Midday Prayer

This term has seen a revival in the practice of Midday Prayer each weekday at 12.15pm in Westcott chapel. I asked one of the leaders of the daily midday office to share some thoughts on the practice.

1. Why start doing midday prayer?

Lots of reasons. It gives us an anchor in the middle of the day, and adds a nice ‘constant’ to the week, where our pattern of prayer at the other offices at Westcott is quite varied. It connects us to the spirituality of the Franciscan brothers who are part of our community at Westcott, and allows us to join them in their daily prayer. 

2. Why is praying the midday office important for you personally?

The simplicity, the stability, the beautiful hymns — and a way of calling ourselves back to god in the midst of our work! 

3. What do you think the midday office brings to the college?

We’ve found that there’s a much more ‘listening’ quality to our prayer at midday — the difficulty of singing together without music, and of saying the psalms together and keeping a rhythm of silence and speech in a much smaller group than at the morning and evening office, all give it a lovely monastic quality that can be lost in a community as big and busy as Westcott House! 

4. What’s unique about this office compared to morning prayer, evening prayer, or compline?

The ‘little hours,’ the traditional short times of prayer kept in the monastic tradition around 9am (terce), midday (sext), 3pm (none), and before bed (compline) have long preserved a certain kind of stable and consistent quality — the texts do not change much with the calendar and seasons, and there are a range beautiful hymns, which we are singing a cappella. What we’re doing here draws on the three daytime little hours of the Benedictine pattern, modified as the Franciscans do by combining some of the material. They have a lovely way of marking the timelessness of eternity within the time of our daily round, calling us back to a prayerful orientation to our true end in the middle of the working day.

 – Orion Edgar was interviewed by Erin Clark

Renewing Parish Worship

The Westcott Foundation seminar on Wednesday 25th November will explore ideas for the renewal of worship in the parish church, and how the Eucharist in particular can be a focus for teaching, reflection, discipleship, and creativity.  There are still places available, so please contact us asap if you would like to attend.  Due to the nature of the day, it is possible to attend single sessions if you are not able to commit to the whole day.

The presenters for the day:

Chris Chivers (principal of Westcott House, and former precentor at Westminster Abbey and Cape Town Cathedral, and former Canon Chancellor at Blackburn Cathedral)

Jan Payne (Bishop of Ely’s adviser on Church Music, professional musician and music teacher, former director of Ely Octagon Singers)

Ally Barrett (Tutor for the Westcott Foundation, former parish priest and children’s minister)

10.00     COFFEE and registration

10.15     Session 1
Introduction: theological reflection on the Eucharist in the Parish church.
Preaching the Eucharist
Teaching the Eucharist

11.15     COFFEE

11.30     Session 2
Renewing music in the parish – whatever your resources
Music for the Eucharist
Case study: Passion – using music and poetry in liturgy

12.30     LUNCH

1.30        Session 3
Planning and leading All Age Eucharistic Worship
Case study: whole-church transformation
Children and communion

2.30        COFFEE

2.45        Session 4
This is our story, this is our song: writing for the liturgy

Preaching Luke

Thank you to everyone who attended the popular ‘Preaching Luke’ seminar on 11th November, and enormous thanks to The Revd Canon Professor Loveday Alexander, for presenting such an inspiring and fascinating day on Luke. Click here to read more about the day, and to download the wonderfully detailed handouts and book list.

You can see the full programme for the Foundation and book online for future seminars, here.  Please do also get in touch with us if there is a topic you would like us to cover in future programmes.

Sermon for 11 November

Westcott Ordinand Laurence Price preached for the evening Eucharist on 11 November. You can read his sermon here.

Sermon for the feast of St Martin of Tours

“When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?”

The man knew he was close to death. He was lying by the side of the road near Amiens, in northern France; he only had rags to protect him. The sky was black with winter storms. He couldn’t last one more night in the open. Hungry, thirsty, naked; hopeless. And then something happened.

Today is St Martin’s day. So you’re probably going to expect me to carry on with the beautiful story of St Martin, the dashing young Roman cavalry officer. Martin cut through his military cloak and looked after the shivering beggar, keeping him warm. This was braver than it seems; strictly speaking, it probably wasn’t even his cloak. Roman soldiers had to pay for their uniform and equipment, through regular deductions from their pay. What Martin did was the equivalent of knocking his house down before paying off the mortgage.

But today is also November 11. And it’s a day when we are called to remember another story. We have to cut through St Martin’s narrative and travel forward fifteen hundred years. This is the story not just of one soldier at Amiens, but thousands. 

Amiens was the scene of one of the most violent battles of the First World War. In August 1918, the entire German army lay demoralised, exhausted, hungry and hopeless. At Amiens, the Allied troops took full advantage of the Germans’ plight. They launched an unexpected attack. On the single day of August 8 1918, thirty thousand Germans died or were wounded. The Allied death toll on that day was a “mere” 8,000.

In this Remembrance season, we should never forget the horror of what war entails. War doesn’t just destroy the bodies of the casualties; it leaves scars on the survivors’ souls. But St Martin shows us that every soldier- every human being- still has the capacity to bring both suffering and love. 

So our gospel today challenges us to make that choice. Will we be like great marching armies, rushing past the hungry and the hopeless as we advance to fulfil our oh-so important objectives? Or will we be like St Martin and stop and shelter people- even just give them a kindly smile and acknowledge that we are human together?

That night after St Martin had helped the freezing beggar, he had a dream. Martin saw the beggar again; only this time he had the face of Jesus. Today, I pray that we will all be able to be more like St Martin: to cut through our symbols of status; brave the cold winds of embarrassment; and see the face of Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger too. 


Sermon for All Souls, 2 November 2015

Sermon by Matt Hiscock, Ordinand

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”
In the name of the Father and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit.
I imagine for many of us, today is quite difficult, to be here in this place finding ourselves reminded the times we have been bereaved, whether that seems a distant memory, or is too true to our current reality.
In this season of Remembrance who could blame any of us for seeking out answers to all our questions about the nature of death and the hope of eternal life.
We might base our conclusions by using all our theological education here
or use our skills to unpack scripture such as the gospel passage we have just heard.
We might hope that all this acquired knowledge or our deepened spiritual life or even our vocation and calling to ministry might somehow enable us to deal with all own losses.
That somehow for us it is easier to live in the hope that those we have known will be held in the mercy, love and peace of God.
That somehow because of what we are learning and who we are called to be it is easier for us to find the light amongst that dark shadow that death can so often cast on us.
But when we lose somebody it is only natural that it might feel as if our souls are bereft of peace, that in our grief we forget what happiness is. But for me, this particular service puts pay to our quite natural inclination to intellectualise; it allows for what Pope Francis calls a language of simplicity.
Where we create the conditions which make it possible to find God in the deep waters of his Mystery.
We all  come here with all those in our minds who have now passed with all our own stories of them, the ways they have been instrumental in our lives, be they friends, or family, colleagues, children, parents, or priests.  For each one of the departed, we take the awesome and complex nature of their lives now gone and those relationships we now deeply miss.. and we encapsulate it. we simply add a name to a list. And offer to God all that they were to us.
To some, this might seem strange or even careless. That we reduce these profound connections and relationships and personalities to just a few letters on a page when we are still missing and mourning those we love.
But that simple act signifies all those God given moments of love, bound up within those names. a love that never ceases.
These names represent perhaps those who have had a profound affect on who we are are as people, those who have taught us how to live, quite literally in some cases, or those whom we ourselves have given life to, those who have helped us to become who we are, who have given us insight or joy or strength. We are given the opportunity to remember all who they were in their time with us, and all that still are to us.
So that in the darkness through those names we can glimpse all the ways however big or small that they have reflected the light of Christ.
I myself add another name to that list.
My Aunty Molly, a lady who helped a great deal in raising me.
She taught me to read, to be curious about the world, to ask questions, to laugh and most importantly to to love unconditionally.
There is too little time and too many words to describe her to you.
Those letters spelling out Molly Webb are about the 26 years of  joy and laughter and pain we shared. They represent her gentleness, her generosity of time, her willingness to challenge me when I was wrong. As I simply write down her name and hear it read out
I will see her warm smile. I will hear the last proper conversation we had as she was slowly dying in her beloved chair.I will feel her hand as she kept falling in and out of conciousness as her heart was failing. I will remember her eyes as she turned to look at me, sighed and said very slowly but still in her very characteristic well meaning but sharp manner:
“Oh Matthew,” she said, “you eat far too much bread!”
On the morning I got the phone call to say she had died my head was in a mess trying to align the hope of the faith I feel called to proclaim with the reality of the despair this news bought.
But as I sat quietly crying in Morning Prayer I could not help but feel saying those profound and poignant words we have heard from the Lamentations of Jeremiah
“Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”
As someone who never stays for the eucharist in chapel after the morning office something made me stay. As Will placed the wafer into my hands and as I said Amen I felt myself replying to Aunty Molly’s last comment to me, and replying to her:
“You can never have too much bread.”
We take in all their simplicity bread and wine and in them find the pain, the suffering and outpouring of the love of Jesus Christ bound up within his body and his blood,
and know that in that simple act  we are changed as people.
We are reminded of how he teaches us to live, we are strengthened and emboldened to become who we are more and more, and most importantly we are given the comfort and joy of the resurrection, that strength of hope.
In that simple action of receiving Christ’s body and blood we see more clearly the light that can often seem hidden. We are offered the chance to partake in his risen life, we acknowledge that death surely is not the end, for as it was for Christ so it is for us.
So today we come and hear those names of all the lives now gone and we commend them to God. We take into our hands bread, which is the bread of life and we live in the hope of the resurrection.I hope in these simple acts we can begin to make some sense of it all.
Perhaps find the God of life in those dark and murky deep waters of mystery.
Where we may find his son, offering himself so that we might be free.
The son who promises eternal life.