Ray and Ki Anglesea recently holidayed in St Lucia. We are posting here some of Ray’s daily reflections
An extraordinary day yesterday, inside a live volcano covering ourselves with black and grey gritty mud! After the mud dried we joined an international group of people – black, white, disabled, young and old – in a warm muddy volcanic mineral bath to wash away the mud. And yes – my skin did feel baby soft. I did feel 10 years younger!
The incident reminded me of the bible story of a blind man whose eyes were smeared with mud and who was later instructed to bathe in a pool. Result: He could see. He was healed of his blindness.
Admittedly there is a lot going on in this bible story as told by John, earth, water, baptism, sabbath, sight, calling, sending, apostleship, but over the years I think this story is more to do with disability as it is about a sensational healing.
A very old disabled lady entered the pool yesterday, gently and lovingly helped in by family and friends, many hands bathed and smoothed her skin, her brittle, fragile bones. There were so many smiles on her face as well as her companions. Joy and compassion intertwined I suspect. But no healing; many blind people live with blindness all their lives.
As I reflect today sitting under a palm tree I thought about that disabled lady and the healing story at Siloam’s pool. Disability is as much about faith, community, and wisdom as it is about healing. Perhaps disability might be best understood as a window into the glory of God.
And today I give thanks for the life and work of Prof. Stephen Hawkins whose inspired scientific work won universal respect and admiration. RIP.
I did ask my guide for the day, a young Lucian man just married with a baby son who visits the baths countless times with tourists – if he was not really 100 years old?
13th March 2018
I must have inherited my love of flowers from my grandfather, Walter Anglesea. He had a very large garden; black grapes and tomatoes from his greenhouse were harvested annually; his pride of joy were his roses and sweet peas. The fragrance of his antique tea roses filled the house on a summer evening and graced the Methodist chapel communion table for many years. There was always friendly rivalry amongst his 7 brothers as to who would supply the best and largest globe chrysanthemums for Harvest Festival Services once the bleached paper bags had been removed from the flower head.
So it was a joy to visit one of the great historical gardens of St Lucia and the Caribbean, the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, once a working plantation producing cocoa, limes and copra. A haven for birds and insects the gravel paths wind their way through the garden amongst flowering bushes and shrubs – jasmine, hibiscus, ixora, anthurium, balisier – planted around and beneath taller existing trees of ferns and banana plants, coconut, cocoa, nutmeg, vanilla, and the lethal castor oil tree (ricin).
One tree that caught my attention was a poinsettia. I only see them at Christmas as potted plants in M&S and didn’t realise a poinsettia was a tree. The flaming red flowers were a sight to behold. I recalled the novel “The Flame Trees of Thika,” a novel about a similar red tree found in the Thika township, Kenya.
But in a moment I thought of red, the liturgical colour of Pentecost and a wise saying of my Sunday School teacher, Bessie Jones, some 60 years ago. Miss Jones reminded her children that the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit are like the many coloured flavours found in a tube of Rowntree Fruit Pastilles, all fruits found in a tube called love.
So today under a palm tree I give thanks for all Sunday school teachers, for their tireless work and wisdom, and for my own Crook Chapel and Hartside Primary School Messy Church leaders. And especially today for KF recovering from surgery
15th March 2018
3. Not having a good Lent
I’m not having a very good Lent. It started well after dusting but knowing I was coming on holiday I became rather half hearted. You see here in the Caribbean I have taken a shine to rum. The final kibosh to my half hearted Lenten discipline came yesterday with a visit to the island’s chocolate factory. What finger licking treats were in store for us as we made our own chocolate bars. For lunch we had a desert of Piton shaped meringues floating in a large dark pool of chocolate sauce; even the bread was cocoa pod shaped and full of chocolate bits. The voice of my teacher rang through my ears, “Could do better.” Perhaps postpone Lent for some other time – best forgotten this year.
Forgotten? Perhaps not. I was reminded I was still moving deeper into Lent when the tour guide cut open the shell of a cocoa bean to reveal the flesh of the rich purple fruit. I immediately realised 2 things. Purple is the trademark colour of all Cadbury’s chocolate products; it is also the traditional liturgical colour for Lent. The colour of penitence, the colour of royalty. You see I can’t get away from Lent!
Forgetting my minor past indiscretions and weaknesses for rum and chocolates I have been seriously thinking of and reading around more important wider church issues this Lent, that of the need for justice.
As Christians we are called to speak out for those suffering any form of injustice both inside and outside the church, and particularly on matters of sexual abuse.
So this morning under a palm tree I am praying that the healing streams of ongoing justice will keep flowing and that victims of abuse will receive justice. I am also remembering the URC Northern Synod meeting today in the frozen North, I wish them well in their deliberations and send them love and prayers.
16th March 2018
It’s a beautiful and awesome feeling sitting by the cottage pool after dinner looking into the dark night equator sky and seeing countless stars, far far too many to count. And feeling so insignificant.
In the warmth of the evening I have been trying to remember from Boy Scout days the major constellations, and failing miserably. But I could swear I have see the International Space station, twice, zipping through the night sky; if my dear friend Adrian was here he would perhaps have confirmed the siting.
Before I came away on holiday I had an interesting conversation with a couple of Pete’s friends in Flat White Cafe/Kitchen, Durham. Pete, my son and Cafe owner introduced me to his friend, an international business “growth” and marketing consultant. I immediately asked him if he could supply any growth methods with my hair! We laughed. As we began to talk I said I would appreciate some new ideas of how to grow my church, alas this Easter facing financial difficulties. I also needed to review my ministry, with your expertise could you help me, please? He asked me how old I was. I told him I was still a spring chicken. I said how much I admired pensioned people who do amazing things with their lives, new exploits and start new adventures. “Ray” he said “you need to ask yourself 5 questions – why do you still want to do that job at your age?” Well yes, why indeed?
Sitting under the stars I seem to recall another biblical elderly gentleman far, far older than me. The story is told that thousands of years ago this very old guy, Abram with his wife Sarai and son Lot upped sticks and moved out of town. Abram opened his heart to a new idea, a new adventure, and yes after many set backs made it to the promised land. He founded a new nation.
It has often seemed to me that people who change the world for the better are those, whatever age, who have opened their hearts to a new vision, a new dream. They have made a difference.
So the question “why?” still remains if I am to continue my conversations with this likeable growth guru. But I guess and believe that if Abram was alive today, this Genesis character, ancient as he was, and saw that Space Station in the night sky, he might well have wished he could be part of another great mission, another great adventure, another great calling
17th March 2018
Oh my days, to say I am disorientated is putting it mildly.
Tuesday is the Spring Equinox, next Sunday, Palm Sunday, is the beginning of British Summer time. Yet I hear back home wintry weather has returned once again. Jill has had to walk to hospital for duty; Chris sent me a bazaar photograph from Stamfordham, Northumberland of icicles and yellow lambs tails (catkins) hanging together on the same tree. Although the light is returning, Spring, alas, with all its signs of new life seems to be postponed for a few more days as my window box full of emerging daffodils, hyacinth, crocuses are covered in snow yet again.
And today is Lent 5, Passion Sunday or Carling Sunday in the North East of England, liturgies and music will centre around the suffering of Jesus, Bach and Stainer and poems of R S Thomas, my Crook RC friends will be veiling their crosses and statues in black nets, signs of a widow’s mourning, signs of Holy Week to come.
But here on my desert island of St Lucia it is continually summer. Like my years living in Kenya the sun in these equatorial climes rises and sets every day at 6:15 am/pm. The weather is hot; the sea warm, the air balmy. The cottage is surrounded by lush green vegetation and colourful tropical flowers, small birds (humming birds?) flit from leaf to leaf. It seems that on the island creation is fully awake every day, it is a time of beauty and of flourishing, and for Ki and me a time for rest and refreshment, to stop rushing around (the amusing rear registration plate of one of my taxis says “no rush”). Today Sunday, the island closes down after 1pm, the retail and business world close their doors.
One of the Bible poetry books, “The Song of Songs” (romantic words sometimes used at risqué weddings!) also talks about the coming Spring,(ch 2) when new life is delivered into an ever increasing world of light, when new birth and discoveries are made that surprise and delight us, “for now the winter is past……..the time of singing has come.”
Let’s hope UK Spring is not too far away.
18th March 2016
Oh ye winter and summer, bless ye the Lord, Praise him and magnify him for ever.
One of the most revolutionary events in my ministry happened last year. I discovered what we call in the trade “the daily office.” The church’s daily prayers and bible readings can now be obtained by way of a mobile phone app. At last no more books! Hurrah! I can tap into my phone app anywhere in the world, in the car, the library, Flat White Cafe, Durham and read the daily bible readings and prayers for the day.
I started using the app in Sardinia last year and remembered how as somewhat stroppy ordinands we use to bellyache about having to do the church offices particularly when we were tired and behind with the dreaded essays and projects. Some of the Easter responses I thought quite apt – “Arise O sleeper from the dead!” …. which always made me smile. But now as the years go by I can’t live without the daily office.
To be honest I am a morning prayer and a compline guy. But I have to say every week or so it is a joy to climb the hill to attend evensong, in what is perhaps one of THE great cathedrals of Europe, Durham, to hear the magnificent cathedral choir, a service of timeless beauty. Gosh I am so fortunate having this spiritual resource on my doorstep.
What lovely words these are from MP “As we rejoice in the gift of this new day…………” I am sometimes overwhelmed by the beauty and enormity of that one word “Gift.”
Something not earned or deserved but given out of love.
So under the Palm Tree this morning I am giving thanks for Ki, my family and friends, my Crook chapel community, all gifts to me. Not forgetting the community at Durham Cathedral preparing for St Cuthbert’s Day tomorrow.
19th March 2018
The thing is you see the nonconformist churches don’t do saints, although there are many churches named after them. Take for example my chapel at Crook, a happy marriage of Methodist and URC friends. The Methodists take the line of a practical work ethic, the URC line is we are all priests to one another. Don’t get me wrong, chapel members work tirelessly to promote the kingdom, to keep the rain out and the doors open for whom they have my continual thanks and praise. But saints? No.
Born and raised in Wales by a Geordie conservative mother I remember as a child hearing about the cathedral in Durham. Leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station by steam train I would eagerly look out for that spectacular view of the cathedral as the train puffed its way over the viaduct. And there would be my grandfather waiting to greet us, and a bus ride to Consett.
And so when I came job hunting in 1975 I managed a quick dash up to the cathedral between interviews and entered the building for the first time. How impressed and awesome the building was then and still is, built a couple of decades after the Norman conquest of 1066. Over the years I have got to know the cathedral’s popular and beloved saint, Cuthbert, mainly through the beautiful pastoral and nuanced writings of its former Dean, Michael Sadgrove. And yes I have been known to light candles for friends and chapel members “in extremis” and laid them on Cuthbert’s marble stone tomb slab.
But whilst I appreciate and respect the value of ancient saint cultures in other Christian traditions, I am more of a contemporary saint and martyr guy myself. Perhaps they represent for me a more authentic way of Christian life and worship, someone whom I can identify with and relate to in this present day and age.
Take for example Janani Luwum. I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting him in the early seventies, at a RSCM festival concert in All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi. The Ugandan Archbishop was later assassinated the year we were married. And yes I really did take 8 Desert Island Discs out to Mombasa Island, Kenya, appointed as planning officer, but alas cheated and took 2 books with me “Strength to love” by Dr Martin Luther King and “Letters and papers from prison” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Books which influenced me after my university conversion experience. Now all 3 guys together with Oscar Romero, soon to be canonised, are remembered in stone above the great West Door of Westminster Abbey, who join 6 other martyrs of the 20th century. It is their modern lives that have impressed and enlightened me and given me strength and courage in my discipleship.
So today under the palm tree I am giving thanks for the life of St. Lucy whom this island is named after, remembering my RC colleagues and friends at St Cuthbert’s RC Church, Crook as well as the community in Durham Cathedral. And for All the Saints of every generation I give thanks and praise, and particularly today for Revd S C Davis, former priest at St. Margaret’s Church, Durham, whose birthday it would have been today. RIP.
20th March 2018