Simon Marsh | July 2012

LOOK IN THE MIRROR! Advice I’ve needed to hear in the past ten days or so. I’m staggered at how difficult it is actually to just STOP. Even on holiday last week! But now I’ve virtually ground to a halt with one of the most debilitating chest infections I’ve ever experienced. So ordinary daily routine, and my ordinary daily blog, have taken a back seat for a few days, for the first time in a very long time.

But one of the things about blogging, I suppose, is that one is hereby afforded an opportunity to record something about what’s actually happening in and around one’s life – exhaustion being currently one such element in mine.  Perhaps, then, a few blank days on the blog will remind me in due course of a few blank days in day to day life – and ultimately give me cause to be better thankful for my usual rude health!

Thank you, very much indeed, to friends and family who’ve been patiently “holding a candle” for me – patient notwithstanding the fact that months go by without contact with said family and friends because of the exact same busyness of life I’m forever counselling others to slow down in. That faithfulness and generosity of heart is very greatly appreciated. Whilst feeling utterly washed out and certainly “signed off”, I’m told, for another week or so, I’ve still done a bit of reading, keeping up with blogging friends – reading them whilst not responding in writing – and I’ve digitally reorganised a few photos which is something that brings joy even whilst relying on a “puffer” to stay on top of a painful wheeze.


click on individual images to enlarge | slides here

I FIRST SPENT a lot of time in company with Josefina de Vasconcellos‘ Jesus 35 years ago as I was in the early stages of preparing for the priesthood. He gazes out across green fields towards Lakeland Fells and Ullswater, one of the most beautiful lakes in England’s glorious Lake District. He’s still the Jesus I know best, the one who gazes with compassion upon a Creation He’s willing to give absolutely everything to, a giving, a compassion and a perpetual gazing that encompasses every child, woman and man upon earth. This Jesus doesn’t belong to Christians. This Jesus belongs to everyone and everyone belongs to Him. This Jesus is an image of the God who is high above, beyond and deep, within and beneath every single one of the world’s religious traditions. This Jesus says to all humankind “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. This Jesus inspired Teresa of Avila’s

Christ has no body now on earth but ours;
no feet with which to run to proclaim good news;
no hands with which to reach out
to touch, to heal and to bless;
no ears with which to hear the cries of the poor;
no eyes with which to look out with compassion
upon this world, but ours.

Bodies, hands, feet, eyes and ears – to carry the watchful souls that are to stay close to their Source and eventually be at One. Compassion. The work of the anointed – of every shade and hue, of every nationality and tradition. The work of Christ now.


I LOVE THE COLOUR in this clematis, captured against – for a brief moment – a suddenly cornflower blue sky. The heavy black cloud banked behind me as I captured this shot added atmosphere and particularly distinctive colour to the scene in Greystoke village centre.



I KEEP COMING BACK to Brother David Steindl-Rast – especially when life gets busy. I love the peace that’s so patently present in Brother David’s lovely face, and the way his eyes look gratefully, joyfully, to the sky. And I also love Rainer Marie Rilke’s glorious poetry (translated here by Brother David)

All that is fulfilled returns home to
The One, to the Changeless One …

the Great Song above the earth hallows
and celebrates it all …

Joy and peace for all who spend a few moments in company with holiness in this little film today – or anyday. All that is fulfilled returns …



Love bade me by Stephen Raw | photo/simonmarsh | please click to enlarge

LIFE HAS BEEN absurdly hectic in the last few weeks. It always is in the run-up to our summer holiday and we’re looking forward to ten days near, on and around Ullswater from next week.

We’re currently hosting Stephen Raw’s wonderful artwork “Love bade me welcome” in St Michael’s Lantern tower and it’s such a comfort to me – and to many others. Hurtling and splashing around the place at a rate of knots it’s a marvellous thing to be stilled and awed – like Parson George Herbert, in Bemerton, before me – the inspiration behind this particular work …

Love bade me welcome

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert, 3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633

Stephen’s art can also be seen locally at St Ann’s Hospice, and he has exhibited further afield in Germany, Ireland, Italy and the United States. One of his paintings is in the collection of the Stiftung Archiv der Künste, Berlin. Stephen currently sits on The Royal Mint Design Advisory Committee chaired by Sir Christopher Frayling

Please click on the photo above to enlarge; visit Stephen’s Website here; visit my photo’s “Imagining with Stephen Raw” here; and visit St Michael & All Angels Bramhall, at SK7 2PG


SOME OF THE BEST public spaces in the world have chronically bad public address or sound systems, often despite their best efforts. Best efforts have been applied in our parish church’s audio department for years but our own system, when not broadcasting local taxi-drivers or squealing feedback has, at best, behaved extremely erratically and terribly irritatingly!

Today I want to take up a megaphone and announce to our parishioners that for the first time in six years I’m pretty confident that we’ve found the right supplier and the right system for a new start come the Autumn of this year. Even a mandolin’s tones sounded pristeen through the on-site demonstration. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile I’m staying on my knees …


Swimming in the Mystery of God – please click photos to enlarge

TODAY WE CELEBRATED our Church’s Dedication Sunday. Wonderfully talented people have decorated the parish church on this day for 102 years – with flowers hand-picked from their own gardens. This year, having hosted Angels in 2010 and Windsails in 2011 (see Lumière below) our Lantern Tower is graced by the gently swimming presence of some of the most magnificent fish I’ve ever seen.

“We swim in the Mystery of God as fish swim in the sea”, said theologian Karl Rahner SJ – in an attempt to communicate the profound faith statement that human beings need no more consider themselves separate from God than we could consider ourselves separate from the air that we breathe. We’re all in this together: God, and everything created by God.

I often share Rahner’s little tale of the elderly, statesmanlike fish gliding past two tiddlers one morning. “Morning boys!” he greeted them. “How’s the water?” The tiddlers ignored him and – flicking their little tails – swam on. A little time later one looked at the other and asked “what’s water?”

Oliver John joined in the swimming with smiling enthusiasm as he was baptised this morning beneath and surrounded by the meanderings of many colourful creatures. And all present dedicated themselves anew to the works of Love in the coming year.

Meanwhile, General Synod prepares for major debate upon the morrow in York. Bishop Nick Baines of Bradford writes of Frustration and Joy here – pointing us (for which, hearty thanks) to an audio link to Archbishop Rowan’s fabulous sermon at the Synod Eucharist this morning. How glad I am, for him, that the good Archbishop will swim ere long in the quieter waters of Cambridge. How certain I am, however, that we’ll miss his gentle touch more than any of us have been able hitherto to imagine.

Still, he encourages us to swim on …