Sunday, 29 September 2013

Clotted cream, pasties, saffron buns and glory in Cornwall

Steve Wild, Chair of Cornwall District made sure that we didn’t miss out on any of the delights of Cornish fare when Daleep and I visited the District earlier this month.

We ate pasties and saffron buns on a bench at St Benedicts near Truro, ice cream with clotted cream in Newlyn, fish pie made with Cornish fish in Steve’s home (thank you Laura!) and in every church a  generous feast of Cornish fare.  The regional foods in Britain are varied and wonderful and we must support those who farm and process them for us, they do a great job often in difficult circumstances.

My five day visit began in Saltash Methodist Church on Sunday morning where I was invited to preach. Revd Peter Stephens led the worship and Revds Steve Wild  and  Jane Willcock (MInister of the church) also took part. 

I met many people during the faith lunch that followe. Here are some of them.

With Revd Jane Willcock
Margaret, the Church Steward and her husband

On Sunday afternoon we crossed the Tamar again into Devon and to Plymouth Cathedral for an ecumenical service of thanksgiving. We were warmly welcomed into the Catholic Cathedral. As you can see it is a beautiful, light and spacious building. It was good to be joined by  the Chair of the Plymouth and Exeter District, Rev Pete Pillinger.

The next few days included two meetings with local preachers and worship leaders in Crowlas and in  Launceston. I enjoyed meeting with committed and enthusiastic Christians who were engaging with challenging issues and giving so much of their time to the Church. 

Monday morning was spent in Truro. First we visited the Cathedral for a prayer meeting with ecumenical leaders . Ecumenical realationships are very healthy in Cornwall and in November an Ecumenical Covenant will be signed, The Vice-President will be there on that historic occasion. Watch out for more news about this.

From the Cathedral we went to Truro Methodist Church to join the Luncheon Club and a number of supernumerary ministers. We had lunch together and then I spent time with them talking about expectant waiting for glimpses of glory.

This was the theme again later in the week when I led a quiet afternoon at Degibna Prayer Chapel. This chapel, in the heart of the countryside has been refurbished as a place of prayer open to all. It is well used, both for regular prayer sessions and for retreats. Outside there is a prayer garden. The prayer garden has been designed around the theme o the fruits of the spirit as you can see from the photograph. The garden is bounded by a Cornish Fence. Cornish fences are very broad, bounded on each side by stone walls and filled with earth, in which various plants grow. Cornish fences are living boundaries, they reflect the seasons and challenge rigidity.

Degibna Prayer Chapel

The Fruits of the spirit - faithulness

Cornish crosses mark places of special significance, pilgrimage routes and crossing points at rivers. Sometimes they mark the way taken by funeral parties when carrying the coffin to the nearest consecrated burial ground, which could be many miles away. The crosses marked the route and, often behind them would be refreshment for the journey.  I love the way in which the symbol of our faith is an integral part of Cornish culture, people really value these crosses and resist proposals to disturb or move them.

On Wednesday September 18th  we went to Cubert, 262 years to the day after John Wesley”s first visit The Methodist Chapel in Cubert newly refurbished  and used to be the Sunday School building.  We had a great celebration in Cubert, unveiling plaques to commemorate and inform people about the Methodist heritage and then sharing in a celebratory act of worship together in the chapel. It was very special to be part of this anniversary.

Unveiling the plaque at Cubert

Cornwall is a beautiful county, it is also the county which includes the most deprived ward in England. Daleep and I visited Bugle in the heart of the clay country, a post-industrial area. Here we met representatives from the Methodist Church and a local councillor and the Community Support Officer.  We listened. We listened to the story of that community, a community divided and a community where many are struggling with poverty and exploitation. We listened as the Methodist Minister, Sheila MacInally talked about her work in that community and her hopes for the church’s engagement with the whole community. We listened, we talked and we prayed together.  I glimpsed something of the glory of God who stands alongside the poor and the marginalized in that meeting.
On Thursday I left Cornwall, visiting Gwennap Pit and Trewint on my way to the Plymouth and Exeter District. Both of these are places I hope I will return to, places of historic significance and places where there is real engagement with the present. Places where I felt the presence of God.

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