An excellent article by Father Pip. Source: Chess or Church?
One of the first things that I discovered, as my family discovered the Autistic Spectrum ans our various positionings within it, was the concept of neurodiversity. The idea that all of our brains are wired differently, giving us differing gifts and challenges. Whilst many people have a “neurotypical” set up, sharing common patterns of functioning, many others use their brains in delightfully quirky ways. The community identifying itself as “neurodiverse”, trying to embrace all these quirks and typicalities, has adopted for its patron saint, St Christina the Astonishing, who was born in Belgium in 1150 and died in 1224 at the ripe age of 74. The fact she lived to be 74 is something of a miracle in itself given the eventful life she led.
At the age of 21 or 22 she had some sort of seizure where she was assumed to have died. At her own funeral she popped out of her coffin and levitated to the ceiling of the Church. This event, not surprisingly, terrified her mourners who all fled the church, save for one of her sisters and the priest. These two carried on to the end of the Mass at which point the priest talked Christina into coming down from the rafters of the church. She then regalled the two with stories of having been to heaven, purgatory, and hell and from this time forward she would dedicate her life to the souls in purgatory.
She is recorded to have spent quite a bit of her time avoiding the smell of sin on her fellow humans by hiding in baking ovens, [apparently in the process of baking] at the tops of trees, and in general levitating herself away at need. She was considered either possessed by devils or miraculous in the extreme.
She lived in total poverty, essentially homeless until the last years of her life when she finally agreed to settle down in the convent of one of her only friends, a woman named Beatrice. St Christina has become the patron saint of those with mental illnesses and those who care for them, she is also the favoured saint for adoption as patron by the Autistic Community. Within my own life, I am inspired by Christina’s concern for souls in purgatory, but wish to translate it into a dedication to those who are suffering in this life, here on earth.
What is Rev’d Lynsay trying to do?
I believe that will begin with a self-selecting community of prayer. A community of people willing to cultivate that sense of wonder, which is the beginning of prayer, that will allow us to be astonished by the many ways God is at work in our lives and the lives of those around us.
At different times and in different parts of the church people’s idiosyncrasies have been allowed to show God’s purpose for the world. Christians have recognised God at work in the vulnerabilities of some and the strength of others. In an age running after idols of progress, wealth and perfection, I believe it is time to repent, to return to God and ask the potter to show us the delights of the endless variety in creation.
With the beginning of Advent 2017 the Astonishing Prayers Blog will launch, including prayers inspired by saints from across the Christian traditions, who today would be classed as “vulnerable”, hopefully cared for, but it is unlikely they would be recognised as especially holy. I’m hoping to retrain my eye, to retrain our eyes, our ears, to the ways in which all people are wonderfully revealing the image of God.
So how can you help?
At the moment I’m collecting stories of our contemporaries. People we know, whether they’re churchgoers or not, who have said or done something, or simply caused you to be in a situation where you’ve looked at the world differently and perhaps wondered about God.
It might be the love someone has for a very ordinary object, or the time they spend watching leaves blow. It might be about sitting in silence or learning to find patterns in noise. It might be about laughter, when you were about to give up or the relish with which a lasagna was consumed. If you have such a moment that you’re willing to share, with the person’s real name or a saintly pseudonym, I’d be really grateful if you could write it down and send it to me by e-mail or give it to me at church.
Yours in hope and wonder,
9.30am Holy Communion, St JtL.
7pm Tenebrae (a beautiful, candlelit service of music and readings), St JtL.
7.30pm PCWT service at St Mungo’s.
7pm PCWT service at North Church.
12.30pm Holy Communion St JtL.
11.30am Chrism Mass at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh .
7.30pm PCWT Communion with footwashing at South Kirk.
11am Hot Cross Bun service at St James the Less.
2pm An Hour at the Cross at St James the Less.
5.45am Sunrise Service departing from St Kentigern’s churchyard.
9.30am the First Communion of Easter at St James the Less.
The end of March draws to a conclusion the first three-month trial period of differing service times for St JtL Penicuik and St M West Linton. Both vestries consulted widely and many views were reported back to the meeting. As expected, the vestries concluded that a further three-month trial period would be necessary, with the service times reversed, to allow both congregations to experience both options.
From the 2nd April, therefore, St James the Less will gather for worship at 9.30am, following the established pattern of services. On the 4th Sunday of each month, in order to fulfill the legal requirement of offering communion every Sunday, Rev’d Lynsay will offer an 8am said communion service in church before the main service of Morning Prayer that day. Naturally, with services being so early, coffee can return to being after the service.
For those who find these times too early, perhaps for this three-month period you might consider attending St Mungo’s West Linton, rather than missing church altogether. They will be meeting at 11.30am from 2nd April. As soon as I know when they will hold coffee/brunch I will relay this information. Morning Prayer at West Linton is on the first Sunday of the month and will be followed by said communion, for the same reason that we will be holding an 8am.
On 21st May every member of each congregation will receive a response form, allowing them to register an opinion in the decisions before us. We hope most will be collected from church, but will post out any uncollected forms on the Monday. These forms will need to be returned to the vestry secretary no later than Friday 9th June. This information can then be collated and taken to the next joint vestry meeting on 14th June, allowing us to set the Summer pattern for worship.
Three months ago, the vestries of St James the Less Penicuik and St Mungo’s West Linton agreed to trial new times for their services, due to a change in the clergy resources available week by week. Change is always difficult but both congregations have, on the whole, been gracious during this trial period. Before the end of the month the two vestries will be meeting again to make a final decision on this matter. For this reason you will find vestry members here at St JtL saying: “Has anyone asked you…”, we hope you won’t feel pestered but we do want to make sure everyone has had the chance to be heard.
At vestry on Wednesday some known views were brought to the St JtL table, often including questions that need answering or with suggestions from the congregation. This post is designed to answer a few of those questions for those curious enough to read it and to provide a resource for vestry members.
· The three month experimental period finishes at the end of March, will services now return to 10.30am?
No. Unfortunately, there is no way we can hold our services at this time with only one member of clergy available across two churches most weeks. The joint vestries will be meeting again before the end of the month. It is likely that we will need a further 3 month experimental period but with the service times reversed.
(9.30am at St JtL and 11.30am at St M)
· Can’t we use our Lay Worship Leaders to have services from Reserved Sacrament at the time we choose?
No. The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, services from reserved sacrament are to be used in extremis. We are not allowed to plan to use this service on a regular basis, especially when it is possible for a member of clergy to celebrate communion with a congregation on the same day. Secondly, Lay Worship Leaders are not Eucharistic ministers. They have been trained and authorised to lead Services of the Word (such as Morning Prayer), or less formal acts of Worship. They offer a valuable ministry and greatly enrich our worship but are not inter-changeable with clergy.
· Then let’s have Morning Prayer twice a month and communion twice a month with St Mungo’s doing the same. We can then have the time we want.
Firstly, this would require the consent of both congregations, which I am not at all sure it would get. More importantly however, Canon 22 of the Scottish Episcopal Church section 6 states:
In every congregation the Holy Communion shall be celebrated, when in the opinion of the Bishop it is reasonably practicable, at least on every Lord’s Day, on the Great Festivals, and on Ash Wednesday, and appropriate provision shall be made for public
worship on Good Friday.
This means that there must be a service of Holy Communion as well as one of Morning Prayer on those Sundays when Morning Prayer is offered. Attendance at this service has been low to non-existent so far.
· We used to have services where St JtL started earlier with the priest arriving later in time to preach and celebrate communion, let’s do that.
This, far from perfect, solution allowed worship to be conducted at reasonable times during the interregnum, but is not a sustainable pattern of worship long term. Rushing from one church to the other has pastoral implications for the first church to meet, as the priest is not free to speak to the congregation after the service. The priest is also constantly hopping into a service already on the go, unable to prepare properly, not having gathered with this congregation. Whilst we are looking at ways to cut down the time between services, this would be a last resort.
· 11.30am cuts into the middle of the day, meaning that we can do nothing on a Sunday but come to church.
This is clearly inconvenient. One way round this would be for one congregation to look at meeting in the afternoon/evening. This way one congregation could come to church and then go out, whilst the other could go out, then come to church. An afternoon service might be 4pm in Winter and 6.30 or 7 in Summer to allow for the longer days.
Change is always difficult. Clearly we are all having to make compromises. We believe in God who loves us and gives us life. Our being cries out to worship in response. It is through this worship that we learn our identity in Christ and within the story of God’s relationship with humanity. Surely that we are free to meet in safety, within a beautiful building, blessed with musicians, singers, readers, florists, cleaners, intercessors and a priest is something to rejoice in and give thanks for. Please keep praying that we are able to find an acceptable solution.