Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 - and our parish church

Hello again, The domestic scene leaves little space for even the slightest blogging.

However today is special - the 5th anniversary of "9/11" and the last chance for family and friends to visit before the bull-dozers move in and the site is reconstructed along more glorious lines - a suitable memorial to those who died and the courage of those who gave some much to rescue who could be rescued.

Hannelore and I remembered it all day. It is a curious matter that we had friends and family who knew someone directly involved then, but no-one from the July bombings in London.

As a tribute I reprint a short essay I wrote about a week afterwards:

The Maw of History - A Meditation on 9/11

A primary aim of the Medjugorje Apostolate to which my wife and I belong is the establishment of peace at every level from within the individual to peace and contentment between nations and cultural or ethnic groups.

The following essay was written at the time of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. It is retained here as an expression of the scenario faced by the world when peace is forgotten. The essay is set in the context of the church attended by the directors.

“It is the most ancient of Christian sites in the country.” he said. “The Phoenicians were here first, apart from a few ancient Brits with whom they traded.”
“Look, here is our oldest parishioner.
A Jar was taken from a shelve in the chancel.
“He gives the Vicar less trouble than anyone else!.”
It was a grey pot, cracked and stuck together again, the inside stained by ashes.
“He was Christian. We know that. First, because the pot has wavy lines around it to tell us he had been baptised. Second, the urn was found on top of the altar stone there.”
He gave a cursory nod towards the shelf and a small piece of stone with crosses on the corners and added, “The date has to be around 150 AD”
We marvelled at such antiquity.

The parade around the church continued, stories of ancient tombs, courtiers - for this was a royal church, Saxon princes, Tudor ladies still resplendent and perfectly preserved until, unearthed from the confines below the church floor, the fresh air got to them.
Then we journeyed into the churchyard.
More tombs, a Roman Basilica now hidden below the nave and out across the churchyard to make a mound for the daffodils, “Stinking Willy” the butcher of Culloden, with his butler and alleged catamite laid in the ground across the bottom of his feet, bits of Captain Hardy, Nelson’s own “Kiss-Me-Quick,” (was it really ’Kiss-me’ or Kismet’ - who’s to know or care, or spoil a good story?).
A monument showed Christina Rossetti in best stone modelling an angel on a gravestone. We pictured “See, amid the winter’s snow”, and the photographers among us made a note to return the when the snow came, and brightened and whitened and enlivened her stone-grey hair.

So we re-entered and returned to the church’s latest extension - a modern Chapter House, built with proceeds of the land, now a Theme Park next door, and a Millennium grant.
Here met Church Councils, Diocesan Committees, the Sunday School, and the Vicar’s various groups. An adjacent room was to house the parish office and our counselling centre. In the modern magnificence of the main room registers were signed after Weddings, as newly-weds and their witnesses tidied each other, went to the loo, and moistened dry mouths at the parochial kitchen. Hither after Mass on Sunday, we came ourselves for coffee, a biscuit, a gossip and chat. From time to time parties are held here and refreshments for those attending concerts and lectures in the main church.

Thus we finished our refreshments, and returned to our cars or to walk home, regaled by two thousand years of history in these “Ancient and Modern” monuments around our spiritual home.

A week later
The “Stars and Stripes” fly at half-mast above the mellowing brick of the Tudor tower.
The Queen had graciously given her consent to it being flown, here alone, for our American colleagues. Never before had anything so un-British been flown above a public building.
More history, but history of our own making around this we could not wander in deference.
History had moved us on, challenged and consumed us.
From its jaws oozed blood and the grey dust of New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.
It swallowed our hearts, and from its maw we could not escape. Many friends and family were directly involved. History had taken us into itself.

(The Reverend Doctor Edward Baty, 18th September 2001, revised September 2006)”