June 2019

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God:

it is the doorway to heaven”. (Gen. 28.17)

The month of June is very significant for us. On 17th June 1246, some 42 years after its construction was begun, Beaulieu Abbey was dedicated. The Dedication Service was conducted by the Bishop of Winchester in the presence of King John's son, King Henry III, his wife Queen Eleanor, their son, Prince Edward, the Abbot Alcius de Gisors, and the bishops of Bath and Wells, Exeter and Chichester. Although the Cisterican Monastery is now largely ruined, nevertheless the remaining buildings and stones bear testament to what was once one of the wonders of Christendom. Belinda, Lady Montagu's fabulous wall hangings in the Domus provide us with a vivid record of the Abbey's history. It was a seat of learning, religious works being copied and illuminated. Fugitives were able to claim sanctuary at Beaulieu, so long as they remained within the precincts. Although the monks were not medically trained, nevertheless a garden in the Cloister includes many medicinal herbs used to treat various complaints.

It is a privilege and joy to meet Sunday by Sunday in the monk's former Refectory, now the parish Church of Beaulieu. There has, in the history of the Church, always been a deep relationship between buildings and those who use them. Buildings can express our deepest feelings of profound hope or faith. There has always been sacred space where God has spoken; and holy ground where the appropriate response is simply to worship; as T.S. Eliot reminds us in his poem 'Four Quartets', “where prayer has been valid”.

For the prophet Ezekiel the Temple in Jerusalem was very important. It was the home of the Shekina, the glory of God, and the prophet believed the future hope of Israel was bound up with the future rebuilding of the Temple. Ezekiel expresses his vision of hope for the future in terms of the river of life flowing out from the Temple, bringing new life to the entire world. St Paul uses the image of a building in a more specifically spiritual way. He speaks not of a physical building, but describes the people of God as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. He says that we are building and each one of us is a living stone. As such, we give one another support by living beside one another and being there for one another. We provide a roof overhead and a shelter from the cold. We give warmth to one another and welcome.

Sometimes we can spend too much time thinking about buildings and they can become a barrier to a real and personal faith. But sometimes they can be the vehicle that enables us to rise above the challenges and difficulties of our own particular existence and express our faith externally. We give thanks for the Cistercian monks, and those many unrecorded worshippers whose faith and prayer and love has gone to hallow our sacred place.

On Thursday 6th June, there will be a service at St Katharine's, Exbury, to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 'D Day' Landings. Following the 11.00am service, to which all are invited, there will be a wreath laying at the Anchor Memorial at Exbury Gardens.

Sunday 9th June is the feast of Pentecost or Whit Sunday, when we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – the coming of the Spirit of God upon the apostles, and upon the whole Christian people. Following the morning services, we shall be holding another Rector's Lunch. Numbers are limited, and tickets and further details may be obtained from the Benefice Office.

On Tuesday 25th June we shall enjoy a benefice outing to St Cross Hospital, Winchester. The author Simon Jenkins described the church as “a cathedral in miniature”. The church is the only part of the original 12th century hospital to survive. Our visit will include a guided tour, tea, and Evensong.

We offer our congratulations to the Revd Debbie Sellin as she prepares for her consecration as Bishop of Southampton. Ordained twelve years ago after working as a Family and Children's Worker, and as a Manager in the NHS, she is currently Vicar and Area Dean in the diocese of Guildford. Bishop Debbie will begin her episcopal ministry in July.

With my love and prayers.