A Sanctuary and a Light

header_47Church Hostel Bangor is up for sale.  aka The Anglican Chaplaincy, more affectionately: AngChap or simply for those of us who lived and worked there ‘home from home’.

We were always walking a tightrope whilst juggling the twin identities of this place, Hostel and Chaplaincy.  Whether doing the accounts and applying for money, or justifying the existence of either to churches and dioceses.  We created an intentional community taking 25 or so students, throwing them together in a building attempting to create some form of community for a year.  Some years it worked better than others.

I’ve never been fond of church buildings in general because once established it is very difficult to let them go when they are no longer needed!  Hence the title of the book “Beyond these walls”. Though it is useful to have a place from which to come and go.  AngChap served that purpose well.  I was, however, surprised at the level of emotion welling up when I heard the news that Church Hostel was up for sale.  Hostel and Chaplaincy have for a number of years taken separate journeys in Bangor.  So as Hostel it was Sanctuary.  A home, a place of welcome and of hospitality.  Often with rather wild parties, gatherings and events.  Much like any other student accommodation I imagine.  This was met with Chaplaincy, which offered the Light (to lighten the gentiles).  It was indeed a place to come and go from.  A Sanctuary and a Light.  This twin purpose is perhaps the reason for the emotion.  For it is always in the relationships with others that such memories are formed.  The building for a time was, perhaps, a thin place.  But it was those who gathered there who made it so.  Gathered and scattered, more often than not scattered.  Though we often began at AngChap, we found ourselves around the world in that community.  Sent out to far and near for new experiences and challenges.  To discover new places and meet new folk.  To gather stories and return to tell others.  Every memory comes with people in mind, for it was the folk who gathered who made it what it was, who marked it out as special.  It was a place which spoke of, as the plaque in peace garden testifies, “The Love which moves the Sun and the other stars.”

bbq008I always remember one line from my dissertation written on Chaplaincy.  It was from another chaplain who did not have a building to work from.  He wrote that chaplaincy for them was ‘Abramic’.  One pitches ones tent wherever it is needed.  Perhaps then the tent will be re-pitched and one hopes that there will continue to be opportunities to offer both the Sanctuary and Light that so many of us enjoyed, revelled in and were moulded by in years past.

Fear is in the air…

… and the magazine letter is late. (as usual)

Fear is in the air, you can smell it!
You can see it as well, the shop assistants giving out adverts in the street for their latest offers, the new signs going up pointing to various retail establishments, information about flu precautions.
We used to be afraid of Nuclear Weapons, Global Warming and Sea level rises, then we were afraid our energy supplies would run out.  After that came the fear of financial ruin at the hands of the global recession, now of course it is the turn of swine flu.  Every so often nature gives us something to think about, to re-asses our place in the world, to challenge our assumption that we are the dominant beings, in control, subject to nothing.
Imagine an abandoned motorway…
The cars have long since gone from this place.
A barren waste monument to the automobile that once was king.
A healthy breeze drifts along its length carrying with it dust, grime and dirt mere ghosts of the heavy traffic that once flowed along this artery.
The old tired road stretches out like a panoramic picture as far as the next bridge, stoops under, and is gone.
The surface is rough in places, smooth in others where wheels once turned.
A dead, decaying place you might think.
Here and there, among the un-seeing cats-eyes, a small mound of tarmac is raised up, a slight crack at its centre, no more.  A blemish on the smooth charcoal grey surface.  Yet there in the midst of all this bareness and waste ground is the glimmer of life, a small gap leading down to the earth below hoping for a little light and a drop of rain.
In the dark of this crevice a timid green spear points skyward reaching desperately for the light.
How far has this shoot pushed up from? How many months has it taken for this one leaf to emerge from the dead road around it?  How many other shoots died on the way to the surface creating the food for others to build upon? Days of growth? Weeks of struggle? Years of death and decay built up the nutrient for this one solitary shoot to push above ground.
What would it be like to be that one leaf, the shoot that strikes the air, the first in that place to feel the breeze on its slender leaf and to remember that thousands like it never made it to reach the surface, hundreds of shoots pushing upwards didn’t make it out, yet all joined together in the effort for this one shoot.  First one, but then afterwards many stronger, larger shoots, a flower perhaps, blooms in the wilderness and a garden is re-born from the earth.  Nature takes back what is rightly hers swallowing the grey with green.  As we celebrate re-birth and resurrection there is nothing quite so optimistic as a desolate place.  Remember the wilderness, the place where God was to be found.