Adventuring on Lewis!

So here I am on Lewis. This trip has been a long time in the planning stage! In 2011 Jane and I went to Skye – and had a fantastic time – this was our third Scottish summer holiday in as many years, the previous 2 being to Seil Island and Mull. We were staying to the North of Skye and on clear days the mountains of Harris and Lewis were visible on the horizon. I can remember on our journey back calculating how we could get to Harris (via the Ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye (would you believe including a return trip to our favourite Skye coffee shop)). Initially we had planned to do it in 2012 – but for various reasons we didn’t. In fact, we didn’t return to Scotland again together before Jane died early in 2014.

Over the years since, I have been promising myself I would return to Lewis and Harris – I had been once before in the early 90s to visit a university friend who was living here! I remember various aspects of that trip, not least that I had to find an emergency dentist due to tooth ache and also there was a very uncharacteristic heatwave! Somehow the time to do this return and long planned trip never seemed to be right. I booked this holiday let on Lewis, when I was in an upbeat mood. Yet I felt apprehensive about it pretty soon afterwards!!!. It’s a long way for starters (it transpires I now know it is a 675 miles drive door to door excluding the ferry miles!). Over the months since booking to come, I have gently worked on making it possible, the journey had to be attempted in bite sized chunks, and I know what is planned going back is also possible (though it would be better if the traffic behaves a little better on the final leg).

I have a very comfortable base camp at Crosbost (about 10 miles from Stornoway), and intend to enjoy exploring the island more fully than was possible last time I visited. I shall post a few bits and pieces over the next 2 weeks, which I hope you will enjoy! On Sunday afternoon I enjoyed a local walk in my neighbourhood….

The prevailing scenery is dramatic and very imposing! This time of year it is light most of the time, which is a bit confusing for the system. So far the weather has been cool with a lot of rain! Today I got soaked – I had just settled down to lunch with a view of Garry beach – when it threw it down!

On Sunday morning, I went to Uig beach for a walk. The drive was through spectacular scenery, and I was pleased to find a lot of the roads had been significantly improved (only a few miles of single track with passing places). I had been to Uig before on my previous visit to Lewis and swam in the sea. Needless to say it had been a very hot day, the sea had come in over the hot sand and was very warm. It was memorable for other more colourful reasons too, which is a story of another day! My 2019 visit was not one for swimming! The beach is a vast expanse of sand where they found the famous Lewis Viking chess pieces in the sand dunes. So it was nice to see three different larger than life chess pieces near the beach.

Today (Monday) I went to Garry beach – and crossed the bridge to nowhere and enjoyed the coastal track (until it got too boggy to continue!). The beauty of the coast on one side, and the all encompassing moor on the other, with the telltale scars of peat cutting. Dodging the rain showers I also went down on the beach – before recoursing to Stornoway to buy a few essential items and sample the delights of the An Lanntair café bar! For the wildlife today I saw a lovely butterfly and some orchids.

 

December 2018

I have been back at work since November 30th – and it has been busy – which is hardly a surprise at this time of year!

Work has presented the usual challenges, but it has been hugely encouraging to find everything ticking along very well (the Christ Church South Nutfield team are fabulous!). It has been good to remain well and in good spirits throughout December. Just recently, I have had an all clear check at the skin clinic on 28th December – which has also been a source of much rejoicing!

Spiritually, there is much about Advent to love, and I find the themes and the sense of anticipation of the Emmanuel, God with us, both uplifting and helpful.    I have been really enjoying a daily picture and reflection from Jane Williams in ‘The art of advent’.  If you have not tried that this year – I would commend it for Advent 2019.

Christmas at Christ Church had many highlights (too many to detail here). My favourite – which I particularly loved was the Guiding light puppets on Christmas eve – reminding us it was not just all about presents and what the real meaning of Christmas is. (Videos are available of the puppets on Christ Church South Nutfield’s facebook page).

Today Hilary led a thoughtful meditative service looking forward into 2019 – with time and prayer stations to connect more deeply with God. There was a particularly strong reflective reading of the familiar words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Here is a sample

A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away

Help me to know when to strive and when to accept. Help me to know when to hold on and when to let go.

I have managed to take my renewed creative bent into preparations for Christmas, and made presents for a lot of my friends and family, as I have had more time than usual in the last few months. This has included beaded earrings, hats, coasters (made out of Japanese braiding) and one unique Fluffy the cat calendar!

In between all the work it has been good to participate in 2 family gatherings during this month. One of which was the usual post-Christmas gathering with my siblings, their children and their children’s children!

The second one was a much more unusual affair – a 100th birthday celebration for my late Auntie Peggy (my dad’s sister) – so a gathering of the Ways and Critchleys. Great to catch up, see them and reminisce about Peggy’s character and “joie de vivre”. My cousin Michael had collated lots of lovely pictures of Peggy’s life (and made souvenir photo books for us all). This included the one below I don’t remember ever seeing before of her with my dad on the beach! I also discovered that one of my cousin’s sons and his family live in Outwood (the next village south of here!) – so hoping to catch up with them in the new year.

Overall it is good to be heading out of 2018 in so much better health than I started it.  I am looking forward to the joys and the challenges 2019 is bound to bring…   May I take this opportunity to wish you a flourishing Spirit-led new year, with more adventures, more laughter and time to rest in the presence of God who loves us.

Endings and new beginnings

21st -29th November

I’ve been at home, enjoying my final sabbatical days, whilst getting ready for tomorrow when normal life and working patterns resume.  It has been good to regroup and refocus, and settle back into my home. It has been a bit more eventful than I wanted with leaking radiators (and water dripping through the living room ceiling!), a flat tyre and the lounge TV giving up on me!  On a much more positive note, the highlight of this time was definitely the 130th  celebrations for Christ Church – which was a great and joyful occasion – and fabulous to see so many giving thanks for our caring community in South Nutfield.

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This is Jimmy fascinated by the dripping water through the living room ceiling!

So today I am saying goodbye and farewell to this time of refreshment, reading, renewal, reflection and recreation.

  • Refreshment – through worship and prayer – particularly being able to concentrate on the presence of God in worship
  • Reading – through studying particularly material looking at ‘leading with emotional intelligence’
  • Renewal – through walking and crafting, and concentrating on being in the moment
  • Reflection – through thinking through theologically and working through life lessons, plus developing training materials on ‘leading with emotional intelligence’
  • Recreation – through many ways – particularly through enjoying the natural world on foot, friendships, laughter and crafting

Tomorrow I am saying hello again to my dual role ministry as we draw into the time of advent, and the busyness Christmas brings. I am hoping to bring some of life lessons from my sabbatical “Rs” into the days ahead.  My abiding feeling today is thankfulness for this time I have had to be, for all that has been and all that will be, and for the capable team at Christ Church. It has been a time of great blessing, which I am sure will energise the days ahead.

Thank you for travelling with me as I have written this blog. I will continue to add updates to the ‘adventures of Alison Way’ from time to time, but clearly after today I will have to change the study leave 2018 strap line!

On my final day – I had a brief and very windy walk on the sea front at Brighton – and my mind returned to the coast path of Wales… I’ll be back!

Glasshampton and the Archbishop of Canterbury

13th Nov – 20th Nov

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As I write I have returned from six days of retreat at Glasshampton monastery (which is in rural Worcestershire). This is another house run by Anglican Franciscan friars, and it has been a house of prayer for 100 years. It is another very thin place and it was great to immerse myself in the silence and simplicity of their lifestyle for this time. These two video clips give you a taste of what the place is like, and my photos show the splendour of Glasshampton with autumnal colour – from my afternoon walks (and that this time Siena, the monastery cat, let me stroke her!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSO7lWhOcm0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R77sTlr-QlI

It was particularly helpful as this time of study leave is coming to an end, to enjoy this beautiful peace-filled place and take more time to pray and reflect. In recent years Glasshampton has been my usual place of retreat – and I would really commend it to you. The enveloping silence is particularly liberating! Thanks to Moyra, who lent me her copy – I reacquainted myself with Henry Vanstone’s classic – the Stature of Waiting – it is a challenging read but a really inspiring one too.

In the richness of worship we were reflecting on how the kingdom of God has begun in us, and works through us, and how our hope is founded in God’s eternal love for us worked through Jesus Christ. Brother Amos, who preached in their Sunday morning Eucharist, included this verse from Daniel 12. – Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. This is a big challenge, but we are called to share God’s love with all we encounter like bright shiny stars.

I returned home on Sunday, and have with some relief finally put the suitcases away. I worked out I have slept in 19 different beds during this sabbatical time and have packed and unpacked the bags and the car on countless occasions! (I am no better at travelling light!) I am back fully in role on 30th November, but in the mean time I am looking forward to sharing in the 130th celebrations of Christ Church on Sunday – I popped in to Church yesterday, to collect my cassock alb to give it a wash – to find the singers rehearsing and a splendid display of photos giving thanks for the life of Christ Church.

On Monday, I popped into London for an “encounter” evening at St Martin-in-the-fields, which featured the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was a fantastic insight into his approach to his faith and experiences of God. It was great to hear him speak so openly about God’s love for him (and his love for God) – One of the things he said was that “God gives us space to be who we are and grow up into who we are called to be”.

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Found a link to more of what Archbishop Justin said…

https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/latest-news/archbishop-canterbury-reflects-god-father-who-loves-me-unconditionally

On the way out of St Martin’s, I suddenly found myself amongst South Nutfield friends. It was great to be able to travel back with them, and to be able to share our reflections on the train home!!

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011

Hilfield……

Day 95 – 100 7th Nov – 12th Nov

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It was lovely to spent time at Hilfield Friary, and with Elaine (her first visit too). We were attending a ‘craft’ week and were able to do our own stuff and learn some new skills, including some Japanese braiding! It is always interesting being with creative people and seeing different crafts in action including sewing, knitting, crochet, glasswork, lacemaking, card making and book folding in a lovely and very well equipped craft room (right near the pig sty and pen!). We also caught up with Thomas (my neighbour in Wiltshire) and all his family, who are now based in Dorchester.

The Friary is in a beautiful spot, and much enhanced by the late autumn colours. The weather was less that wonderful – with hefty frequent showers and one very stormy day. I haven’t been to Hilfield for about 4 years as I have been going to glorious Glasshampton for retreat time, but it was great to see it in such good order, lovingly cared for and maintained. My first friary encounter was back in 1984 – the essence of prayer at the centre and community living is the same, but how it is being worked out is quite different.  The use of the land, their caring for animals and their impressive living lightly in the environment are all great to see (they were awarded the first gold ecochurch award!). A calf was unexpectedly born in the middle of Friday’s stormy weather (it was about 10 days early).

During this sabbatical time, I have had a number of thoughts, reflections and conversations about the influence of Hilfield and the youth camp in particular. Seeing Hilfield through the eyes of someone visiting for the first time, with echoes in my head of experiences and people, highs and lows from the last 34 years was interesting. It always seems to be good to see people from those Hilfield Youth Camp times whenever it happens. Folk from there are now scattered pretty liberally across this country, and moving and shaking in various guises in the Church and their churches! Long may that continue! I acknowledge quite openly the lasting influence all that had on me, the combination of love, hope and the Holy Spirit in a Christian community, with a healthy dose of creativity and laughter…

On Sunday after refreshing and inspiring worship, and Sunday lunch which featured Korean food and chocolate custard, I drove via West Bay to Sidmouth for a couple of days with my mother. Next stop is retreat time at Glasshampton which starts tomorrow afternoon.

PS Despite spotting various upcycled version of the metal chairs in Birmingham -here is definitive proof the originals are still in deepest Dorset (in the washing up area of the camp field).

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Remembrance 1918 – 2018

Day 91 – 94 3rd Nov – 6th Nov

Briefly back home before embarking on my final sabbatical journey for retreat time at Hilfield Friary (with craft) and in the silence and deep peace of Glasshampton monastery. It was good to see Christ Church in the hazy sun yesterday marking Remembrance. This is a special year as we mark 100 years from the 11th November 1918 – the armistice.

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I remember when I was the curate in Basingstoke regularly visiting the ‘Miss Pinks’ for home communion. When it came to the 50th anniversary of VE day, I asked them what they did that day, and they obliged by telling me all about it. Miss Pink senior (well into her nineties at that point) then went on – “but I can also remember clearly what I did on Armistice Day”. She told me how as a child she had swung on the garden gate of the house she still lived in, waiting for her dad to come home from work early. It was a vivid picture and it had a deep impact on me at the time. Apparently swinging on the gate like that was not something her mother usually allowed her to do!

Miss Pink remembered, what we do now is “Remembrance”, which is active remembering of the memories of others, particularly those who served and died in conflict, and those injured and whose lives were never the same. It is important that we remember.

Jesus said this to us – No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He was talking about his love laid down for us, which is beyond measure, but we live in relative peace and security as a result of all those we remember at this time of year and across the last century. It is really important we remember deeply through their memories and their actions, but for me the main purpose of remembering and this deep remembrance whether we are remembering those lost or injured through recent conflicts, the second world war or the great war, is to remember so that we in all that we are and all that we do seek peace and reconciliation. We remember to bring home to us the costliness of war. We remember to seek for peace and to always seek peace and to work together for peace in everything. We remember to seek this peace deep in the heart of our loving God

Closer to home I found in the archives of the South Nutfield Parish Magazine, this account of what happened in South Nutfield on armistice day – November 11th 1918. We can only wonder at the heartiness of the praise and thanksgivings in our village church as peace was announced.

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I also took a picture of the poster in our poster box outside church – but as you can see it has mingled the image with a reflection of the present. An interesting and quite unintentional mix, but one that speaks of how these so significant actions of our past need to be remembered in our present and learnt from for our future.

The peace of the Lord be always with you…

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Rural Birmingham(!), Coventry and Tolkien.

Day 85 – 90 28th Oct – 2nd Nov

Still enjoying studying and the many delights of being based in Birmingham. Unfortunately I have picked up a mild bug and been below par for the last couple of days, but I think being sensible and staying in the warm yesterday has paid dividends.

Earlier in the week, it has been interesting to walk on a few of the trails in Birmingham – which has a selection of country park and much more rural looking paths in between the suburban areas. It is all rather surprisingly rural looking (though traffic is often audible!) and I have been enjoying the autumnal colour – though it has been rather cold this week in the main. My local expert is excellent too and very well versed in what links to where! Here’s a couple of links to the many options available.

https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20089/parks/404/woodgate_valley_country_park/3

https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/3419/shire_country_park_5_kilometre_walking_route

We took a day trip to Coventry on Wednesday – which was delightful on a bright and sunny day (that is once we had negotiated the scary ring road!). The main purpose was to visit the Fresh Expression of Church – St Clare’s at the cathedral, which from a distance I have been watching and praying for as it has been developing. It was inspiring and great to see this different kind of mission at work and beginning to really take root. It had a lovely feel – which is something that only the Holy Spirit does, and great to hear how things are working out.  It was splendid to explore the excellent selection of second-hand theology books (only 3 purchased!) and I acquired a very smart rainbow clerical top!

I also enjoyed the poignant ruins of Coventry cathedral and the new Cathedral too. The importance of peace and reconciliation always matters, and here is a picture of their litany of reconciliation which is said in the ruins every day at lunch time. I particularly recommend the sentiments it ends with “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgives you.”

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Today we went to Sarehole Mill and had a bit of a walk on one of the trails, enjoyed the coffee shop, following in the footsteps of Tolkien (not certain he ever went in the coffee shop of course!). This was all very exciting, as Tolkien spent some formative years of his childhood in Birmingham – living very close to Sarehole Mill for a while. It is thought the local area around the mill provides the inspiration for Middle Earth. I have enjoyed Tolkien’s books for many years (and have read “The Lord of the Rings” at least once in every decade of my life – my sister even read “The Hobbit” and through to the end of “The Two Towers” to me when I was a child!).

We went on an impromptu car tour after exploring Sarehole Mill, looking for various places that were significant to Tolkien, including his childhood home, the Oratory, Perrotts Folly (the inspiration for Minas Morgal) and Edgbaston Water Tower (the inspiration for Minas Tirith), and finally my favourite the Chamberlain Tower (at the university – which has been a familiar landmark for many years of trips to Birmingham) being the basis of the Eye of Sauron. The pictures include models of the former two at Sarehole Mill and pictures from the Tolkien trail leaflet! I did see the real things but pictures from a moving car were not practical! (Will do that on another visit!)