Sacred Space

St. Michael’s Vicarage, Alnwick

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, when the parish of Holy Island was without a Vicar, my former Training Incumbent, Canon Syd Connolly, lived in the Vicarage there for three separate months, helping with the work of the parish and the ministry to visitors in that place until a new parish priest was appointed.

Whilst Syd and his wife, Pat, were living there I twice spent a day off with them: once in February and once in June.

Of course the context was very different on each occasion. In February, complete with hats, scarves and gloves, we enjoyed a brisk walk up to the castle in the biting wind followed by the luxury of sitting around a log fire contemplating the peace and tranquillity of an almost deserted island. In June the whole day was spent outside: on a longer walk (a hat was again needed, but this time to give protection from the sun) in the company of many hundreds of visitors and then sitting in the Vicarage garden listening to the seals singing.

Flow very fortunate we are to live so close to this sacred place – “the Cradle of Christianity” – where the Northern Saints prayed and worshipped and from where they set out to bring the love of Christ to our forebears.

At the present moment, I am still basking in the wonder of my recent trip to Assisi – another centre of prayer and devotion and which, just like the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, literally brings people to their knees as they are caught up in the sheer holiness of the place before returning to their homes energised by the experience of the pilgrimage.

Now I doubt whether St. Michael’s, Alnwick will ever become a centre of pilgrimage for the countless thousands who visit Holy Island and Assisi and other famous sites of devotion – and yet there is no doubt that it is a “sacred space”, and our many visitors often comment on the atmosphere of prayer and devotion they feel.

Technically, of course, the space was made sacred on some unknown date far back in the mists of time when the bishop of the day no doubt came to consecrate the building; but it is the prayers, the devotion and the celebration of the Sacraments by faithful worshippers in the intervening years (and that includes us now in our generation) that have been absorbed into the very fabric of the place.

As those of us who regularly worship at St. Michael’s receive grace and courage from Christ to live out our lives of faith in the world, so too, we can encourage each other – and those who are yet to come – by our constancy and our commitment as we join our prayers to those of our forebears.

Lord for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
Sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided,
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.

Lord for ourselves, in living pow’r remake us –
self on the cross and Christ upon the throne,
Past put behind us, for the future take us,
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
(Timothy Dudley-Smith)

With every blessing,

 Paul.

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