Thursday, 17 September 2009

Old friends - and heritical thoughts

Yesterday I attended the closing Eucharist and lunch at the Episcopal Diocese of South West Florida annual retreat for Priests and Deacons.

I wanted to be there to listen to OLD FRIEND 1, Curtis Almquist, the (Father) “Superior” at the Episcopal Monastery on Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA - a “house” of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE).


SSJE (a.k.a. “the Cowley Fathers”) was founded in Cowley, Oxford OK in 1865. It was the first Anglican (Church of England) monastic order to be established after the English Reformation.


The Cambridge MA Monastery is a source of great wisdom for the Episcopal Church. Much of this is thanks to Curtis Almquist, so I was happy to be able to see and hear him again.

I was not disappointed. His meditation at the service yesterday on “The dreams we have, and the dreams into which we live” moved me to be teary eyed. The older I get, the tearier I become. I welcome the tears with gratitude to Curtis. He speaks truth.

OLD FRIEND 2 was the hymn we sang during Communion “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee”.

In the absence of a good supply of hymnals I sang it, almost word perfect, from memory. For of course I learned it 50 – 55 years ago in the fundamentalist Gospel Hall/Plymouth Brethren congregation in which I was raised.

I disliked the hymn all those years ago. I sang it with good voice, but not with good heart yesterday. I simply cannot sing the words with truthfulness of heart.

Later at the Communion we sang the hymn which I dislike with a passion “Amazing Grace”. It’s become a favourite of many because of Judy Collins’ and Scottish Bagpipers’ renditions. It is, for me, like English Roast Beef – “overdone, grey and dry”.

But, to be a good sport I sang along with the others. But I could not help but whisper to my colleague Andrea Taylor that the last verse makes heaven sound so boring.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the Sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun”.

Lord above, I do not wish or care to be there, or anywhere, for ten thousand years. 60, 70, or 80 years of consciousness is quite enough, thank you!


Yours heretically.

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