2020 Lenten Reflections: A Holy Island Pilgrimage – Part 3

Part 3 – St Mary’s Church

Today we are sharing a short film that invites us to travel to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where we are invited to reflect on the significance of St Mary’s Church, both to the islanders and numerous pilgrim visitors…

Outside, next to the Crossman graves before the Priory is the base of a Celtic cross known to generations of Islanders as the Petting Stone which Island brides jump over after making their wedding vows in church. They are sent, these hopeful couples, to a day of celebration and the day-by-day promise of married life. Their friends, neighbours and family bear witness, and so does this place. Nowadays for most of the Island-folk the church is a place for send-offs and of a deep sense of continuity.

This is the sending place for many an Island funeral. The seats in the pews fill up as we come to remember, support the mourning, and know one day we will be walking behind that coffin or carried from here. The Fenwick Lawson statue ‘The Journey’, near the door, depicts Cuthbert being carried by designated companions. But his body would be taken here and there for many years before being laid to rest at Durham. Our loved ones’ bodies journey mostly to the graveyard surrounding the Church, and the names on the stones are familiar, in a place where everyone knows each other, and names live on in family and often-recounted stories. In November a small company leaves from the Church to lay wreaths at the war memorial at the Heugh.

This is a place of prayer. The Church is open every day for early prayers, communion, and prayers again at 5:30. Beyond this pattern of silence, psalms, and eucharist, any day, Island folk, pilgrims, and visitors come here, become quiet, maybe light a candle. Almost all will sit, breathe in for a few moments, and pray in their own way.

This is a place where many come who never ‘go to church’. At Easter there are pilgrims with Northern Cross who have walked for a whole week, carrying large wooden crosses together, sleeping in village halls, battling with wonderful or lousy weather, and offering their experiences of the week, the past year, or all their life, to God in good faith, or in some cases no faith at all. Yet, somehow they come. And the crosses they carried across the sands on Friday are now decorated, dressed with fresh flowers, as from behind the altar, through the church, held high on pilgrims’ shoulders to the singing of ‘No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of Life’, they burst out through the door.

The service has struggled to contain us comfortably. At the sign of peace and at communion warmth overcomes formality – even small children seem able to relax. Yet much of it seems long and crowded, disconnected from our lives. We miss the undistracted quiet of the empty space, would prefer to be outside or by the open door… Suddenly we meet someone else’s searching eyes, or spot a familiar face. “Church” may not be the heart’s resting-place, but today as pilgrims we can belong.

Lenten Journal 📚📖

As you watch each of these lenten videos, we invite you to pause and collect your thoughts in words, images and music.

📕As pilgrims we can belong

There are many stages in our life journey when we become more acutely aware of the people around us.  At birth. At commitments such as marriage. At death and in grief.  In life we walk as pilgrims within humanity.

Listen below to the words of ‘Brother, Sister, Let me serve you’:

From ‘Waymarks’ © 2001 Northumbria Community

“We are pilgrims on a journey, 

we’re companions on the road, 

we are here to help each other walk the mile 

and bear the load.”

Hold your heart open with honesty and humility before God . Consider and answer: Who is my brother? Who is my sister? Will I wash their feet, will I serve them? Will I serve Christ in the Stranger? Will I let them serve me?

And beyond these sentiments, how might I practically express these intentions of heart to anyone ‘offering to God in faith or no faith at all’? 

(If you are interested in hearing more of the songs from the ‘Waymarks’ album, it is available from our Northumbria Community shop here)

📗Bearing witness to the lives of others. 

‘Day-by-day promises of married life’ – Married life requires openheartedness for joy and hope and  struggle and faithful perseverance.  

Go for a walk and pay attention to nature in transition: buds opening, seeds dispersing, leaves falling, creatures thriving. Allow God to guide you through these signs within nature. In words – written or spoken or the silent language of soul – pray for yourself. Pray for others. Acknowledge the times of grief and longing, both the desolation and consolation found within covenanted relationships and echoed in the rhythms of nature.

📘The Journey – ‘support the mourning’

Call to mind those who have made their Final Journey, those who have died – be it recent or an age ago. Thank God for the gift of their lives. 

Find time to connect with their families, those who are finding their way up from the Valley of Shadow without their dear one. Be it a card, a call or a visit, bless them with a tangible sign that they are not alone. 

📙 The Sending Place.

The Priory on Lindisfarne is a Sending Place. Where do you return to that you might be sent out from again? Visit that place and if it’s not on your doorstep do so online using Google maps. Recall why this Thin Place is woven into your story and finding gratitude, be ‘sent out’ from it to the place of God’s calling for you today. 

One Reply to “2020 Lenten Reflections: A Holy Island Pilgrimage – Part 3”

  1. Thank you so much for these Lenten Reflections. Distance prevents me from joining you in person, but these reflections with videos and music enable me to return to Nether Springs and Lindesfarne again in spirit. Grace and peace to all of us as we journey alone and together.

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