Anglican Stars: Two Dorothys

Who has inspired you in your faith?

Most of us can give examples of people who have encouraged and inspired us. Some may be great names, some may be people we have met and talked to. In some cases the ‘encounter’ may have been over a period of time, in other cases it may have been a chance, even momentary encounter which changed and inspired us.

So who has inspired you?

Fr Ian, in the Facebook group Miscellanea Historica Anglicana (A Miscellany of Anglican History) invited people to say who their Anglican ‘stars’ were. We’ve been thinking of the Magi guided to Bethlehem by the star so Ian thought it would be interesting to ask which people (no longer living) from the Anglican church have inspired or guided us.

Well a wealth of answers came in, a wonderful and interesting variety. We’d thought it would be good to begin to gather some of the answers here, on our church blog, focussing, perhaps, on the less well known choices. We give links for further reading too.

First of all in this series – two Dorothys. 

Dorothy Kerin

Dorothy Kerin (1889 – 1963): Bishop Richard Charteris, when Bishop of London said: ” during her own lifetime and beyond, Dorothy Kerin was considered a pioneer in the recovery of the Church’s healing ministry.

 Aged 22, this frail Anglo Catholic young lady suffered from tuberculosis and its complications. After two weeks of very considerable poor health, she was, it seems, miraculously healed. She claimed to have not only seen the Risen Lord but to have actually met him. In this meeting, she was given a commission: to go into the world and perform an important work for Him.

 ‘I seemed to be going somewhere with a definite purpose.  For me it was a time of indescribable joy and bliss in a place and environment of exquisite harmony, when suddenly I was aware of a lovely form in dazzling white. He was coming towards me and I knew it was Jesus. He said “Dorothy, will you go back and do something for me”, to which I answered “Yes, Lord”. Then I was told to get up and walk.’

 In 1915 Dorothy began a period of spiritual direction. Her faith was informed by the mystical tradition, with a clear Anglican sense of appropriateness and dignity.

 During this period, she experienced the manifestation of the marks of the wounds of Christ on her own body, her hands, feet and side.  She is thus one of the few attested Anglican stigmatics.” You can read more about this inspiring Dorothy here.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers

Our second Dorothy is the renowned English crime writer, poet and Christian writer Dorothy L Sayers (1893 – 1957). Dorothy was a devout member of the Church of England, for whom the closeness of God was central to her way of thinking, and spiritual life. She both wrote and spoke of the need to make Christian teaching meaningful ion ordinary life.

As well as her popular ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’ detective books she wrote theological and other works and twelve radio plays, commissioned by the BBC, on the life of Christ, called The Man born to be King. In the darkest days of World War Two, when they were first broadcast, they were listened to, and appreciated by, a huge audience. Her last great passion was to translate Dante into English. She had a wide variety of interests, a zest for life, and together with a great intellect a deep appreciation for the Anglican faith. You can read more about Dorothy L Sayers here.

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#FollowTheStar An Epiphany journey

“Prayer is the harbour in the storms of life, an anchor for those who are storm tossed, the treasure of the poor, the security of the rich, the healing of the sick, the preservation of health. Prayer banishes evil things, preserves the good”. (St John Chrysostom)

At Benediction on the Feast of the Epiphany

Paul Pritchard used these words in the concluding part of his sermon at Benediction on the Feast of the Epiphany. Paul continued…

Perhaps much of that is difficult to swallow at times. Those times when we are struggling with life, for people who live in the fear of the threat of Herodian type leaders, for those who do not experience the kindness of strangers.

So I guess the question is often asked, why do we people of faith bother?

Well, we bother because of the promises of this King of Kings, this lowly child visited by the wise men, the source of threat to Herod the Great. Our prayers do not have to be eloquent, full of fancy words and churchy phrases but I believe they really do count for something or else why would people ask for them when they are facing peril?

Whilst searching out an Epiphany prayer for today, I came across something rather wonderful written by St Therese of Lisieux:-

“I do not have the courage to force myself to search out beautiful prayers in books. There are so many of them it really gives me a headache! And each prayer is more beautiful than the others. I cannot recite them all and not knowing which to choose, I do like children who do not know how to read, I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences and He always understands me”

So I decided to pursue that search no further and instead sat in silence for a while.

So my following the star epiphany pilgrimage this year is focussed on the journey to and with Christ; it is focussed on my worship of Him and it is focussed on opening my heart to Him through prayer. These three things are my gifts, my Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

I have sung the hymn Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar by Peter Cornelius as apart from anything else it is my favourite – so to close I invite you to listen carefully to the final verse as I think it reminds us all so beautifully what we truly have to offer our King of Kings.

Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem
The Kings are travelling, travel with them!
The star of mercy, the star of grace,
Shall lead thy heart to its resting place.
Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring;
Offer thy heart to the infant King. Offer thy heart.

(Click here to listen to a recording of the hymn to which Paul refers)

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A saint of not very appealing appearance

“He was remarkably tough… of short stature, thin, white haired, no teeth and stooped” Who? 

A photo of Peter Donders from the 1880s

Born in 1809 to a poor Dutch family Peter Donders (feast day January 14th) and his brother Martin had a limited education – they had to work to support their family. Peter was keen to be a priest but was continually turned down – he wasn’t thought clever enough, and he had delicate health. He persisted and eventually he was ordained for foreign missions and was sent to the Dutch colony of Surinam. He remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1856 he volunteered to go to a leper colony and he was to live and work there for thirty years. One who lived there said he was a man of great ‘kindnesses he.. bandaged feet, fetched water and things like that and helped us with his prayers and teaching…”

He worked there for many years, and also did work in reaching out to indigenous peoples in remote areas, often walking for days to meet them. His preaching among the remote areas had very little success, it was said that for his hearers ‘liquor was more appealing than liturgy.’

Memorial at the grave of Peter Donders in Batavia, Surinam

Perhaps not surprisingly he contracted leprosy himself and he died on 14th January 1887, and was buried in the leper cemetery where he worked.

Despite his failings and his shortcomings he never lost faith or trust. He did small things well and with great hope and faith. One person who knew him write, later ‘I would gladly send you an account of his great works, but his beauty was mainly within, nothing very extraordinary in his daily life!”

So we have a saint of not very appealing appearance, no miracles or unexpected happenings – simply and beautifully a person of deep prayer with great trust in God and a willingness to day the everyday jobs of caring for those on the margins.

An inspiration to everyday people!

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Three Ancient Men: An Armenian Epiphany legend

The stories of Jesus birth are surrounded by myths and legends, some specific to certain cultures. A little boy brings a lamb, an ox and an ass look over the crib… Many of the stories have developed to convey the beliefs of Christians. 

The well known, and somewhat eccentric 19th Century Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, R S Hawker, retold an Armenian myth about the three wise men, and also of what became of the Star of Bethlehem. (An interesting connection here with an earlier post about the night sky in Zimbabwe).

In 1854 Hawker write: 

The Three Wise Men by the American artist J C Leyendecker (1900)

“According to an ancient Armenian legend, the three sons of Noah were raised from the dead to represent all mankind at Bethlehem. According to another, they slept a deep sleep in a cavern on Ararat until the Messiah was born, and then an angel aroused and showed them The Southern Cross, then first created to be the beacon of their way.

When the starry signal had fulfilled its office it went on, journeying towards the south, until it reached its place to bend above The Peaceful Sea in memorial of the Child Jesu.”

(From Notes and Queries 1854)

Hawker went on to put the Armenian legend into verse:

Three ancient men, in Bethlehem’s cave,
With awful wonder stand:
A Voice had call’d them from their grave
In some far Eastern land!

They lived: they trod the former earth,
When the old waters swell’d:—
The ark, that womb of second birth,
Their house and lineage held!

Pale Japhet bows the knee with gold;
Bright Shem sweet incense brings:
And Ham—the myrrh his fingers hold—
Lo! the Three Orient Kings!

Types of the total earth, they hail’d
The signal’s starry frame:—
Shuddering with second life, they quail’d
At the Child Jesu’s name!

Then slow the patriarchs turn’d and trod,
And this their parting sigh—
“Our eyes have seen the living God,
And now, once more to die!”

And the words have been put to the music of Frederick William Herschel, a musician, and also appropriately, an astronomer (he discovered the planet Uranus).

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Bless the Four Corners of this House

I’ve a wonderful collection of old hymn books, many inherited from my dear friend Fr Mark Dalby. I haven’t room on the Rectory book shelves for them so they occupy two selves in the church office at St Chrysostom’s. Looking through them recently I came across ‘a hymn to be sung at the blessing of a home.’ That’s not a subject heading, I think, in many modern hymn books!

Well, for many years we’ve encouraged home and house blessings at St Chrysostom’s so I thought this could be a worthy addition to the toolbox of items to be possibly used at home blessings.

Although ‘Bless the four corners of this home,’ is sometimes described as an Irish house blessing the words are in fact those of the American poet and writer, Arthur Guiterman (1871 – 1943). It had a short life as a hymn, appearing first in 1935 and not being found in hymn books after the 50s. Its limited popularity appears confined to the United States. Here is the hymn with music:

We decided to ‘resurrect’ the hymn and bring it to British shores! So after Benediction on Epiphany Sunday Paul and Kenson organised us in singing, and recording, the hymn. We had great fun doing it. Paul led the singing, accompanied by Kenson, and they did a splendid job. All present joined in with the last phrase.  Thank you to Paul and Kenson and to all who sang. Our recording is now available on YouTube so anyone can hear it. We invite you to Click here to hear it.

So if you are not inclined to do a more elaborate blessing of your home, we wrote of earlier in the blog (see here) here’s a simple suggestion. With a nice cup of tea, or a glass of wine, relax, perhaps light a candle, and listen to the singers offering the prayer as they sing in St Chrysostom’s Church, and make the words a prayer of blessing for your home too.

Fr Ian

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20 + C + M + B + 19 Blessing of Homes

Our homes are special places – they are where we live, eat, play and pray.  That is stating the obvious – yet we often forget the obvious.  What better way to celebrate the visit of the Magi or Three Kings to the earthly home of Jesus than by seeking God’s blessing on our own homes?

Our homes are places where the day to day things happen, and they are, as such, places where we need God’s blessing most.  A “blessing” is to ask for God’s approval, for God to be in and around us, for God to be quietly present – and that is a wonderful thing to ask for our homes.

It is traditional to pray a blessing on homes at Epiphany time – the feast of the visit of the Magi.  It was in his earthly home that Jesus was found by them, and it is in our homes and everyday life that God is with us.

It is usual to mark our homes, perhaps with blessed chalk, available from Church, using the initials of the Three Kings, and the date of the year as we pray the blessing.

So, the marking near, or above, the main door, could be:

20+C+M+B+19   (or a simple Cross)

This prayer might be used

O God of Light, bless our house and our family. May our home be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you give, using our talents and works for the good of all.

Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care.  When we go out, may we never lose sight of your guiding star. As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love. Amen.

This year at Epiphany at St Chrysostom’s this prayer for blessing (adapted) was offered to worshippers:

Bless the four corners of this home, and be the lintel blest, and bless the hearth, and bless the board, and bless each place of rest, and bless the door that opens wide to friend as to kin, and bless each crystal window pane that lets the starlight in, and bless the roof-tree overhead and every sturdy wall. The peace of all, the peace of God, The Peace of Love on all.

Fr Ian discovered this prayer set to music. Click here to see it – and indeed to hear it sung by singers at St Chrysostom’s!

Fr Chris

If you would like a priest to bless your home simply ask, they are happy to do so!

(At St Chrysostom’s we love to encourage this tradition each year. Read more about it – click here. Do feel free to share this too.)


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#FollowTheStar A former prisoner shares thoughts

John served a prison sentence of eight years. While he was in prison he met Fr Ian who was working as a Chaplain at the maximum security prison in which John was held. Recently Fr Ian contacted John and asked him what #FollowTheStar meant to him in prison. Here Fr Ian summarises John’s comments:

I tried to take short cuts to get money and sort myself out. I ended up with 8yrs inside. I ruined my life. I damaged my family. People didn’t want to know me. I can understand that.

I was really really down in prison. No one seemed to care. The first thing inside seemed to be to look after myself and take care. I was known by my surname. No one even shook my hand.

As a lad I’d been to church a few times. I’d sung in the choir in the church on our estate. I thought I’d give the chapel a go in the prison. I was put off. Some of the other cons were too religious for me with their big Bibles on their knees and using Bible talk, like being saved, and knowing Jesus. I felt out of all that.

Then a chaplain said I might like going to the Quaker group. She said it could suit me. It did. It was great. Kind people from outside just came in and talked with us. We had tea and buns. We could chat about anything. We were all treated the same, visitors, staff and prisoners. It was normal and just first names were used.

It gave me hope, and it sparked something in me. It was only an hour or so a week but I really looked forward to it. I thought there are people who care and people who are kind out there, and I could try to be one of them. It raised my spirit. I thought maybe church can do that outside.

That simple kindness, giving of time to others, listening… gave me new hope, and I could look up.

A common saying in prison is ‘Two men look out of the same prison bars, one sees mud, the other sees stars.’ I was helped to see stars, to #FollowTheStar of hope and friendship.

Those three kings needed each other to help. Outside of prison now I look out for kind, good people. I need them to help me #FollowTheStar. I try to be one myself. I’ve even started going to a church!

And I still try to look up and #FollowTheStar. It helps me, it can help you.

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