Go back to normal view
A huge and sincere thank you to everyone who has contributed in a great many ways to our welcome here in Westbourne. At my installation service, Sunday worship, various user groups in the Hall, and chance meetings in the street, we have had a consistently generous and friendly greeting. And as I get down to my initial tasks in the parish, I am so very pleased to be here with you.
So, what to write on my first reflection … ? Perhaps something that I had no expectation of writing, but which has hit me between the eyes in these first few weeks.
As far as I know my heart, I have never experienced such joy in nature as has overwhelmed me in the past fortnight. Strong words, I know, and to give them some context, I have in recent years enjoyed the wild-washed shores of the isle of Iona, and the steep slopes of the neighbouring and misty Mull, the imperious cliffs of the Norwegian fjords, the white sand of the Eastern coast of Tasmania, and the big, big skies of southern Africa with wobbly-legged giraffes appearing unexpectantly and comically from behind the trees.
And yet, here in Westbourne, I have been blown away by the elegant vistas of the nearby Emsworth foreshore - I never knew mud could be so utterly beautiful, alive and inspiring; by the exhilarating sweep of the rolling Downs, and by the extraordinary birdsong - as loud and full in number as any tropical forest - crackling with life. I had not been prepared for this. There is a great deal of beauty about us, and the dawn chorus and the cacophonous ‘chatter’ of our flighted friends has topped it all. Quite magnificent.
struck by the beauty and sound of the local scenery
And I feel my prayers fed and watered as never before by the rich truths of all that is.
This has caught me quite unawares. I have never been, what you might call, a nature-mystic; though I respect that genius in others. I’m sure that many who read this will be far more closely attuned to those sights, sounds and smells than I have ever been. Still, this whole experience of Maytide in the Sussex/Hampshire borders has been ‘good unto me’, and has reminded me powerfully of how a great range of different provocations, different triggers, may awaken in us an awareness of the divine.
For some, the created world is indeed the very palette of God’s artistry. For others, it is human qualities - goodness, sacrifice or vitality - which best reminds us of a love beyond our own immediacy. For others still, it is mystery and unknowing, an innate sense of holiness which defies explanation but feels as real as the ground we tread. For some, the sacred stories of their faith evoke a guttural response. And for yet more of us, it is a strange mesh of all these things that has us look to God. Spirituality has as many seedbeds as it has paths.
"for some, the created world is the very palette of God's artistry..."
The invitation to us all is to make from these things that move us, that which we call ‘prayer’: to fashion a fresh attentiveness to the God, who is within, and beside, and beyond.
May whatever stirs your spirit, in this beautiful corner of the world, lighten your life and be a source of deep satisfaction.