Epiphanytide, the weeks following Christmas, the most beautiful of church seasons, is a time of revelation and truth. The stark outline of trees against an ever-changing sky sharpens the contrasts. Bright stars illumine the way.
The bible texts set for these Sundays follow the beginnings of the ministry of Jesus; his baptism, calling the first disciples and the first miracle. They conclude with the ancient Feast of Candlemas on 2 February, the turning point between Christmas and Easter.
It is a time of new beginnings for everyone around St Peter’s, as the congregation prepares for a new vicar in the months ahead and I work out ways to move to Wales by spring.
I will miss the layout of the streets of De Beauvoir Town, the picturesque architecture, the sense of place and the greenways to Canonbury, the Angel, Newington Green, London Fields, Clapton and Hackney Wick.
I will miss my garrulous flock – the warmest, most generous, open-minded and resourceful congregation I will ever know.
I take with me a treasure chest of memories, precious insights from the lives and homes of so many people. Pastoral ministry is unique in the opportunities provided to visit people at home, for no other reason than a cup of tea and a chat.
In these past months I have taken solace from stories of early Celtic Christian saints of the British Isles, setting out in coracles, submitting to forces of nature to travel to unknown lands.
One of the most famous was Brendan the Navigator, patron saint of boatmen, mariners, travellers, elderly adventurers and whales. There is a detail in an Irish stone cross of Brendan’s boat, which has been reproduced in bronze resin by Wild Goose Studio in Ireland as a message of ‘Strength in Unity’. The image offers a timely reminder of the necessity for pulling together in stormy weather (see the image above).
Last week I received an Irish blessing written by the poet-priest, John O’Donahue, from Elizabeth Haines, who welcomed me to St Peter’s on Christmas Day 1987. I share these words again and hope they will be passed on to many others.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours
May the clarity of light be yours
May the fluency of the ocean be yours
May the protection of the ancestors be yours
And so may a slow wind wrap these words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life.
With immense thanks for all that has been shared in this place.
Rev’d Julia Porter-Pryce,
Vicar, St Peter De Beauvoir