishop said… (note to self, must listen better!)

Why should our parishes have a relationship with their Cathedrals?

Winchester Cathedral 'Make Poverty History' Rally 2005

I received a very unexpected invitation this year, which has made me think about the relationship between the parishes of our Diocese, and the life and worship of it’s ‘mother church’ Winchester Cathedral.

My parish is on the outer fringes of the Diocese of Winchester, so much so that during Reader Training many people started conversations with “where’s Yateley”, or “didn’t know Yateley was in the Diocese of Winchester!”

In the 14 years I’ve lived and worshipped here the only group of parishioners who seem to consistently ‘get involved’ at the Cathedral are our choir (annually), and those who attend to support Readers being licensed, or friends being ordained. Making sure that our parish has it’s six passes to enable people to visit freely produced interesting and instantaneous results recently, which I hope we can build on during the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market.

But, I’m sure there should be more, better and regular reasons for going to the Cathedral than once a year for our Christmas shopping!

Now I’ve been invited to contribute to a Cathedral Advisory and Action Group (with the difficult title reference ‘Mother Church and Regional Beacon’), I’m meant to be trying to offer suggestions of ways that the Cathedral and parishes can become more mutually supportive in both worship and the wider mission of the Church, as well as the community.

One of the exisiting connecting points is through the involvement of parish clergy as Cathedral Chaplains, something that Revd Claire has been learning about.  From what Claire says, the role of Cathedral Chaplain  seems to be mainly to rightly, but forcibly, insert prayer and pastoral care into the value of cathedrals as tourist attractions.

It strikes me that if it is right to improve the working relationships between our parishes and our Cathedrals, then it probably needs to be through finding things that ‘add value’ to the ministries of both, rather than risk being purely a greater drain on already frantic clergy diaries.

But before we can find suggested answers to how, I found myself asking “why”. Why should our parishes have a relationship with their ‘Mother Church’?

Then I got worried, because I really don’t know the answer. Some fuzzy warm feelings about the Cathedral being

  • at the centre of Diocesan worship,
  • the ‘seat’ of the Bishop from which he leads the Diocese in the worship of God and our mission to God’s Kingdom,
  • the historicity and atmosphere of buildings soaked in prayer,
  • and a traditional place of pilgrimage and the burial of kings,

don’t seem to be concrete answers enough for the modern context.

So, do you think that parishes should have a relationship with their Cathedrals, and if so why?

Lent 3 – Where’s the good news?

The interior of All Saints Basingstoke
The interior of All Saints Basingstoke

It’s great isn’t it. You plan life so that things don’t clash and you can (just about) manage to achieve everything. Then someone changes a date, the goal-posts get moved and your back in “failing to cope” mode – at least almost.

Lent 3 is going to be one of those Sunday’s, with two things I was hoping to enjoy colliding in such a way that we’ll be back to simply trying to survive the day. However, thanks to husband and church friends it looks like the St. Peter’s stand at the wedding fair at Casa Dei Cesari is coming together.

I think I can walk away for the morning with a fairly clear conscience to preach at All Saints, Basingstoke where I served my Reader Training placement last year. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing the friends I made, and also to sharing the way that their more formal, high church, environment makes sharing in the Eucharist much richer in symbolism – there’s more for my mind to grab hold of and use to remember the significance of what we’re doing.

But oh woe, the lectionary gospel: Luke 13:1-9. With the words “where is the good news?” still ringing in my ears from Reader Training, and not wishing to be a total doom merchant when visiting as a guest, this is going to be an interesting balancing act. At least as their vicar has reminded me, this sermon isn’t going to be assessed, but I still want to share a good value helping of God’s good news.

The passage is strongly linked to the current affairs of the time that Jesus was speaking and less noticably the living memories of those to whom Luke was writing, which I guess, gives me some ideas for sermon illustrations. There’s plenty of ‘news’ out there that we’re all to willing to extrapolate the wrong conclusions from. But the passage is very stark, and prophetic – real “this is your last chance” stuff.

There is no mention in the passage of Jesus’ purpose in journeying to Jerusalem – basically, he was going to take the rap for his hearers failing to act on what he was telling them; he lost his life because they didn’t change their ways! And they didn’t really get it, till it was too late. Many of them still didn’t get it – which is why the Temple was destroyed in AD70.

We know Jesus has died and risen because we mess up and take the wrong implications from what is happening in the world around us. If we truly believe that, then we have to seek God, and stay close to him with the hunger and trust of Psalm 63:1-9 if we are to reach the heavenly banquet of Isaiah 55:1-9 (other lectionary readings for Lent 3).

There, that was therapeutic: does that look a bit like a sermon plan to you?

Afterthought; I don’t have the experiences that make this a great sermon; and I don’t know that I want them! But I wouldn’t mind the ability to write the ‘poetry’ of the penultimate paragraph 🙂