Posts Tagged ‘St Nicolas’

The Upper Room at St Nicolas

August 19, 2013

I was on my way to The Keystone for a drink. Passing by St Nicolas, I saw it was open. This is rare for St Nicolas, and I did not think they had an afternoon service.

I walked in, to find a Black Church had taken up occupancy, I learnt later they were called The Upper Room.

I sat down. Not wise, as I would then have to leave in the middle of the service.

Had the woman leading the service not been shouting, she may have been intelligible. Those near me seemed more interested in their mobile phones.

I thought it would never end, but luckily after 20 minutes, but seemed more like two hours, it did end.

I asked a few people who they were, and they told me it was The Upper Room, that met in St Nicolas. They asked would I be returning. I said no, explained I was on my way to Saviour’s and invited them along, and said they had Canon Andrew White giving the sermon. Sadly none of them did.

I had what was probably the only white man there, come up to me, demand to know my name and tell me he wished to talk to me. Maybe it was his idea of being friendly, but I found him to be rude and offensive. You do not walk up to stranger and ask who they are, and say you wish to take them to one side and talk to them as though it is a police interrogation.

Service of Nine Lessons and Carols

December 16, 2012
St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

Last year I was at St Nicolas in Guildford for Nine Lessons and Carols and thought I would attend this year too.

I just made it as it started a heavy downpour. For some reason, I was not given a programme as I walked in.

As it was a few minutes before the service started, I lit a candle for the massacre of the innocents.

Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is a community event. People from different walks of life read the lesson.

Afterwards mulled wine.

I had brought along The Pilgrimage to give to a friend. Sadly she was not there, or if she was I did not see her. I gave it to one of the choristers who was a little surprised to receive a gift. I hope she likes it, as she actually knew what the book was about.

Paulo Coelho speaks of some people needing ritual, it is the rhythm that governs their lives. We have rhythm, a clock, the day, the seasons.

I walked to the station lost in thought. In The Witch of Portobello Jesus looks into a church and thinks to himself, even I would not be welcome here. I do not think he would think that looking into St Nicolas, but he would question.

The only time Jesus sanctioned violence, apart from his own violence to the money changers in the temple, was when he condoned violence to those who harm children.

Two days ago we had violence done to children and to those in whose care they were. We had incredible courage shown by the female teachers, some of who laid down their own lives to protect the children during the massacre of the innocents.

There was not a mention. Not a mention. Not a prayer. Not a moment of reflection.

One of those who read the lesson was a head teacher of a nearby primary school, last year her children participated in the service. One of her colleagues also read a lesson.

Why did they not hold up the lesson and tear it to pieces? This was my lesson for today, but instead I am going talk of the massacre of innocents.

One of the lessons was of the massacre of the innocents instigated by Herod. No mention of the massacre of the innocents at a primary school two days ago.

Two thousand years ago, Bethlehem was under the jackboot of military occupation. Today Bethlehem is under the jackboot of military occupation. There was no mention.

It is excellent that St Nicolas still keeps alive the traditions that many churches have forgotten. But it also has to operate in the real world, to show that it has some relevance.

Philip Yancey in one of his books, possibly What’s So Amazing about Grace?, refers to a man who swore in church during a sermon. Giles Fraser has recently made reference to the same incident. Shock horror, but what should have been far more shocking was what the man was talking about.

Sometimes we have to jolt people out of their rituals. Rituals have a tendency to degenerate into cosy complacency.

I found it hard to fathom, no prayers said for those children aged six to seven gunned down, their grieving families, no moment of refection, a few minutes of silence.

Maybe I am being too hard. They did have a collection to raise funds for a refuge for the homeless, but if we did not have slash and burn of public services, with a ConDem government hitting the most vulnerable in society, if the rich did not dodge their taxes, we would have no need for the poor to rely upon charity from St Nicolas.

Sunday afternoon in Guildford

December 16, 2012
Debenhams restaurant overlooking River Wey

Debenhams restaurant overlooking River Wey

Sunday is not a day I would normally spend in Guildford. The train service is bad, Guildford is too busy, and this Sunday of all Sundays, last weekend before Christmas.

And so it was, afternoon in Guildford.

The train times have changed. I thought maybe rail works, but no, the timetable has changed. Pain to get down to Brighton unless a winter timetable, as I would catch the Gatwick train, change at Gatwick, a few minutes wait, then be in Gatwick by midday. Now train does not get to Gatwick until nearly midday. I shall have to make further inquiries.

Sunday, only half as many trains, one train an hour.

The train was packed. Half heading for Gatwick, half heading for Guildford.

When are the train companies going to wake up to the fact people travel on a Sunday, we require the same service as in the week?

Alighting at Guildford, it was pleasantly mild.

Walking along the River Wey, it was fast flowing and muddy.

Sunday lunch at The Keystone. A big mistake. It was disgusting. A pity, as the food in The Keystone is usually very good.

Still hungry, I had tea and cake at Debenhams.

On the bridge, a little Christmas fair with stalls, mostly selling tat, though not as bad as the tat on the stalls in the High Street.

Leaving The Keystone it was noticeably colder.

Leaving Debenhams, I had a quick wander up and down the High Street.

I was then just in time to miss the rain as I headed for St Nicolas Church for Nine Lessons and Carols. This was followed by mulled wine.

I missed one train, next train over an hour later. Possibly fortunate I missed a train, as when I walked to the station, there had been heavy rain, and I delayed heading for the station until the heavy rain stopped.

Cross at St Nicolas

January 17, 2012
cross St Nicolas

cross St Nicolas

I was passing by St Nicolas in Guildford. As I always do, I checked the noticeboard as they often have something interesting on, though sadly too often they neglect to mention on their noticeboard.

Christian meditation. I had missed it. But at least it meant I might find the church open.

As I walked in, the sun just caught the cross suspended above the altar.

Any other time, and the sun would not have caught the cross. On reflection I realised nor would it any other time of the year as the sun would be too high in the sky.

It had been cloudy all morning or hazy sun, unlike the previous days with clear blue sky. The sun came out to illuminate the figures on the cross whilst I was in the church. When I left the church, the sun vanished behind the clouds.

I had a brief word with Father Andrew who thanked me for the DVD of a talk I gave him of Canon Andrew White.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

I lit several candles: for Canon Andrew White, Lina and Fulla, Paulo Coelho for writing Aleph, my mad friend Sian and my friend Lilly.

Hopefully next week I will make the meditation. I may be wrong but I think 1230 until 1315 Tuesday lunchtimes.

Nine Lessons and Carols at St Nicolas

December 18, 2011

Happy fourth advent, my friends. — Rudolf Schenker

Jesus taught us to serve, not be served. A message we should all heed. — Father Andrew

I have been to more carol concerts in the last week than I had up until then in a lifetime: An African Christmas Concert, Boiler Room Carols, a children’s carol concert, and that is not counting the awful carol singing at Creative Arts @ Costa at the beginning of December

An African Christmas
Guildford Boiler Room Christmas Carols
Children’s Carol Concert at St Mark’s

This evening I was at Nine Lessons and Carols at St Nicolas in Guildford, choir, Father Andrew resplendent in full regalia, lessons read by various members of the local community. We learnt the local St Nicolas School had introduced ‘value-based learning’ whatever that meant and a group of children sang their value song which apparently they sing every morning. Followed by mulled wine and mince pies and Fair trade goods for sale.

Value Song

Whenever you’re down, I’ll be there.
Whenever you’re sad, I’ll dry your tears.
Wherever you are, you can count on me.
I’ll carry your burden when it’s heavy.
Together we’ll share the load.
This is how it’s always meant to be.

We open up our world
and we grew from many friends.
We open up our hearts,
May this journey never end.
We found a place where we belong,
We can see a brand new day,
Embracing life together is the way.

Whenever you smile, I’ll join you.
Whenever you laugh, I’ll share your joy.
I’ll be there when you spread your wings and fly.
Whatever you do, I’ll be there cheering.
When you cross the finish line,
You can count on me to be nearby.

We open up our world
and we grew from many friends.
We open up our hearts,
May this journey never end.
We found a place where we belong,
We can see a brand new day,
Embracing life together is the way.

Sung with great enthusiasm by the children.

Give me a child until he is seven said the Jesuits and we have him for life.

The readings were from the King James Bible which this year has celebrated 400 years. Archbishop George Abbot, one of the contributors to the King James was a Guildford man, baptised at St Nicolas.

I was not quite sure why I was there. It was a lovely sunny day when I got up at midday, earlier frost on the ground, spiked the grass. I had intended to make the effort and prepare a Sunday roast dinner, but instead off to Guildford. By the time I set off, clouds had rolled in.

I lit candles for my lovely but sadly mad friend Sian, Paulo Coelho for writing Aleph and Canon Andrew White in Baghdad.

I chatted to a very pleasant Fiona, one of the choristers, and thanked her for the singing. I learnt she had read and liked Paulo Coelho. I told her of his latest book Aleph, of which she was not aware (Waterstone’s have a lot to answer for). I invited her to come along to Keystone Spirit at the Keystone Pub and Creative Arts @ Costa (first Tuesday of the month). I also said I would let her have a DVD of a talk Canon Andrew White gave a few weeks ago.

Curious ‘value-based learning’, I managed to catch the headmistress of St Nicolas. Apparently introduced at a school where the kids beat the hell out of each. They learn respect, to look out for each other, to respect the environment. I suggested she took the kids on an outing to St Paul’s in-the-Camp.

Anything that teaches children not to be greedy bankers or tax dodging spongers or corrupt politicians, to contribute to society not take, has to be welcomed.

I told her how impressed I was by the children at St Mark’s School and suggested she attend one of their concerts and then try something similar.

Children’s Carol Concert at St Mark’s

I thanked Father Andrew for the service.

St Nicolas is at the bottom of the High Street just over the bridge.

4pm Christmas Eve Christingle Service for the Children at St Nicolas Guildford.

8pm Wednesday 21 December 2011. Canon Andrew White at Pioneer Church in Leatherhead.

11-30pm Christmas Eve midnight mass at St Nicolas Guildford.

evening Tuesday 3 January 2012. Creative Arts @ Costa, Swan Lane, Guildford.

7-30pm Tuesday 3 January 2012. Canon Andrew White at The Vineyard Cente, Church House, Union Road, Farnham.

Does it matter how we pray?

May 25, 2011

Do we kneel, our head bowed, our hands together, our eyes closed? Or do we stand, wave our arms about and shout in an egotistical display for all the world to see? Or do we as in the Russian Orthodox, stand in silent prayer? Or do we as a devout Muslim, five times a day, lay prostrate on the ground facing Mecca?

To pray is to communicate with an Infinite Being. To communicate implies a two-way dialogue.

Too often we make demands, when these are not met, we go off in a huff, get in a strop.

We would do well to heed the advice of St Benedict: Listen, listen to your Master. The Master in this case was the Abbot.

We need to learn to listen, to be patient.

At Alton Abbey, visitors will go away with three or more books on how to pray. They would be best served in devoting their time in prayer, not reading the books.

The Jesus Prayer can be used as as mantra, an aid to meditation, but there is a danger if we do this without a spiritual guide.

There are too many churches where one is greeted on arrival as though a long lost friend, but it is a false sense of friendship, there is no depth, no sense of community.

Alton Abbey has a congregation of about ninety people. They do not all turn up at once which is fortunate as the church is only small. They turn up because they are made welcome, they find they are members of a community.

The follow up discussion descended into a discussion on the format of church services.

At a St Joseph’s Day Party in Istanbul, Paulo Coelho invited everyone to join him in prayer. It was not an obligation, but if you did participate he asked that it came from your soul. He asked everyone to join hands. It was a very moving experience.

I spent three weeks in the spring, of which nearly every day I visited an old Spanish colonial church. At the same time I would sit in the plaza reading By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. I tried a technique described in the book. To sit very quietly and open ones mind. I was amazed at what happened. I discussed this with Father Dom Giles Hill. He said yes, now try it with a group of people.

A special thanks to Dom Giles Hill, former Abbot of Alton, for the talk he gave at St Nicolas, Guildford, 8pm Wednesday 25 May 2011.

St Nicolas Church by the River Wey, is one of the oldest churches in Guildford

Alton Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery in the beautiful Hampshire village of Beech, just outside Alton.


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