Sunday, 15 September 2013

Ray Simpson and Celtic Christianity in Jersey

St Brelade's Parish has had a strong historical Celtic connection, as St Brelade is one of the two Celtic saints to have visited the Channel Island, the other being St Sampson, who left his mark in Guernsey.

As A.H. Ewen notes in "The Breton Myth", the Celtic influence in Jersey was very small, on the periphery of a Christianity which was dominated by Rome - the Channel Islands from the fourth century formed part of the Roman province of "Lugdunenisis secunda", whose administrative capital was Rouen.

The Celtic influence is found in the remoter locations of the Islands, such as  St Brelade's Church, away form the Roman mainstream. It was a faith on the margins, of the periphery, of the edge of the world. St Brelade's Church still connects to those roots with its "Celtic Evening Prayer" each Sunday at 6.30 in the Fisherman's Chapel.

Ray Simpson is the Founding Guardian of the International Community of Aidan and Hilda, and he has been exploring Celtic Christianity and its context in the modern world for many years. The Community of Aidan and Hilda is a dispersed ecumenical body whose centre is on Lindisfarne.

Ray is coming to Jersey as part of the St Brelade Festival of Spirituality. On Friday there is a special retreat session for the Island's clergy. On Sunday he is preaching in St Brelade's Church, but on Saturday, he is leading a workshop. Tickets can be booked from the arts centre, and the details are as follows:

Saturday 21 September 2013: A Way of Life - A Way of Wisdom with Ray Simpson
. 10am-12 noon: Part One - A way of life: roots, rhythm and relationships
. 1.30pm-2.30pm: Part Two - A way of wisdom: how acorns can grow into our future oak trees
Admission for the day £12 including 'Lunch-in-a-Box'.

It is Ray Simpson's second visit to Jersey.

Back in 1995, the Parish of St Brelade hosted a "Celtic Weekend", and the Rector, the Reverend Michael Halliwell, wrote this in "The Pilot":

Our Patronal Festival was celebrated this year in a manner as never before. Our visiting preacher for the week-end, the Rev Ray Simpson, entered into the spirit of the parish and its history as if lie had known us for many years. It was clear that what he had to share with us stood in a long line of encounters with God which we had experienced during the recent eventful years. It all began for us in a new way with the visit of the Fisherfolk in 1973 and with their powerful message of renewal. Then we had a visit from Eric Sellgren from Whatcombe House in 1982, John Barter and the team from Holy Trinity, Hounslow, in 1986, and the Music and Arts Week-end with Shirley Collins in 1989. All these past events seemed to have led up to the call to take a new look at the Celtic roots of the Church in this place.

There was an exciting response from the churches in our own area and a good number of people from other churches and fellowships in the Island. The Church of the sixth century did not know the divisions which disfigure the Body of Christ in our own time and the Christians of those days inevitably had a different set of priorities. However, their faithfulness to the Gospel has a message for us all and Ray Simpson took us quickly to the heard of it all with his opening address on "A new monasticism." Very quickly we found ourselves in at the deep end and drawn into a unity of spirit which was with us right through the weekend.

Subsequent sessions led us through consideration of Contemplative Prayer. Person-friendly Evangelism, the Rediscovery of Soul Friends, a new approach to Spiritual Warfare and perhaps most significantly a Celtic Model for the Local Church. The question we have now to address is: where do we go from here?

It is easy to approach this whole matter in a purely "cosmetic" manner and believe that by tacking on a few Celtic prayers and liturgical material to our normal worship we are getting the message. However, there is no reason why we should not inform our spirituality by other ways of praying within the existing structures of our Sunday and week-day worship. The old adage "Lex orandi Lex credendi" still holds good, and the way we pray still forms the way we believe. In the meantime, I have asked to be adviser for the "Order of Aidan and Hilda" in the Channel Islands, and plans are being discussed for a visit to Lindisfarne by a group of us.

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