Monday, January 21, 2008


Views* of Holy Trinity Church, Rayleigh, Essex (see below)

"The only God is Reality. To seek Him elsewhere is the action of the Fall."

This saying is attributed to an obscure sect, the "Sarmauni Botherhood", and is quoted by Professor Charles Tart in his book "Waking Up". It has a very powerful resonance for me, who is always falling, or at least teetering on the edge of various dizzying drops. It reminds me to turn around and walk towards the light.

Tonight I went to a prayer-meeting, one of a series of rotating meetings organised by the several churches in the town where I live, in aid of Christian unity. I went on an impulse, having dropped in at the Parish Hall earlier in the day to get out of the driving rain. The meeting was advertised in the Parish magazine, which I read while I waited for the squall to blow over. I thought that, as I had nothing special to do, it would be nice to put my spare energies behind the co-operative efforts of local Christians: any co-operation is better than none, "co-operation is the colour" etc.

About forty mainly elderly folk turned up, we had coffee, then embarked on an hour of open reflection and spontaneous prayer, interspersed every ten minutes by short inspirational snippets from the Gospels. I can't recollect all the themes, but one was 'perseverance', which is, I think, a Buddhist virtue. Walter Elliot (1842-1928) says, "Perseverance is not a life-long race, it is many short races one after another". Thank you, Walter.

During the prayers I sat silent and meditatively with eyes open, listening to the prayers that were offered up by various members of the group, as supportively as I could. I couldn't help my mind from entering into various reflexive and unnecessary judgements on the content and style of the prayers: some seemed rather ponderous and had an undertone of prescriptiveness about them, others were more tentative and personal. Of course I also realised that it hardly mattered what was said in one sense, and mattered absolutely in another. It certainly didn't matter what I thought, except in terms of my own obscurations. One woman's prayer (I guess it was a woman as I didn't look to see who spoke) was almost inaudible, and I found myself liking that best! At the end of the meeting I felt very still and relaxed, and found I had enjoyed the meeting lots.

The church where the meeting was held is Holy Trinity (pictured above)*, the parish church of our town, and a local land-mark. About seven years ago I took my wife's blind Zambian father, Loti Matipa Mulumbi, there for a visit (we went to almost every church in town for services, as he was a devout Christian and an ordained minister of Christian Missions in Many Lands). While he was there at Holy Trinity they gave him the bell pull to ring the church bell which sounded out across the town. I thought that was a wonderful gesture, and he was as pleased as Punch. He died about eighteen months ago aged 92.

*Two general views of the exterior of Holy Trinity, and a close-up picture of the Tudor porch, built of red bricks in the early 16th century. The porch was used as a shelter for vagrants (perhaps one of the earliest types of hospice, or places of refuge), and also a classroom for six boys.

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