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Painting of Julian of Norwich

Hope’s beginning

Newsletter: November 2019

So it’s been a busy few weeks, my dear web friend, and I’ve ridden them like a man on a wild horse who is not much good with horses… or at riding. But I hope kind grace has been with me in the saddle, courteously saving each day from my clueless oversight and finding the horse and I occasional still waters where we can drink, stop and stare vacantly into empty space.

A few weeks back I hosted a Julian of Norwich retreat at Sheldon, on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. It’s a wonderfully safe space in which to come and risk everything, and some did, as we sat with Julian in her cell. I was reminded again that Julian makes no sense at all if we try and turn her into theology or attempt to analyse her with our heads. But she does make sense if we just sit with her, and allow her stories and images into our soul. There’s not much truth that can survive if the head is our gatekeeper.

A week later I was in Belgium, thanks to Eurostar, working with some marvellous spiritual directors in the Diocese of Europe; so yes, around the table there were many languages. (Everyone but me had at least three in their pocket.) We too sat with Julian in her three-windowed cell, this time in the vast Drongen Abbey, near Ghent, a former training house for Jesuit priests. And we had some good adventures.

In between, with my Mind Clinic hat on, I’ve been in various organisations – schools, hospitals and hard-pressed companies, meeting staff one-to-one. They stagger to see me from the intensity of the workplace, and must often wipe clean their tears before they return. There’s no mention of Julian in these settings – she doesn’t usually come up – but I can bring her hope with me. It’s strange how many ask, ‘Is there any hope for me?’ as if their story somehow bans them from it. ‘There’s always hope,’ I say. ‘And your honesty is hope’s beginning.’

Meanwhile, closer to home, ‘The Hermitage’ has been a place of respite for some safe space by the sea – though stripped of distraction, it is sometimes disturbing as well… creating space in our lives really is the bravest of things to do. But I don’t fear disturbance when it arises, even when it appears to tear everything apart. I know from my own journey that while it arrives like a rolling storm, all terror and destruction, it is often the bringer of joy; a prelude to something truer, something better.

I’m reminded of the Gospel of Thomas: ‘Seek and you shall find; find and you shall be disturbed, and on being disturbed, you shall marvel and reign over all.’

Which reminds me of my own current novel, Gospel, which I have spoken of here. It is a first person telling of Jesus’ story and has recently been out with some kind readers for comment. Life has taken me away from it these past six weeks, but I hope to return soon, made wiser by others’ reflections. Easter 2020 is my target for having something complete. As to who might publish it, that is less in my control. But nothing ventured…

Meanwhile, another adventure pursued quietly in the shadows is Julian of Norwich: The Musical. Titter ye not, as Frankie Howerd might have said, for this is something close to my determined heart, and for the past few months, I’ve been working with my old friend, song collaborator and musical genius Martin Hoile to just this end. Can we bring her cell to the stage? Can the anchoress, in some manner, live again? And what title would you suggest? It’s a work in progress, and challenging; but nine songs are already recorded and a dramatic structure appearing.

Here’s a first public outing for the closing song, All shall be well, my lyrics; music/performance by Martin Hoile…

In the meantime, some house news. I’m offering a contemplative quiet day at the WCCM in London on Saturday 7 March 2020 called The Journey Home. Details here…

Before then, if you’re passing, I’m returning to my previously sold-out Julian of Norwich Uncovered talk in Seaford on 21 November 2019. Details here:

But I close with a recent blog. I reckon we’ve all had some weather of late, and for some it has been traumatic. Here’s my take on the storm that hit Seaford; a blessing of sorts for your strong and fragile life.

With best late autumn wishes,


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