During a recent Quiz Night, our St Oswald’s Churchwardens asked, ‘How many War Graves are in our Churchyard?’ There is, in fact, just the one!
Recently I asked some children, with their helpers, to look for the Celtic Crosses in the Churchyard. Having found them, we looked at them, felt them, read their words, and followed some of their characteristic patterns with our fingers. All things ‘Celtic’ has had something of a surge in popularity in recent times. I speak of the Celtic with a hard “C”, not a soft “C” – i.e. the Celtic of Spirituality not Football!
In a village with a Church named after the Northumbrian Saint, Oswald, we should, by rights, consider ourselves to have some Celtic connections. Celtic Christianity refers in a very broad sense to the form of Christian thought, practice and spiritualty which grew prevalent during the 5th & 6th centuries, at the ‘edges’ of our mainland and on its surrounding islands – amongst the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, and Manx peoples.
Oswald, born into royalty but forced to seek exile on Iona as a young boy, was steeped in the Celtic traditions and spirituality of that holy place. Later, having returned to claim his throne, he asked his friends to send missionaries from Iona to share the faith he still carried. After one failed attempt, Aidan arrived to do just that. Oswald gave Aidan Lindisfarne – another island home from which to work and pray.
The ebb and flow of the tides of these coastlines and island homes hold a deep significance for those who favour the Celtic way. Their spirituality reflects a desire to live a balanced life of action and contemplation; of moving outward to share with generous hearts and of retreating to be personally refreshed; of valuing the givenness, power and sacredness of creation itself, before celebrating the giftedness and accomplishments of humankind; of engaging with the here and now, whilst being attentive to the eternal. Encircling and interweaving all things and all life is the constancy of God’s love, depicted in the circles and knots of Celtic artistry and seen still on the Celtic Crosses you can find in Collingham churchyard, or elsewhere.
On my study shelves are a number of books containing Celtic writings and prayers– perhaps it is something to do with having been born by the coast! I also find myself naturally returning to the sea to breath in that ebb and flow and to find space for personal refreshment and spiritual reflection.
If you reach the sea over the summer months, take a moment to consider where God might be in the ebb and flow of your life. Or come to the churchyard, gently feel and follow one of the Celtic designs with your finger and know that your small life is held and belongs within the vastness of eternity.
And please accept the invitation to come along to our St Oswald’s Day Celebrations (6 th August) when we will seek to balance playfulness and prayerfulness in our time together.
Carolyn Reverend Carolyn (Vicar of Collingham with Harewood)