The Reading Room

THE READING ROOM . . .

Miscellaneous short articles and items of general relevance and interest. The editors welcome suitable submissions for posting on this page. In the first instance, please contact hengest111@aol.com.

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Confronting truths in False Bay (Susan Binks)

African Adventure (Chris Binks)

To be a Peregrinus (Susan Binks)

The Lord's Prayer in Anglo-Saxon of the 10th century

Pilgrimage to Holy Island, 12-16 September 2016 (Report)

Bede on the ministry of women (Sid Bradley)

Climate change and the purposes of God: a call to the Church

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Confronting truths in False Bay

Susan Binks

Susan recently completed the long journey of training for ministry in the Church of England. As part of that programme she was offered a short-term placement in Africa. Here she reflects upon rich and illuminating experiences she encountered there.

As part of the Ordination Training on the Yorkshire Ministry Course we undertake a ‘Social Context Placement’, in order to reflect and focus on ways in which the presence of Christ may be discerned, named and witnessed in the wider world. Some students have had placements in hospital or hospice chaplaincies, with Street Angels, or with Food banks. We are also encouraged to consider an overseas experience. I had the wonderful opportunity in February this year of a placement in South Africa, in the Diocese of False Bay, which has a ‘companion link’ with York Diocese.

I was placed in Ocean View, a township in the Southern Peninsula, about 20 miles south of Cape Town – a community established during the apartheid era in the 1960s.Ocean View (which has no view of either the Indian or Atlantic Oceans, though it is tantalizingly close to both) as a town was created when the Black and Coloured citizens were forcibly moved in the 1960s from beautiful Simon’s Town with its picturesque harbour, a town closely associated with the British Navy  - to Ocean View; the displaced community who could only take with them, the possessions they could carry, built a new life in the dusty plain in the foothills of Table Mountain. Despite this inauspicious start, and all the associated challenges of limited resources, it is a vibrant community, and The Church, St. Clare’s of Assisi, Ocean View, is at the heart of it all.

I was received and embraced with great warmth and overwhelmed by the hospitality; every minute was accounted for. It was an intense time and a great learning experience .I was profoundly moved by the dignity and enduring faith of a community that had lived through the oppression and suppression of the apartheid era, and their desire, without bitterness, to work for, and their vision for a better future for their children and grandchildren. But the joy is infectious and I had great fun. My feet had scarcely touched the ground, before I was whisked into a parish life; weddings, a funeral, preaching, leading a week of prayer, hospital visits, a visit to the homeless shelter, a visit to the orphanage, and especially, listening to the stories of the Community.   

I also had the opportunity to see something of the bigger Diocesan picture, travelling round the Bay to the east of Cape Town. This involved sharing Morning Prayer with Bishop Margaret in Somerset West, then spending time in an informal township Khayelitsha, acre after acre of tin shacks, where every aspect of daily life is a challenge. It was humbling to witness the social development initiatives of the local church – care of those whose lives are blighted by Aids; education opportunities for children and adults; leadership programmes for women; and particularly inspiring the setting up of a market gardening enterprise .I also spent a day at a Fair Trade vineyard following the production of wine from picking the grapes to bottling. Through its partnership with the U.K Co-op, it is run on co-operative principles, investing any profit into health and education provision for the employees and their families.

False Bay is stunningly beautiful; much of the Southern Peninsula is under the care of the Table Mountain National Park, and the glorious scenery was a backdrop to my placement. I was richly blessed and had the opportunity to visit Cape Town and the beautiful Waterfront and the famous District Six. One parish spectacularly included Cape Point, and I went on early morning walks with Ocean View congregation members before Morning Prayer into the foothills, enjoying the wildlife – baboons and ostriches (penguins and daxies at Betty’s Bay) and enjoyed the glory of fynbos and proteas.

It is a cliché – but it was a life-changing experience; it was a wonderful opportunity, a great learning experience on so many levels, for which I am very grateful.        

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African Adventure

Chris Binks

Once it was the Anglican Reverend's wife who was towed around in the wake of her peripatetic husband. Today, how different. Chris Binks tells here of a fascinating trip when he accompanied his wife (now the Revd Susan Binks) on her ordination training placement - which took them both to Africa . . .

When my wife, Susan, was given her Church of England ordination training placement to Ocean View I was delighted – when it was suggested I keep her company I was overjoyed! However I was warned that I might have to keep myself occupied a lot of the time, (in the event this didn’t arise due to the hectic itinerary laid on by Father Rodney Whiteman at Fish Hoek and Father Richard Martin at Ocean View), so I thought no problem – think Africa – think railways! Indeed many who know me would probably say that I need no prompting to think railways – or that I think of little else anyway, especially as I’m very fortunate to be employed at the UK’s National Railway Museum in York in the Conservation Dept. where duties include  looking after items as varied as Queen Victoria’s Saloon, A4 Loco. No. 4468 Mallard and crockery & silverware from all the pre-grouping and pre-nationalization railway companies – to name but a few- as well as firing and driving our replica of Stephenson’s Rocket and finding time to fit a brick arch in the firebox of A4 60009 Union of South Africa.   I also volunteer on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway with their Locomotive Dept and try my hand at a little LNER carriage restoration as well.

But where to begin – a little Googling soon told me of Atlantic Rail and a swift exchange of e-mails with Stefan and Matt let me know that I would be made most welcome when I made it to Cape Town, whilst a colleague at the NRM, Rob Tibbetts, familiar to many of you and who sends his best wishes, related his experiences of S. Africa in general and Atlantic Rail in particular.

I will freely admit that, like many of my fellow countrymen, my knowledge of Britain’s Empire railways is somewhat sketchy- yes I’ve heard of the legendary North British Loco. Co. and the Garratt’s of East African Railways but that’s about it – and the collective amnesia and embarrassment about our imperial past sometimes means this fascinating railway heritage is rarely referred to back home. However, I’d had my appetite whetted last summer at work whilst cleaning and cataloguing part of the Davies & Metcalfe archive. Probably most famous for manufacturing loco injectors and ejectors Davies & Metcalfe produced parts for locomotives around the globe and particularly for the Dominions and the Empire. Railway companies may only have wanted injectors but this didn’t prevent them sending reams of drawings to Davies & Metcalfe – and all these years later I was working on them – it rapidly became a labour of love – as I gazed upon the general arrangement drawings of these long extinct beasts that had roamed Africa, India and Australia. If I was going to Africa I just had to see some steam.   

Despite a very exhaustive and incredibly fascinating programme Saturday 14th February found me en-route to Cape Town courtesy of Brett, a member of Father Rodney’s congregation at Fish Hoek, to my first proper sighting of Cape Town. I wasn’t disappointed – I recognised Monument Station from YouTube but I wasn’t prepared for the delights awaiting me inside – was that really the Red Devil! - Other locos as well and some wonderful rolling stock.  

Brett introduced me to David and his encyclopaedic knowledge of English Electric diesels and we made a start on oiling round the coaching stock axle boxes before enjoying a hearty breakfast in the Train Lodge.

Then I was set to work with Dave, an exile from God’s own county – fair enough,as I was told if you must have two miserable Yorkshiremen on site, then they might as well work together! I think we made a good team as we replaced a seat in one of the train compartments and I  reflected that the last time I did this job was half a world away in an LMS Brake 3rd back at the NRM – and how wonderful to be doing it here at Atlantic Rail. All too soon it was time for a break and a wonderful opportunity to have a chat with the lads about railways and a crash course on South African history. Then after a bite to eat it was time to light up Loco 3655 with Kenny and Wayne- and as well, a chance to chat into the early hours – I never tire of lighting locos – its always a thrill to bring one to life, as metal expands and water boils – the beast wakes from its slumbers and begins to breath – she was breathing steadily by 3 am and I retired to the sleeping car.

I awoke to the sound of shunting and grabbed my camera and set off out on to the tracks – grabbed a few shots before tracking down a shower and breakfast, but not before I marvelled at 3655 in daylight – what a handsome loco from a company that supplied not only the world with locos but also the UK with such engines as the ‘Scotch Arthurs’,A3’s, B17’s and B1’s – now just a distant memory with our locos coming from General Motors and our units from Hitachi! Soon it was time for a chat with Stefan, who told me I was to be a train steward on the run to Simon’s Town, and a chance to pay Matt my subscription followed by a quick visit to the sales stand. Then I was welcoming visitors aboard and once underway helping them across the connection to the next carriage, opening windows for them and answering their questions – but I was still getting chance to enjoy the ride – new scenery and, new for me, the wonderful wooden bodied rolling stock (so pleased to hear you are getting some more) and of course the sight and sound of the loco. So many things caught my attention that day – the narrow gauge, by British standards, which still maintained a generous loading gauge and the speed and efficiency of buck-eye couplings for example.

We had already visited Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town but this still didn’t prepare for the sheer exhilaration of travelling to them along the ocean’s edge, and with glorious weather the perfect highlight to a perfect day, for upon my arrival at Simon’s Town I was whisked away to rejoin my wife on the rest of our trip – to Gordon’s Bay, Strand, a fair-trade winery near Rawsonville and the humbling experience of spending time in Khayelitsha. 

At the end of another hectic week we had a little time for sight-seeing and caught the metro-train from Fish Hoek to Cape Town – Susan had chance to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Cape Town station and catch a glimpse of the two locos at rest at Monument Station as well, appreciating just what I had been going on about for the past week!

Then it was time for the long journey home, we had a truly wonderful experience in South Africa which has left us with a deep longing to return – we were told that ‘Africa calls you back’, it certainly does- but until we do return I shall continue to extol the joys of Atlantic Rail to everyone I can – thank you all for your warm hospitality and for a truly memorable railway experience.  

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To be a Peregrinus

Susan Binks

When Susan took a special visitor from Africa round as many Northern historic religious sites as could be crammed into a fortnight they found themselves becoming transformed from tourists into pilgrims. Here Susan reflects upon the ancient Christian tradition of pilgrimage - the outer journey and the inner journey. The article first appeared in East End News : The Deanery of Northern Ryedale.

When Fr. Richard Martin, Archdeacon of Kalk Bay, False Bay Diocese, South Africa rang six weeks before the Trinity Sunday Ordination Service in York Minster to say that he would be coming over to support me at the service I was absolutely delighted. Richard had been my Supervisor while I was on placement in Kalk Bay through the Diocesan Companion Link; I knew that his presence would make a special day even more special, though neither of us has anticipated that we ordinands would process out of the ‘jaws of hell’ (York Minster was in the midst of its preparations for The Mystery Plays). Richard met again Bishop Paul and Pauline Percy who had also visited False Bay in autumn 2015. However Richard and I were both completely caught off guard when his stay in Yorkshire became something even more wonderful than the expression of the joys of the Companion Link; it became a Holy Pilgrimage.

 On the way home to Kirkdale from  Manchester Airport we slipped quietly into the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield with its close association with South Africa – with Trevor Huddleston and Desmond Tutu. Later that evening we were in Lastingham for the Installation of Bishop Bill. Over the next two weeks we walked and we walked: St Gregory’s Minster, Rievaulx, Pickering, Whitby, Durham and Lindisfarne; and in York Minster we inevitably were drawn into the Archbishop’s Pilgrimage as it came to a formal close at the Ordination Service. Gradually the outer journey became an inner journey.

The whole idea of making a pilgrimage is very powerful and one that seems to have captured people’s minds in so many different times and places. In medieval times, the shrines of St Thomas à Becket in Canterbury, Edward the Confessor in Westminster, and the little house of Mary in Walsingham were the great pilgrimage destinations. Here in England, even post-Reformation, the idea of the pilgrim journey continued to grip the imagination – as Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the great classics of English Puritan spirituality, clearly shows. People have gone on pilgrimage quite simply because there are such things as very special places. Read any biography of George McLeod, who restored the great Abbey Church and founded a new community on Iona, and you find him constantly describing the island of Iona as just such a ‘thin place’; a place of tangible prayer and service, where the veil between time and eternity, between the physical and the spiritual, between this world and the Other, between humanity and God, is just that – very thin – almost transparent. It’s a place where you are just very close to God. Travelling to Holy Island, with a fellow and beloved Christian from the Southern Hemisphere - treading in the footprints of the Northern Saints, contenplating the sculpture of Cuthbert's Pall Bearers, the look-out, the lonely hut where Cuthbert withdrew into devotional solitude – I caught my breath and Richard caught his breath and said: ‘In this place people have prayed, you can feel it in the stones and truly God is in this place.’ Pilgrimages are journeys to ‘thin places’, places of encounter with God.

But it isn’t just the destination of the pilgrimage that is important, but the process: what actually happens on the way to these places matters as well. Perhaps the first thing that seems to happen is learning. To travel on with a wide variety of different people from different places, with different experiences and different stories, but united in a common hope, if you allow it, will always be an education and transformation in itself. It becomes a way of opening windows of fresh understanding on to others, on to oneself, and on to God.

Spending time with the same people, really getting to know them, sharing their joys and sorrows, really entering into their lives, and letting them into yours, begins to produce that precious thing called fellowship, something which goes beyond mere friendship (valuable as that may be), but becomes a deep sense of belonging to one another, a real sense of mutual responsibility for one another’s lives; a new community and a common participation in the Holy Spirit of God.

In the past, one of the great merits of making a pilgrimage was that they enabled you to travel steadily and slowly, without rushing, and when that happens it allows time to think, to develop, to meditate , and to pray. I think we would have liked to have travelled more slowly than we actually did, but the time we had and shared had great elasticity, a special suspended quality. The Celtic church talked about Peregrini, pilgrims who travelled slowly quite content to ‘waste time with God’; in our contemporary culture this is perhaps the most vital ingredient of all. A pilgrimage needs time: time to linger, time to listen, time to let go and let God. Stillness, prayer and simplicity all constitute the deep bedrock along which any committed spiritual traveller dedicated to following in the way of Christ must go. Being ‘Peregrini’, having time for real encounter- this is the starting point, the vital first steps of reconnection with self, with others and with God.

A true pilgrimage is never just an outer one; it takes us deep into an inner pilgrimage, an inner journey of discovery and transformation.  But that journey is always the most difficult, which is why like so many of the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it is easier to keep it all at a distance, so that what we may call ‘ a pilgrimage’ becomes in reality no different to any other journey we make day by day. But when a journey is a true pilgrimage, a place of encounter with God, a place of encounter with others, a time of learning and change, it is not only the pilgrims themselves that are affected, but those whom they meet on the way as well.

Talking to Richard after his return to Kalk Bay, I think he would say that the return journey is probably even more important than the outward one; because on the return journey we do the work of reflection on what we have experienced and begin to integrate it with the life to which we are returning at home. The journey doesn’t stop with our departure or even on return to our homes. For the Christian, the one who is in Christ, the pilgrimage cannot stop anywhere short of heaven. The medieval pilgrims who came to kneel at Cuthbert’s shrine knew this full well. The destination of their earthly pilgrimage was there most of all to offer them a glimpse of heaven, but the journey in Christ, to be with Christ in the heavenly banquet went on; as ours does too.

We are called to be pilgrims to travel and linger with Christ, in a way that enables us to go on learning, and to go on growing to reflect more fully the life of Christ in us as we continue to journey through all the trials and tribulations of this world. We hold on to our destination and hope, which is that final place of true encounter with God, where we shall see him face to face, in his kingdom and his glory, his majesty and his might, for ever and ever. Amen.

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THE LORD’S PRAYER IN ANGLO-SAXON OF THE 10TH CENTURY

Fæder ure, ðu ðe eart on heofonum,

Father our, thou that art in the heavens,

Si ðin nama gehalgod.

be thy name hallowed.

Tobecume ðin rice,

may it come, thy kingdom,

Gewurde ðin willa on eorþan,

may it be realised, thy will on the earth,

swa swa on heofonum.

as also in the heavens.

Urne gedægwhamlican hlaf syle us todæg.

Our daily loaf give us today.

And forgyf us ure gyltas,

And forgive us our guilts

swa swa we forgyfaþ urum gyltendum.

as also we forgive those guilty towards us.

And ne gelæd ðu us on costnunge,

And do not thou lead us into temptation

ac alys us of yfele.

But free us from evil.

Soþlice.

Verily.

[The sounds represented by ð (called ‘eth’) and þ (called ‘thorn’) would be represented in modern English by ‘th’]

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Residential Pilgrimage to Holy Island

 Monday-Friday, 12-16 September 2016

>>>>> Report <<<<<

A group of seventeen pilgrims, Friends of St Gregory's Minster and parishioners, gathered in St Gregory's Minster at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 12th September for a short act of dedication to the pilgrimage, concluding with the Kirkdale Pilgrim's Prayer (Forth we now fare: may we meet with friends, / And ever dwell in the Almighty's peace, / Defended from foes that would fetter the soul, / Safely encompassed by angel hosts, / And held in heaven-Ruler's holy hand / for the while that we wend in this world. Amen) - and a blessing.

The party then departed in several cars to reassemble at St Hilda's Church, The Headland, Hartlepool, which is on or near the site of the double monastery ruled over by the Abbess Hilda (later of Whitby) in the 7th century. There a warm welcome and a generous buffet lunch awaited us, followed by a guided tour of the ancient and beautiful church dedicated to Hilda, which served as valuable groundwork for the programme planned for Holy Island.

Thus well fortified in body and spirit we proceeded onwards and northwards to Holy Island. Since our last visit, Marygate House has been extensively refurbished and upgraded - notably with new and additional toilets and showers. No longer could we pose (if we were ever tempted to) as pilgrims fittingly roughing it a bit on our spiritual journey: we were on the brink of being well and truly cossetted by Wardens Sam and Don Quilty and their staff.

Most of our programme was followed through as planned - organised communal events being interspersed with periods for pilgrims to choose their own occupations on the Island. It was a disappointment, though, that a sea-fret - which might better have been called a dense fog - rolled in on the afternoon we had planned to make the crossing to the Farne Islands. All sailings were cancelled. There were compensations, however. One carload set off to visit Lord Armstrong’s remarkable residence at Cragside. The others decided to look for St Cuthbert’s Cave high in the mainland hills near nowhere in particular - and it was there (near nowhere in particular) that we came close to admitting we were lost. But finally, with the guidance of a wonderfully helpful Parcel Force van - the only other sign of human life we met on our lonely way - and after a sturdy uphill walk through moorland and forest, we found it - the place where, according to tradition, the St Cuthbert community had rested overnight with the precious body of St Cuthbert, on one of their long wanderings before Cuthbert himself indicated he wanted his permanent resting place on the headland over the River Wear where Durham Cathedral now shelters his grave. An impressive natural cave at the foot of a great limestone cliff, it proved well worth the trek to reach it.

And as for the seals we didn’t get to see out among the Farne Islands - well, we were convinced they came to see us instead. In their hundreds, all along the sandbanks uncovered by the receding tide, all whooping in an unmusical and yet melodious chorus - specially for the benefit of us, we felt sure, clustered on Hobthrush island. And when we walked round Holy Island to Emmanuel Head and gathered on the low cliff-top to sing together out into the North Sea, there was our audience of seals again, bobbing their heads up out of the water - and sea-birds of various sorts, flying back and forth, skimming and plunging, or swimming, singly or in flotillas, seemingly well entertained by our ad hoc choir. One thing we learned there: St Cuthbert could never have felt lonely out in his hermitage on that little island among the Farnes. Nor was he wanting for supporters in voicing his wonderment at God’s creation: little fleets of eider ducks - Cuddie’s Ducks - bobbed about, making their endearing Ooooh! calls, as though expressing amazement at every bit of seaweed they encountered on their way.

We took the Island’s blessing with us when we left and we in our turn took gifts for St Cuthbert - a few flowers and shells from his Lindisfarne, to lay on his grave in Durham Cathedral on the way home. Nor did we neglect to stand and commune a little while with the bones of Bede the Venerable in his tomb in the Galilee Chapel there. Hac sunt in fossa Bedae Venerabilis ossa - the bones in this tomb are those of the Venerable Bede - Bede, who, during our pilgrimage, had given us so much to learn and reflect upon about our national history and the laying of the foundations of the Church of the English.

It was in the magnificent cathedral of Durham, raised to shelter the body of Cuthbert, in the feretory, around his grave, that we formally ended our pilgrimage.

 

Bede on the ministry of women

Extract from a talk being part of the Friends’ & Benefice Pilgrimage to Holy Island September 2016

The Visit of the Women to the Sepulchre from the 10th-Century Benedictional of St Æthelwold (British Library). The woman on the left carries pots or boxes of spices; the woman on the right swings a liturgical censer. The Angel sits on the fallen slab which had previously sealed the tomb. Behind in a coffin-shaped rectangle lies the cast-off shroud. To the extreme left the Roman soldiers sleep, off guard.

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In writing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the Venerable Bede was creating an identity for the ‘nation’ of the English, based upon the unifying acknowledgement of one Church of the English (the foundation of which was, as Bede aimed to demonstrate, purposed by the Divine Providence). In this work and in his other writings Bede sought to shape the teachings and practice of the Church of the English upon the authority of the acknowledged Fathers of the Universal Church. Among his sources, naturally enough, he featured prominently the writings of Gregory the Great, Apostle of the English (and Patron of the church in Kirkdale!), whom the English called Gregorius noster - our Gregory.

In this example - from Bede’s ‘exposition’ of the Gospel of St Mark, drawing upon Gregory’s homily upon the same Gospel - Bede is intent upon embedding in the awareness and the tradition of the Church of the English the wisdom and insight of Gregory in esteeming the ministry of faithful women who were the followers of Jesus.[1]

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When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’

- Mark 16: 1-6 (New International Version UK).

Bede, having quoted some of this narrative, then interrupts his exposition, to exclaim: O felices feminae, quae angelico doctae oraculo, triumphum resurrectionis mundo annuntiare meruerunt! - O blessed women who, informed by the angelic oracle, were held worthy to announce to the world the triumph of the resurrection.

I wouldn’t dare to rank the events of sacred history in any precise order of priority but Bede for his part regarded Easter as the point in the year at which the motions of Earth, Sun and Moon, even Time itself, were divinely configured, year upon year, to mark the triumph of the Resurrection. And these women meruerunt - they merited - to be those who should announce to the world, to all posterity, that triumph of Christ’s victory over Death, in his glorious resurrection from the dead.

Why did these women merit this historically singular distinction? Because, says Bede, in the dawning of the first day of the week following the Passover, they journeyed - perilously and fearfully - to the sepulchre of their executed and hastily entombed Master, determined to minister humanely to him, being dead, whom living they had loved. The men - his disciples - were evidently lying low for the time being, in Jerusalem. But these women knew what their love for Jesus, their Master, required of them, even after his death. And so, mourning and fearful but resolute, they ventured forth at first light, bearing spices, to fulfil the ministry they owed to their Master.

O felices feminae! This is some accolade for the gender which for generations had been conventionally burdened with the blame incurred by Eve at the Fall.

In Bede’s familiar awareness there already was, of course, another woman in the sacred narratives who merited to be called blessed - Mary, mother of Jesus: “All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is His name.”

Among the great symmetries which Christian scholars have found in the scriptural writings, just as Jesus is perceived as the second Adam - but one who made good the disobedience of the first Adam - so Mary has been perceived as the second Eve - but one who made good the first Eve’s disobedience, when she gave her momentous assent: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.

I haven’t actually tried tracking this idea of the ‘second Eve’ back to Bede, but it is certainly, and distinctively, an idea current through the Anglo-Saxon period in the ambience of the Anglo-Saxon monasteries. Anglo-Saxon poets (successors to Cædmon, composing in the English tongue) picked up the topic. When (in the Anglo-Saxon poem known as Christ & Satan) Christ descends into Hell to liberate all the souls imprisoned there by Satan, Eve successfully pleads pardon for her calamitous disobedience, by virtue of her ‘daughter’ Mary:

… ræhte þa mid handum    to heofencyninge, / bæd meotod miltse    þurh Marian had: / “Hwæt, þu fram minre dohtor,    drihten, onwoce / in middangeard    mannum to helpe.”

Then she stretched out her hands to the Heaven-king and begged grace of the Lord by virtue of Mary’s standing: “Lo, Lord, by my daughter you were born into this world, to men’s succour.” (Christ and Satan 435-38). [Transl. SAJB]

Through Mary - so another Anglo-Saxon poet exclaims (The Advent Lyrics, 4)[2] - the formerly lowlier sex has now been exalted.

Christ revealed in David’s dear kinswoman [Mary] that the sin of Eve is entirely set aside and the curse averted and the lowlier sex is glorified. Hope is now conceived that a blessing may now and always rest upon both alike, men and women, henceforth to eternity. [Transl. SAJB]

My Anglo-Saxon studies led me (as they have led various other Anglo-Saxonists) into 19th-century studies. One of the earliest European scholars to tackle the serious study of Anglo-Saxon poetry in the 19th century was the Dane N. F. S. Grundtvig - a very important man in modern Danish history: a protestant pastor brimming with contempt for the papacy in Rome, yet extraordinarily sympathetic to the catholic character of the Anglo-Saxon Church and its poetry. He was a huge admirer of Bede the historian; and he taught himself Anglo-Saxon so that he could read the Anglo-Saxon poets.

Often well out of step with the almost exclusively patriarchal Lutheran Protestantism of his contemporary Denmark, Grundtvig wrote a very lengthy poem he called Kvinde-Evangeliet (1842) - the Women’s Gospel. In this work he declared:  Ye streams of tears, flow freely! / Yea, pour forth over dust / for the Church, devoid of women, / as a grove devoid of leaves! 

This verse of his long lay dormant - but then, a century onwards, it was quoted by the two Danish bishops who, in 1948, ordained the first three women priests in the Danish Church. And furthermore: on that occasion, Bishop Øllgaard, Bishop of the island of Fyn, cited in his ordination sermon, “the Easter Gospel, where the angel at the sepulchre ordained the women [“ordinerede kvinderne”]” and sent them forth with the charge to go and make known the triumph of the resurrection.[3]

This, in the mid-twentieth century ... and yet not so far from Bede’s commendation to the still-stripling Church of the English, back in the early 700s, faithfully following Gregorius noster - our Gregory: O felices feminae, quae meruerunt … O blessed women who merited to be those that should reveal to the world the triumph of the Resurrection!

But it was to be a long time before the Church of the English took onwards Bede’s idea of a ministry of women and resolved to ordain women to the priesthood.

- Sid Bradley, co-leader of the pilgrimage with Revd Andrew De Smet

© S A J Bradley 2016

 

[1] Bede, In Marci Evangelium Expositio, ed. D. Hurst, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 1960, pp. 639-40. Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Evangelia, ed. R. Étaix, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 1999. Note Mark 15, vv. 40-41: Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,d]">[d] and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

[2] Advent Lyric 4 is one of a series of free renditions in Old English verse of the Church’s Advent ‘O’-antiphons - in this case the Latin antiphon O virgo virginum. Here, Mary responds to the wonderment of the daughters of Jerusalem over the “divine mystery” whereby a virgin could conceive a child. The wondrous symmetry by which Eve’s calamitous disobedience is made good by Mary’s perfection of obedience to the Father’s will has been celebrated in many forms throughout Christian culture since the early Christian centuries - for example, through the concept of the felix culpa, according as that ‘happy/blessed fault’ - the Fall - is hailed in the Church’s Exsultet of Easter Eve. Incidentally, the felices of felices feminae and the felix of felix culpa are the same word in different grammatical contexts.

[3] Cited by Henning Høirup, Så fjern og dog så nær, Poul Kristensens Forlag, Herning, Denmark, 1991, pp. 165-66. [Transl. SAJB].

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OPERATION NOAH

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE PURPOSES OF GOD:

A CALL TO THE CHURCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The likelihood of runaway global warming, which will diminish food security,
accelerate the extinction of huge numbers of species and make human life itself
impossible in some parts of the world, raises questions that go to the heart of our
Christian faith.
What should our relationship be with God as both the origin and the end of all
things? How do we balance our energy and material consumption with the needs of
the poorest communities, and of future generations and other species? How do we
sustain hope in the midst of fear and denial? How can we encourage global
cooperation, challenge unsustainable economic systems and change our lifestyles?
These fundamental questions prompt this urgent call to the Church.


FIND JOY IN CREATION!
‘How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…
May the Lord rejoice in his works.’
(Psalm 104:24, 31)
According to the witness of our Scriptures, everything that we have, life and the means of
life, comes to us as gift. This is the ground of our worship. The beauty and harmony of
God’s creation is for all cultures a source of human wellbeing, spiritual nourishment and
joy. Christians understand God’s relation to creation in three ways. All reality comes from
God the Father; the flourishing of the earth and its future are foundational to the mission of
God (and therefore to the Church’s mission). God embraces material reality in Jesus in
whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). God the Spirit gives life to all reality at all
times and in all places. ‘The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit’
(Romans 5:5) overflows in our love and care for all God’s creatures.


LISTEN!
‘I appointed watchmen over you and said; “Listen to the sound of the trumpet!”’ (Jeremiah
6:17)
In recent decades, and with increasing urgency, climate scientists have warned of the
dangers of catastrophic climate change resulting from human activity. Instability in weather
systems is already bringing destruction and suffering to millions of people. In the light of
the best knowledge we have, climate change could result in the loss of livelihoods and
sometimes of life for huge numbers of people and the extinction of countless species. This
matters because the well-being of all creation matters to God (Psalm 145:9).
Prophets are those who speak truth, usually uncomfortable truth, to their generation. In
ancient Israel, prophets were always shadowed by false prophets, representing the ruling
powers. We must listen to the scientists warning us of approaching dangers, exercise
discernment, and be wary of ‘false prophets’ representing the vested interests of the
powerful.


REPENT!
‘Jesus said; “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe
the good news!”’
(Mark 1:14-15)
Continuing to pollute the atmosphere when we know the dangers, goes against what we
know of God’s ways and God’s will. We are failing to love not only the earth, but our
neighbours and ourselves, who are made in God's image. God grieves over the destruction
of creation and so should we. Repentance means finding creative, constructive and
immediate ways of addressing the danger. It happens when God’s Spirit enables a change
of mind and change of heart, prompting a turn from past wrong and a decision to change
direction. For our generation, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels has become
essential to Christian discipleship.


TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!
‘The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish
with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated
the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.’
(Isaiah 24:4-5)
Humans, made in God’s image, have unique responsibility for the wellbeing of creation
(Genesis 1:26, 2:15). We are to care for the earth because it is gift, the product of God’s
love. No sparrow falls without God knowing. Humanity has always had the capacity to
destroy our environment, but today we have this to an unprecedented extent. Whereas
previous generations did not know the damage they were causing, we do. We must use
our power wisely to promote the flourishing of future generations and the diversity of life
on earth. This is the responsibility of every Church and every believer.


ACT JUSTLY!
‘He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains
will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the
afflicted among the people, and save the children of the needy; he will crush the
oppressor.’
(Psalm 72:2-4)
God is just and requires justice in response from us. This justice applies to poor
communities already suffering the devastating consequences of climate change, to future
generations, and to all other creatures. The prophets put economic behaviour at the
forefront of their call to justice. The primary driver of human induced climate change is the
belief that prosperity depends on limitless consumption of the earth’s resources. Today, the
challenge is to seek a different, sustainable economy, based on the values of human
flourishing and the well-being of all creation, not on the assumption of unlimited economic
growth, on overconsumption, exploitative interest and debt.
To seek justice for all, for present and future generations, our authorities must encourage
and enable all people to live fairly and sustainably. Acting justly requires us to hold our
governments and corporations to account.


LOVE OUR NEIGHBOURS!
‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the
Law and the Prophets.’
(Matthew 7:12)
Christ teaches us to love all our neighbours, not just our own family and friends. This love
extends to our grandchildren and future generations. People in poor communities are
mostly innocent of any role in causing climate change, whilst the nations that pollute the
most, refuse to accept their responsibilities. Loving our neighbour requires us to reduce our
consumption of energy for the sake of Christ, who suffers with those who suffer. To live
simply and sustainably contributes significantly to human flourishing. As the nations fight
over dwindling energy resources, Christians need to bear witness that the way to life, and
not death, is the way of non-retaliation. In the future, Christians may also be called to
receive into their communities refugees forced to leave their lands through climate change.

ACT WITH HOPE!
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may
overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
(Romans 15:13)
Hope in God motivates us to take action that can lead to transformation, for by God’s
power at work within us, God is able to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine.
Despite the strong probability of very serious effects from global warming, for Christians
despair is not an option. It is when we follow Christ and the way of the Cross, in response
to his grace, that we experience the God of hope who gives us joy and peace. We are
called to faith and action in trusting response to the God made known by the Holy Spirit in
the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord of all life. As Christians we can live in
hope, despite the dangers that threaten us.
Through God we hope for new life for all creation (Romans 8:19-25). Our planet, made
new by the meeting of heaven and earth, will have an abiding value in the purpose of God
(Revelation 21:1-5). We are called to live and work with hope in response to God’s gift, and
in the light of God’s future: the promised coming of Christ’s reign over all.


O God, who set before us the great hope that your Kingdom shall come on earth and
taught us to pray for its coming: give us grace to discern the signs of its dawning and to
work for the perfect day when the whole world shall reflect your glory; through Jesus Christ
our Lord.

(Percy Dearmer)


This Declaration from Operation Noah is supported by:
The Most Revd and Rt Hon Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College Cambridge
Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
Mrs Val Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
The Revd Lionel E Osborn, President of the Conference of the Methodist Church
The Rt Revd David Arnott, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Revd Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge
Ellen Teague, Chair, National Catholic Justice & Peace Environment Group
The Most Revd Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown
The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Lord Bishop of London
The Most Revd Kallistos, Metropolitan of Diokleia
The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Most Revd Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales


Please add your signature of support online at www.operationnoah.org.


For a range of resources and responses based around this Call, please go to:
www.operationnoah.org