A sanctuary

The bell for Lauds brought us from our cells and our rooms and through the narrow door back into the chapel to join the community for the first office of the day. As we sat there, the sun rose and shone brilliantly through the east window. It was an amazing moment of the presence of the God we adore. It was great to be here together.

Anna and Asta enjoy the sun

Anna and Asta enjoy the sun

After breakfast we moved into the first session of the day which was to be a Bible study session. As you remember the theme we have chosen for this weekend is ‘The Religious Life and Us’ and the text we decided to look at was Acts 2.40-47.

Peter testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We began together looking at the context of the passage and then moved into two groups to discuss the passage before coming back together. The discussion was about what the phrase ‘this corrupt generation’ meant and how we all live out our Christian life so that we have ‘the goodwill of all the people.’ It was a challenging conversation. We were reminded that at the end of the Eucharist we are sent out ‘to love and serve the Lord’. The question is, do we do this? And how should we do this? We also realised that for religious communities this passage is a foundational text because so much of the rule of life of communities flows from these verses. We ended by accepting the challenge to establish our own Rule of Life.

Each of us should be committing ourselves to prayer and Bible study, to the Eucharist and generous giving and generous living. Commiting ourselves in this way is about our doing what those early Christians did ‘devoting themselves’ to the teaching and the prayers and the breaking of the bread. I reminded people though that our Rule of Life should be both acheivable and challenging. St Francis de Sales said a lot about this in an ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’. He also said:

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.’

It is a great thing to remember.

Guy leads our study session

Guy leads our study session

After coffee one of our group, Guy Rowston, did some history with us, putting Hilda and Whitby into the context of the Celtic saints and the Synod of Whitby. It was a great presentation and the discussion afterwards continued about new religious movements in the church and how we can enage with them in our own communities.

This is a place of sanctuary and it was good to hear from Sister Carole yesterday evening about the life of the community here and what else the sisters do. Surprisingly, one of the things that they do is rescue donkeys and so after we had finished a number of us went to find the donkeys.

Donkeys enjoying the sanctuary

Donkeys enjoying the sanctuary

There they are opposite the community graveyard and alongside a pet’s cemetary for the sisters’ various cats and dogs. Set in wonderful gardens and meadows it was a peaceful way to end the morning and move into the afternoon.

Guy had reminded us that St Hilda had a great way of recognising the talent of others and particularly that of Caedmon, the first English hymn writer, and he reminded us of Caedmon’s great hymn, a prayer of praise with which to end a morning that began with praise as the sun rose.

Final sanctuary for the sisters

Final sanctuary for the sisters

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven’s kingdom,
The might of the Creator, and his thought,
The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

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