Sunday, 28 March 2010


What follows is a transcript, so I hope you'll be patient with it. You'll be pleased to hear that I don't intend to make a habit of recording my own sermons.
Thanks for your company. Until next time, God bless: 'The path you walk, Christ walks it. May the land in which you are be without sorrow. May the Trinity protect you wherever you stay, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.'


St Mary's, Lindisfarne
Friday 26th February 2010.

My very wise friend Will has many memorable sayings, one of which is, ‘I’ve heard a few people who can preach without notes, I’ve heard a lot more who can’t.’ So I will be very brief.

Although this has been a marvellous adventure, a wonderful journey, there have been times when it has been painful.

My right foot does not like getting shoved back into a boot in the morning. I’ve got a very tender heel, and as you’ve already been seeing, for the first hour or two of each day I would be limping quite a lot. And there were a couple of times, on two of the longer legs, the leg to Balmaha and going to Bishopbriggs, where towards the end, in the last hour, it would be like it was bruised inside, and it would be incredibly tender – and you know the little chippings you get on tarmac roads, even just treading on one of those would send the pain shooting up through my heel –that only happened the twice, thankfully.

And there have been times when it has been emotionally or spiritually painful. There were times when I was walking on my own, although very very ably supported, when it did just feel lonely, it felt like a long time – you imagine being just in my company for seven hours, you would feel spiritually tired: there were times when it felt lonely. And again, there were times, particularly in the first few bits, and perhaps when I was physically pained as well, when I thought, ‘Three hundred miles is a long way to go, and there is a long road ahead of me, and I don’t know if I can do this – this seems like a very long journey to be on.’

In those times when I was struggling, not too many of them I’m glad to say, I would touch the stone in my pocket, my little stone from St Columba’s Bay, where this whole pilgrimage started in so many different ways. I touched that stone and reminded myself that I am on a pilgrimage – I’m going from Iona, I’m going to Lindisfarne, this is a journey with a purpose, and a journey made in the love of God.

Of course, we are all pilgrims. The main body of a church is called the nave, which is derived from the Latin word for ship or boat... and that idea that the main body of a church is a ship is there to remind us that we are a people of movement, a people on a journey – that we are all pilgrims in this world, pilgrims in life.

Our journeys have moments where they are physically painful, and our journeys have moments where they are spiritually or emotionally painful to us.

I have no conclusion, but just something to offer you for a few moments quiet: just to think, what’s the stone in your pocket? What’s the thing that you can turn to that reminds you that you are on a journey from the love of God, to the love of God, and always within the love of God? When you are struggling on your pilgrimage, what is the stone in your pocket?

Let’s take a moment to think in our hearts what that is, and to give thanks to God for that.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Muppet Music.

My question... if you had soundtrack for pilgrimage, what songs/music would you include for specific moments along the journey?
Kiki.

Dear Kiki,

Susie says this is a cop out, but I don’t think so. On my first night in Scotland, Dad and I popped down to The Craignure Inn for a pint, and when we walked in there were four musicians, two customers and one barman, which strikes me as a pretty good arrangement. Among the musicians was a young woman who played the fiddle, and she played beautifully – so she could provide the soundtrack with just whatever she wanted. Actually, one of the pieces she played she said was called ‘The Glasgow Waltz (or Reel?)’, but I can’t find that anywhere – has anybody else heard of it?

Thanks for all your reflections over the past couple of months, and for your wonderful choices of poetry.

Love,

Stuart.

If Muppets were to star in the movie of this pilgrimage, which one would play you? the Archdeacon? Susie? your Dad?
I would want Elmo to play me.

Luke

Dear Luke,

This is a very difficult question for somebody who hasn’t seen The Muppets for a very long time, so you’ll have to forgive me if my answers are a bit second rate. Susie would be played by Big Bird (easy one that), Dad would be played by Waldorf and Statler (hope he forgives me), The Archdeacon would be played by Animal (short and hairy), and I’d have to be Kermit, running around in a state of constant stress due to my entirely misguided sense of my own importance in the whole scheme of things.

Love,

Stuart.

Au revoir Brooklyn.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Bad Beards, Bad Backs, and a Little Bit of Lou Reed.


The ease with which we can miss the good things on our doorstep was brought home to me again today as I walked my way from Bishop’s Stortford to Saffron Walden. I lived in a little village right between those two towns for about thirteen years, and then came back home again and again throughout my twenties. For all those years living on top of them, today I walked along all sorts of paths and saw all sorts of marvellous views that I’d never known before. So much on my doorstep that I’d never really appreciated; that’s probably because I spent most of my teenage years skulking in my bedroom listening to Lou Reed and surfing wave after wave of teenage angst, and then for several years after that I was in the pub.

So, another piece in my planned parish walk from Edmonton to Saffron Walden is in place. I reckon it will be forty miles altogether (possibly forty-five), and I’ve been thinking, if we could get twenty-five walkers to walk it in a day for charity, then we could call it ‘The Thousand Mile Day’ – something like that, what do you think?

Tonight I’m taking Mum out for a slightly belated Mother’s Day meal – she’s only little, so it doesn’t cost much to take her out, food-wise.

The netbook battery is about to fail on me, so I’d better be quick. Two questions I have. Although my beard remains a sorry looking thing I think I’m going to keep it for a little longer, but I don’t know how you go about maintaining this sort of face hair – any suggestions? Also, even though I’ve been back at my desk for less than a week, my back is beginning to play up already; I’ve been looking at all these fancy desk-chairs you can get, but are they actually any good? Most of them are quite pricey and I don’t want to spend a load of money on something that isn’t going to solve the problem.

Cheers.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Musical Statues.

This afternoon I visited the National Gallery. Once upon a time it was somewhere I would visit at least two or three times a year, but I can't tell you the last time I went. Seeing some of my favourite paintings was a bit like seeing friends you haven't seen for a long time; faces you recognise with a smile. I don't remember it being as busy as it was today, and I don't know whether it was the time of day I visited, or whether I've changed. My firm belief, on the basis of today's visit and my trip to the British Museum on Tuesday, is that all the secondary schools on the Continent are empty just now.
The highlight of the day was seeing Susie play netball. It's not a sport I'd ever watched until this evening, and it was a memorable event. It was a bit like a sporting version of musical statues, with everybody running around frantically in short bursts, and then standing very still in a range of agreed poses, like mime artists expressing things like, 'I'm going to try to score', 'I'm going to try to get in your way', 'If you get in the way I'm going to leap out from the edge and I'm going to score', 'Cripes it's a cold night in Kennington'... but all very still and quiet, much more still and quiet than the National Gallery. And then something happens and they all start running around again.
Tomorrow I'm going to take a walk from Bishop's Stortford to Saffron Walden. It's all part of my planning for some sort of parish pilgrimage form Edmonton to Saffron Walden next year; it will be around forty miles altogether, so it may not be a hugely over-subscribed parish event. I'll be glad to be back in my boots.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Absolutely Nothing To Say.


Absolutely nothing to say today.
Finished writing up the walk. Wrote a second Holy Week homily. Went for a deep fried lunch. Tidied up my study. Went through pictures from the pilgrimage. Wrote some letters. Went through the pictures just the one more time. And now I'm going to a friend's house to see the Spurs game.
Absolutely nothing to say today.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Passionate Affair.

Today I began my campaign to re-kindle my once passionate affair with London. I've woken up to the fact that I'm not going to look up from my desk and see snow-capped mountains on the horizon; the horizon is back to being yards away rather than miles; and I'm not going to throw open the bedroom curtains one morning and see the River Tweed flowing past - not unless the effects of climate change turn out to be even worse than the worst of predictions.
The countryside I've been loving being in is full of people who live there and never see what's in front of them, and I've become one of those Londoners who lives in a city full of things to see and do and rarely gets to see or do any of them, apart from visits to Lord's and White Hart Lane (the really important things).
This afternoon I visited the British Museum for a couple of hours and jolly interesting it was too. In that time I made it all the way from 4th century BC Egypt right the way through to Medieval Europe, but by then I was too cultured out to deal with 19th century pottery so I decided to call it a day. It did also cross my mind that if I didn't head home fairly sharpish, then whatever good had been achieved with a tour of one of London's cultural highlights would be thoroughly trampled by the realities of a London rush hour on the tube.
It was a good start. On Thursday afternoon I might have a bash at the National Gallery, which is somewhere I always used to love visiting.
The blog plans for this final week are for me to rabbit on as usual for the next couple of days. If anybody has any burning questions they want to ask about my Sabbatical (assuming there is still anybody out there) and they post them before midnight Thursday, I'll have a go at answering them on Friday and/or Saturday. We'll wind things up on Sunday with a transcript of the homily I preached at St Mary's, Lindisfarne at the end of the pilgrimage.
I did get one of my Holy Week sermons written this morning, so all in all Tuesday has been a much better day than Monday, but isn't that often the way?

Monday, 22 March 2010

A Time of Growth.

Today I was going to make a start on the four sets of sermons I've got to have ready for Holy Week, finish the last two sections of my write up of the pilgrimage, type up my notes on 'Warlords and Holy Men' and 'The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England', do the shopping for our supper, and have a really good clear out of my cupboards and bookshelves (one of the conclusions I've reached about my life is that I do just have far too much stuff - the jumble sale I've got planned could sort out the parish's finances for a couple of years to come).
I did manage to get the shopping done for supper. And I did type up some of my notes.
A lot of time was lost just looking at photos from the past eight weeks, watching webcams of Islay, and listening to Runrig. I'm missing Scotland.
I meant to get some gardening done too.
Tomorrow.
On Sunday I met a member of the All Saints' congregation who remarked that I looked like I'd put on some weight. 'How unkind,' I thought. It turns out that she might have had a point. On my way to the supermarket this afternoon the waist button popped off my trousers; I had to keep fiddling with my fly all the way to Asda and back to make sure that in the absence of that crucial button I wasn't coming further undone: it was a good time not to be wearing a dog collar.