Holy Spirit Sisters, Churches And Knitwits

Revd. Sandi Kerner is Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Powhaten, Virginia. She has worked for the healing of wounds between black and white citizens in Richmond. She has served on the USA Caim Council of The Community of Aidan and Hilda. Now she has brought spiritual leaders from campuses and churches on a pilgrimage to The Open Gate, Lindisfarne and Ffald-y-Brenin, Wales. During their week on Lindisfarne they want to encounter different aspects of the Holy Spirit through re-living faith stories of Aidan, Hilda, Cuthbert, Brigid and Brendan, and through one-to-one spiritual direction.

Sandi came ahead of the others so that I could drive her on Sunday to Whitby, made famous by Saint Hilda, which is much in our hearts. We encountered English Heritage’s pathetic misuse of the cliff top abbey ruins – drawing crowds to the re-enactment of Dracula. We also encountered Whitby’s famed fish and chips. That was better. The highlight, however, was a visit to Saint Hilda’s Priory. After a peep at the paintings in the Saint Hilda Room and a visit to the book shop we joined in Evening Prayer with the twenty two sisters of The Order of the Holy Paraclete. By some divine co-incidence they have free time after that on Sundays and can do what they like. Sister Carol, in her first year as Prioress, chose to invite us to coffee and cake. The delicious Christmas-style cake was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Sister Janet Elizabeth’s vows. We met many old friends, and sat down with Sister Carol to share news and thoughts, arriving back at 10.0 pm as the tide opened.

Six hours of driving gave us time to explore a key topic: How can an ordinary local church, not just individuals, live a way of life? Three foundations are daily prayer, soul friends for church members and long-term spiritual formation. At Sandy’s church the children engage in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a long term course widely used in catholic churches and Montessori schools http://www.cgsusa.org/. The youth engage in a six year Episcopal Church programme called Journey Into Adulthood http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/link/journey-adulthood-j2a. What about the adults? We talked about our Igniting the Flame course and the groups course in the new edition of my New Celtic Monasticism for Everyday People. I explained that I am working on a series of several hundred emails that expound our way of life for adults. However, during the retreat this thought came: Why not introduce practical exercises, suggestions for engagement, questions for journaling, all of which would be talked through with a soul friend. This could be offered as a three year spiritual formation in our way of life for adults. What do you think?

Retreatants had times of soaking prayer. I was given a beautifully knitted woollen scarf with these words on a card: 'For Ray Simpson, hand-knit with love and prayer by the knit wits of St. James’'. These ladies at the Episcopal Church, Lake George, New York State, knit prayed over scarves that are taken to people in hospitals and to war veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. And to the likes of me!.

Posted at 12:28pm on 27th July 2016
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