Journal of an Essex Pilgrimage, August 2003

26th August

'In every man lies a zone of solitude

that no human intimacy can fill

and there, God encounters us'

Brother Roger of Taizé

I leave Scotland on the Feast of Ninian, the man who learned community at the feet of St Martin of Tours, whence he came to be the first proclaimer of good news to the people of the north, and founder of his White House, Candida Casa, beacon of life . But I am travelling south, back to where I began, to London, to Essex, in the wake of St Cedd, or Cedda, who, carrying the heart of Northumbrian spirituality and mission, answered King Sighebert's call to share words of life with the East Saxons .

As I lie in my berth aboard the Caledonian Sleeper, swaying rhythmically down the rails toward the border, I see Cedd, huddled in the corner of the boat carrying him over wild waves from Lindisfarne and his home, where he and his brothers, Chad, Caelin and Cynebil had been discipled by the Ionan Gael, St Aidan , in the ways of Jesus Christ. Stepping out of the train at Euston, into the familiar, stale air of London, I feel the press of paganism, and ask how Cedda would have felt, coming to what Bede calls;

'An emporium, for many nations who come to it by land and sea'

It must have been challenging for him to encounter this heathen, saxon city , which thirty-eight years before had rejected the Roman Bishop Mellitus and the gospel he had faithfully preached here, reverting to idolatry and blood-sacrifice, resorting to the voracious, man-hating, soul-destroying gods of darkness. But Cedda was not daunted. The Spirit of Christ propelled him on.

<<Icon of St Cedd


St Paul's Cathedral

My first place of pilgrimage was to the great cathedral church of St Paul's, the base for Cedda's mission to London in 654ad. It seemed daunting, walking beneath the great vault of this world-famous building, until I found the side chapel, where a small gathering of no more than a dozen clergy and visitors were saying mattins, followed by an early Eucharist. I remembered that the last Anglican communion I had taken part in was on Lindisfarne itself, Cedda's boyhood home, on the edge of the open sea. Now, in the heart of the metropolis, with about the same number of people as on that day on Holy Island, it was a joy to begin this journey with unknown brothers and sisters, crossing the marble floor of the chapel to clasp hands together and offer each other the peace of Christ, and to kneel together to receive Him by faith in the bread and wine.

For a moment, I felt as though rays of light were rising up from across the face of the planet, from wherever this simple act of faith was being celebrated this August day, to join in a great halo of light and beauty in the atmosphere, hallowing the earth, proclaiming the saving death of its Saviour, until He comes.

Moved almost to tears, I glanced at those around me; a city businessman, with a silver dove in his lapel, ready to start the trading day; a black brother in a blue polo shirt, who had reached out with such animation to take my hand at the giving of the peace; a young verger, who looked me in the eye with the recognition that Christ's spirit dwells in both of us.

I realised at that moment that the last time I had been in St. Paul's for the Eucharist was at a Midnight Mass one Christmas in my teens, probably thirty years ago; the building had been full of people, and I had felt like a lonely dot on the landscape. Today, leaving St Paul's to turn east, following the river towards the sea, I felt I had connected with Christ in His body and blood and with His people in that simple, quiet gathering of faith in an intimate, unspoken way. As I left, the ticket booths were being set up, turning the place over to the tourists and visitors; I was glad I had experienced the place as Cedda might have known it, lit with the light of Christ in the faces of believers.


I have hung my olive-wood cross at my belt as my pilgrim's badge; the cross, given to me by a French lad on a hovercraft journey across the Channel in 1974, in exchange for my gift to him of a Nouveau Testament , reminds of the value of the Good News of Jesus.

Today is the feast of St Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo. Through her faithful prayers, her son came to hear those words, 'Tolle, Legge' - take, read, which began his days of light that brought so much blessing through his life.


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Barking Abbey

As I sit here in the ruins of this place, founded by Bishop Eorkenwald of London for his devout sister, Æthelburh, in 666ad, I am in a place of peace, in spite of passing traffic. Several people sit in the warm sunshine, alone, one with a bike lying beside him.

I have prayed the liturgy I prepared for this visit, and became conscious that, in spite of its ruinous state, it is a place of resurrection. Here in the dust, to the south and west of where I sit, lie the traces in the earth of brothers and sisters who shared the Spirit of Christ in the way they knew, awaiting the trumpet which will raise them from this place to bodily follow Him into the new heaven and earth. Perhaps it's a parable for today, of a ruinous church, but sown with hope in its dust of rising again.

Cedda wasn't here - he died two years before its foundation. Yet, as a double monastery of men and women, it carried within its vision the genius of such similar places as Bridget's Kildare, Ebba's Coldingham and Hilda's Whitby , all headed by venerable mothers in God.

As I sit, a beautiful Red Admiral lands on the pavement at my feet. It makes me think of the men and women of God, awaiting that release into their new bodies from the chrysalis of mortality on that day when this place comes alive again.

This is the liturgy of St Æthelburh I prayed at Barking Abbey. The section beginning 'Though men may think it foolish…' are words recorded by Bede as having been spoken by one of the nuns at Barking in her last, dying hours. The form I have used follows the pattern of similar liturgies from the Northumbria Community, which inspiration I gladly acknowledge.


St Æthelburh of Barking (d. c676 )

A call to walk in the Spirit


Æthelburh was the sister of St Earconwald, Bishop of London from 666AD, who had founded the abbey of Barking in the kingdom of the East Saxons, now Essex. The Venerable Bede devotes considerable space to the accounts of the miraculous interaction between heaven and earth witnessed in this convent , the remains of which can still be found in the Greater London suburb. Barking was a double monastery, of which Æthelburh was the mother superior, following in the tradition of other women such as Ebba and Hild of Whitby. She was followed in her place at Barking by St Hildelith, a sister from Gaul.

With life being perilous in times of plague, it is encouraging to see from the stories of Barking Abbey how God opens supernatural doors of mercy to us, even at the time of our greatest battles, even with death itself.



Prayers of walking in the Spirit .

This form of prayer may be used

  • on Æthelburh's day (October 11) ;
  • on pilgrimage to Barking Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral
  • as a means of renewing our commitment to walk in the Spirit

All who wish may read in turn.

* indicates a change of reader.

With a large group, split into two halves and read alternately.

All say together the sections in bold type.

* I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day,

and heard behind me a great voice,

as of a trumpet, Saying,

I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last

* So I say, live by the Spirit,

and you will not gratify

the desires of the sinful nature.

if you are led by the Spirit,

you are not under law.

O Spirit who guides me,

O Spirit who inspires me,

O Spirit who fills me,

Come, Holy Spirit.

O Spirit who convicts me,

O Spirit who converts me,

O Spirit who is working in me

The reflection of Christ's glory

Come, Holy Spirit

* Make me a thin place, O God,

Where earth touches heaven,

Where Your glory spills over

Into the ordinary.

Grant me O, O God

To carry Your presence,

To walk in Your Spirit

To look into Your face

In the place of the everyday

Tasks of my life.

* The light shines in the darkness

And the darkness has not overcome it;

Lift up Your face upon us, O God,

And we will be filled with Your light,

The light of resurrection.

* Though men may think it foolish,

I tell you the truth;

I see this house filled with a light so bright

That the lamps of this place

Seem to me to be utterly dark.

Let earthly lamps burn as long as they will,

But be sure of this, they give me no light;

For when dawn breaks,

My True Light will come to me.

(Pause for silent reflection.)

I welcome You, Holy Spirit,

To Your dwelling-place in me;

For where You are is freedom.

Lord and giver of life,

I yield to Your impulse

And follow Your gentle current

To the place of my resurrection.

* I receive with thanksgiving

Gifts from You, Holy Spirit,

Endowments of Your grace

To work the works of God

Not in my own strength, lest I should boast.

I stir up again what was received

At the laying on of hands,

At the imparting of Your word,

That I may make way in me

For the revealing of Your power.

There are different kinds of gifts,

But the same Spirit,

Different kinds of service,

But One Lord alone,

And the manifestation of the Spirit

Is given for the common good

* O Spirit of the Living God,

Abide with me through all my journey,

And at the place of my resurrection

Bring me through the separating veil, rejoicing

into the light of Your eternal home.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Before leaving Barking, I visited the mediaeval church of St Margaret, where I found great warmth and life in the small refectory there; a great poster on the wall called out 'Alpha Prayer for London, St Paul's Cathedral, 18 September'. It was a sign for me, that pilgrimage has in it the seeds of mission, that prayer is always for purpose - always with the end of seeing Christ's sacrifice reap its full harvest, and His glory.

And being in a church named for Margaret, I see again the great collaboration of south and north in His Story in Britain, in this Saxon princess who fled from danger in the south, and had such an effect in Scotland, becoming one of her most famous Queens and Saints.

Now I turn away from the city, seeking Cedda's missionary footsteps along the Thames, to the place which marks the southernmost extent of the Northumbrian outreach, at Tilbury.


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St Catherine's, East Tilbury

I am sitting as I saw it in my mind's eye when I thought of this place, on the very edge of the Thames , this great waterway, ships plying up and down between city and sea; I am convinced that this is where Cedda came and built his monastery, furthest out from home.

 <<The Thames At East Tilbury

The church of St Catherine's stands on a small hill which would have had a clear view to the river, were it not for the protection of trees around it today. Here, at East Tilbury, where the more recent Coalhouse Fort stands guard over the river's busy eastern reaches, I am reminded of its mirror image in the north, Abercorn, on the shores of the Forth, also a place now faded in the memory of Northumbrian beginnings, but marking the extent of Aidan's influence into Scotland. In the warm air hangs the tang of brine, into which sea-grasses have sunk their roots at the riverside.

As I wait, it comes to me that this would be an ideal place for Cedda; not only for solitude and prayer, but also for mission. Watching the vast bulk of container vessels coming and going from the Port of London, I realise that there would have been a constant flow of traffic on the river, going back and forth between the 'emporium of Londonburg' and other parts of the kingdom of the East Saxons, so well served by its network of navigable rivers and sandy coast. So perhaps this would have been a place of refuge, of hospitality, a place where the abbey buildings might have been seen easily from a passing boat. If , as is sometimes asserted, Cedda also established monasteries at Prittlewell, Upminster, Mersea as well as Bradwell, then there would almost be a 'chain' of mission houses, linked by water transport - the Saxon era equivalent of Paul's Roman roads.

I imagine Cedda, marked out by his bald forehead and long hair hung from his crown, which made the Celtic tonsure so different from the Roman, standing out here among the raw and raucous Saxon natives, helping to haul their boats ashore for the night, inviting them for a meal and a chance to speak of the life of Christ and His offer of eternal peace with God.

St Catherine's Church, E Tilbury>>

As I prayed the Tilbury Liturgy, prepared especially for this time, I was aware of this place in relation to my own story. I would come to Tilbury as a boy, cycling down the fourteen miles from Great Burstead to cross the river at the Ferry, to have a taste of adventure for an afternoon in Gravesend - Kent was like another country ! In Cedda's day, it was - the land of Augustine's mission, and the Kentish rulers. Then further downriver, I saw the refineries of Shellhaven and Coryton, visible from the path by our house, just up from the seaside haunts of Canvey and Southend-on-Sea. I am back here now, forty years on, looking for a fresh calling. As I sat in silence, feeding on Christ's presence and beauty, I was aware that the light of His Spirit is a key to mission, for it is that which is reflected into the mirror of our lives as we seek to reach out with Him to others.

Here, then is the Tilbury Liturgy I prayed today.



Cedd's Abbey , founded 654ad

A call to reflect on life

No trace can now be seen of Cedd's Abbey at East Tilbury. Unlike his establishment at Bradwell, it has not survived the years. But this was the southernmost extent of Northumbria's mission in the British Isles; facing across to Kent, seat of Augustine's Roman mission at Canterbury, it is symbolic of the prolific missionary undertaking which began with Patrick in Ireland, and ended with the Synod of Whitby in the year of Cedd's death.

The site is on the banks of one of the world's great rivers, bespeaking the journey of our lives towards the sea of God's eternity. Here is a place to reflect, to give thanks and to acknowledge the boundaries of our own mortality.

Prayers of waymarking.

This form of prayer may be used

  • on Cedd's day (October 26) ;
  • on pilgrimage to Tilbury, Abercorn or a riverbank
  • as a way of looking over our lives

All who wish In may read in turn.

* indicates a change of reader.

With a large group, split into two halves and read alternately.

All say together the sections in bold type.

* A river watering the garden flowed from Eden;

The LORD God took the man

and put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it.

* You created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully

and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

*My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be.


*How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,

they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

* For calling me into being

I give you thanks

* For the gift of a safe birth

I give you thanks

* For the haven of a mother's womb in which to grow

I give you thanks

The music was carrying against the flow of the mighty river, He walked close to the course of its sound. All at once, he noticed that the river was reflecting, like a film-screen, pictures, which fell on it from an unknown height. …as he walked against the flow, the action of the pictures went back into the past. He saw the garden, where years before his father had taught him the names of trees, …He saw pain and majesty, which he had never felt at a distance. He saw himself on the breast of his mother.. he guessed they were going back to the source of his beginning. He could only make out the picture of his birth very faintly, because, as he was wandering , the great river narrowed to a mere brook .

'Come.. come...'

The stream ran down towards him over steps, as it were, of some temple, He went up by these steps and knelt at the place from which the river emerged. He felt an immeasurable power of heat and light, it seemed to him that within the shrine, time and space

ceased to exist. Everything, - the stream, the brook, the mighty river, the coloured pictures of long ago, the past and the future - they were all one here, indivisibly part of an eternal now.

He took water into his hands, to refresh his thirsty mouth. He was shocked. Flowing down from above into the spring were thin rivulets of blood. He lifted his gaze, and his eyes suddenly met the eyes of another. Here he stood, alive, incredibly present.

*For the days of childhood

I give you thanks

*For guidance and training in life

I give you thanks

*For the gift of education and learning

I give you thanks


*My son, do not forget my teaching,

but keep my commands in your heart,

for they will prolong your life many years

and bring you prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favour Pressed Sea-grass from E Tilbury Saltings

and a good name in the sight of God and man.

*Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

* Honour the LORD with your wealth,

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline

and do not resent his rebuke,

because the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father the son he delights in.

* Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,

the man who gains understanding,

for she is more profitable than silver

and yields better returns than gold.

* For workdays and holidays

I give you thanks

* For family and friends

I give you thanks

* For your faithfulness and encouragement

In the grind of the mundane

I give you thanks


* Therefore we do not lose heart

Though outwardly we are wasting away,

yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles

are achieving for us an eternal glory

that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,

but on what is unseen.

For what is seen is temporary,

but what is unseen is eternal.

*Now we know that if the earthly tent

we live in is destroyed,

we have a building from God,

an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed

with our heavenly dwelling,

because when we are clothed,

we will not be found naked.

For while we are in this tent,

we groan and are burdened,

because we do not wish to be unclothed

but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose

and has given us the Spirit as a deposit,

guaranteeing what is to come.

* For the challenges and trials

I give you thanks

* For the pain and the pruning

I give you thanks

* For the hope of eternal life

I give you thanks

When Mr. Standfast had thus set things in order, and the time being come for him to

haste him away, he also went down to the river. Now there was a great calm at that time

in the river; wherefore Mr. Standfast, when he was about half-way in, stood a while, and

talked with his companions that had waited upon him thither. And he said,

'This river has been a terror to many; yea, the thoughts of it also have often frightened

me; but now methinks I stand easy; my foot is fixed upon that on which the feet of the

priests that bare the ark of the covenant stood while Israel went over Jordan. The waters

indeed are to the palate bitter, and to the stomach cold; yet the thoughts of what I am

going to, and of the convoy that waits for me on the other side, do lie as a glowing coal at

my heart. I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am

going to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon

for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith; but now I go where I shall live by

sight,and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my

Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have

coveted to set my foot too. His name has been to me as a civet-box; yea, sweeter than all

perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet, and his countenance I have more desired

than they that have most desired the light of the sun. His words I did use to gather for my

food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He hath held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way.'

Now, while he was thus in discourse, his countenance changed; his strong man bowed under him: and after he had said. Take me, for I come unto thee, he ceased to be seen of them.

But glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots, with trumpeters and pipers, with singers and players upon stringed instruments, to welcome the pilgrims as they went up, and followed one another in at the beautiful gate of the city.

*For the hope of death swallowed up in victory

I give you thanks

*For the promise of future joy with Christ

I give you thanks

*For the resurrection and the heavenly body

I give you thanks

He will keep me 'til the river

Rolls its waters at my feet;

Then He'll bear me safely over,

Where the loved ones I shall meet

Yes I'll sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me,

Sing it with the saints in glory

Gathered by the crystal sea,

* Lord Christ,

you called your servant Cedd

to leave his homeland and place of his birth

To go into the world and preach the good news.

As he came to the banks of a river,

And founded a place of prayer and refuge,

So I come to Your river of life,

To the great and mighty river

Flowing from your throne,

And bathe in the healing waters

* Here I confess my times are in your hand

My prayer being only

That by Your grace

I may fulfil all I am empowered to do,

Coming to the estuary of my days

Upon depths of Your wisdom

And bearing fruit for your Kingdom

Tomorrow, I come to Bradwell. I am both anticipating and apprehensive of that time. I wonder if it will be as I have seen it in my spirit's eye. I will go and find out.

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27th August, Bradwell

There was a great wariness within me as I approached this place, mixed with high expectation. My imagination had constructed an image of it already, and had pictured my standing here many times before on this spot. But the reality has exceeded the dream.

Stepping out of the car, I saw in the middle distance the chapel of St Peter's-on-the-Wall at Bradwell, against the glorious back-cloth of morning sky and sea , and surrounded by the golden stubble of harvested fields, among which a distant tractor paced and turned, followed by a flock of gulls. Here was silence, though.


As I walked along the path which traces the ancient Roman roadway to the site of the fortress of Othona, I was overwhelmed with awe. Here is a building, raised by one of the heroes of the British church, which so changed and shaped the nation, still in place . I sat down at a distance from it of a few hundred yards, feeling unworthy to be here. I made confession of wrong attitudes and sins, and felt compelled by the Spirit to take off my shoes, so walking the last steps of my journey here on naked soles.

It is as I had pictured it before ; a stark simplicity of stone, with moveable, low, wooden benches; the altar is faced with stones from Iona, Lindisfarne and Lastingham; above it hangs an icon of the crucifix, surrounded with knotwork, St Cedd kneeling at Christ's feet. The only sound was that of a wasp at the high windows, momentarily buzzing to be set free, and a small bird flapping to and fro occasionally among the rafters.

Indeed, the silence here is surprising, as is the remoteness and isolation. It is kin to Iona, and to Lindisfarne. Being in this chapel amidst the sea and sky, I feel that this as thin a place as any I have been in. Cedda must have felt it mirrored those other northern abbeys, especially that of Lindisfarne, with its low-lying land and sea-filled horizon. God is here, Christ is here, the Spirit is here. Cedda's legacy is here.

As I sat in tranquil prayer, suddenly life flowed into the chapel. Some of those staying at the nearby Othona Community came for morning prayer, and invited me back with them to the house for a cup of tea. It isn't of the same ethos as the Northumbria Community, being much more a place focussed on self-realisation than on Celtic Christian spirituality. But it was pleasant to visit and see the working of the centre to which many come to escape the urban sprawl a few miles away.

I have returned to the chapel, and in the silence of the mid-day, after saying office, I prayed the Cedd Liturgy, rededicating my heart to mission. I realised that the figure of Christ crucified is facing west here, facing into Essex, into Britain. As I turn eventually back to the world 'out there' I can seek to offer the same outstretched, wounded arms of love He offers to whomever will hear.


The Cedd Liturgy


Cedd , Bishop of London (620 - 664 )

A Call to mission

Cedd (or Cedda ) was one of four brothers who all became priests; Chad (or Ceadda), Caelin and Cynebil grew up with him in their Northumbrian home, being discipled by Aidan and then Finan on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Their training was then completed in Ireland, where they learned Gaelic, and the Celtic Church practices. Cedd's heart for mission took him far and wide, first to Peada of Mercia, then, after the baptism of King Sigeberht of the East Saxons at Wallbottle (Ad Murum) to Essex.

Cedd became the second bishop of London in 654ad, after the see had experienced a gap of thirty-eight years without oversight, re-establishing St Paul's as his episcopal centre. But, as a Northumbrian trained in Irish ways, he longed for places of quiet contemplation in sight of the sea.

<< The sea wall at Bradwell-on-Sea

Thus he founded monasteries at Bradwell-on-Sea (Ythancaestir) and East Tilbury (Tilaburg) where the new disciples of Christ could learn prayer and the Scriptures in remote tranquility . Amazingly, part of his original establishment at Bradwell still stands, St Peter's Chapel, built from the abandoned stones of the Roman fort of Othona, and is a focus for pilgrims seeking peace away from the busy urban pressures of London and metropolitan Essex. His abbey at Tilbury became the most southerly of the Northumbrian mission's outposts in the British Isles.

Cedd also founded an abbey at Lastingham (Laestingaeu), in his home country, where he prayed and fasted during one Lent to cleanse the site and to consecrate it to Christ. It was here in 664 that he succumbed to the plague, and died, being buried in the foundation which had become dear to him.

Cedd was a man of skill and understanding. At the great Synod of Whitby just before his death, he acted as interpreter for the Irish brothers who did not have English, and spoke on behalf of Celtic practice. His zeal for mission is testified to today by the breadth of his outreach, from Lindisfarne, to the English Midlands, Essex and Yorkshire.

Prayers for preparation for mission

This form of prayer may be used

  • on Cedd's day (October 26) ;
  • on pilgrimage to Bradwell, Tilbury, London or Lastingham
  • as a way of committing ourselves to the discipline of evanglism
  • for those who are involved in life in urban settings

All who wish In may read in turn.

* indicates a change of reader.

With a large group, split into two halves and read alternately.

All say together the sections in bold type.

*With my back to the city

And my face to Your presence,

I breathe the renewing air of Your Spirit, O God.

No power have I,

No comfort have I,

No meaning have I without You.

In this encounter

We meet, God and mortal together.

(Take a few moments in silence )

* For the day I first heard your sweet name

I give you thanks

* For the ones who shared the words of life with me

I give you thanks

* For the day I saw the cross was for my sin

I give you thanks Pressed flower from Bradwell Beach

* For the day I first drank of Your Spirit's life

I give you thanks                                                      

* For the day I heard you say 'Come, follow me'

I give you thanks

* For the call to share with others good news of Christ

I give you thanks

* For the promise of Your power to fulfil Your call

I give you thanks

* In the womb you formed me,

Guarded my growing and learning,

By many ways brought me

To the knowledge of Your heart,

Called me from afar,

Brought me close into Your counsels

To this day and to this hour

By Your grace

* Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world

your blood has redeemed mine and every soul

You have purchased all mankind

And now await

The harvest of your sacrifice

* I see your longing, Jesus

For the light to dawn

Upon the face of every man and woman,

For the joy of Your salvation

To shine from the eyes

Of old and young

* I give myself to Your heart,

Friend and King,

To the fulfilment of Your desire,

Who desired me,

Let me be

An interpreter of Heaven,

A leader of the trapped and blind

Into the day.

* Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,

baptising them in the name

of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

and teaching them to obey

everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always,

to the very end of the age.

* Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

To those not having the law

I became like one not having the law,

so as to win those not having the law.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.

I have become all things to all men

So that by all possible means I might save some.

I do all this for the sake of the gospel,

that I may share in its blessings.

* Jesus of the multitude,

I come for fresh bread, for new wine

To you, bread of life, living drink;

I come to replenish the heart

To bathe the soul,

To hear again the call to go

To pull the drowning from the waves

To look again into your eyes of mercy

To see there your uncompromising love.

Lord Christ,

I come to your feet with the little I have

And give it to You,

That you may multiply it to many.

And as you entrust to me

The message of life,

Breathe upon it by Your Holy Spirit

That the poverty of my witness

May be enriched by the power of Your Word

Christ be the empowering of my hands,

Christ be the enabling of my words,

Christ be the enduing of my soul

+ In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . Amen.


I cannot escape that call to mission. In the depths of silence and contemplation, in that intimacy with Jesus my friend and lover, I perceive His yearning , His wounded love for those who have not seen Him. The issue is loving Him, knowing Him - not doctrine, not philosophy - but Jesus, sweet name of man's salvation.

Cedda's was not an easy road; he needed to see hard hearts melted if Christ was to triumph. But by his winsomeness and directness, he saw Essex and London changed and restored to Christ.

The two things are inextricable; the depth of prayer and the call to reach out to tell others. One feeds and engines the other.

I would gladly stay here a longer time. I have still to walk the sea-wall and touch the water. But Christ's face is toward the west, not to the sea. There are many fish still to be netted there for His kingdom.


At Bradwell 2003

The very stones cry out;

'Purpose, mission, steadfastness' :

Reared against the sky and sea,

The fourteen centuries old

Prayer-shelter, meeting place with God

Still mirrors the Creator's heart.

The west-facing Christ,

Bleeding limbs and side outstretched

Toward the pagan mass

Oppressed by unforgiving gods,

Hangs uncompromising there

Above the three-stoned altar.

Unshod, I trod the ancient path

To hear what word might be spoken,

And hear the same as He

Has always said; 'I am with you,

The Crucifix, St Peter's

Now go and take this renovating peace

And sow it without sparing in the earth.'

And thus I turn, back to the quiet shrine,

Leaving the stones to whisper to the sea

As it calls back, in the unceasing song

Of its Maker, as I retrace the steps

I made from childhood, finding

Here there's been a deeper story all the time.

  28 August 2003 St Peter's, Bradwell



St Mary Magdalene, Great Burstead, Essex

Here I am, back, as it were, where I started from. The local newsletter for the parish here has, appropriately for me today, a report on the 5th July pilgrimage to Bradwell, where a Salvation Army officer addressed the pilgrims on the Mission of St Cedd !

And this church, which started out as a wayside cross near a village well, where Cedda preached, was probably the first church building I can remember. It always seemed so distant, so formal before. But now, strangely homely and familiar.

There's a tradition that King Sæbert of the East Saxons, who was the first Christian King of Essex, was buried nearby in the manor of one his thegns, Ebba, who had come to faith in Christ also. This seemingly insignificant place lays claim to a considerable heritage.

The presence light burns gently by the altar; my pilgrimage is almost at an end. The only word I have is to go, to carry the same message Cedda carried, of a changed life, of devotion to Jesus Christ, of holiness and mission.

Lord Jesus Christ, whose presence is in the sign of this gentle light in the church that once was so well known to me, travel with me back to the borders of Northumbria, to return inspired by your northern son's mission to this eastern realm, and may I see lives changed as he did, so that You might receive the harvest of your sacrifice. Amen.





29th August, The British Library, Euston Road, London

The last station on my journey was the Exhibition Hall of the British Library in Euston Road, as I journeyed back through London on my return to Scotland, this time by air.

Here, at the centre of the 'Painted Labyrinth' exhibition was that most treasured of Celtic works, the Lindisfarne Gospels. I had never seen the original before and it is hard to grasp that here is a book, penned and limmed almost thirteen centuries ago in the abbey I have come to count so dear to my heart at Holy Island, by the hand of Ailred the Bishop, whose words of codicil can still be read on the last page.

Strange also to think that just twenty-four hours ago, I sat in a building which pre-dates this miracle of insular calligraphy. I leafed through the facsimile, especially fascinated by the Anglo-Saxon gloss inserted between the lines of Latin uncial. And a special treat was provided by hearing a recording of a reading of Beowulf in Old English; just a pity they had not chosen 'The Dream of the Rood' which would have been more appropriate.

I felt thankful, as I stood in the busy hall, surrounded by people, to have the island itself so near at hand, for being able to walk the causeway, far from the push and pressure of London.

As I left the City, I heard the announcer at Liverpool Street station call the Southminster train, waiting to head off for the Essex marshes and the remote road to nearby Bradwell. Yet I carry home something with me; the calm, the presence of Christ found in Cedda's stone shelter by the sea - and a small piece of red Roman brick picked up from the ground beside its walls !

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