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On the shoulders of giants

While I was back in the UK over Christmas visiting my family in Essex I had the opportunity to visit St Peter-on-the-wall at Bradwell-on-Sea. As you can see from the photo it was actually a gorgeously sunny day (in an otherwise month of fairly solid rain which has continued ever since, poor Brits!). St Peter-on-the-wall is probably the oldest Church in the UK, having been built over 1300 hundred years ago by St. Cedd. It is an amazing building, having survived so long, with various different uses over the years including as a barn. It narrowly missed being used by target practice by the Americans pilots during the Second World War. It was only a chance encounter at a dance the night before between the Commander and the Vicar that saved ‘that old building miles from anywhere’ from total destruction! The church is still miles from anywhere, far down a potholed road from a small village.

Visiting the Church, which is always unlocked, gives a feeling of connection with many previous generations of pilgrims and believers. What is even more remarkable is that the Church is built on, and from, the ruins of a much older Roman fort called Othona – hence ‘St. Peter-on-the-wall’. The wall was the wall of the ruined fort, the Church was built in the doorway. Nothing remains of the Roman fort above ground, much was washed out to sea during storms and the changing coastline over the ensuing years.

Today, in the adjoining field to the ancient church lies the Othona Community – a retreat centre of a contemplative community that runs very similar activities to Dayspring. The church itself is also the place of an annual pilgrimage. And so there are links with the ancient and new developments moving forward.

So as Dayspring moves forward into a new year it is timely to reconnect with our roots, with the tools handed down to us for use in the our contemplative journey. Our ‘Intimacy with God’ series is about this – revisiting the ancient practices in a new way for our modern life. It is always good to remind ourselves of the giants whose work we use to build our lives. I look forward to seeing you at these events.

Abigail Lewis (from the Easter newsletter)

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