30 Jun June Digest
As Spring has given way to Summer over the past month, there has been plenty going on here at Mucknell. We have been enjoying the warmer weather, and have had much to celebrate; the month has included 4 solemnities, 3 birthdays and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
One of the distinctive features of the monastic life is our adherance to the liturgical year; this can sometimes cause confusion when we forget it’s a bank holiday and wonder why there’s no post! Another sure fire way of confusing folks is with midweek solemnities, as the timetable for these is the same as our Sunday timetable. This month we’ve celebrated Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi and Saints Peter and Paul, along with the Visitation on 31st May. Thankfully the two former were already on a Sunday, so it’s not been as confusing as it could have been. We also had a fun weekend for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Various people watched some of the events together, and most joing in with a royal-themed game of Consequences one afternoon.
There are many people outside of the monastery walls who make our life here at Mucknell possible, including our external trustees. At the beginning of June, we said farewell to one of these, Mossman Roueché, who has been a trustee for 14 years. When first invited to become a trustee, he was promised that the commitment would be just a couple of meetings a year. Within a couple of years the community decided to sell Burford Priory, and then had to look for somewhere new to live, ending up here at Mucknell Abbey. Needless to say, this meant that there were quite a few more meetings than originally promised!
Throughout the whole process, he was a great support to the community, and in gratitude for all his hard work, we invited him and his wife Charlotte to the Abbey for a presentation. Our gift to him was an illuminated extract from the Rule, illustrated by Br. Michaël and written by myself. I’m a very novice calligrapher, currently working my way through the correspondence course run by the Society of Scribes and Illuminators; it was great to be able to use what I’ve learnt, combined with Br. Michaël’s iconography skills, to produce such a lovely piece of work.
One of the joys of living in community is the chance to share in each other’s individual celebrations; accordingly there was much excitement when Sr. Sally’s 2nd granddaughter arrived a few weeks earlier than expected. Freya Elizabeth and her parents are all doing well, and Sally is busier than ever with her knitting needles. This picture shows Freya at 3 weeks old:
Maintaining the monastery
With such a whirl of celebrations ongoing, it can be easy to forget that our building also requires attention occasionally! From the 6th to the 11th, we had our annual painting week, where it’s all paintbrushes at the ready to refresh various walls and rooms that are not looking their best. We also use this time to treat the wood of some of our outdoor furniture, as well as various window frames. The kitchen garden team, by now a dab hand at taking out panes of glass, treated about half the wooden frame of the greenhouse, having done some last year. The final section requires moving heavy benches to access, and so will be next year’s project! One popular part of the week is the morning coffee break, and particularly the delicious treats that flow from the kitchen to keep the workers motivated.
Not all maintainence can be done ‘in house’ however. One such case in point is having our bell serviced from time to time; this was done earlier this month, and the bell was given a clean bill of health. The bell is, as you might expect, a fairly important part of our life, summoning us to worship every few hours. In chapter 43 of the Rule, Benedict reminds us that,
“On hearing the signal for an hour of the divine office, everyone must set aside whatever they have in hand and go with utmost speed, yet with gravity and without giving occasion for levity. Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God”.
As with much of the Rule, it’s a work in progress; most people occasionally groan either inwardly or outwardly when the bell goes. Still, this is part of why Benedict calls the monastery “a school for the Lord’s service” – we’re all learners.
Near and Far
There have also been the usual round of conferences and meetings during the month; Sr. Alison attended the Novice Guardian’s conference where she and a group of novice guardians from other Anglican communities had some time to catch up and share their experiences. They also had some input from Carolyn Davies on Nonviolent Communication, which was greatly valued by all.
One of Br. Michaël’s recent icon commissions was an icon of the Annunciation for the Community of St. Mary the Virgin (CSMV) at Wantage, and it was with great joy that Br. Michaël, Br. Jonathan, Br. Adrian and Abbot Thomas delivered it on the 14th of June. They were joined by The Rev’d Canon Toby Wright, who blessed the icon. It was a good chance to catch up with the sisters there, and to see some of their recent renovations.
Closer to home, we continue to enjoy a variety of baby animals; recent sightings include ducklings on the swales, twin baby deer and a very cute line of baby partridges. The kitchen garden is currently home to baby wagtails whose parents are kept very busy feeding them. The kitchen garden is beginning to provide more of our fruit and veg. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been enjoying raspberries, cherries and strawberries. On Sunday 26th we had our first helping of fresh new potatoes, and the courgettes, tomatoes and beans are almost ready too. These two photos, taken at the end of May and the end of June, show how busily things are growing:
One of our guests recently shared this picture of our Oratory, taken in the week after Trinity Sunday. It reminded me once again of the beauty of this space that we’re privileged to share with so many visitors. Something I read recently reminded me that wherever we may go, God is already there; this photo reaffirms that promise of the presence of the light of Christ in the midst of our daily round.