Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Coventry Pilgrims

When I left home yesterday morning, the sunrise was quite breath-taking - a child's paintbox fantasy of pinks and golds spread lavishly across the hills. It made getting out of bed bearable - but I was so wiped out that I was less excited than I might have been as I drove up to Coventry.

Silly woman.

Yesterday, the Pilgrimage Day for Catholic/Contemplative Fresh Expressions was quite simply one of the most encouraging and restorative experiences I've had for a while. Coventry Cathedral was the perfect venue - the Basil Spence building which was so startling in its modernity when it rose from the ruins of the medieval original, bombed one night in 1940, having all the space and lack of clutter that the most creative liturgist could demand....and of course, in its juxtaposition of old and new it provided an instant parable for the day, where ancient heritage was brought into new light.

It was all quite wonderful.

High Mass without an ounce of ponce, but with splendour and creativity in profusion.
++Rowan on cracking form (and without any signs of being the compromised version of himself, that I'd feared that the woes of the Anglican Communion might have brought about)
Abbot Stuart ditto
So much to inspire as we were reminded of the missionary roots of Catholic Anglicanism (again I found myself reflecting on the impact of my beloved St John the Divine Kennington on those inner city estates, and on the incarnational impulse that had planted the church there in the first place), the multi sensory worship that has happened for centuries before anyone recognised that it was "multi sensory" at all, and the evolving and communal nature of faith (a journey, not an event).

There were moments of mild hysteria (standing in a close packed crowd at the font, we were invited to prostrate ourselves as a sign of our submission to Christ as we reaffirmed our baptismal vows...I don't think I was the only one there who wondered if I actually knew my neighbours well enough for this as we reflected on the proximity of faces to toes and other still more alarming areas)....of perplexity (who does it matter so much, when we are all outside our parish contexts, to be identifiably ordained? - I don't think I've ever seen so many black clerical shirts outside the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday - just don't "get" this aspect of catholicism at all.)
There was frustration too. When it came to the single workshop slot the choice was almost too rich...How to decide between Looking with Mary to God's possibilities, New Monasticism or Body Prayer in the Christian tradition (during the Mass, Philip Roderick led us in a whole body Lord's Prayer which was quite stunning...one single voice and so many arms praying in united movement)?The excellent input in our workshop on catholic mission (where my book of the year, Take this Bread, also got a mention, confirming my excitement that the "Help yourself" food cupboard we are launching at Church in the Valley feels right on every possible level, including connection with the heart of mission) didn't last for long enough for discussions to even scratch the surface of where we might as individuals go from here.
I wanted to hear more, then to have space to tell my stories and to explore where they might be leading...To be with people who would truly see where I am coming from was thoroughly exciting. I hope that the southern province learning/discussion forums which were mentioned aren't exclusively London based - I so want to take this stuff forward.

So - it wasn't all perfect but there were also many moments that were truly and deeply moving...
I found the sight of the elements being passed to the altar from pilgrim to pilgrim quite breath-taking, underlining ++Rowan's reminder that we live out our faith as a community...we need each other.

After lunch came a quiet hour (which was actually more of a quiet 40 minutes, - nothing like enough to experience the numerous prayer stations that so many creative and thoughtful people had installed for us) and then a single workshop slot.

I lost track of time as I knelt for a while by the chapel of the Crown of Thorns where there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament - time to know myself loved and precious, to recognise that, as I rejoiced in being there, God was glad I was there too...

Altogether the day was a huge blessing - the Quiet Day that I needed (somehow, amid all the excitements,there was lots of space to listen to God ,..when there was "official" space to pause and listen I found that we were already in mid conversation), but more than that an opportunity to remember why the catholic roots of my faith matter so much to me.
I came home (via Cambridge) inspired, encouraged -and ready to polish the thurible!

Other accounts of the day on line from Fr Simon (who helped put it together) and from a CPAS staff member (interesting to have a very different starting point)
The concensus so far is that it was Well Worth Doing.


Mary Beth said...

I LOVE this!

What's "ponce"? Is that something having to do with the thurible?

My current church uses one weekly and the thurifers learned (while on youth mission trip to Bermuda) to do the "figure eight" thingy with it. Scares me to death at the same time it makes me giggle madly!

Word verification: inglo. What you have after this experience! :) It shows.

Sally said...


smiling at Mary Beths comments and wondering how you might get a thurible full of ponce and what effect it might have!

English words are fun aren't they

lorna (see throughfaith) said...

wonderful wonderful Kathryn --- I am so glad you had a day with God (I know everyday is with Him but you know what you mean)

And I laughed (sorry) at your mild anxiety about 'do I know people well enough to do this' ... isn't that just like the Spirit of God to take us to the extreme edge of our comfort zone.

Blessings dear friend ... I'm not into the anglo-catholic stuff much myself but I do have my moments and I believe I'd very much have enjoyed your day too.

Hoping for more plug-ins for all of us - we need to take responsibility to keep our tanks filled up :)


PS word verification is zoings which seemed apt somehow