Spirituality

The College Chapel is accessible at all times for private prayer and meditation for Collegians and guests.

The present pattern of Sunday and mid-week services is:

Sunday
10.00 am Holy Communion (CW)
5.30pm Either evensong (BCP) or another format

Weekday Celebrations – CW

Monday to Saturday
9.00 am Morning Prayer
5.15 pm Evening Prayer
Wednesday
9.00 am Holy Communion
7.45 pm Compline
Friday
10.00 am Holy Communion
Festivals
9.00 am Holy Communion
Saturday
9.00 am Morning Prayer
5.15 pm Evening Prayer

Spiritual Life of the Colleges

The spiritual life is enhanced by the rich and diverse Churchmanship and Theological perspectives of 50 Collegians, plus staff who make up the community. Spirituality is concerned with all aspects of our daily lives, for instance, how we live our lives in relation to those whose views and preferences may differ from our own. It is also concerned with the wider community, both locally, and globally in relation to justice, peace, and  reconciliation for all people. These things are prime factors in our spiritual life here and are held very firmly in our daily prayers in Chapel.

We have many social functions which bring us together and are very much a part of our spiritual life, as well as Bible Studies and Fellowship meetings in the Common Room. We Celebrate all Red Letter Days which are presided over by those of the Collegian priests (male and female) who desire to do so.

QUIET DAYS

The Chapel, grounds, and function rooms are available for Quiet Days, and are used by various groups. Suggested donations are available on request.

The Chaplain Writes

chris 013My previous post was as Rector of a rural team of six parishes in Hertfordshire and at the same time Rural Dean of Bishop’s Stortford;  therefore this is a very different situation. I am enjoying the friendship of the fellow Collegians and learning each day more about my role. It is my expectation that this should remain a community where each person finds fulfilment and peace. Each one has lived a very full and active life with many responsibilities; now we have to learn what it means to be retired yet still valued, ” held in the grace of God”.

I love this quotation from T.S. Eliot’s poem East Coker:

“Old men ought to be explorers

Here and there does not matter

He must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,”

 

bruce9

 A SERMON PREACHED  by the Chaplain

IN THE COLLEGE CHAPEL FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE ADVENT, 29th November 2015

 by Christopher Boulton

 

“There shall be a time of anguish such has never occurred since nations first came into existence..Then many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Daniel 12

chapelIn the Hampshire countryside, near Newbury, lies the Sandham Memorial Chapel, built in the 1920s by Pearson to house Stanley Spencer’s War paintings, in memory of Henry Sandham who died in the First World War. Spencer was dispatched as a War artist in 1918.

What he produced was a typically naïve and totally profound story in pictures of War. It has been described as “a glimpse of heaven in the hell of war”. He tells it as a story, simple and direct, the narrative of Stanley Spencer’s war: the wounded arriving at the Beaufort war hospital in Bristol, where Spencer himself had been an orderly; the army training centre at Tweseldon in Surrey; the intimate routines, dressing, shaving, making beds and filling water bottles at the military camps in Macedonia. The cycle has its climax in the joyful, crowded central composition, the Resurrection of the Soldiers, covering the whole east wall. These are real people. They are men from English villages whose names are lettered carefully on so many thousand village war memorials. Spencer treats the grand themes of glory and redemption with matter-of-factness and tenderness.

CRAZY JUXTAPOSITION

painting

It is this crazy juxtaposition of the divine and the ordinary … the life that amazingly continues to shave and shine boots, when men around you are being blown into body parts, and guns shatter your ear drums; and hell visits your dug out. It is mad, visionary and true: with a truth beyond the ordinary.

The picture is a reminder of the relationship between war, death and Christian faith, not merely a convenient and familiar religious image behind the altar. It frames the altar…the place of communion. The composition is based on a complex pattern of wooden crosses which was suggested to Spencer by his habit of squaring up the canvas in order to work out the design.

As a living soldier hands in his rifle at the end of service, so a dead soldier carries his cross to Christ, who is seen in the middle distance receiving these crosses. Spencer’s idea was that the cross produces a different reaction in everybody and a different significance.

The centre of the picture is dominated by a collapsed waggon, which was based on Spencer’s recollection of a dead Bulgarian mule team and ammunition limber. Mules left a deep impression on the artist and are a constant theme in the Macedonian pictures. Here the dead mules and their handler come back to life and turn towards the figure of Christ. On the waggon boards lies a young soldier intently studying his cross and the figure of Christ represented on it.

 SORT OF PORTRAIT GALLERY

The foreground is related to the position of the altar and intended to form a subject in itself – ‘a sort of portrait gallery formed by soldiers coming out of the ground and the crosses arranged so as to look like frames’. The soldiers are emerging from their graves behind the altar, shaking hands with their resurrected comrades, cleaning buttons and winding puttees. What Spencer sees is the resurrection of all their hopes and all their ordinary desires…and all focused in Christ and the altar where communion and sacrifice intermingle.

Like all good art, the painting tells, rather than teaches. Maybe it tells us something about the immortality of hope itself; and of the resurrection of the human spirit.

Although I have not been there for some time, the picture came to mind because of our brief Old Testament reading today, which tells also of resurrection. Daniel 12 brings us to the crowning revelation of the Book of Daniel, and incorporates a doctrine on which the Christian hope rests: the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

But it does so with terrible consequence. Daniel speaks of a time of great suffering for Israel prior to this resurrection. God will make his people suffer before restoring some of them to everlasting life. It is a vision of the End Time; and a very unpleasant one at that. Many, we are told will go to everlasting shame and contempt.

paintinng 2

When Christians applied this vision of Daniel to Christ and his sacrifice we incorporated it into our own vision. We personified the suffering of Israel in the life of the one man, Jesus of Nazareth, representing the new Israel, and indeed representing us. His sacrifice is once only once and once for all.

At the same time the authors of the Gospel were careful to put the vision into the context of the whole of Christ’s teaching and life. They warned of being led astray and cautioned about being too alarmist….as we see in Mark 13. “Beware that no one leads you astray….when you hear of wars and rumours of wars do not be alarmed…”

 KIND OF APOCALYPTIC CREED

Now is perhaps an apt time to be reminded of this; as we hear news of terrible events in Paris. The intention of Daesh is to terrify, to set Muslims against Christians and other Muslims; and to make us fear all foreigners and migrants; to disrupt our way of life. Such events might lead some to a kind of apocalyptic vision of the world; entering an age of terrible suffering, before the righteous are saved.

In fact Daesh is a kind of apocalyptic creed…..that is to say a vision for the end time on earth. And the end is the rule of God under the control of a version of Islamic Law. Like all false apocalypses it can only succeed at the expense of the many for the benefit of a few justified elite, and it promises great suffering.

But like other false prophecies it cannot succeed, because the indomitable God-given human spirit, like that portrayed in Spencer’s visionary painting will never allow it….opposing not by force of arms, but simply by the human desire and will for freedom.

Christians, instead of being caught up in some kind of apocalyptic fervour, revenge and blind fear have an alternative. The writer to the Hebrews puts it very well:

“Since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith……Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. For he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds….encouraging one another….and all the more as you see the Day coming.”

What could have seemed more apocalyptic than the First World War? Yet Spencer’s vision reminds us that a new future can and does emerge; albeit though new wars arise. The resurrected soldiers represent this hope, seen through the perspective, literally, of the cross of Christ.

 Christopher Boulton, Advent 2015

The following musings come from the pen and brush of Revd Bruce Driver, one of the Collegians, who is an experienced retreat leader and spiritual guide

PILGRIMAGE

 Pilgrimage excludes no-one, so how we proceed on our journey will fit the needs of those travelling together. These will be influenced by time available, distance, fitness and, inevitably age.

bruce 1Avila in Spain

How we travel; on foot, horse, bicycle, or plane and coach is, consequently not the issue; the journey is the key and what we make of it. The personal nature of each day’s pilgrim step, whether on foot or wheel, is for each of us to consider as we take it in the company of others of many traditions.

bruce 2Painting in Avila

Every minute is a test of the imagination and our capacity to find moments of ‘Retreat’ within the journeying. This ‘involved detachment’ is enhanced if we recognise, amongst the Prayers, Masses and varied experiences that we are on holiday, sharing meals and a glass or two of wine with a company of fellows with like mind.

 bruce 3Koya san Buddhist Monastery, Japan

I write this following a visit to Japan, another Spanish Pilgrimage and one to Turkey, with Compostela again in prospect for 2015. The approach does not change, nor the sense that daily life is an extension of these other journeys.

bruce 4 St Mary’s Convent, Freeland,  Oxfordshire; Order of St Clare                                    

 This simple reflection is how I have come to see these things after years of leading pilgrimages and wandering here and there with my family:

Godward

Pilgrim tested this

Journeying year;P

Koya san, Freeland, Compostela;

Old traveller seeking

How to love the world and

Reject its idolatry;

Until pilgrimage settles;

Quiet under a College tree, and

Journeys from Morning to Evening Prayer,

One Mass to another.

Bruce Driver

 

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 A second sermon from Rev Chris Boulton, Chaplain

Sermon for All Saints   2014   (Reworking of an address by Sam Wells first published in “The Bright Field” edited Martyn Percy page 230)

OUR UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE

“I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more Redeemed”. So said the 19th century atheist philosopher Nietzsche; and he had a point. Which one of us has not at times despaired of the Church; its historical failings; its ever present lack of vision, of courage, its lack of generosity of spirit, the occasional moral corruption and the in-fighting that so often devalues our attempts at mission?

What is more, there are few so “holier than thou” that they cannot see their own shortcomings or do not know how often they fall short of Christ’s teaching. We look at the Beatitudes and hardly dare tot up our score in the litany of Blessedness!

There are people, like our late lamented Collegian Francis Makambwe, who we might conclude totted up a pretty high score: yet even so we cannot be sure just how good a saint anyone will appear when the final credits roll.

On holiday I read a book called “The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.

harold fryIt is the story of a man who has retired; living a dessicated life with a wife from whom he has  become emotionally estranged. His life is changed by a postcard from Berwick upon Tweed. It is from a woman, a single lady, quite unremarkable; who is dying of cancer. Harold immediately resolves to walk from Devon to Berwick to save her.

harold fry 2In his inappropriate yachting shoes he sets off without any thought of how he might get there. On the way we learn about his life: how this woman had once taken the rap for him when he had done a stupid thing, and saved his career at the expense of her own. How the tragic death of his brilliant only son haunted him and destroyed his marriage. How he considered himself a failure as husband and father.

On the way he becomes famous, and he is joined by many walkers, (including a dog), who come and go. Every one of them has issues and life agendas of their own, and every one of them, broken in some way, desperately wants to share in the reflected glory of his pilgrimage. In the end, his fame evaporates, he reaches the hospice, but cannot save the woman. He arrives just as she is dying.

It is however a story of redemption; for himself and his relationship with his wife; and to some extent with his past; and for the dying woman.

“I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more Redeemed”, said Nietzsche. So on All Saints day who do we celebrate? Who are the Redeemed? And how do we bask in their reflected glory? There are of course those Saints whose names have been passed down to us, and many others whose names are unknown, saints and martyrs who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. We, Anglicans, have a new list of Christian holy people since the Reformation, though we do not have a mechanism to make a Saint. We need a Pope and Cardinals to make it official!

miin all-saints3By my definition, Saints are in fact really sinners redeemed by their desire to love God and serve Christ by serving others, and so make a difference.

Historically the Church has two answers to the problem of saints as sinners:

  1. It doesn’t matter. What only matters is the resurrection life that God gives and the life that Jesus gives by dying for us. This is called justification.

Justification by faith was an insight most famously espoused by Martin Luther, whom we remembered this week (though he would surely abhor the idea of being called a Saint!). Justification by faith has brought joy to countless people; liberated them from destructive guilt over their failings, and enabled them to make something beautiful out of their broken lives.

min5In fact some would object to our celebrating All Saints at all because doing do distracts from the fact that we are all sinners, dependent on the grace of God. But if this is the whole Gospel, it clearly leaves a few questions unanswered.

“Daddy”, said a young boy, visiting Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria with his parents, “was that a Christian church just outside the Camp?” “Yes” said daddy. “And do you think that the guards went to that Church on a Sunday?” said the boy. “I suppose many did”, said the father. “And did they walk back and kill hundreds of Jews the next day?” “Yes son I rather think that is exactly what they did”. “How can that be daddy?” “I don’t really know” said his father.

min 7If conversion and justification are the whole Gospel, then the process does not really require lives to change. So there has to be another response to the call of being a saint in addition to justification.

 2. Theologians have called this “sanctification”. You can strive for perfection by being and doing good, but you must allow the Holy Spirit to form you into the likeness of Christ, not by your own effort only.

Clearly we should strive towards some idea of sanctification if the Kingdom of the Beatitudes is ever to come upon us. It seems that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls us to do just that. But there are problems with this too. Striving to be holy can make us sanctimonious, even judgemental and ungracious towards others. In any case no one has ever reached perfection to my knowledge.

If I can put it this way: Sanctification proclaims that every sinner has a future; Justification reminds us that every saint has a past. So caught between sanctification and justification we struggle on the way of the Blessed; the unlikely pilgrimage of grace. We are however not alone in this unlikely pilgrimage; for there are others on the Way.

min 6In Greek koinonia means fellowship or solidarity; but in Latin communio expresses our desire, not only to be in union with God, but to remain uniquely ourselves. Com …with… unio united.

Trying to live like a saint is not to live without limitations, without pain, suffering or death. Not even to live without sin; but to try and live in communion with God and one another. Saints are no more than sinners redeemed; redeemed by their desire to love God and serve Christ by serving others, and so make a difference. So justified or sanctified, we can best express our joy in discipleship by being in communion with God and each other, and all the people of God who have gone before.

We can do so both through baptism and the Eucharist, and by the daily practice of the presence of God in prayer and action.

min4This is the unlikely pilgrimage we undertake; the Beatitude of being a Christian within a community of believers.

We believe in the Redeemer, not because we look like the Redeemed, but because we are the unlikely pilgrims on the way of Redemption.

Chris Boulton, Chaplain, 2014