|SITEZINE: HOLY ISLAND'S E-MAIL MAGAZINE
||1st March 2017|
- A bit from me...
- Crossman Hall
- Lindisfarne Castle
- Long-distance Barn Owl amazes the experts
- Natural England Lindisfarne NNR
- Peregrini Lindisfarne landscape partnership
- From the Open Gate
- News from Ford & Etal
- From our United Reformed Church minister
- From the Vicarage
- Parish Diary
- St Cuthbert's Centre Diary
- Pause for thought
|A BIT FROM ME
May I welcome you to our March issue of
'Sitezine' - our stay in touch newsletter.
a huge thank you to Scottish Power
for providing generators whilst the island power cable was repaired
- seemingly accidental damage during ongoing causeway improvements.
Secondly, this recent picture shows
that our county council still have a long way to go before the road to the island
reaches an acceptable standard for residents - and the 600,000 visitors that
will be crossing during 2017.
On this fine February day with the tide
fully out, you can 'imagine' where the road markings might be -
you are aware of recent flotsam. But whether the tide is coming in or going
out - in neither case would you be able to detect underlying potholes
in time to avoid them?
This is the time of year when our schools have half-term
holidays. The weather was much as you see in the photo
although, regardless of the weather, the island was well-filled with holiday traffic. Certainly for a few
days we did experience strong winds from 'Storm Doris'. Fortunately, the cyclone
passed well to the south.
Last month I passed on a
movie clip produced by professional drone operators 'SkyImage'. This month,
I met Bruce Ferguson of 'Wild North Discovery' who has a
host of instructor skills including foraging which he demonstrated,
across the water on Bamburgh beach, in a TV
snippet taken from the Robson Green programme, 'Further Tales
from Northumberland'. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did www.natureholiday.co.uk.
Paradoxically, whilst we have seen the largest
number of new subscribers in over a year, this month has seen hardly
any reader-feedback. In 'staying in touch' with the community
new subscribers are given the opportunity to list
specific interests. To the best of our ability
and resources we try to keep these in mind. Our readers
come from a vast range of backgrounds and it will never be
possible to please everybody. But without your feedback
we have no way of measuring how well (or not
so well!) we are doing.... But as subscriber numbers continue to increase - we are probably doing
Finally, thank you to all our writers who
have given their time to help you stay in
touch with us on Holy Island. We
hope that you enjoy the fruit of our work and look forward to getting in touch
In the meantime, may our best wishes go with you.
!! STOP PRESS - Northumberland Business Awards!!
Emma has just written to let us know that
after being short-listed, she was delighted to receive the
prestigeous 'Creative Industries Award' at the Northumberland
Business awards which were held at Linden Hall earlier
Very well done Emma!
Emma's work can be seen at 'Emma Rothera Photography': www.yourbeautifulphotography.com
Although this review of February's events is short, rather a lot has happened.
First the good news; we now have authorisation to use some of our under-spend from the
BLF Grant to acquire and install the kitchen. So when this work is completed,
at last the heart of our new hall will start to beat.
Following a series of meetings to review and discuss
costs, requirements and suppliers with our Contractor the layout has been agreed and tender
accepted, the kitchen will be installed and in working order before Easter.
The Bar/Serving area, all part of the contract
has to be minimalist because of limited funding, but it will be functional and
we are all looking forward to the conclusion of the whole contract.
I have recently nagged our Solicitor
to seek an early conclusion to acquisition of the Easement across neighbouring land to
install the new rainwater drain from the Hall to the main sewer.
Additionally, there are also one or two snagging jobs
and these should be completed when the Contractor is back on site.
We have had positive and very helpful
feedback from a group of locals who wish to develop the fitness
space. The proposal will cater for all; from tots to the not so
young. I have drafted a funding bid that when successful will build
on our acquired equipment and provide a range of exercise and games. Fingers crossed
and thanks to Kirsty J who reviewed the equipment and games requirements.
As we approach Spring Cleaning time or is that a thing of the past...?
If you are clearing out or want to empty a
box or two of old photographs. We would love to have any pictures of
the old hall and the events that were held there. Or, if your
photographs are special to you, let us have the option to
borrow them and have them copied. Please contact any of the Trustees to arrange
collection or leave them at the Oasis with your name. Thank you.
HELP, VACANCY: We urgently
need a Booking Secretary. I took on the role as we brought the hall
up to speed, as well as running with the technical management
issues. I can no longer do both jobs. The Booking Secretary should have access to a PC
and a spare hour or two a week and there will of course be
support from the Trustees. Please let Sue know if you can help.
Thank you all
As the scaffold creeps ever higher up the north side of the Castle, work is progressing on schedule inside.
Protection works to the castle fabric are completed and approved
so now we are happy that no historic features can get damaged in the
work. St Astier - the stone masons - have been working on the mainly
on the lower floor recently and have completed stripping out and
raking joints in the walls. They have also prepared samples of the
finish in the Ship Room passage along with packing and pinning voids
in the wall and sneck-pointing the surface (thick mortar joins with
only the tips of stones showing through). The painters have been in
although in this case they have been removing old imporous paints
from walls rather than putting new paint on (that comes much
later!). In some areas they have been able to uncover stones covered
over under layers of paint which really were meant to be seen; such
as large lintels above fireplaces, window margins, and quoin stones
around doorways. The glaziers have also been to the Castle to remove
windows for the first phase of refurbishment (i.e. those accessible
from the batteries or the scaffold). As part of this refurbishment
there will also be installation of new opening windows which should
help with ventilation in the future - although you could argue that
opening a door at each end of the Castle usually results in a fair
bit of ventilation!
While all this work is going on
indoors the electricians are laying cables to replace older fittings
as well as chases to new sockets, spurs and light fittings. In the
past we have had surface mounted cable on the floors which have been
pointed in to the skirting (Ship Room and Dining Room especially);
this pointing is regularly damaged by visitors feet so bright orange
cabling often greeted visitors below the windows. These cables are
now under the floor, with the stone flags and bricks having been
carefully lifted and replaced, revealing some nice Lutyens-period
numbering in the process. This also revealed an old Victorian drain
- complete with bird bones - under the Dining Room floor; which we
knew was there from plans but no-one would have seen it for well
over a century.
The scaffolding on the south and east sides of the Castle are now
signed off and so are usable by the contractors, although until the
weather improves the main use will be removing materials down the
south side in the hoist, which can manage 300kg at a time. External
work to the walls will start soon though, as soon as the internals
are completed fully. The north side scaffold is something else
entirely; the gentler north slope requires a far bigger construction
than that which towers over the steeper south slope. Judging by what
has gone up already it is easy to see just how massive it will be
when complete. Even with such a huge system, what always baffles me
is just how accurate the design is; the north scaffold clicked
perfectly into the eastern construction (built back in December)
almost without a fuss, this being made possible by the
millimetre-accurate measurements made of the site by laser back in
the summer 2016. A date for the diary for those of you nearby would
be the week of the 20th March; that is when it is planned to put the
temporary roof on the scaffold, allowing repairs to the castle roof
01289 389244 (press 1, then
| LONG-DISTANCE BARN OWL AMAZES THE EXPERTS
Barn Owls are the most wonderful birds to watch as they silently
glide with heads down scanning the grass
for voles and mice, often well lit by low sun towards dusk.
We are very lucky on the island to be able to see them regularly and there can be few folk
who walk out in late afternoons who haven't
come across them. People like me who've studied and
ringed owls for many years think we know them well. But they
can come up with some very big surprises as I've just discovered.
Any bird book will tell you
that Barn Owls are the most sedentary of creatures, seldom moving very far from
their birthplaces. For example, only two of more
than 1,399 owls marked by the Northumbria Ringing Group,
of which I'm a member, have been found over 100 km from
their birthplaces. Most recoveries involve birds which have travelled no more 20km.
This unwillingness to move, even when food is
scarce, can often be fatal. Barn Owls will try to sit out any shortages
and often starve as a consequence. Owls across
a wide area of upland Northumberland were wiped out
during the harsh winters of 2011 and 2012 when weeks of snow
cover sealed off their food supplies. Those populations have still to recover.
Coastal birds like ours are luckier. Even in the worst of
conditions, snow doesn't last long and they still seem able to find
food in the slightly milder conditions we enjoy compared with inland districts.
Because of their essentially stay-at-home lifestyles,
I didn't get too excited when a couple
of birding friends, Alan Hall and Steve Rippon, regular
Sunday visitors to the island, rang me to say they'd found a
ringed Barn Owl lying dead against the side of the Lough hide.
Knowing that I've been ringing Barn Owls on the island
since 2008 when breeding resumed after a
gap of half a century, they assumed it was one of mine.
Later that day they delivered the pathetic
corpse. From severe injuries to one of its wings and flanks, the poor thing
appeared to have been hurled by the wind
against the side of the hide, presumably while try
to hunt. This was the day after that memorable northerly gale and
tide surge which sheared through the concrete posts at the Causeway bridge.
On checking the ring number I realised that it wasn't one of mine.
I e-mailed three other groups of ringer who mark large numbers of Barn Owls
on the mainland and drew a blank from
them. My next thought was that perhaps it was
a bird from the Scottish side of the Tweed which had wandered
a short distance to the island. So I still wasn't too concerned.
I submitted the details to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which
organises ringing nationally so the number could be
checked through its computerised system. I received an instant
query asking whether there was a main road running past the Lough.
Obviously no-one at the BTO had bothered to look at a map!
The reason for the question was understandable. A few
long-distance recoveries have been attributed to owls being hit
by vehicles and their bodies carried for many miles wedged in radiator
grills and other crevices before falling off and being found at roadsides.
When I submitted further details of the location of the Lough and the previous night's storm, the
BTO immediately accepted the record. I was amazed
to be told that the Lough owl had ringed
last August from a nest 401km southwards at Landbeach in Cambridgeshire and
was among the top ten longest movements ever recorded for the species.
Since then the ringer, also amazed and more
than a little excited, has been in touch.
He's a member of a big group in southern
England ringing over 1,000 owls annually most of which don't go far.
A Barn Owl which travelled so far was totally exceptional for him.
In local terms it's also a record breaker. The
previous longest distance to or
from Northumberland was a Barn Owl ringed
near Morpeth and recovered at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, a distance of 255km.
Since then I've spent a bit of time and accessed the BTO's details of Barn Owl
movements. Most of them involve the expected very short
distances but there are some notable exceptions. One bird moved the Highlands
to Pembrokeshire, a distance of 624km, and several have crossed into Europe.
However, all pale into insignificance with a Barn Owl ringed in
Oxfordshire in 2005 which was found freshly dead in Afghanistan a year
later, having travelled a staggering 5834km. That's what I call a record-breaker.
Until now whenever I've watched Barn Owls on the island I have always
assumed they were our regular breeding birds or perhaps just visitors from
breeding sites on the near mainland. Perhaps it's time for a rethink!
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
||Mhairi Maclauchlan |
I mentioned Alex leaving the Reserve last
month and we had one last volunteer day as a farewell for her.
We had been busy finishing managing vegetation in the Snook and
volunteers helped with raking and removal cut grass and reed.
This was followed by a guided walk by staff to show the areas of
grazing and what effect our cloven hooved friends had over the
winter. There were biscuits and a flask
involved as well!
As nights start to get lighter we've seen a
marked change in the Reserve. Smaller birds such as reed bunting
and skylark are becoming more vocal in the dunes particularly during
nice weather. Other birds such as eider are sprucing up
and their breeding colours are coming through in anticipation of the
next few months.
It's been a bit quiet for geese and wader
numbers of late as they start to think about return migrations.
Pink-footed geese on the other hand have been seen en-mass coming
out of roost at Goswick and the surrounding areas. They may be
birds using the Reserve as a stop of point before their
migration North. Lapwing and golden plover have seen in large
flocks at Budle and Shelduck have been one of the most numerous
birds on the Reserve - one you may have seen as you drive
across the causeway.
Finally we've put together our events
program for the year and it's available to be viewed on the blog
and facebook. We've got quite a few different events coming up for a
variety of ages so it's worth a look if you are in the area. A
couple that may be of interest in are guided history walks led
by volunteer and local historian John Woodhurst. In his first walk,
on the 9th April, he'll look at the 'lost buildings of
Lindifarne' and his second on the 16th April will be about St
Cuthbert - Lindisfarne's 1st nature warden. Booking is essential
for both and for more details have a look online.
Reserve Warden, Beal Station
01289 381 470
ED: Mhairi's blog and facebook page can be found at
|PEREGRINI LINDISFARNE LANDSCAPE PARTNERSHIP
Kippy Heugh gorse goes up in smoke!
Did you see the smoke from our gorse
bonfires? As part of our Whin Sill Geology and Grasslands Project,
11 Peregrini volunteers armed with loppers and bow saws have cleared
a large swathe of gorse from Kippy Heugh. Gorse was initially
introduced as an ornamental plant or hedge and has become an
invasive species due to its aggressive seed dispersal. It has
proved very difficult to eradicate and is detrimental in native habitats.
Kippy Heugh is one of a dozen outcrops and
dykes of whin in the Peregrini area. Most notably is the Lindisfarne
Heugh on Holy Island. In fact, Lindisfarne Heugh is one of the best
examples in Northumberland of a whin grassland that has formed as a
result of the poor soils overlying the geology, and the only example in the
Peregrini area not to be under threat from encroachment by gorse.
We'll be calling for volunteers to take part in plant and wildlife
surveys of the Heughs in the spring and early summer.
Stop Press ... Lindisfarne invaded by Vikings... again!
Belford First School sent 23 of their year 3 and 4 pupils to invade
the island last Wednesday as part of their Viking project.
Resourceful Peregrini staff created a 4.5 metre long Viking ship (from old
cardboard boxes) and helped the children to make their own shields,
all of which awaited them in the Old Lifeboat House.
The fun and games were helped along by Ragnar Hairy Breeks, a Viking King, and by Elizabeth Baker, storyteller.
The ship is being stored until the Peregrini volunteer conference on 4th March after which it
will be recycled - unless anyone has further use for it!?
Community Archaeology project
launches series of coastal walks
It'll be a busy month of the Community Archaeology project as they launch a series
of 5 coastal walks cover the stretch of the Peregrini coastline.
The purpose of the walks is to examine the
current status of known archaeological sites and hopefully find some
new areas for investigation later in the year. Training will be
given in searching for and basic recording of archaeological sites
in the landscape. The walks will be of 2-5 miles in length and
will require warm clothes, good boots and a packed lunch.
A match made in heaven!
Peregrini Lindisfarne and Natural England have joined
forces to deliver further sessions to our practical conservation programme.
Natural England is responsible for managing
the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve with Budle Bay sitting at
the most southern point of the reserve. The first session on March
16th will involve litter picking at Budle Bay
to help conserve this beautiful place and protect wildlife from
the vast amount of debris either washed up or thrown away.
To book your place contact Mhairi on 01289 381470
March events and activities
We have a total of 13 events happening in
March! For further information and booking requirements, as well as
our full list of events, please go to our website www.peregrinilindisfarne.org.uk/events/
Coastal Archaeology walks
Taking place on 3rd, 11th, 17th, 24th and 31st March
Various starts times and meeting points
Peregrini Annual Volunteer Conference
Saturday 4th March: 10.00am until 4.00pm
Holy Island Crossman Village Hall
Military Defence clean up sessions
Tuesday 14th, 21st and 28th March
10am starts at various sites
| FROM THE OPEN GATE
Pray Sirs if I have found favour with
you, do not pass by your servant; since you have come to your humble
servant, have a little water brought to wash your feet; then lie
down under the tree till I find you a bite of
Genesis 18 >
We have already enjoyed hosting our first
group of the year and the passage from Genesis is a real reminder of the ethos of the Open Gate and the dispersed
Community of Aidan and Hilda. One of the significant activities they
undertook was to walk the posts and it proved a real opportunity to serve and
to provide warm water, towels and hot drinks for them on their
Our next group are people who have
volunteered at the Open Gate over the past twelve months. Our
volunteers are drawn from members of our community who generously
give up their time to come and support the team on Holy Island and help provide a warm welcome and hospitality to our guests.
Volunteering has been an important aspect of life at the Open
Gate and this is now our turn to say a thank you to them and
let them experience life as a guest rather than cook and bottle
The above passage from Genesis is often
depicted in the Icon of Hospitality by Anton Rubilev which shows three figures seated around Abraham's table with a space at
the front. There are many interpretations of this icon; some see
it as the depiction of the passage from Genesis, others relate it to the Holy
Trinity representing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy
For me it becomes a representation of
hospitality and a constant reminder about what lies in the heart of
the Open Gate ethos. Hospitality is at the heart and must come from the heart. At the heart of the picture
is a table and this table is the place of Abraham's
hospitality and all are invited to sit and eat. Many of us open our tables
to those who visit this island and welcome them to sit and
One of the joys of the Open Gate is you
often never know who you are inviting to sit at your table; many come as strangers but leave as friends.
We seem to live in a society today that marginalises, a
society that wants to build barriers rather than break them down. True hospitality is about
not just giving food and drink but also about giving time and
In the seventh century, Caedmon who was a
herdsman on a farm somewhere near Whitby, felt himself to be an
outsider. But a fellow worker took the trouble to listen to his
dreams and helped him realise his potential. The Abbess Hilda gave him a home, a place where he could be affirmed
and cherished. This was the same Hilda that offered hospitality of
a different sort; offering leaders of opposing factions a place of friendship and nourishment to
try and reconcile their differences - this is a sign of true
We are called too to offer hospitality not only to humans but to
all God's creatures. There is the delightful story of Kevin of
Glendalough who was lying with outstretched arms during a Lent vigil. A blackbird built a
nest in his hand and maintained this position until the eggs were
Hospitality is the creation
of space in which the other person may feel secure, at
ease with himself or herself. This island, whilst small in size, opens itself up to
make space for all those who want to visit - hospitality in
(Warden at the Open Gate)
Community of Aidan and Hilda
|NEWS FROM FORD & ETAL
Attractions open for the season in late March, dates as follows:
steam engine "Bunty"
25th March: Heatherslaw Cornmill & Lady Waterford Hall
26th March: Heatherslaw Light Railway
1st April: Etal Castle
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre is already open daily (except Mondays) and
holds a monthly farmers' market on the 3rd Sunday of every month.
New for 2017 - HANDMADE AT HEATHERSLAW
This spring, Lorna & John Speight are moving their "Spirit of Colour" jewellery and Paper
Cut business to Heatherslaw, to the old Drying Kiln opposite Heatherslaw Cornmill.
Starting out in North Northumberland 20
years ago, the business move to Kirkarle in 2006 and
has gone from strength to strength. John and Lorna took
the decision to move back to this area last year and have
spent the winter getting their new premises ready to open in March.
Lorna and John, who is a third generation paper cut artist, will make all
of their jewellery and papercut designs on site. Visitors will
be able to see John at work, making his beautiful and delicate
designs in the shop. Lorna will also hold occasional jewellery making demonstrations.
The range of items they offer is constantly
growing and they welcome you to come along and have a browse and a
|FROM OUR UNITED REFORMED CHURCH MINISTER
As in all the churches on Holy Island prayer
is at the heart of all that we do at St Cuthbert's. Alongside our
daily prayer services, individuals come into our space to reflect
quietly, and many also find their way around the side of the
building to the small chapel in what was originally the church's
boiler house. Many people describle St Cuthbert's as feeling
like a 'prayed in building' and I am certainly aware of
our Presbyterian forbears who prayed there week in and week out.
March sees the start of Lent, a season of preparation for
Easter, which for many Christians involves a renewed focus on prayer.
In the Bible the disciples are recorded as
asking Jesus "Lord teach us how to pray" - he responds by sharing
the Lord's Prayer with them. The 'Our Father' is a prayer that
has been handed on from Christian to Christian and country to
country ever since - it is beyond my maths to work out how
many times it has been prayed, over the centuries, even on this
Island, but I'm sure the answer to that particular equation is mindboggling.
Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus teaches
"whenever you pray do not be like the hypocrites... for they love to
stand and pray...that they may be seen by others. Whenever you
pray , go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father"
There is no set form for praying, it can be
done anywhere at any time, you can be alone, or in company,
using set words, your own words or no words at all. Jesus is
forceful in telling us not to be hypocritical or sanctimonious,
reacting particularly to some of the religious individuals of his
day. First and foremost he seems to be calling us to a right attitude of mind and heart.
For me, prayer is an act of communion with
God and with other people; when our breath is taken away by great
joy or great beauty, we recognise that we are part of an ongoing
process of creation; when we pray for people we are concerned about
we are creating a circle of community in which God is a part, and
sometimes we also need to be held by that community as we pour out our own heartache in prayer.
Prayer isn't some sort of magic wand, a
simplistic panacea for all ills, but it is part of an eternal
conversation with God - who works in mysterious ways.
This centuries old English prayer is a good summation of that:
God be in my head
And in my
God be in my mine eyes
And in my
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking.
God be in my heart
And in my thinking,
God be at
And at my departing.
Rev Rachel Poolman
|FROM THE VICARAGE
||Revd Dr Paul Collins|
On the Sunday before Lent the Gospel reading
each year is the account of Jesus' transfiguration. We read it as
Lent begins because it is the story of our vocation and destiny as
well as a story about who Jesus is. The Transfiguration is story of
our invitation to share in the life of God. But what does it mean to
claim that as Christian believers we are to participate in the
divine nature (2 Peter 1.4) in today's world? My context is the
contemporary 'West', by which I mean a pluralist, 'secularised',
consumerist context typified by the United Kingdom where I live and
work, and exercise ordained ministry in the Church of England. The
context of late or post modernity and of 'late capitalism' has been
described and analysed by many writers, and I do not intend to
replicate such analysis here. So I am trying to speak of the
doctrine of deification in a context where to acknowledge God
explicitly is in itself to speak of something of which many people
have little or no vocabulary by which to express their spiritual or
'God' experiences. So to speak of sharing in the nature or life of
God, or even of becoming 'god' is perhaps doubly difficult. But to
speak of deification is as much to ask about human nature and
potential and experience as it is to ask about the transcendent. The
doctrine of deification not only proclaims the transcendent and the
divine purposes in creating and redeeming the cosmos, it also
proclaims the absolute worth and wonder of that cosmos in general
and of the human person in particular. The worth and wonder of the
human person as construed in a doctrine of deification questions
many of the values of the present-day context, and offers a
different set of values and a challenging vision of the human person
as a creature created in the 'image and likeness of God'. This is
not to forget about or to ignore the fall and its consequences for
the human person. The doctrine of deification is not a denial of or
escape from human sin and guilt but it is an affirmation of what
God's initiative and grace calls the human person to, through the
forgiveness of sin and the healing of guilt. The doctrine of
deification proclaims a transformation of the person (and the
cosmos) and does so in the context of community and through an
appeal to God's Triune life of communion. It is this vocation that
we are called to reflect upon and seek to renew in the season of
Lent. And it is this vocation and its outcome that we celebrate in the
Passion and Resurrection at Easter.
Have a happy and holy Lent.
|PARISH CHURCH DIARY |
|Sunday 26th March:
|Sunday 9th April:
|Sunday 16th April:
|St MARY'S CHURCH HOLY ISLAND|
Sunday 19th March
a dramatic presentation of the life of
Canon Kate Tristram
|HOLY WEEK AND EASTER 2017|
St MARY'S CHURCH HOLY ISLAND
Sunday 9th April
10.30 Palm Procession from Market Place
10.45 Parish Communion
5.30pm Evening Worship for Holy Week
Preacher for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day:
Rev'd Dr Neil Messer,
Professor of Christian Ethics in the University of Winchester
8pm Eucharist of the Last Supper and Watch until Midnight
12 noon Meditation on the Passion of Christ
1pm Stations of the Cross
2pm The Liturgy of Good Friday
9.45pm Easter Vigil with Northern Cross Pilgrims
Prayers at Sunrise (6.43am) - meet on Heugh for 6.40am
8am Holy Communion
10.45am Parish Eucharist
5.30pm Evening Worship
|HOLY ISLAND FESTIVAL 2017|
|[ headline performances ]
Friday 30th June
Garth Newel Piano Quartet
Saturday 1st July
November Club - followed by a Ceilidh
Sunday 2nd July
July Ryton Choral Society
Sunday 9th July
Saturday 15th July
Christian Forshaw and Sanctuary
Sunday 16th July
Katherine Tickell: Superfolkus and Friends
|PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
||Revd Canon Kate Tristram|
Since Lent begins on March 1st I was looking through a book of poems for Lent and Easter, and came across one which appealed to me very much. It was by the poet E.E.Cummings and the first line was:
' I am a little church (no great cathedral).' As one who
normally worships in a little church (though one with a great
history) I was intrigued to read what this little church had to
say. It describes itself as 'far from the splendour and squalor of
hurrying cities'. It is happy to live in one small place and be
wholly absorbed in the life of that place. It experiences all the
changes of the seasons with equanimity, being 'at peace with
nature'. It joins in all the grief and gladness of its local
people, knowing itself to be the centre of all the birth and death
that takes place around it. It lifts its 'diminutive spire' to God
'whose only now is forever'. Janet Morley, who made this
collection of poems, calls this one 'an extraordinary ... hymn to
contentment with being oneself '.
It made me think how rarely (in my experience) the word 'contentment' is used.
Why not look out for it when you are in conversation with others? In what seems our passionate and angry world it seems unusual to meet a contented person. But how refreshing if we do.
My plan now is to wait until I am sure our church is empty so that no one thinks me mad, and then go down and read this poem aloud to it.
I think our church's guardian angel will be pleased.