Discover your church as a source of meditation

It was a rather dank and dismal morning - Saturday the 16th of November - when about twenty members of St Peter’s various congregations met with Eileen McLean, to explore the all too familiar building as an inspiration for prayer and meditation. Having been fortified by Joyce Savage's excellent coffee (and ginger biscuits one could die for) we began our spiritual journey round our ancient church. The actual stages and meditations are printed separately, and I feel it would be an impertinence to repeat in plain prose what is more easily followed by reading Eileen’s excellent and thought provoking stages of meditation round the church. What I feel is more appropriate to offer is a personal impression of the experience of those two hours spent in reflection on the significance of our place of worship.

Three aspects of that time stand out for me. The first was by the font - the jewel colours of that window, perhaps best seen with sunlight casting bright lozenges of colour on the floor, now seen as symbolising the impact of the light of the Holy Spirit on the forces of chaos and the destruction and the new life emerging from the water. There was distinct power in reflecting on all who had entered into the new life of Christ at the font, especially as one of our number - Frank Riley - had received baptism there.

The second was when seated in the nave a poem was read, a reflection by a rather brusque-tongued mediaeval workman who, having spent a life-time building a cathedral and now old and retired, being present at its consecration and fairly unimpressed by all the ceremonial, looks up and says: "I bloody did that."

The third was when at the end we were directed to choose a particular window for reflection. The intention was, I believe, to use pictures as a source of inspiration - but the window I selected had words and where there are words, I read. I do not regret this, particularly on this occasion. The dedication is to:

All those citizens whose faithfulness in worship
led to diligence and integrity in daily duty.

Some of those words are now old-fashioned and regarded as boring - ‘diligence’ and ‘duty’ - but perhaps ‘integrity’ still retains its power. It reminded me forcibly of Vittorino da Feltre who in his school in Mantua in the 15th century taught, not to create people of genius necessarily, but to develop the talents each pupil had to the full so that they could become confident and caring human beings, taking responsibility for themselves and the effect they had on those around them. Here commemorated in this window are the people of integrity who can be trusted, whom in our better moments we recognise as the salt of the earth, and who acknowledge where the source of their grace originates.

This was two hours well spent. I am aware that each one of us who was there would come away with their own reflections and spiritual insights. And we all owe Eileen a debt of gratitude for initiating so ably a new view of our church life.

And how did it feel to emerge from this into the busyness of the pre-Christmas shoppers? I will let George MacDonald speak for me:

This made it the more likely that he had seen a true vision, for instead of making common things look commonplace, as a false vision would have done, it made common things disclose the wonder that was in them.

Gill Scott, November 1996
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997