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11 March 2016


Up from underground

RUMOUR has it that an odd spectacle has been observed in Kildwick over the past few weeks: apparently, the Vicar’s wife has been spotted walking round and round on the church green, staring at the ground.

When one of my friends rang to find out what I had been up to, she told me that odds were being placed that I had lost (a) an earring, or (b) the plot. My jewellery collection, such as it is, remains intact, however; and there are those who would say that the plot and I parted company many years ago. I was, in fact, looking for signs that the Lenten labyrinth we planted a couple of years ago was sprouting.

Normally, by this time, the narcissi and crocuses with which we marked the pathway are coming into flower, but this year I can find no trace of them. I am beginning to wonder if it is the result of the exceptionally wet winter we have endured.

It has certainly affected the retaining wall of our churchyard. The strain of supporting the weight of sodden Yorkshire soil is proving too much for it, and a large bulge has appeared in one corner; it protrudes so far that it is now being held up by a signpost.

The cost of the inevitably expensive repairs will fall to the local council, who must be longing for spring, better weather, and a respite from flood damage and disruption.


Getting broody

NOW that winter is loosening its grip, and the promise of longer days and a little sunshine is cheering us all up, my thoughts have turned to our empty hen coop. The last of my “girls” died of old age in the autumn, and I felt that it would be unfair to expect young birds to settle into our garden over the winter.

I am hoping to be given a few point-of-lay pullets for my birthday next month, not only so that we can enjoy fresh eggs each day, but for the sheer pleasure of keeping hens again. They are sociable, curious little creatures, and I have missed their burbling presence in the garden.


Found in the temple

NEXT month, we are welcoming back the Bible scholar and past president of the Society of Old Testament Study Dr Margaret Barker. She is coming to spend a weekend in the parish, leading a seminar on her theories on temple theology, which, as she says, “traces the roots of Christian theology back into the first Temple, destroyed by the cultural revolution in the time of King Josiah at the end of the seventh century BCE. Refugees from the purges settled in Egypt and Arabia.

“From widely scattered surviving fragments, it is possible to reconstruct the world-view of the first Christians, and to restore to their original setting such key concepts as the Messiah, divine sonship, covenant, atonement, resurrection, incarnation, the second coming, and the Kingdom of God.”

It is a fascinating theory, which has attracted both admiration and criticism; but, as John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, at Oxford University, wrote in his review of Margaret’s book Temple Theology: An introduction (SPCK, 2004): “Margaret Barker challenges us to re-examine all we have taken for granted; and that can only be a good thing.”


Moved by Stations

EACH Friday during Lent, we offer people the chance to do just that by walking the Stations of the Cross with us.

The first time I experienced this exceptional contemplative service was at Westcott House, in Cambridge, and I confess I was drawn to it by curiosity rather than anything more profound; I was, after all, a good Church of Scotland lass, well versed in scripture, certain of her beliefs, and not used to such activities.

As we made our way from station to station, however, pausing for prayer and reflection at each one, I became aware of how comfortably “safe” my faith had become: how easily the words of the Nicene Creed tripped off my tongue without thought: “He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. . .”

I was confronted with the raw reality of the pain suffered by Christ; the agony his mother must have endured watching, helpless, as her son suffered; and the unfathomable depth of the love that enabled Jesus to bear the worst violence that humanity could inflict upon him, and yet to speak only words of forgiveness, love, and grace.

It was, for me, a transformative experience, and I am not ashamed to say that I am still moved to tears whenever I walk the Stations of the Cross.


Now you see it. . .

OF COURSE, not everyone is able to make it to church, and one of the reasons we planted the floral labyrinth I mention above was to enable people to enjoy some self-guided reflection.

It has proved to be very popular with locals and visitors alike, and there are those who would like to have it there permanently. The green is needed for a variety of events throughout the year, however; so the best we can do is to offer a labyrinth that appears during Lent and vanishes by Pentecost.

I haven’t given up hope that the flowers are merely sleeping unseen, and will soon spring up once more. So, should you hear that I am once again circling the green, you will know why.


Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.

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