1st May 2024

Have you watched “Saving Lives at Sea”? Stories of RNLI rescues round the coast of Britain, many very moving. Why do people volunteer for this (and mountain and cave rescue)? Not just for the adrenaline rush, but to feel they have helped people in danger. But they also cope with the down-side. The commonest call-out for Portishead RNLI is to search for suicides from the Severn bridges. Loyalty to each other and the feeling of doing something good keeps them together and helps on the bad days.

Ever since the days of Paul Christians have met together for worship in various forms and in times of good and ill. It had always been thought necessary to gather for worship with others and to work together for God not just alone.

But what about medieval anchorites? These were men and often women who chose a solitary life of prayer walled into a cell attached to a church, never leaving it. To do this they had to have permission from the bishop and show they had a true call and had the capacity to cope. (They had a servant to bring food and often a shuttered window to the street through which they could give spiritual counsel and receive requests for prayer.) They ALWAYS had a small window looking to the altar of the church so that they could take part in worship – say prayers and sing. They could only see those leading worship, not the others present.

Does this sound like medieval Zoom worship?

Well, may be, but their prayers were valued and they were still, in some sense, part of the community.

Margaret Clements