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THE LATE CANON W H VANSTONE, one of my early mentors, comes to mind at this time of the year in much the same way as Woodbine Willie, the legendary WW1 padre, does too. Both were famously fond of their cigarettes. Both are numbered amongst the finest of poets, both engaged in the most profound theological reflection – right “in the thick of it” where an aching world lifted up its hands beseeching mercy and love. Here’s the view from my study window at 7.15 this morning. Probably the particular reason I’m thinking of Canon Vanstone today, who wrote, in Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense
Morning glory, starlit sky,
Leaves in springtime, swallows’ flight,
Autumn gales, tremendous seas,
Sounds and scents of summer night;
Soaring music, tow’ring words,
Art’s perfection, scholar’s truth,
Joy supreme of human love,
Memory’s treasure, grace of youth …
Love that gives gives ever more,
Gives with zeal, with eager hands,
Spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
Ventures all, its all expends.
Morning glory, starlit sky | stanzas 1, 2 and 4 of 7
There were times in their lives when Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy and W H Vanstone came as near to breaking point as any of us dare imagine. They followed the pattern and example of Jesus of Nazareth. They spared not, all outpoured, ventured all, spent. Such a following may raise up a new morning glory in the life and witness of the Church today if we, with humility like theirs, could only learn afresh to live and love and work alongside all humankind, and to rest, to play, and of course to pray.