‘Buen Camino!’ are the two words that have been ringing in my ears for the last 5 weeks. Walking across northern Spain (beginning in the French Pyrenees), following the ancient medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago, I clocked up nearly 500 miles. Every time I passed a fellow pilgrim we would exchange those words, ‘Buen Camino’ which roughly translated means, ‘safe travelling’ or ‘go well’. Since returning from Spain I find myself musing on what it was all about; indeed why did I choose to make the journey in the first place?
I first heard about the Camino to Santiago de Compostela about 10 years ago from a friend in the Yorkshire Dales. ‘It clears out all the rubbish and puts you back in touch with what’s really important to you’, I remember her saying and her words came back to me when I was considering what to do on my sabbatical. It seemed a good plan. So having done a minimal amount of research on what the route was like, what to take, key spanish phrases and the like, I set off.
The physical route took me through four regions: Navarra and Rioja, with mountains and forests, crops and vineyards, then Castilla y Leon with the relative wilderness of the Mesata and finally Galicia with its mountain streams and lush pastures. I walked in temperatures of high 30’s through numerous medieval villages and a number of imposing cities. But alongside the physical route there was the mental and spiritual journey to be made. This, so they say, falls into three sections: you spend the first part of the journey concerned with your body - obsessed with the state of your feet - counting the blisters and the aching muscles. Then (if you haven’t given up and gone home) your attention shifts more to the mind: why am I making this journey? What am I needing to focus on? What am I needing to get out of this? But the third part of the journey is perhaps the most crucial - the journey of the heart. Having relaxed into your body, having given up on attempting to ‘sort’ your life (I speak only for myself of course!) it becomes a journey of trust and acceptance. I found myself experiencing an inner freedom that I have only glimpsed before; a way of being in the world that enabled me to delight in it and see it as though for the first time. In a strange way I felt I was being stripped of all my usual preoccupations and felt a deep sense of being at peace or you might say, ‘in tune’ with myself.
St James, Patron Saint of Spain, in whose honour the pilgrimage is made, makes many appearances along the way. Tradition has it that he landed on the west coast of Spain shortly after Christ’s death intending to take the Christian message to the people of Spain. But he received a hostile reception and ended up returning to Jerusalem, only to die a martyr’s death. His body was carried back to Galicia and according to tradition he was buried in a field near Santiago. It was fascinating to see how his name and his image has been moulded, re-moulded, used and abused through the centuries. In some places he is the gentle pilgrim, bearing his scallop shell ( the symbol of pilgrimage), a staff and a gourd (to hold his water), offering encouragement to present day pilgrims. In other places he emerges as the aggressive 9th century Moor slayer - the knight in shining armour, spearheading the re-conquest of Spain for christianity.
The story of St James, my story, the stories of the many thousands who walk this route every year, all converge in Santiago. What an amazing moment to stand in that cathedral at the end of the journey surrounded by fellow travellers and pilgrims, adding my prayer to the prayers of so many who’ve made that same journey over the centuries. The swinging of the giant thurible, originally used presumably to fumigate the sweaty and disease ridden pilgrims, makes an appearance at the end of the mass as 6 men take hold of the ropes and swing it across the cathedral. What a sight to behold!
Walking the Camino was 5 weeks very well spent! I have no doubt that I will continue to muse on all that it has meant to me and will enjoy chatting with anyone who thinks they may just be interested in making the pilgrimage.
(To read as a pdf, including images, see here.)
Last Sunday we were celebrating how God is at work in St Mary's for our Patronal Festival.
Our rather brilliant church primary school has some places available for children this academic year.
If your child, or one you know, needs a nursery place please be in touch with them directly. For Primary School places (from Reception to Year 6) you should contact the Hackney Learning Trust.
St Mary's is rated 'good' by Ofsted, has an amazing EYFS provision for nursery and reception age pupils being built, a great staff team, has high expectations for all pupils and is really friendly and welcoming.
Spread the word!
Take a look at the Summer Special e-newsletter, if you haven't already.
Hit 'subscribe' if you're not getting it directly into your inbox each month.
The result of the EU referendum is already creating waves of shapes and sizes we couldn’t have imagined. And of course it has stimulated strong emotions in many people, whichever way they voted.
St Mary’s church, opp. Clissold park, is offering two ways to help. Perhaps there is a need to
- acknowledge our feelings
- recognise our hopes
- commit ourselves to moving forward for the common good
Privately. If you want a place to reflect a little, the Epiphany chapel (side chapel) in the big church has been set aside for just this purpose. It is open from 9am to 5pm every day.
Together. If you would like to gather with others, come to The Old Church across the road, Sunday 3rd July, 4 - 5pm. We will create a space together where can do all those things whilst also listening to each other.
Stoke Newington resident Emma Heseltine says
‘Many of you will be feeling deeply worried about the less-than-peaceful atmosphere at the moment.
I am very worried about the potential dangers of the lack of organisation for people to express themselves, with individuals starting Facebook events clocking up over 100,000 people wanting to attend, but no sign that there is any organisation to it. Add the possibility of counter-protests by EDL and Britain First, and the lack of an "official" event could be awful. I have started this petition for the Mayor's Office to enable a safe mass rally in London. I would be very grateful if you could sign, and share widely on Facebook, email and twitter.
Let’s work to find a peaceful and just way forward.
All are welcome to join us in The Old Church this coming Sunday evening (3rd July) for Evensong at 6.30pm followed at 7.30pm by a talk and slides from Jonathan Gebbie. He will be reflecting on his pilgrimage walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. You are most welcome at either or both!
Don't forget the auction in The Old Church at 7pm this evening. You can buy a ticket at the door.
You can get an advance look at the catalogue here.
The 9.30am and 11am congregations meet together at 10.30am on Sunday (in the big church) to celebrate Pentecost together.
Wear something flame-coloured!
St Mary's School will hold a Curry & Quiz Evening in the school hall on Thursday, 26th May, from 6.30pm. Come along and support the parish school. Tables of 8 maximum, £5.00 a head. Price includes a free delicious curry, rice, nan. A prize for the winner table. Speak to the school office for more details. 020 8800 2645.
AMEN is an independent group promoting the presence and participation of Minority Ethnic Anglicans in all structures of our church in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Independent” conveys the idea that the Group is not part of the formal structure of the Church of England; the Group will work with and has the blessing of CMEAC, but is not formally part of CMEAC. The sense that the Group will promote minority ethnic participation in “all” structures is also important, although particular attention would be paid to participation in senior leadership. Finally, it is importance to us to emphasise that what we do is not just for our self interest, but for the “service of the Gospel”.
The AMEN website is now online with our Invitation Form working. Please, click the link below to visit the website, and circulate this email to your friends. May the Lord who ascended into Heaven bless us all.
Messages of support:
"I am very pleased to welcome the launch of AMEN on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord. This network will encourage Anglicans from minority ethnic communities into greater participation in the life and structures of the CofE. We rejoice that our country is culturally and racially diverse and we are working to help our Church reflect this diversity. Moreover, the mission of God calls us to reflect this rainbow community, as a sign of hope for a broken world. I pray that the Kingdom of God will continue to prosper and grow through this initiative".
- The Very Rev Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester
"I am delighted to become a champion of AMEN. All of us, particularly those in leadership, need to be challenged about what we are doing and being to ensure that The Church of England reflects the face and voice of our country."
- The Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, The Bishop of Gloucester.
"I welcome the creation of the Anglican Minority Ethnic Network. The Church of England serves a diverse community in this country but the face and accent of our leadership often fails to match that of our demographic. We need to value and affirm and encourage the contribution of Minority Ethnic Christians to the life of the Church of England, and I’m delighted to be working with AMEN to make this happen."
- The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, The Bishop of Stepney
Find all the news about this year's Hackney Winter Nightshelter in their newsletter here.
Valerie and Matt with a great vantage point to watch the arena filling up for the London Citizens Mayoral Assembly.
Karen Swift has drawn our attention the reopening of Woodberry Wetlands - and here's a wonderful photo from their website showing how close to St Mary's it is. Open to the public for the first time in 200 years. Opening this bank holiday weekend. It's been recreated to present a Norfolk wet land. Café open. Entrance in Lordship Lane. It needs our local support. Over 400 volunteers got involved.
The question has been raised: what does female entrepreneurial leadership look like? What does it look like in you?
If you're a woman interested in exploring this, this breakfast is for you.
If that doesn't sound like you but you want to meet interesting and fun women, this breakfast is for you!
Basically it is an opportunity for women in the Stepney area to get together.
11th June 2016; 9.30-12.00 at Hope Church Islington N7 8AB.
Although it focuses on 20-30yrs, every woman is DEFINITELY welcome and you won't feel out of place if you're younger or older!
We will be collecting for Christian Aid on the streets of Stoke Newington on Saturday 21st May. If you would like to help by being a collector then please speak to Gladys Earle after the 11am service or email Matt and he will put you in contact.
Thanks to Mark...
... for all his work over these last nine years as St Mary's Parish Administrator.
A presentation was made to him on Easter morning.
We wish him well!
We are delighted to announce that the first of Adrian Powell’s stone sculptures have been placed in the New Church. When complete there will be a set of eleven, each depicting a scene from the Passion of Christ. If you are interested in commissioning one, please speak to Dilly.
Have a read - find out what's been going on and what's coming up at St Mary's.
The newsletter's out!
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Savi Hensman, a member of St Mary's has written a book, published by Ekklesia, called Sexuality, Struggle and Saintliness: Same-Sex Love and the Church.
Here's what Savi says about it:
There has been much controversy over Christian attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and same-sex partnerships. The book outlines the shift in thinking on sexuality among numerous theologians over the past century, delves beneath the surface of recent debates in various churches, looks afresh at the Bible and tradition and examines how those with different views on this issue can remain in fellowship.
If you'd like to buy a copy you can find it here. Savi has offered to lead a discussion on the book and the subject, so keep you eyes/ears open for news on when this might happen.
Don't worry... it's already done!
Thanks to all who painted on Thursday and Friday and particularly to Jeff, John and Betty who organised and refreshed everybody!