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In a recent BBC documentary exploring some themes from here new autobiography, Jeannette Winterson spoke of how she used to love to climb the hill on the edge of the town where she grew up in order to remind herself that 'there are other places'. She found that going up... Continue »
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There is a gap that always deeply unsettles me in our ceremonies around Remembrance Sunday. Most of these focus, understandably, on the experience of those involved in conflict as members of the armed forces. However, the experience and trauma of war affects everyone in a population, from the mothers of... Continue »
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Why is it that we find something as apparently simple as prayer to be so hard? Contemplative prayer or meditation is a rearkably simple thing to do - what's so hard about sitting in silence for a few minutes? All the spiritual writers of the past recognise that it is... Continue »
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We often imagine that prayer is something we do or say at a particular time and for a particular time but the biblical invitation to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) has led spiritual inquirers over the centuries to appreciate that prayer may, in fact be something quite different. Perhaps... Continue »
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I had a lovely conversation yesterday with one of my new near-neighbours. The Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Edinburgh is jsut round the corner and I was meeting with its resident nun, Ani Rinchen. As we talked, she took a phone call from someone who had visisted a friend in a... Continue »
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When I was involved in a community-based contextual bible reading project some years ago, one of my fellow facilitators used to tell pariticipants that what they were doing was a kind of 'slow reading'. He would always insist that we read a text twice in order to slow us down... Continue »
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As a final (for now) thought on the power of objects to awaken memories and evoke emotion, I want to share a picture of a funny little thing that has very long associations for me. It is a paperknife in the shape of a sword, a tourist trinket from Toledo... Continue »
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When I started working in a specialist cancer hospital 3 years ago, I wondered which of the many resources available for a Christian priest to call on would prove most useful in this context. For some, the insights of psychology and psychotherapy are the most vital, but I have been... Continue »
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We all have minds that seem to have an infinite capacity for adding a running commentary to everything we see or do. If we pay too much attention to this commentary, we risk living our lives stuck in a very superficial level of our consciousness. There is also a risk... Continue »
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In contrast to the vivid colours and bold themes of yesterday's post, I wanted to show a more subdued side to the Pre-Raphaelite style. Millais spent some time in Scotland painting landscapes and his painting, Chill October, is a wonderful evocation of the muted, tweedy hues of a Scottish autumn:... Continue »
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Life is lived forwards but understood backwards. Richard Holloway's newly-released memoir, Leaving Alexandria, is a powerfully honest look backwards, a contemplation of the events, decisions and passions that slowly reveal the shape and character of a life. Richard's understanding of that process is that we are not self-made, but our... Continue »
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Our hospital's prayer room, which is primarily used by Muslim patients and members of staff, is currently out of action because it is being redecorated. So I put up a sign saying that everyone was welcome to use the (rather blatantly Christian) chapel at any time. As a result, a... Continue »
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Diarmaid MacCulloch has just completed his six Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh on the theme of silence in Christian history. He approached the theme with his characteristic erudition, humour and creativity, fitting singular narratives within a broader view of the trends. His approach to silence is partly focussed on the thread... Continue »
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There are times when a penny drops and a crucial piece of knowledge allows something to make sense. Such a penny dropping moment happened to me recently when I discovered that the author of the poem most people know as the hymn, 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind' was a... Continue »
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The 18th century American Quaker preacher and abolitionist, John Woolman, once described prayer in this way: The place of prayer is a precious habitation: ... I saw this habitation to be safe, to be inwardly quiet, when there was great stirrings and commotions in the world. One of the main... Continue »