All posts by Dan

Just another Wednesday

It’s been a little surreal in the time since the Easter Workshop concluded. We gathered for Morning Office on Monday and de-briefed, said goodbyes and exchanged contact information pledging to stay in touch. It very reminded me of a creativity retreat I attended in high school. There is a very real, but sadly often temporary bond that forms when you have a few intense days together with people who are seeking the same thing.

We confess. We reveal. We hope together. We explore. It’s a microcosm of all legitimate Christian community, really. We feel this gravitational pull toward one another as we draw near to God. We’re made for this kind of attachment. It’s Biblical.

But it’s incomplete.

You see, almost everyone has now left. The full time house team and other Community leaders are enjoying some much needed rest after the busiest few days in house life (and in some ways the busiest days since Covid lockdowns!) Retreats will begin again next week. People will begin arriving (in smaller numbers) but for now, the house is almost entirely empty. I came into the chapel last night and said Evening Office by myself (Brenda was deeply weary after a long day of walking). It was not “sad” to say the Office alone (I usually do so) but, well, surreal is the right word for it. I felt it important that, while I’m here as a temporary member of the team, to “spell” the hard working regular team members and support the wider community by making sure prayers are being spoken in this space when it’s in my power to do so.

A solitary space

The incompleteness of it all makes itself known in that silence. It’s impossible not to sense that the space is meant to be shared. To be a solitary worshipper is like diving for pearls: you hold your breath for a short time, penetrate the wonder (and danger)of the deep but you must soon return to the life-giving air above. We see this understanding reflected in the ethos of Holy Island itself. The tide closes the island for times of solitude. Then opens again for community.

Breathing in. Breathing out.

When one has had an intense time of spiritual community, the natural desire is to extend that intimacy. And sometimes we can…sometimes it’s good. But ultimately, those connections can never be fulfilled perfectly. They are simply a foretaste of the complete community we will share on the other side. The surreal solitude after a full house reminds us…”Not yet, my child. Someday. Someday soon.”

As if to illustrate this, a descent storm blew across Northumberland last night. Rain and 45 mph gusts. We even lost power for a time. This morning, clear and cold, and this scene in the cloister.

After a windy night

What had been a perfect circle of chairs around a brazier, where just a couple of days ago 30 or so pilgrims prayed together in unity, was now a water-logged hodge-podge of plastic chairs on display for one, solitary figure.

But note, the promise of the day to come shines through the parting clouds.

Resurrection Sunday

11:59PM Saturday night:

Easter Vigil in the lean-to chapel with Keith, one of the Easter Workshop attendees (and an Anglican Vicar) leading the liturgy.

Easter Vigil with Keith

10 or so of us gathered in the chilled darkness, lit by candle light and almost huddling around the woodstove near the altar. The icons lining the walls bore witness to the quiet. Keith served as cantor, singing the ancient words and melody which begin the service. Then we shared God’s story: Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Exodus, Isaiah…extended readings from each to re-set the stage of our minds and hearts for the events about to take place beginning at midnight. Each reading was shared from a children’s bible. This served as a poignant contrast and somehow, resonates with the deeply old liturgy being played out under the gaze of ancient saints.

12:01 Sunday morning:

12:00 occurred during a natural pause in the service. We all proclaimed with loud voices, “Christ is Risen! Allelujah!” Followed by sincere smiles and truly joyous laughter at the wonder of it all.

So, my resurrection Sunday began at 12:01 AM…

The Pilgrim’s Way to Lindisfarne

…but it continued 9 hours later as a handful of us walked The Pilgrim’s Way to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. In lieu of a traditional worship service, some of us participants in the Easter Workshop took off our shoes and walked three miles across a North Sea mud flat at low tide. This is the path Christian worshipers have walked for 1400 years (not just Easter Sundays, but every day of the week) to visit the monks and teachers on the Holy Island.

L to R: The Author, John, Keith and Herman. Photo and fellow pilgrim credits to Brenda Hazen

We walked the first 30 minutes in silence, and then once again, Keith led us in song as we walked: Lindisfarne by Iona. (a super 90’s Celtic groove!)

Once on the island, we connected with other Friends and Companions of the Northumbria Community who had arrived by car. The Community tradition for Easter is to gather around the statue of St. Aidan and sing/dance “Christ is Light”. You can witness the blend of poignancy, authenticity, absurdity, reverence and whimsy right here, if you have the constitution for it. Some fat guy wearing my clothes shows up at 0:05 seconds in. The author’s adorable wife appears at about 1:00. You can hear mostly wind, and some singing up until about 7:00. Skip ahead to 16:30 to watch our heartfelt attempt at dancing (to be fair we only learned the steps 5 earlier!) Skip again to 30:30 after we moved locations and circled once again for the vows ceremony where I had the honor of formally welcoming my friend Joyce into the Community.

Later, a potluck ensued back at Nether Springs, followed by a “Caedmon” Evening, where people bring songs, poems, dances art…silly or profound and all share in the celebration.

The Author and his Better Half
A “refuge box” on The Way (in case you miscalculate the tide)
St. Mary’s Parish Church, Holy Island

All in all…a pretty good Easter Sunday. We miss our family and dear ones at home. But it was so good to be here too.

He is Risen!