Sunday, June 27, 2010

Monk in a Flurry

A flurry of preparation is upon me.

A week from today - July 4, no less - I fly to England. I land in London and then get transported to Canterbury. I'm providing leadership for a week-long Benedictine Experience that will take place at Canterbury Cathedral. This magnificent centuries-old building was a Benedictine monastery for hundreds of years, as were most of the ancient British cathedrals, and it still maintains a regular round of Offices and Eucharist each day, giving voice to the monastic tradition that lies behind the Book of Common Prayer which has guided Anglicans in worship for the past 400 years or so.

I wrote about Benedictine Experience just a few weeks ago, but if you didn't see that post, it is a program which is designed to let people experience the life of a monastic community by living in the pattern of Benedictine life for several days. We will have a group of about 35 people attending, mostly Americans. We are going to be housed in what I am told is a very fine facility called the International Study Center, which is just a few years old, and sits within the Cathedral precincts.

When Betty Swenson, the organizer of this program, asked me a couple of years ago how I would feel about doing an 8 day Benedictine Experience in Canterbury I told her that I'd feel like I was in heaven. Though I have not been to Canterbury in the past 20 years, I have been there many times, but never for more than a couple of days at a time. The opportunity to explore the cathedral and the town at leisure is more of a treat than I had ever hoped to have.

So what will we do? We'll pray several times a day, following the cathedral rhythm which has its roots in monastic tradition. This will include that most glorious of Anglican traditions - Evensong - every day. We'll have talks in the mornings (mostly delivered by yours truly, and Esther de Waal will come in to do one talk at the beginning). There will be work sessions in the afternoons (I'll be fascinated to see what this is like). In the evenings there will be informational or fun sessions, some just for the group and some presided over by the Cathedral staff. On Saturday night we will have a concert in the Cathedral - the Bach Magnificat and the Mozart Requiem no less. We'll have one day-long expedition to a monastery of Anglican Benedictine nuns at West Malling, which is not too far from Canterbury. And from 9:00 pm each night until after breakfast the next morning we'll have silence.

And the weather in Canterbury for the past week or so has been sunny and in the 60's and 70's. It really is almost too good to be true.

I come back on July 13 and and I have 3 - count them, 3 - days, and then I fly to Kansas City. I'm going to be at St Michael's Church in Mission, which is a suburb on the Kansas side of the line. Though I haven't done any work there in a number of years, I have deep roots at St Michael's. If I have a church home anywhere other than Holy Cross that's it. It's hard to describe how deep and important that place is for me. The only thing that could convince me to fly half-way across the country 3 days after getting back from England is an invitation from that parish. I'll be preaching on Sunday and giving a series of workshops in the evenings on meditation and contemplative prayer. They are wanting to start something that will be on-going, and it's such a privilege to be the one who helps to kick that initiative off. I get back here on the 26th, just a couple of days before our Long Retreat begins. I'm going to need it.

Hence my flurry this week. There are talks, sermons and workshop sessions to get ready before I go. There are a multitude of details to attend to and emails arrive about that every day. And there's all the of the business of getting ready, packing and making sure that the things I'm leaving behind here are attended to. If I get away with just a flurry, without it turning into something worse, I'll be fortunate.

So you will understand that I may be rather irregular in my blog postings for a bit. I'll try to get a thing or two posted about how it's going along the way as I get the time. But I can't promise how regular that will be. I'll just do my best.

Meanwhile you can think of me wandering about in the Medieval splendor of southern England. I've been preparing for 2 years and it's still hard to believe.

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