Just come back from a placement with the Northumbria Community. This time has been so affirming and essential to my personal journey I haven’t felt able to write any reflections here. I return so excited about my call and refreshed in passion for life.
I did write a poem whilst on placement as part of a short retreat led by the community and I thought I could at least share that. It is a form of ‘beat’ poetry. I was fortunate and privileged to be asked to participate in the Beat Eucharist at Greenbelt Festival this year and it involved writing several poetic, prayers/ sermons/’prophetic’ rants. I have begun to use this poetic style to express myself. The thing I find helpful is it is like a train of consciousness and allows my web style thinking to be expressed in a linear format.
A Bell Tolls
A bell tolls in the distant sky, rings out a call to consider, contemplate, to cry out to Christ our King, a call to climb out of the cave and into intercessory prayer, where, we care, despair, tear down the walls of separation, segregation and sanitation of our own pleas. Here we join with voices echoing out through time, space, history and in this wind swept landscape of solitude our sighs sing with the Psalmist who says: “From aching pit of my dark, dank, daunting depths a soul shattering scream, a piercing pitch capable of breaking the sinews of any hearer, echoes out to you the Spirit source of unspeakable prayers. Can you hear it, my God? Can you feel it, my Lord? Listen! Listen to this broken, brittle, barefoot disciple of Yours, this minuscule amount of matter, turn Your gaze on my meagre matter. If you, Faultless Father, should mark, record, consider, remember my shaken steps of sinful saintliness, steps so steeped in self-centredness, steps in sands swept by sea-sent cyclones, steps mis-placed, mis-directed, misshapen, missed the mark, who could stand? Who could stand? Who could bear the shame so solid, so dense it’s hard to stand?”1 Stories of saints standing on islands swept by sea salt sent from Scotland to speak of peace,
prayerful presence in pagan lads, piece by piece, person by person, preaching, proclaiming grace.
God-sent, God-glorifying giants of faith humbly humming harmonies of hope home to hearts of helpless, hardened, harsh inhabitants. The balance of life; cell to connacle, alone to others, monastery to mission, Aidan praying: “Leave me alone with my Lord as much as may be, As the intemperate tide draws the tempestuous waters close into the shore, make me an island, set apart, solitary with You, God, holy. And then, with the turning of the tide, teach me to take your presence to the tired, time orientated tribes beyond. The world where world weary eyes weep, the world that wants me, calls me, rushes in on me till the timely tide treads again across the causeway and folds me back to you.”2 My poem intercepted, interspersed, interacting with Psalms and prayers, where their voice stops mine begin unbroken beats bubbling up behind bold but barren beliefs. Their story, spirituality seeping so softly into my spirit. “The Sacred Three our blessing be.”3 Songs sewing us together, stories stitching us into one sign of God’s faithfulness. “Encircle us, Lord.”4 Secure our steps on these trodden paths. “Come wind, Come rain, Come pelting storm, Whatever it may be. Be my shield, my refuge, Come walk beside me.”5 Songs of praises, shouts of Psalms, unstoppable strength sourced from the stream of solitude.
A bell tolls,
for friendship, food, fellowship in our Faithful, Faultless Father, bearing fruit of enfleshed favour of Him who send us out from refectory to road. Clear, distinct and yet the same. “I love to serve”6 you, my guest, Christ in the other, at home, hospitality, being available for you, my guest, Christ in the other and away, availability for you, my host, Christ in the other. “Don’t wash my feet!” “I must.”7 He says humbly inviting humility in my heart. Availability leading to Vulnerability.8 Open to other’s honesty, questions of motive, critique of meaning but all the time testing, refining, eyes of others, eyes of Him. Who could stand? Who could stand? “With Him there is assurance, steadfast, shame-reversing passion and with Him there’s the source of strength to stand!”9 Stand alone on distant islands, hopeful hermit. Stand with others reluctantly in refectory, faithful friend. Stand for others in King’s courts, ancient apostle. Stand in the shadow of Celtic saints, ride the rule, the regulus, the rhythm of prayer everywhere. Stand, sing, shout,
whisper words of wholeness to a world weary of religious rhetoric.
Recite the written stories, the spoken stories of ancient times afresh. A bell tolls in the distant sky, rings out a call to stop,
sit with saints,
1. a poetic re-hash of Psalm 130: 1-3
2. a poetic re-hash of the prayer of St. Aidan (why not read the Monasticism and Ascesticism posts)
3. from a song used as ‘grace’ at meal times in Northumbria Community.
4. from a song used by Northumbria Community.
5. from a song I sang whilst walking.
6. a phrase that had led to a conversation with one of the guests on retreat.
7. from John 13:8.
8. The two aspects of the Rule of Life for the Northumbria Community.
9 a poetic re-hash of Psalm 130:4.