Encountering God in Sacred Space

Working from home presents challenges and Chapel openopportunities.  I love my new daily commute, from my kitchen where I have my breakfast to my dining room which I’ve set up as a home office: a much easier start to the day than driving along a busy M56. This is a time when whole families are adjusting to being predominantly indoors, together under one roof trying to negotiate work or online learning schedules, computer access and physical workspace within their house or apartment.  I’ve been wandering around my home to get a good internet connection and am trying to avoid the room where my husband holds his online Teams meetings with work colleagues.  Then there is the issue of virtual Chaplaincy and making sure I am not interrupted at those fixed points in our calendar and ensure our dog, Sophie, is not likely to start barking at the wrong moment.  The miracle of modern technology is wonderful but I am missing those opportunities to gather together in our beautiful Chapel.

Physical space matters and our interconnections through technology, in the absence of being able to meet together, are vital for our relationships and emotional wellbeing in these days of social distancing and isolation.  But how do we switch off from work and study when our sitting rooms and kitchens are also used as workspaces?  As well as workspace, it might be helpful to revisit our understanding of sacred space.  Where do we find a sense of the sacred and how do we keep it sacred, a place where we know we can go to encounter God that is tailor-made for each of us?  There might be a physical space in your home, somewhere you can retreat to, turn off any distractions from computers, televisions and phones and talk with God. Some people find lighting a candle valuable or having another symbol such as an icon or a plant as a focal point to help lead them into prayer. Prayer mats or prayer stools can be effective ways of focussing on prayer and of course, music can be a helpful way of connecting with God.  Journaling and art are other ways. We’ll each have our favourites.

Blog Alison Sacred Space

In her book ‘Taste and See – Adventuring into Prayer’, Margaret Silf, speaker, writer and spiritual director encourages her readers to remember a time and place when they have experienced warmth, light and contentedness, to remember it in detail, the weather, the time of year, the sounds, sights and scents of the scene and to be quiet with the memory, relish it and give thanks for it.  She then suggests you invite God into the memory “to make that a sacred space for you”.  She says that “a sacred space is quite simply a space where you can become more fully aware of God’s presence with you”.  She writes about a friend who goes, in her imagination, to a particular park bench, to sit and talk with Jesus.  Another friend, who lives in a busy household and has no physical space she can set aside for herself to pray, has a view from her apartment window of a beautiful tree which, through the changing seasons of the year, helps to draw her into prayer and which she describes as “her soul-friend, when she has no other”.

The wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers has much to teach us about prayer today. Abba Moses said “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything”.  In this time of lock-down, can we deepen a sense of sacred space, whether through encountering nature in our one daily outdoor exercise routine or, in an indoor space, a ‘cell’ set aside just for us, using symbols, music or the power of own imaginations?

Alison Upton

30th March 2020

What does a Chaplain do?

I have to write an explanation of what I do as a chaplain.  So here goes:

When asked what we do in chaplaincy, my natural tendency is to laugh. My job is varied and always likely to take an unexpected turn. The major aspect is listening to staff and students and the difficulties they are going through. This can vary from home sickness, the ill health or death of family members, struggles with friends or colleagues, work, or anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a chaplain because you can meet them first, have a few cups of tea and decide if this is the person you want to trust with your difficulties, your secrets.

Sometimes people are in great distress. The current waiting time for help with domestic abuse is four weeks, for sexual abuse it is four months. We listen to people, give them a safe place to talk or cry or sit while they wait. We hear stories from staff and students, but we also have a place on university committees, so we are able to feed back some of the struggles that we have seen and heard to help improve people’s experience.

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In Chester we have a wonderful chapel community of staff and students. We meet each week for breakfast after prayer on a Monday, for lunch after prayer on a Tuesday and dinner on Tuesdays and after chapel on Wednedays. We pray for the university and the world and we have a service once a week. Our main Wednesday service is varied. We had a transremembrance service, where we read out the 20191126_192155names of the 291 trans people around the world who have been murdered this year. The week before we heard an inspiring talk about fasting in Islam. The next week we had a traditional Advent communion service. The following week we had students and staff dressed up in dressing gowns and cable-tie halos for a nativity procession around Parkgate Road campus and a Christingle service (like when you were seven).

20191120_142809I run a weekly baking session, whilst kneading and making breadcrumbs, whole life stories come tumbling out. Many languages are spoken and we learn through bread and cakes about cultures from all over the world; all from the tiny kitchen in Chaplaincy House.

I say yes to every manner of strange project. I work with different departments talking about wellbeing, reflective practice, end of life care, religious literacy, modern slavery or anything else I am asked to do. We support students with disabilities and talk about vocations. We work with the wider community, with Green Chester and get involved in local projects. And there is a LOT of washing up. We are working with students after all.

Laura Rhodes

A new practice for a new year: Mindfulness

Wherever I go, I hear about mindfulness. It is a recommended practice in the workplace, it reduces stress, increases concentration, improves relationships. Local authorities have paid millions of pounds on training for mindfulness in schools – it improves wellbeing and helps aid good studying. In this university, there are mindfulness sessions, mindful art, mindful movement. It’s in vogue in the health sector, go to your doctor feeling anxious, depressed, burnt out and you are likely to find yourself having a conversation about mindfulness. You can buy a mindfulness colouring books, dot to dots, you can get any number of apps on being mindful and watch endless Youtube videos about it. There is even the MAPPG – the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group. There was a report in 2015 that said, for the future wellbeing of UK citizens, we need to take the enormous amount of research seriously and Mindfulness is the future.

So it’s big. But what is it? Mindfulness was started in its current scientific guise by Kabat-Zinn, who learnt the practice from Thich Nhat Hahn, the Buddhist monk. He was a great friend of Thomas Merton, who was a Christian monk, who practiced the contemplative tradition within a Christian context. Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.

Being mindful is nether Christian or Buddhist or secular, it is a state of mind which is relevant to all people. So what about mindfulness and prayer? I was going to go on a mindfulness course recently and the leader of the group said you have to commit to doing an hour every day of mindfulness practice and I said, ‘Er that might be a bit of a problem. I have to do prayers anyway, does that count?’ ‘No’ I was told.  But I’m not so sure. Tim Stead, a Christian mindfulness practitioner says It could be said that mindfulness is to prayer what John the Baptist is to Jesus. John came not to save; not to do the work himself, but to help people get ready , so that when the moment arrived –  they would be in a place where they were ready to receive what Jesus had to offer.

I think for many of us, when we hear about mindfulness, it is naming something that we may have been doing already. An attitude of openness and willingness to dwell in the present, you could call it relaxing in God. Mindfulness may be very familiar by another name.

If we can be mindful of what is going on around us, that is how we can feel the spirit of God. Our response to situations can be from this spirit, rather than knee-jerk reactions of fear, or anger or envy. And whether the response is to endure bravely or to act creatively, a mindful prayer may help us along the way.

Laura Rhodes

 

Chester College, 1939

2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War. The declaration of war in September 1939 was followed by some months of the so-called ‘phoney war’, when everyone knew that the nation was at war but there seemed to be no war going on. I remember my parents describing it as a very strange time.

What might have been going through the minds of the students here in Chester at that time? ‘The Collegian’ was their magazine and in the autumn of 1939 it included this paragraph about new students:

The present juniors entered the College at an inauspicious time, their impressions of College life cannot fail to be coloured by the conditions prevailing both inside College and elsewhere. Nor is it to be expected that the prospect of military service, immediately upon completion of their training, will not be in the minds of the new students. For a short time at the beginning of the term a feeling of strangeness did persist, not dispelled by the unearthly pallor of dormitories by night or by sleep-disturbing rehearsals of procedure during possible air raids.

The following is an abridged version of the article written by the College Principal, Revd Stanley Astbury, in the same edition of the magazine:

Principal’s Notes

The Michaelmas Term, 1938, started in circumstances of world crisis and the year proceeded in a state of continual uncertainty; by September, 1939, that state had changed for the certainty of war. We still carry on, but in a minor key. About a third of our second year men have already registered under the Military Service Act; already some half-dozen have left us. Clearly there is no desire on the part of the Cestrians to shirk their duty to their Country. There is a very definite desire to be told what the country wants of them and when. Meanwhile we hear of many 1939 men, and those of earlier years, performing deeds of gallantry in cook-house, canteen and elsewhere, and of not a few who are being recommended for Commissions and other important tasks. May I take this opportunity of asking for full information about any Cestrian serving in any branch of H.M. Forces. We are preparing a Roll of those serving and, as it will occupy a prominent place in the College, we want it to be complete and up-to-date all the time. So please send information about yourself, or any other you know of. This isn’t just sentiment or curiosity; we pray regularly for you in Chapel and we want to pray intelligently.

It is poignant to think that the students who read these words included those whose names are recorded in the book which commemorates members of the College who were killed during the war.

Pray for peace. Remembrance 2019

Peter Jenner

 

 

Prayer is the Therapy: Hearts of Stone to Hearts of Flesh

On 10th October the Church remembers Thomas Traherne, a seventeenth century priest and poet whose writings explore the beauty and goodness of God’s creation. Traherne was educated at Hereford Cathedral School and University of Oxford and took holy orders in 1656. During his lifetime his work was largely unknown but was re-discovered in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and has become much admired.

In ‘Centuries of Meditations’ he writes:

“Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven; see yourself in your Father’s Palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as Celestial Joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the Angels…You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more so, because people are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world”.

How can we start each day with such an optimistic attitude and live the day in our Father’s Palace as if we were among the Angels? It’s quite a challenge in the humdrum of our daily lives.

In Luke Chapter 11, the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray. He gives them the words of The Lord’s Prayer, a pattern of praying which emulates the way Jesus lived his life and his relationship with his heavenly Father. We can call God Father because the Son calls him Father. We no longer need to hide from God, who is both an intimate Father God and heavenly Creator God. We can pray modestly for our daily needs, because our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask. If we persist in prayer, we can have the assurance of knowing that “for everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened”, as our heavenly Father loves to pour out his blessings on us. We can live in a spirit of forgiveness, ready to receive and offer forgiveness, so that our communities can flourish. And we can pray for help and deliverance when trials and temptations come, just as Jesus did. In this prayer, these few lines, and in his own life, Jesus showed us what it means to be children of God and we can take our own place within his prayer and know that we are children, not of an anonymous God, but of the same heavenly Father as Jesus.

Luigi Gioia in his book ‘Say it to God’ says “prayer is the therapy through which our hearts of stone are progressively turned into hearts of flesh because prayer is simply remaining in the presence of the Lord just as flowers remain exposed to the light of the sun that sustains their life”. And “just like flowers, the moment we stop turning to the sun we start withering”. So perhaps we might like to begin each day with a prayer of thanksgiving, turning our face to the Son. We might like to pray the Lord’s Prayer, spoken very slowly line by line, to ponder the angels in our midst. Perhaps, as we practise this, we can truly enjoy and be grateful for what God gives us each day and share our blessings with one another as sisters and brothers of the same family.

AJ Upton

Chaplaincy Team

 

LGBT History Month: Sara Miles

For LGBT History Month https://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk we are writing a weekly blog on an LGBT+ Christian.  We begin with the conversion experience of Sara Miles, the spiritual writer as her book: City of God has inspired our own practice here in chaplaincy.  In City of God she describes her experience of ‘ashing’  the people of the Mission in San Francisco, where she lives on Ash Wednesday.  Inspired by her story, we too set up a ‘mobile ashing’ on Ash Wednesday at the university.See the source image

One of the most interesting aspects of Sara Miles is her sudden conversion experience.  Sara Miles was a war journalist, and writer, working in Central America and the US. She was an atheist, raised by parents who deliberately did not expose their children to institutional religion. They felt their own parents, who had been missionaries, had given them too much religion, and they vowed not to do this to their children. As Sara grew up, she was commitment to social and humanitarian action and this became her religion.

In her book, Take this bread, she writes about the cloudy Sunday morning, aged forty-six, when she drifted into St. Gregory of Nyssa’s church in San Francisco, went up to the altar and took communion. Until that moment, she had been an atheist.  At best she was indifferent to religion. She was horrified by the acts of war she had seen in the name of God and by the treatment of LGBT people by the church.

Unbaptised, unprepared, she took her first communion and everything changed.

 ‘Eating Jesus, as I did that day to my great astonishment, led me against all my expectations, to a faith I’d scorned, and work I’d never imagined. The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer after all, but actual food – indeed the bread of life. In that shocking moment of communion, filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized, what I’d been doing with my life all along, was what I was meant to do: feed people. And so I did. I took communion, I passed the bread to others, and then I kept going, compelled to find new ways to share what I’d experienced.’

She found her conversion to be unexpected and terribly unlikely.  She described herself as a ‘blue-state, secular intellectual; a lesbian, a left-wing journalist with a habit of scepticism.’ Yet is finding God, she found an inclusive religion, rooted in the most ordinary, yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honoured. And so she became a Christian, to the horror of her friends.

Her theology focuses on communion, she sees this as the act that locates us within a group, and from communion, comes community.   Sara was propelled into extending the communion she received in the extended communion of setting up a food pantry for those in need in 2000.

Starting the food pantry, she gave away literally tons of food around the same altar where she’d first received the body of Christ. This was her understanding of companionship – she took bread, shared it with Jesus and then shared it with all who needed it. Her book, Take this Bread, inspired many churches to set up foodbanks.

See the source image

She encountered many struggles: her family, her doubting friends, the prejudices and traditions of her newfound church. She met all sorts of people in her work, which had now extended all over the city of San Fransisco and beyond: thieves, homeless, millionaires, politicians, bishops.

At first, Sara saw a church community that was open, diverse, welcoming. It did not divide or judge people based on income gender, age, politics, or sexual identity.   However, in church culture, she encountered an obsession with rules and procedure. And when she tried to extend the food pantry from weekdays to Sunday, she hit a new wall of opposition. She tried to argue that the Sunday pantry would bring in new people and some of them might join the church and change it in exciting ways. But she found that the food pantry feeding people on more than a weekday – on a Sunday, really pushed the comfort zone of many in the church.

‘Why do we need to grow?’ a longtime member challenged her. ‘We’re just fine as we are.’ ‘Sunday is too much’, an older woman shouted at her. ‘I’ve been coming here for more than fifteen years, and Sunday is my day of rest.’Now it seemed as if the dream of open communion and community – an invitation of Jesus – who welcomed sinners and ate with them, as was inscribed on the altar, was being put aside because of inconvenience, messiness and prejudice.

Most if them made a point of praising the food pantry, but their message was clear: Feeding the hungry belonged in its place, and ‘real church’ belonged on Sundays. Sara was shocked. She believed the food pantry represented the best of St. Gregory’s practices and values: its openness, its inclusion, its invitation to take part in creating something together. A former Jesuit, who sang in the choir, took Sara aside, pointing out that she was not the first person to get excited about doing Jesus’ work and then get disappointed in his church. ‘Get over yourself’, he said, not unkindly. ‘Welcome to Christianity’.

Later, Sara had what can be called a second epiphany and conversion. She says, ‘You can’t be a Christian by yourself. You can’t be special or more holy.’ ‘I was going to have to work with people I liked at St. Gregory’s, and the ones who really irritated me.’ Quoting Rowan Williams, she said, ‘Community is a Gospel imperative that we find hard.’

Eventually, the grace of God enabled her to come to terms with her fellow but doubting members, just as they came to terms with her fervour. The strain of living the Gospel, commitment to prayer, the Eucharist, community, and care for those in need seemed to transcend the very human disagreements and frustrations she experienced.

When asked in an interview, What’s the most important thing about Christianity to you? She replied:

The gritty reality of incarnation: that God lives in bodies. And the truth that Jesus doesn’t pick and choose his dinner companions. He eats with everyone: not just with ‘good’ people, or the right kind of Christians, or the people I happen to like. Eating the body and blood of Christ, for me, implies a radical inclusivity that demands action. If you take it seriously, communion challenges everything —including most religion.                                             (Article in the San Francisco Gate, 26 February, 2007)

Lectio

In my early twenties I expressed my difficulty with finding a pattern of daily prayer. A young Catholic priest casually said, “Do you have a reading sheet at church with the readings for the week? Take It home and just read that every day with a bit of quiet at the end. It’s called Lectio Divina.” So I forgot the name, but I did that and I found it an easy way to pray. I also found it calming and re-orientating. It allowed me to look at scripture anew and let it speak to me in ways I didn’t expect. Bad relationship with food and dieting? Try reading Matthew 6.25,  ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’

I started doing Lectio ‘properly’ in my late twenties when my life took a turn for the worse. I read a book or two and started using the daily prayer structure from a Carmelite website: http://www.ocarm.org/en/lectio-divina. This takes you through a daily reading with an opening prayer, meditation questions and time for silence. You can make it last more or less time, but I used to take about twenty minutes. I did this at my kitchen table, with my eye shut, accompanied by the sound of the Peppa Pig theme tune, because I knew those two or three episodes on morning TV were the only chance I got in the day for this quiet. Dum de de dum dum de de de de dum dum: my call to prayer.

I got off the phone one day after a particularly difficult conversation and said to my husband: I think anyone else would have fallen apart with all this going on, it’s like I’ve been coated in titanium. So that was my experience with Lectio – no less mess, or tragedy in life, but God coating me in titanium. Through the daily reflection, the daily commune with scripture and God I was able to endure and grow and overcome.

If you want to know more about Lectio divina, you can look here:

https://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina

http://lectio-divina.org/

Or you can pick a reading, start somewhere you find easier: the Sermon on the Mount, a parable, a favourite Epistle, the weekly church reading sheet. Then read it, notice a word or two that stands out, read it again, and leave some silence. Listen and wait. I promise you, it could change your life.

Laura Rhodes

 

 

Thankfulness in Time of Joy

We are now in week 2 of term. New students are not quite as reliant on the comfort blanket of a map of campus; returning students are getting used to new routines and more demanding modules. The start of a new year brings the excitement of new stimulation and wonderful anticipation of what is to come …

… but what happens when the novelty fades and a new reality kicks in? What seems new and exciting before long becomes the ordinary and the routine. Life settles down into its unpredictable pattern of ups and downs. Then, when things get a bit difficult, how do we keep going? How do we keep our spirits up when things get humdrum, and circumstances conspire against us, and life throws its unpleasant side at us? Whence comes resilience? And for those of us who profess faith, how do we keep faith no matter what? Whence spiritual resilience?

On my bookshelves I have two books by a German scholar by the name of Adolf von Harnack. Harnack was a Lutheran and one of the most influential Christian theologians of the late 19th and early 20th century. One of his books which I possess is a very heavy read, a concentrated, rigorous, academic work which is what Harnack was famous for. The other book is very different. It is called “A Scholar’s Testament” and is a collection of devotional pieces, meditations and sermons which reveal a deep spirituality. That is not the first thing Harnack is usually remembered for, but having on my bookshelves those two very different books by the same author reminds me that heavy, rigorous theology does have a connection with the spiritual life. If it did not, it would not be worth very much at all.

In one of his meditations in ‘A Scholar’s Testament’, Harnack wonders: what is the most important thing about prayer? In particular how do we continue to pray when our spiritual life seems dry and uninteresting, when life is heaping up all sorts of problems for us and when the news reminds constantly us of the troubles of the world?

Harnack’s answer is that the key is thanksgiving. He says this:

We can only pray truly in sorrow and in distress if we have learned to pray with thanksgiving in the time of our wealth. … Learn to pray thankfully in time of joy – both in time of great joy, and also in every tiny happiness – then in the time of need prayer will come naturally from the heart.                                     [A Scholar’s Testament 23-24]

Thanks

So continuous thanksgiving at every opportunity is the key to a healthy spiritual life. That sounds a nice little thought, but I find that meditation reads rather differently when you look at the details at the heading of the piece. Harnack wrote it in Berlin on 3 December 1916. He was able to write about thanksgiving in the dark days of the First World War. If that thought had been written down by someone else at another time in another place, someone who was living in easy, prosperous, peaceful, positively exciting times, it might come across as a rather shallow, simple thought, but the actual context gives reality and depth to those remarks about thanksgiving.

There was an astronaut called Stu Roosa. When he came back from the moon he said something like this: “Going to the moon never changed any of us. It’s just that we all came back more like we were already.” What effect do extreme experiences have in us? They magnify and make clearer what we’ve always been like. That applies not just to going to the moon, but to things like being seriously ill and not least, contemplating one’s own mortality; things like facing problems which seem intractable; or having others dependent on us; and, to return to my theme of the moment, making a new start in a new place with a new purpose in life, just for instance in becoming a student.

We should be careful of what we cultivate and encourage in ourselves in the seeming ordinary periods of life, because that’s what comes out when we then find ourselves in some extreme experience of life, either unwelcome and difficult or welcome and positive. The key thing to cultivate at every opportunity, according to that short devotional piece written by Harnack, is praise and thanksgiving. So as the term goes on, I am going to try to remember that, so that I become aware, in Harnack’s words, of any “time of great joy, and also … every tiny happiness”. The accumulation of the effects of praise and thanksgiving will then make a difference next time I need to draw on spiritual resources.

Harnack ends his meditation with this summary:

Thankfulness in time of joy – this is the secret of power to pray.

I think it might be the secret to much else as well.

 

By Peter Jenner – Senior Chaplain and Dean of Chapel

 

St Benedict – ‘An Extraordinary, Ordinary Life’

Benedict

There’s a film I’m rather fond of, a Richard Curtis romantic comedy called ‘About Time’. For me, it’s slightly different from his other films in that the central relationship is between a father and son. The main character, a shy young man called Tim, finds out from his father that they share a special gift, they both have the ability to travel back in time, which leads to hilarious and sometimes poignant consequences. He uses his gift to attract a girlfriend to start with – he keeps reliving events to correct his mistakes – but eventually he learns the greatest truth. He can live ordinary days again, days which first time round contain “all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be” (according to Tim), the second time noticing the good things, the joys of the people around him, the beauty and detail of ordinary, everyday events.

On 11th July the church remembers St Benedict of Nursia, father of Western Monasticism, whose rule of life is still used in religious communities throughout the world and has “much practical wisdom about how to cope with the demands of daily life and make them a way to God” (De Waal; A Life-Giving Way, p. ix). There are 3 inter-connecting Benedictine vows:

  • Obedience (listening intently)
  • Conversion of life (journeying, being transformed)
  • Stability (solid ground)

I want to think particularly about the first of these, the idea of being obedient to God, listening. The opening words of Benedict’s prologue say:

“Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This advice from a parent who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice”.

The rule is kindly. It’s about listening intently, being committed and responding actively to God’s word every day of our lives, just as our character Tim learns to listen for the joys in his everyday experiences.

Esther de Waal, in her book ‘A Life-Giving Way’ says that the opening word of the prologue ‘Listen’ could be taken as “a summary of the whole of Benedict’s teaching”. (Prologue p.3). She says “it plunges me at once into a personal relationship. It takes me away from the danger of talking about God and not communing with him”. If we stop listening “we’re likely to pass God by without even noticing Him” (De Waal; ‘Seeking God’ p.27). So we need to ask ourselves how do we hear God? How do we notice the things of God in our daily lives and respond actively to them?

Benedictine spirituality is about the ordinary. It teaches us to do the ordinary things of life attentively and lovingly and in so doing, they become prayer. Everything in the monastery and likewise, in our homes and work places, is to be treated with respect and given our attention: kitchen cutlery, appliances, office equipment, gardening tools are as sacred and as cared for as the chalice and paten and bread and wine used at Holy Communion. If we take seriously the “unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things” as Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer says, how does this effect how we treat our material possessions? De Waal says “It is through the material things of his world that God chooses to reveal himself. If this is so then I should handle those things with reverence and respect, with joy, with gratitude. And when I do, I find that I am constantly aware of God the giver, the creator who makes himself accessible through the things of his creating” (De Waal; ‘Living with Contradiction’, p.80)

We don’t have the ability to travel back in time to relive events and change them, so we need to learn to be awake now, to be mindful of each moment and each person with whom we journey today. Our character Tim eventually realises this. He says

“I try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it as if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life”.

What or who needs your special attention today?

A. Upton