|Pen and Ink Reflections||
What does a saint look like? One of the saints I have known was a wonderful Geordie lady called Ellen King. There were many ways in which she loved God and her neighbours. Almost every day this included her hard work in the baker’s shop she shared with her sisters. The shop and bakery was on the old Sunderland Road in Gateshead, close by the river Tyne, and it was always a busy place. For local people it was also a source of both physical and spiritual sustenance. Almost all who came to the shop were poor or struggling in various ways. Always they had a wonderful warm welcome from Ellen. Indeed children, and those particularly desperate, usually received an extra something tasty. Everyone enjoyed gorgeous homemade bread, full of joy and yumminess.
I still think of Ellen’s bakery as a model of what church is at its best: a place of faith and hope, offering sustenance for life’s journey, physical and spiritual, with love and eternal joy sharing suffering and surprising gifts with anyone and everyone who passes through. Not for nothing perhaps is the baker woman an image of God in Godself. Both Matthew (chapter 13 verse 33, and Luke 13, verses 20-21) share this resonant metaphor of God’s work in and through us. It is reflected in so much that is good in Christian living, not least in the baking of bread, literally and metaphorically, in our homes and churches, in the many gatherings, meals, and times of hospitality we share together, and, vitally, with others. As we reflect again, today, on the theme of Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life, let us therefore give thanks for the presence of the baker woman God among us, in one another and in the hospitality we share with others…
by Penny Jones, 25 May 2014, Ven Bede Day
I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you
In the north-east of England, along the banks of the mighty river Tyne, as it winds its way out to sea, stand the remains of one of the greatest seats of human learning in the seventh and eighth centuries. For a long time the site was neglected, lying amidst the debris of the industrial age. However today the great monastery of Jarrow is once more brought to life, with the creation of Bede’s World - a kind of historical theme park, where young and old can experience a day in the life of a monk, exploring the preparation of parchment, the writing with quill pens, the harvesting of herbs, from the monastery gardens, the care of animals and the rhythm of prayer in the old church of St. Paul’s.
Why am I telling you this? Because today the church celebrates Venerable Bede’s day. Bede is a minor saint, and very few places will pay much attention. However I always remember Ven Bede’s day, not just because it falls the day after my birthday and is therefore easy for me to remember, but because the first church of which Jonathan was vicar bore a dual dedication to St. James and St. Bede. In that humble little church, in the inner city parish of Gateshead, I first presided at the eucharist twenty years ago this coming week. Just to say that brings tears to my eyes. Moreover I was for a time privileged to be canon of Durham cathedral, where the bones of Bede rest in the great Galilee chapel. Hence I have a particular affection for the Venerable Bede.
So who was he?..