January 2012: Prayer - the Church's Banquet
We used this breathing prayer and sang 'come holy spirit' interspersed with harry's spoken word prayer
Blurb on Herbert:
George Herbert was born towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. He was the 5th son of a posh family – his dad was related to Earls, and his mum had Money.
When George was three, his dad died. His mother, Magdalen, moved her ten children to Oxford, and then to London, to ensure her sons were educated: George went to Westminster School and later to Trinity College, Cambridge. She was reputedly handsome, and John Donne dedicated his poem Autumnal Beauty to her. When George was 15 his mother remarried – a fortune-hunter ten or twenty years her junior, who went through her money.
George, meanwhile, was a model scholar, and when he went to Court he attracted powerful patrons – King James I liked him, Francis Bacon liked him, the Duke of Richmond liked him, and so did the Marquis of Hamilton, and George’s fortune seemed set fair – a grant of land in Ulster, perhaps, or Virginia, or a Royal Monopoly….. but then all his rich patrons died, and George was left… a mere Member of Parliament. Around this time George, always devout, felt called to take Holy Orders. He resigned his seat as an MP, and retired to the tiny parish of Bemerton in rural Hampshire.
Unusually, instead of merely collecting the stipend and preaching one sermon a year, George lived in his parish. He helped rebuild the church buildings with his own money and provided unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were sick, and food and clothing to those in need.
Two years ago Justin Lewis-Antony published his book If you Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: its thesis is that the example of George Herbert's parish ministry lingers still in the Church of England and places an impossible burden of unreasonable expectations upon today's parish clergy, especially the expectation to be Nice.
George was only a parish priest for three years: he died of TB in 1633. Before he died, he sent his poems to a friend, telling him to publish or to burn them as he saw fit.
These poems deal with the temptations of worldly vanity, with sin, redemption, and love. And sometimes with the excellence of the Anglican Church over all others. The language is lively and metaphorical, and the spelling can be strange.
This poem, Prayer (I), is a list – not a kind of cosmic Dear Jim-Can-You-Fix-It-For-Me shopping list, but a list of attributes of prayer.
Reading of Poem:
Prayer the church's banquet, Angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
Group Discussions of Poem
Five Stations to explore parts of the poem:
God’s breath in man returning to his birth
A candle was lit in the centre of the room, the track hush from the grace eucharist album looped round and the words in this pdf were there for people to chew over.
The six-daies world transposing in an houre
People were invited to take off a watch and leave it on the altar and then spend some time thinking about developing a rhythm of life. This was quite long. It was reworked from a piece used on a ReSource weekend by Beth Keith.
Engine Against th’Almighty
Video footage of a medieval siege engine and the Cow-hurling from the French Castle in Monty Python's Holy Grail, followed by the chance to enter a sound-proof room, don boxing gloves, punch some boxing pads, and yell whatever you wanted at God.
Softnesse, and peace, and joy and love, and Blisse
Video Footage from Room 101, of Stephen Fry calling for the creation of a Room Fluffy instead of Room 101. Teddy bears and marshmallows available, people invited to give thanks for the soft and joyful things in life.
Heaven in Ordinarie
Travel brochures with adverts for a slice of artificial heaven, contrasted with short examples of people experiencing a real touch from God. People wrote down and added their own experiences.
Prayer of Blessing (from John O'Donohue)