Back to Egypt

I’m sure most organisations suffer from this syndrome, it’s something which seems to effect everyone from time to time, ‘nothing must change’, ‘it was far better before’, the so called ‘Back to Egypt Brigade’ have been in full force recently.  I caught the beginning of John Bell speaking at Greenbelt and reminded me of this phenomenon, that when on the verge of entering the promised land the Israelites bottled it and complained that it wasn’t nice there, even though they had seen the plentiful food and lush lands.  So God in his wisdom sent them out into the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day they had been whinging in the desert!

So what does ‘back to Egypt’ mean for us?  How far back, back to the so called ‘Golden Age’ of the Victorians who built far too many churches for their own good, and then sometimes to quite a poor standard?  The endless streetwalking and door knocking seemed to have had very little effect in getting people to go to church.  There was a lot of activity, but in reality the legacy was of redundant buildings and overly organised groups of people.

Ok, then further back, perhaps to the medieval period, no heating, cloths on the windows, confession on saturday to receive communion on sunday??

Neither of these is particularly interesting or inviting.  There is, however, a gleam of hope in this ‘back to Egypt’ malarky, it comes in the form of the style of churches and religious observance which was around in the middle-ages.  Large monasteries were dotted around the country, some wealthy towns could afford to support a Priest, but not many.  Religious observance was far less than it is today, but, when there were festivals on, most people turned out.   They would travel to the large monasteries and cathedrals for whit, lamas, harvest, christmas, easter.  These festivals were the people’s religion.  The small communities of monks and religiously minded people would organise the festivals for the people, they would also in some cases be land owners and would provide employment and food for the people in their neighbourhood.

There are many things about the middle-ages that would not be welcome today, but the principle of a smallish community providing for the surrounding area, in both spiritual and edible food is worth returning to, at least to give it some thought.  It would stop the constant bickering over bums on pews, and focus the attention on practical tasks.  It would also draw a community together rather than dispersing it, I love the idea at the end of the morning service on Iona that there is no amen.  Standing for the closing responses people are encouraged to go straight out into the common tasks for that day, to serve one another in all manner of community minded activity!

(this comes with a nod towards Graeme Smith and his book ‘A Short History of Secularism’)

the way, was slightly diverted for a time


I was distracted from writing by an excellent few days, but I did pen this – almost as it was happening.

The course material started this train of thought, focusing on who we are…

There is a chapel atop a rocky outcrop near St. Beuno’s, the key to which is normally on the hook in the boot room, or so we were informed.

No key…

But the sign said something about a sticky lock and not to lock it.

I climbed the hill full of expectation about what the chapel might be like, the views, the nature on the way and was pleased to arrive at the chapel’s east end, a stone building, small and well formed. It stood waiting to be explored.

I investigated the door, it was locked – no way in.

I was in a little despair, what now?

I sat on the step looking away from the chapel, contemplating – writing!

The key arrives, my heart leaps, I can go in, but I can’t turn around, I can’t look, it has been built up to now it is too much.

Forcing myself up I turn and go in. I hate it.

It is full of tat, rubbish, too many trappings for God. An ugly tatty crucifix, incense sticks, prayer cards, statues, candles, modern art paintings, loud noisy clutter. I close my eyes to rid myself of the images and sink to my knees in silence.

I bow my head to the floor, it is cold, beautifully cold, the fresh stone makes me wish the whole chapel had been like that, plain cold stone, refreshing.

I kneel for what seems like ages before getting up and very quietly going out, (the nun is in silence)

As I step out of the door, the sound hits me, the light is too bright, the volume has been turned up fully, children, cows, birds, the wind, a horse. I heard it all inside the church of course, but dully as if through earmuffs, but now it is as bright as the sun. I am fully awake, alive to the sounds of God walking though the garden, waiting for me to emerge from the gloom to enliven me with the spirit.

Fairtrade for foodies

Fairtrade Chocolate Muffin

We have just set up a fairtrade stall in the church (at last) but for those of us who need no encouragement when it comes to chocolate items, this is rather a big challenge in self denial, so in solidarity with those who don’t want to eat too much chocolate I decided to help them by removing some of the temptation from their path.

OK, I’m weak, but the Muffin’s are great!!

Thanks to Lis for the stall!!