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The Rector/Reader writes…

A wonderful beginning to a new journey

Dear Friends,

First of all thank you, to all of you for making me feel so welcome over the last few weeks as I begin in my new role in the parish. Thank you to those of you who have offered words of encouragement and thank you for your prayers. It has been a wonderful beginning to a new journey and I'm looking forward to the road ahead with excitement and enthusiasm! I am aware that the process of appointing self-supporting ministers is not as gradual or as informed as it is for incumbents and I am very grateful to all of you for the opportunity to share in the life of the parish. I look forward to meeting and getting to know everyone more.

As you might well imagine, starting in a new parish leads me to ask (of you) some of the same questions that you might have of me. Wondering what the parish might be like led me to think about what it might be like to be a community dedicated to St. Cuthbert?

St. Cuthbert was a mystic (he saw visions) who lived in the 7th century in the North of England and South Scotland and he is often seen as the patron saint of the North. Rather than being imported from the continent with the Romans like Augustine, or from Ireland or Iona Cuthbert was 'home-grown'. One of us, he grew up as a farmer in the North of England (Northumberland) in the early 7th century. It is perhaps during his youth he developed his great affinity with animals much like St. Francis. His home-grown status seems very much in-tune with our Bishop's vision of growing leaders for the church from within existing church communities, and it is perhaps that quality that enabled him to become so popular and so good at reconciliation.

St. Cuthbert lived in a time of great change in the church as different traditions (Irish and Roman) tried to assert themselves. He apparently was able to balance the traditions minimising contention and keeping the community united. He had a reputation for great piety holiness and learning, but was first recognised for his people skills and he was first put to work as guest master of the monastery. He spent most of his time among the people, travelling all over the North of England and Southern Scotland, ministering to their needs, carrying out missionary journeys, preaching, and performing miracles (largely healing the sick). Perhaps working these 'wonders' for which Cuthbert became widely known, is beyond the call of many of us but building community and looking after each other's needs is something we could all emulate and indeed are all called to do.

The warmth and charm of Cuthbert's welcome was his first gift and welcoming visitors is something that all church communities need to do well. Flowing from his concern for those around him, on top of his warm welcome, Cuthbert had a reputation for generosity to the poor, living a simple life himself enabled him to give generously to those around him. This kind of self-giving love, what might be known as 'caritas' or charity forms in the heart of us all when love God with all our heart and mind.

In later life St. Cuthbert seems to have been called to a life of prayer and austerity and people travel to see him for wise council. Prayer of course should be at the centre of the life of all Christian's turning our thoughts and hearts towards God. Eventually he retired to what is now known as Holy Island (now a bird sanctuary) where he became known for his rapport with animals.

Cuthbert's mortal remains (legend has it) remained uncorrupted for many years following his death and remain at Durham cathedral, which is well worth a visit if you get the chance.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us of our human tendency towards social climbing as the Corinthians debate whether it's better to be followers of Apollos or Paul, so perhaps we shouldn't read too much into what it means to be a follower of St. Cuthbert. But Cuthbert does gives us a wonderful challenge to be warm with our welcome, generous with our giving and concerned with the needs of those around us.

Yours in Christ,
Alex

 
 

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