Skip to main content


From my room in the Cathedral Lodge I look out at the immense bulk of the Cathedral itself. Surrounding it are the various buildings of the close which house the Cathedral school and in which live some of the 300 paid staff of this busy and ancient society. People have lived in intentional Christian community on this site continuously for 1,400 years. Surrounding the close is the town of Canterbury, bustling with students and a few, hardy, out of season tourists. All of it, Cathedral, Close and City wear the patina of age. Houses are crooked and streets are narrow. Ancient fortifications sit jammed against ancient places of worship and ancient dwelling places. There are half timbered houses and walls made of stone or flint and panes of runny distorted glass. And yet there is a strong sense, not of being in a museum, but in an energetic, vibrant modern town.

It is a bit incongruous for someone like me, used to the Historic places trust getting twitchy over minor changes to an 80 year old building, to see 500 year old ones housing pizza joints or tattoo shops or estate agents. This afternoon I went to a pub with David Rice and Ross Bay. From the dozens of cutesy ye olde English alehouses available, we chose, naturally, The Bishop's Finger. It is tiny, it glows suitably with the oak which lines it and which last photosynthesized around the time of the first Queen Elizabeth. It has little tables made from old barrels and a range of good English beers, and a row of pokie machines lined up against one of the walls. It is, like the rest of the town, a functioning, living place which participates in the 21st Century as much as the 16th.

And so, although abbey and it's priory are only metres away I am staying in a very modern, very comfortable room in a very modern, very well designed conference centre whose existence is a sign of the continuing life of this, one of the most significant holy places in the world. There is a pattern of life here, of daily worship, reflection and community life which I have been assimilated into and for which I feel a peculiar sense of ownership. Here is the central point of my tradition. I am very thankful to be here.


Anonymous said…
'The White Hart' a short walk from the Cathedral has a good beer garden as well.
If you're free on Sunday, why not come along to St Mary Bredin Church on Old Dover Street - large and very lively.

Anonymous said…
Also the central pint of your tradition.
The White Hart is a well recognized part of town. I have fond memories there.
Kelvin Wright said…
Hi Brian. The timetable is a bit tight, but there may be some time late on Monday afternoon

Popular posts from this blog

Camino, by David Whyte

This poem captures it perfectly Camino. The way forward, the way between things, the way already walked before you, the path disappearing and re-appearing even as the ground gave way beneath you, the grief apparent only in the moment of forgetting, then the river, the mountain, the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting you over the rain filled pass when your legs had given up, and after, it would be dusk and the half-lit villages in evening light; other people's homes glimpsed through lighted windows and inside, other people's lives; your own home you had left crowding your memory as you looked to see a child playing or a mother moving from one side of a room to another, your eyes wet with the keen cold wind of Navarre. But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only, and to find the guise under which all loss can live; remember you were given that name every day along the way, remember you were greeted as such, and you neede

The Matter With Things. 2

  Last night I finished reading Iain McGilchrist's The Matter With Things, Our Brains, our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World , the biggest book I have ever read, in all senses of the word "biggest". Back in 2017 I wrote about books which had been important to me , and, however I would recompile that list now, The Matter With Things would go straight to the top. Really. It's that good. I've read every word: no skipping or coming to and realising that my eyes have been glazed over for the past ten minutes. It's taken me a couple of months to engage  with its 1300 or so pages of text, and, as well, there are another couple of hundred pages of  appendices and bibliography (well, OK, I haven't read the bibliography). At the end of the book proper there is an epilogue which is a "so what" chapter in which McGilchrist speculates about the implications of his hemispheric theory for the world in the immediate future. This epilogue is preceded by a

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

Turn Sideways Into The Light

David Whyte speaks in his audio series What To Remember When Waking of the myth of the Tuatha De Danann. They were a mythical race from Ireland's past who were tall, magical, mystical people devoted to beauty and artistry. When another more brutal people, the Milesians invaded Ireland the Tuatha De Danann fought them off in two battles, but were faced with a third, decisive battle against overwhelming odds. So, lined up in battle formation and facing almost certain defeat, the Tuatha De Danann turned sideways into the light and disappeared. Whyte's retelling is, to put it mildly, a gloss, but I am quite taken with the phrase and with the phenomenon it describes. Turning sideways into the light is the realisation that there are some encounters that are damaging to all involved in them: no one wins a war. Faced with such an exchange, to turn sideways into the light is to seek another, more whole form of relationship. It is to reject the ground rules of the conversation as they

Prayer as Relationship

  This is a reconstruction of the talk I gave, last night, at the 3 in 1 group at St Michael's Church, Anderson's Bay, Dunedin.  We have all had unhelpful experiences of prayer . I remember the clergy colleague who would sometimes correct the theology of my sermons 5 minutes later, when he led the intercessions; or the prayer groups when you dreaded THAT person speaking, because you knew they would speak for a quarter of an hour and list everything they knew to be wrong with the world. I've heard prayer used to share gossip, or to preach sermons, or to make announcements. I've seen prayer used to shame, or to control or to boast. In all these instances I have to ask "who, exactly is being addressed here?" and find myself asking again what, exactly, is prayer anyway?  I know what it's not. Prayer is not telling God what God should do with the universe. Neither is it barking into a silence in which nothing is ever heard. Prayer is not exercising some positio