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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Worth Abbey: At the Heart, On the Edge.

One hundred and eight members of the congregation, clergy, choir and C-Club members from St Martin-in-the-Fields gathered together this weekend at Worth Abbey; the theme of the weekend was At the Heart, On the Edge. Jane Williams, Neil MacGregor, Tim Bissett, the Disability Advisory Group and many others from our community led reflections, along with an evening of Great Sacred Choral Classics: Allegri Miserere in the Abbey Church with the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Revd Dr Sam Wells.

It was wonderful to be back at Worth Abbey and to be there together with so many from the St Martin's community. Our Education Committee had organised a particularly full and varied programme. 

The weekend as a whole was wonderful but highlights for me included insights from: Jane Williams on truthful prayer in the Psalms that enable us to anger and concern; Neil McGregor exploring our human need to share the sacred by expressing what is beyond our grasp; our Disability Advisory Group speaking from lived experience about reclaiming the healing miracles in the Gospels; a Theology Group that began by reflecting on reasons why the central act in human history occurred on the edge of Empire and influence; our Choir singing Allegri's Miserere in the resonant acoustic of the Abbey church with reflections from Sam Wells; and a special closing Eucharist drawing all our activities and reflections together.  

I gave an update on HeartEdge, the growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas initiated by St Martin's. Tim Bissett did the same in relation to the Frontline Network, which equips and supports those on the front line working with homeless and vulnerably housed people.

In addition there was also time for socialising, games, children's activities, walks, an art activity, a film, Tai Chi session, a tour of the Abbey and worship both with our community and with the monks. The art activity, led by Andrew and Helen Carter and Alice Bree, created a wall hanging depicting swallows darting to the centre of two large circles, as well as also being on the edge.

Phyllis Santa-Maria was one of those who came. She reflected: 'Wonderful St Martin-in-the-Fields Parish weekend at Worth Abbey, East Sussex. It's my fourth one, done biennially, and hard to believe each one is better than the last. Our theme, 'At the heart. On the edge.' focused on how we as a church in the heart of London and being with people on the edges of society and the economic mainstream can deepen our commitment to ourselves and our communities for making the world a better place. We prayed, learned from each other and guests, had a great, stimulating time.' 

Since I last visited Worth Abbey the monks have commissioned Heatherwick Studio to design and develop a furniture strategy as part of wider renovations to the Abbey church. The furniture package included pew benches, choir stalls with misericord seats and desks, benches, credence tables, server seats and reconciliation (confessional) rooms. Heatherwick has embedded curved threads of ash into the dark walnut pews.


Gregorio Allegri - Missa Vidi Turbam Magnam.

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