Pilgrimage Prayer

There was an invitation to write prayers of support for those joining the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) Pilgrimage Relay to COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow from the 1st-12th November 2021.

As some of our Woolwich Episcopal Area Youth Forum in Southwark Diocese are involved in the Canterbury Tributary in August, I wrote a prayer to be included amongst the contributions:

Creator God, we treasure the awesome wonder and intricate beauty of the world you have given us stewardship over.

We marvel at the diversity of the creatures and plants you have made, regretting that we have not taken better care of your world, of our world.

Jesus observed the farmer sowing, and walked with his disciples through harvest-ready wheatfields; he valued the fruit of the fig tree and the vine. He knew where the foxes had holes and the birds of the air their nests – he had an eye and heart for your world, for its plants and creatures and people.

As we walk in the footsteps of Jesus’ disciples on our own pilgrimage of faith, Lord teach us to value your gifts of creation and salvation, that we may be transformed and transforming. 

May the sovereignty of your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven, and give us the courage and strength to help bring it about; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Alastair Cutting :: August 2021

Friends of the Church in India Day 2019

4 Lushington Friends

Friends of the Church in India Day Service – 5 Oct 2019
Theme of the day: Christian relationships with other faiths

Sermon by The Venerable Alastair Cutting, Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich
Acts 17:16-34; John 14:15-21;
Beauty for Brokenness: Graham Kendrick

FCI day programme image
Friends of the Church in India 2019 programme

All of my earliest childhood memories are Indian. 
My parents had been doing their missionary training at one of the Selly Oak colleges in Birmingham when I was born, and the three of us arrive together in India when I was aged about 18 months old. 

We lived most of the next 12 years in a small rural town called Jammalamadugu, in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh, in the Rayalaseema Diocese of the CSI. 

A few years later, my sister was born in India, in the CMC hospital in Vellore, even sharing the initial of her name CMC with the hospital she was born in.

If you wanted to understand some of our Indian heritage as a family, you might share the confusion that the Registrar of Births had when my father went to register my sister Catriona’s birth.

“So, your daughter was born in India, so her nationality is Indian!” 
“Well, no, said my father, she has the same nationality as me, and I am British.” 

“Ok, said the birth Registrar, so where were you born?” 
My father explained that as his parents had previously also been medical missionaries in India, in Chik Ballapur, near Bangalore, so he William Cutting had in fact been born in India.

“Then she is Indian! replied the Registrar!” 
Well, no, explained my father patiently, he was British because his father was British.

“So where was your father born?” 
Well, said my father, his father Cecil Cutting’s parents had actually also been missionaries in India, as teachers, since 1893, so his father had also been born in Ranikhet, then later lived in Benares/Varanasi in India.

“So she IS Indian!” exclaimed the Registrar, triumphantly!

There was the a scurry to provide birth certificates and marriage certificates for my father William Cutting, my grand father Cecil Cutting, and my great-grandfather also William Cutting, before my sister could have her nationality confirmed as British. Which was complicated, as there were no Birth certificates in the 1850s when my great grandfather William was born…
A Baptism Certificate fortunately sufficed.

Continue reading “Friends of the Church in India Day 2019”

Holy Isle

A few years ago, with members of two local parishes, I joined a pilgrimage to Holy Island, Lindisfarne. It is a significant place of pilgrimage still, as it has been for nearly a millennium and a half, when St Aidan came from that other famous holy island Iona, to found the new monastery in AD634.

Click to download the 17Mb pdf photobook
Holy Island Pilgrimage 2008 – click to download the book

A chance to re-visit recently reminded me of my previous experience, and I looked out some old photos, and a book of the journey, which some may be interested in glancing at.

St Aidan and St Cuthbert have been important characters on my northern horizon, particularly since my ordaining bishop David Lunn was a great fan of ‘our long established British christian saints, here spreading the gospel long before Augustine or any of those other johnny-come-lately Romans’.

The Celtic Cristian saints used to speak of ‘thin places’ where heaven comes very close to touching earth.

Lindisfarne, Holy Island, is one of those.

A glimpse of a castle
A glimpse of a castle – 2014

The Annunciation

It’s 275 days to Christmas – or thanks to Irenaus who’s quick ‘nine months counting back from Christmas’ calculation called the 25 March The Feast of the Annunciation.

Annunciation by ZVestovanie
Annunciation by ZVestovanie

The fact that it regularly chimes with Passiontide does not go unnoticed, creating interesting theological resonances at this time of year. However, it does mean that at times, clashing with Holy Week, the feast gets ‘bounced’, as it has this year, on to the 8 April. It does not stop me at least remembering the feast today, especially as –

I was inducted as vicar to my first incumbency on the Feast of The Annunciation, and it remains a profoundly formational season for me. The great call delivered by Gabriel to Mary, and her response of Lord, I am your servant – let it be to me according to your will seems entirely appropriate for anyone launching in to a new ministry, which I was 17 year ago today – and again, as I will be starting another new ministry shortly after the ‘transferred date’ for the Annunciation this year too.

In Holy Week, many clergy re-affirm their call to ministry at the Chrism Service, and to have I am your servant – let it be to me according to your will in the forefront of our minds can’t but help sustain ministry, whether ordained or not.

On the Lord’s Prayer

Lord's Prayer
Prayers inspired by the Lord’s Prayer – click to download the booklet

I recently had to collect some prayers based around the Lord’s Prayer; some I sourced elsewhere, some I wrote myself. They are gathered together under the stanzas of the Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven

A Prayer to God our Father
Lord God, Jesus taught us to call you Father. Help us to grow in our understanding of you, that we may better each day learn to trust you, and to love you.

Remind us of the thrill a toddler feels when being swept up securely in a father’s arms; help us share in the glee of a child playing pranks with a parent.

As we feel the lifting angst of the teenager taking insoluble homework problems to a parent who can unlock answers; and the adrenaline rush of the learner driver discovering new skills with dad, so may we feel our relationship with you broadening, enriching and deepening.

Father God, may your love for us be reflected back in our love for you. Amen.

A Father’s Prayer
Lord, I need your special care. Like your earthly father, Joseph, I want to do God’s will, even if I may not always understand. Make me gentle and self less in the care of my family and children; help me guide them in the toils and troubles, the happiness and wonders of this life.

Like my father in heaven, Continue reading “On the Lord’s Prayer”

Spirit of Christmas – past?

Lectionary and church diary purists hate it: that ‘Christmas nowadays appears to start in about October, and be over by Christmas Eve’, or certainly by Boxing Day. That’s not Christmas – clergy are heard muttering – that’s Advent… However, maintaining the cry that ‘the Christmas season starts on Christmas Day and carries on until the feast of Epiphany’ is about as useful as King Canute commanding the halt of the incoming tide; despite the popularity of the carol ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’.

However, one multinational still upholds tradition – the Apple iTunes Appstore!

iTunes 12 Dyas of Christmas App
iTunes 12 Dyas of Christmas App

The App Store provides a 12 free gifts over the traditional Christmas period, with a variety of music, videos and apps for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. The variety is deliberately diverse – meaning that some items you might find excruciating – but you will probably find several you like. If you have appropriate Apple devices, try out the 12 days app. You probably wont find ‘5 Gold Rings’ – but you might have some fun, sing along with the carol, and celebrate the Christmas Season in it’s traditional position. And keep some grumpy liturgists happy.

12 Days App
12 Days App

Christianity under persecution?

Christianity being discriminated against‘ has been one of the reported concerns in both the Christian and national media. However, to extend that concern in to calling it ‘Christianity under persecution in the UK‘, seems to me to be exaggerating the claim somewhat beyond the realms of what real persecution is.

This was the thesis behind Easter Sunday evening’s BBC documentary ‘Are Christians being persecuted?’ with Nicky Campbell. Of course some of the secular groups were not convinced by it; and even commentators like Ecclesia were not wholly in favour either. Ed Sturton’s excellent documentary on Iraq’s Forgotten Conflict was much more about real persecution (and not just Christian either).

However, the ‘is Christianity being persecuted‘ debate did get me thinking about how the Christian coverage in the media was going over the Holy Week/Easter period. In the end, I was positively surprised at both the quality and the quantity of the stories in both the print and broadcast media.

Not all the stories were quite what the various press offices would have Continue reading “Christianity under persecution?”

Leaps of Christ

Jumping in the sunset
The Leaps of Christ - credit thriol

The ‘Leaps of Christ’ was part of the theme taken by Bishop John Hind at the Chichester Diocesan Synod recently. I had heard of this Old English poem, but on being re-introduced to it, it led me to explore some of the wonderful Advent and Christmas within it.

The section on the Leaps of Christ comes within the part known as Christ II, or sometimes Christ B, within the Exeter Book. The first book deals primarily with Advent, book two with the Ascension, and the third Continue reading “Leaps of Christ”

Priests’ Blessing

Our local clergy chapter were meeting this week, and I was ‘hosting’. Usually, part of hosting involves preparing some prayers and worship. As we were also ‘RememberingSt Martin of Tours, I had a few things up my sleeve, including a fine shell remembering the pilgrims that stopped at St Martin’s shrine in Tours on the Way of St James.

New Zealand Paua - credit ReedWade
New Zealand Paua - credit ReedWade

Actually the shell was in my pocket, rather than up my sleeve; and paua were not really the sorts of shells that pilgrims on the way to Compostela normally wore (they were usually scallops… But these paua are exquisite. We have brought back dozens from NZ over the years.

Back to prayers and blessings. I have dabbled a bit in Celtic Spirituality over the years, and recently acquired a copy of a couple of John O’Donohue’s books. Continue reading “Priests’ Blessing”

Amazing Persistence, Liberating Grace

Robin Meredith Jones as John Newton, in his original pulpit

Watching the William Wilberforce/John Newton film Amazing Grace at a home group around the day the church remembers William Wilberforce (30 July) encouraged Michael Berry, then vicar at St Philip’s in St Heliers, Auckland, New Zealand, to use some of the themes in the Sunday sermon at church on Sunday 2 August 2009.

Hearing him prompted me to look back at some ‘John Newton’ photos I took a while back.

Robin Meredith-Jones, actor & friend, has for many years been doing a show base on John Newton, also (inevitably) called ‘Amazing Grace’. On the 200 anniversary of John Newton’s ‘promotion to glory’ on 21 December 1807, Robin and his wife Christine Way did a version of the show in the London City church of St Mary’s Woolnoth, where John Newton was vicar for 28 years.

Robin Meredith Jones as John Newton, in his original pulpit
Robin Meredith Jones as John Newton, in his original pulpit on Newton’s bicentenary – 21 December 2007

Most people know that Newton was involved in the slave trade – though not all are aware that Newton was himself a white slave briefly early on, after an altercation with a the captain of a slave ship he was crewing on.

What is well documented is John Newton’s conversion to the Christian faith, and his penning of the famous hymn Amazing Grace.

Continue reading “Amazing Persistence, Liberating Grace”