The congregations of Mousehole Methodists and Paul Anglicans will be worshipping together next week as we always do at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is one of a number of things we do together. We worship in different buildings and we have different traditions but we have much in common and we enjoy being together, and working together on various projects in the community.

In planning for next week, we arranged to bring water from a number of different sources into the church, six in fact, and to talk about them between the four of us arranging the service, just a couple of minutes on each. The vicar and I were to take two each and mine were a well (below) and the river that runs through our villages. The well is not in Paul Parish (which also includes Mousehole village) but at Madron, near the village where I started school. The site is a very old one, probably dating from pre-Christian times. It remains important to Christians because of the nearby baptistry (second picture), but also to pagans, their presence evidenced by the clouties hanging over the stream.

well1Thoughts on a well: In Genesis, the first book of the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible, we read of Isaac and the children of Israel. Escaping a famine, they are in the land of the Philistines, living as aliens there – refugees, migrant workers if you like. There is conflict with the people who lived there over the watering of the flocks and herds, over sharing the resources of the land. They moved from where they were and in a new place, dug a well, perhaps one like the well at Madron. There were arguments again with the people who lived in the land, so, moving on, “They dug another well, and they quarrelled over that one also.” The story made me think of events in Paris of recent days; but also of even more deadly events in Nigeria where Boko Haram have slaughtered hundreds and razed whole villages. You may not have heard of that. Would it be a cynic or a realist who suspects that people’s lives are accorded less value the further away they are from our own? Nevertheless, people of ill intent will use these events in France and further afield to set us against each other, to conjure up the spectre of a battle of faiths, a clash of civilisations. Perhaps, as they do, and we respond, we might remember that in this story the wells are not new and take that as a reminder of something important. The wells in this story were dug originally by Abraham, Isaac’s father. Abraham, Isaac’s father and father, too, of that line of faith that leads to the three great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As people of ill intent seek to divide us, perhaps we might remind ourselves that we each draw from that same well of faith and let that unite us.

well2Thoughts on a river: River: The water that I shall talk about on Sunday will be taken from the river that flows through our villages and into the harbour at Mousehole. Thinking about rivers, I was reminded of another, this one to be found again in Genesis.

“A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches.” The one river, flowing from the place where God walked in the creation myth, flows out and takes the divine goodness, the divine life, the divine presence, with it. That life giving stream divides so that it can irrigate not just one area but many; so that it can bring life to many peoples. And those various rivers on their journeys through place and time will be looked upon by both wise and foolish.

The foolish will look at their part of the river, the river of their experience and say, forgetting its origins, “This is our river.” They will dam it, contain it, muddy and befoul it until in time the river brings not life, but death to them and to the land and time around.

The wise will look at their part of the river, the river of their experience and, remembering its source, will say, “This is not our river, but it brings life to us and so we must tend it well.” They will clear the banks, dredge its bed and clear all that might stem its flow. The river, flowing out of Eden, will irrigate their land, will bring life to them and, clear and bright, flow on to bring life to others.

Below is a prayer we used at a miulti-faith service I arranged and led for the dedication of a replacement boundary stone for Penzance. Just like boundaries can include or exclude, so we can do the same to those not like us whatever our faith or none, whatever their faith or none. The leaders came from various faith traditions. IO include it here for any who want to pray for the various views and traditions of their communities in these troubled days. 

Litany of thanksgiving

Leader: We give thanks for the beliefs of our area and the richness they bring to our lives.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Buddhist sisters and brothers, for their sense of peace and relinquishing of self.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Christian brothers and sisters, for their message of love and ethic of compassion.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Hindu sisters and brothers, for their open-hearted acceptance of others and kindly disposition toward those of other faiths.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Humanist brothers and sisters, for their emphasis on the dignity and worth of all persons.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Muslim sisters and brothers, for their commitment in prayer and faithfulness in worship.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Jewish sisters and brothers, for their enriching symbols of worship and cherishing of tradition.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for our Pagan brothers and sisters, for their reverence of nature and their ancient and still-living culture.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Reader: We give thanks for every faith tradition, named and unnamed, for the variety and richness of their spiritualities, for their united quest for truth, for their common dedication to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation and healing of the spirit.

Reader: We give thanks for those who profess no faith or system of belief, for the goodness they reveal in thought, word and deed.

Congregation: We give thanks.

Leader: For the town of Penzance, its rich history told in the stories of its residents and visitors, its buildings and streets, its hinterland and harbour, the Bay and the sea that stretches beyond and its surrounding communities.

Congregation: We give thanks. Ever unite us as one community of joy, hope, love and peace. Ever inspire us to live more genuinely and authentically, celebrating diversity, affirming unity, pursuing peace and justice in our town. So be it.

Adapted from All in Good Faith: A Resource Book for Multi-faith Prayer, Jean Potter and Marcus Braybrook, eds., a worship service of the World Congress of Faith Conference 1993, The World Congress of Faiths, Oxford:1997, pp. 111, 112. Rewritten by JW Windland, Encounter World Religions Centre, www.worldreligions.ca

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