12 November 2015

Spring Newsletter 2015: Article

Dear Friends

Welcome to Spring! One of my favorite images in the Cape is the fresh green oak leaves that appear at this time of year, almost translucent. The clivias in their prolific orange are also a treat for the eye, as are the bursts of pink and purple, and the variety of blossom that greets us in the great outdoors. The days grow lighter earlier, and the sunset holds the dark at bay that little bit longer each day. Summer beckons, and Capetonians creep quietly from their winter hibernation, or fly home. The Church pews fill, and life begins again.

Not that winter has been lifeless; far from it! July saw Dawn and I celebrate our 50th Birthdays, and we much appreciated the many who joined us on Mandela Day to celebrate: a wonderful sense of belonging as friends old and new played tag at the front door. The accompanying pictures demonstrate the unexpected generosity of gifts; and thanks to all who brought a plate of food to share. The added gift of sunshine after a week of drenching rain added to the festive nature of the day. "Thing One" and "Thing Two" shared a glorious birthday!

August sawn Dawn and I, together with our daughter Cassie, heading to England for a family-filled three weeks. We were joined by our son, Nathan, and our granddaughter, Rebecca-Lee, for the final week. We spent the first week with my parents in Surrey and travelled daily into a London immersion of St Paul's Cathedral (where we "did the dome", climbing the five hundred plus steps to the top) with its amazingly beautiful mosaic ceilings depicting various aspects of creation; the Tate Modern where I enjoyed Picasso for the first time, and discovered from my daughter that Modern Art is all about cloud watching (images appear and disappear as you stare into the amorphous mess of paint on canvas); a tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace with their opulence and pomp of royalty (a really well put together tour); and time with my brothers, their wives and their children.
     We then headed to Cheshire, visiting the Michael's in Winchester on the way, a beautiful town with an amazing Cathedral. In Cheshire we visited the Moore side of my family, enjoying a family gathering on the Sunday, a visit to the family caravan on Anglesey and a final dinner together at the Stretton Fox; a visit to St Beuno's Retreat Centre in Wales, and a return visit to the beautiful Chester Cathedral. We then headed for our Long Family Gathering in Devon, near Exeter, via Oxford for an afternoon of exploration and to London to collect Nathan and Rebecca-Lee. Oxford was amazing in a short period of time, walking from Magdalene College up to the Carfax Tower, returning via Christ Church College (more recently of Harry Potter fame) and the Botanical Gardens, stopping in to visit the University Church of St Mary the Virgin (an intriguing space with not one cross visible, and a beautiful portrait of the Virgin and Child behind the altar) where Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer were condemned for their reformist ways and led to their deaths to be burnt at the stake.
     We had a wonderful Long Family Gathering in Aylesbeare - the main reason for our visit - filling a ten bedroom house with twenty three of us, four generations! We went swimming in the sea at Dawlish Warren, walking along the coastal path at Ladram Bay, and visited the seaside village of Beer (the source of Exeter Cathedral's stone), and Buckfast Abbey (a working Catholic Benedictine Monastry), and Exeter Cathedral, in between serious challenges at the pool table, much good food and family fellowship.

While visiting St Beuno's Retreat Centre in Wales, Dawn picked up a pamphlet that contained the following quote by Pope Benedict XVI:

Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

One might be tempted, visiting various Cathedral's in England, to think that these buildings were inspired by lofty ideas. However, when one considers the commitment, often of more than one and sometimes many generations, to the building of these incredible symbols of a glorious God, one becomes aware of a generation's encounter with something of substance that led to projects that continued to inspire future generations, that continue to creat new horizons of awareness every time one enters these magnificent structures; projects that gave decisive direction over long periods of time to generation after generation, and even today to the curious tourist like myself. Chester and Exeter Cathedrals, despite their size and incredible soaring Gothic architecture still manage to create a sense of intimacy even in their larger spaces for worship, a sense of this great and glorious God being accessible and available.

And I am challenged to ask, "Are we building similarly, not necessarily in stone and mortar, for future generations? Or in this consumerist culture that we've embraced, are we building only for ourselves?" It's an important question.