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  • Forty Days of Photos - Days 32/33

    It's that time of year when any minister I know is up to their neck (if not overwhlemed by) preparing lots of services. This morning I've been busy writing prayers for three services, in the hope that, once I get to the end of Christmas Day, I can enjoy a couple of days 'down time' before the joint service on 30th December.

    I am fortunate this year, although I am tired, and although there is a lot to do, a lot is being shared with others. I am really looking forward to the mix of a very traditional Lessons and Carols this Sunday morning, an interactive ecumencial celebration service (with all age communion for good measure) on Christmas Day morning, followed by lunch for whoever shows up, and then a joint service with Church of Scotland friends on Sunday 30th.  Hopefully something for most, if not all.

    There is something unbelievably good about printing everything off and trusting it all to God's mercy and grace.

    Now it's back to the rest of the week's activities, including admin and hospital visits!

  • A Celtic Advent - Day 33

    Today we think about the idea of the 'anam chara' or 'soul friend' - a person with whom we feel able to totally open and honest, and to whom we make ourselves accountable.  Seemingly, some ancient celtic Christians saw this person as their 'head' - not as in 'boss', but as in the thing on top of their shoulders.

    I'm not sure I have ever found a 'soul friend'.  A few friendships have come close, at least for a season, but there has always been, for me at least, a little bit of holding back just in case whatever it might be would be a step too far for the other person. 

    I have certainly appreciated and valued over the years those who served as 'personal tutors' at college, as 'mentors' in industry and in ministry, and as my (current and continuing) 'pastoral supervisor'.  Each of them has brought much more to the relationship than merely being a sounding board. And each of them has been, in some sense, official, doing this professionally, so 'friendship' is a bonus not a given.

    I continue to appreciate the friendship of many people, especially those who are close enough to share some of what goes on in private as well as in public. Again, there is some degree of mutuality, a lot of laughter and love - and the occasional tricky negotiation when things go awry. Their backgrounds and worldviews are diverse and not all of them share any of my faith or many of my motivators, so the 'soul' aspect can be lacking or absent.

    For me, overall, the balance is more-or-less there. No single, identifable person who can be/do all I need/want, but all sorts of people who contribute to my wellbeing.  That seems good to me.

    Today's prayer:

    Loving heavenly Father, brother Christ, Holy Spirit healer, thank you for the love and relationship I have with you.  May I share that same love with my anam chara, my Soul Friend. May I know the help of another to live a life of holiness and purity, that I too can ensure that my inner self is ready for your return. Amen.

  • A Celtic Advent - Day 32

    To day we are back to angels, and specifically to St Michael.

    The sculpture of St Michel defeating the devil on the wall of Coventry cathedral is strking and mysterious.  From the first time I saw it - at about the age of 8 or 9 - I was intrigued and entranced by it.

    The whole 'principalities and powers' concept is one that provokes much thought, and even more controversy, among theologians and ordinary people of faith.

    The Victorians were quite big on angels, and with high infant mortality, invoking guardian angels to watch over babies and children, healthy, sick, dying and even dead, was widespread.  Even in the 1960s and 1970s such influences persisted...

    Four corners to my bed,

    four angels round my head -

    one to read, and one to write,

    and two to guard my bed at night.

     

    Or, as we used to pray at the end of every day at primary school:

     

    Lord, keep us safe this night,

    secure from all our fears,

    may angels guard around us keep,

    til morning light appears.

     

    I'm not convinced about guardian angels, if by that we mean one assigned to watch over me and me alone. But I am convinced that, in some way or other, God's mysterious messengers do break through in to my everyday in unexpected ways.

    So, finally for today, the prayer from the book:

    O Michael of the angals and the righteous in heaven, shield thou my soul with the shade of thy wing, shield thou my soul on earth and in heaven.  From foes upon earth, from foes beneath earth, from foes in concealment protect and encircle my soul 'neath thy wing, oh my soul with the shade of thy wing.