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Discovering John Bradburne: 21st-24th June 2019

Professor David Crystal writes:

A truly remarkable weekend.

Sister Margaret called it ‘Discovering John Bradburne’, and that’s precisely what happened. About 30 people came, over the three days - about 15 for the whole weekend, the others coming and going. They were from all over the country, as well as from abroad - an American living in Ireland, a couple of Brits who work in Malawi. Some had visited Mutemwa. Most had encountered the name on a leaflet and had read something about John.

That was the most unusual thing about the weekend, actually. Normally, when we mention John’s name to someone we are met with a blank look - who he? Here was a group all of whom knew who he was, at least by reputation, and wanted to know more. And many had their own personal stories to tell. And that was the other beautiful thing: they were prepared to tell them, in front of everyone, and felt uplifted by having done so. For example, one lady told us all of a vision of John that had brought her peace of mind at a crisis time in her life. She had an early morning sense of someone bringing her an experience of peace and love, but didn’t know who it was - she thought it was Jesus. As the figure left her, she asked who it was, and John's name appeared above him in big letters.

The weekend was a mix of talks, chat, religious services, a day out, and excellent meals! The talks were slotted into the spiritual structure of the Sisters’ day: morning prayer, morning Mass, evening prayer, all in a beautiful, atmospheric chapel. It was a bit like going on a retreat, and the opportunity to take part in the natural rhythm of the Sisters’ spirituality was very special.

Discovering John Bradburne   Discovering John Bradburne
 Discovering John Bradburne Discovering John Bradburne 

We set up our exhibition in one of the downstairs rooms, with all the books and leaflets about John on display There was great interest in the planned events for this September, a Mass in Mutemwa on 5th, and one at Westminster Cathedral on 21st, to celebrate the official opening of the cause for John’s beatification.

Discovering John Bradburne

The opening talk on Friday evening was a general one about John’s life, with an introduction to Skirwith, which we were visiting the next day, and a mention the bee theme, as we were to get a talk from a bee specialist on the Sunday. I told them some of the bee stories, and said I was confident bees would turn up at some point!

On the Saturday we all packed into four cars and the Boarbank minibus, and drove off to Skirwith, about an hour away. We stopped at Langwathby, a few miles from Skirwith, for lunch. When we reached Skirwith, we all went down to a little park beside the beck that flows through the village (often mentioned by John) and I read a few poems about the place.

Poetry at Skirwith

Then we went up to the church for an afternoon service. We met the present vicar, Stephen Pye, and his wife, and a couple of the people who look after the church there. The church warden had arranged for us to see the baptismal register for John and his siblings. They also pointed out the memorials to his brother Philip and sister Mary in the cemetery by the church. Their ashes are there, nestling up against the church walls, and just around the corner from the family home.

It was hugely interesting to see the inside of the church, and to sit where John sat as a child and see the various statues and windows that are sometimes alluded to in the poems. And then, a bonus. Two people from a nearby village turned up who had actually met John, having lived out in Zimbabwe for a few years at the time.

Skirwith Church interior

Back at Boarbank, in the evening, we watched a video of a miraculous spinning sun, which took place at Mutemwa, and a DVD compilation of people who knew John talking about him, his life and his death. The next morning there was an amazingly informative talk by Julia Piggott from BeeEd, a local nature sanctuary, about the history of the honey bee. (Still no bees to be seen, though.) And then in the evening, some members of the group read poems aloud. It was really heart-warming to see how much people enjoyed them.

On the Monday morning, we had a session focusing on the poetry of birds (mainly eagles) and bees. We also played on CD poem about birds written and read by John himself, and heard him sing a psalm in his beautiful tenor voice.

Just as the session was about to close, there was some excitement from two of the ladies sitting by a partly open window in the drawing room.

A bee had come in and was crawling about on the floor!

Everyone was delighted.

Discovering John Bradburne
Held at Boarbank Hall, 21st-24th June 2019.

First may I say that honey bees
Live lives like the lives of saints

as John Bradburne, a great lover of bees, writes in one of his poems.

 Theme : Telling the Truth, 7th - 9th December 2018

This weekend brings together a group of people interested in healthcare, whether from a professional, pastoral or personal perspective.

This year’s theme was ‘Telling the truth’. Sr Margaret A. gave a talk on the question, ‘Why tell the truth?’, developing ideas from her work on St Augustine on lying.

Dr Jude Raper

Dr Jude Raper, a Consultant Doctor in Palliative Medicine spoke about telling the truth in the medical context, reflecting especially on her role in caring for adults who have terminal illnesses. She covered telling the truth to patients, to families, to colleagues and to the wider public, giving wise practical advice on how to communicate difficult matters clearly and effectively. In a final group discussion various participants raised questions about truth-telling and confidentiality and Jude shared a case study with us.

The programme provided the opportunity to share Mass and the Prayer of the Church with the Boarbank Sisters, to walk in the local area and to share conversation and social time as well as personal quiet. On the Saturday evening we watched together the film The Best of Friends, about the friendship between Dame Laurentia McLachlan of Stanbrook Abbey, Sir Sydney Cockerell, a museum curator, and George Bernard Shaw (playwright and critic).

As always, many of the most important moments of the weekend came during the free time.

We plan to repeat the retreat with the theme of 'Children & Health' in early December next year.

To book or for further information, please contact SR MARGARET


Thinking Scripture
Which James?

Which John?

Why are they writing, and to whom?

Health and Salvation week at Boarbank, 7th - 12th Jan 2019

Theme - Communication

Health & Salvation
Health and Salvation in January 2019 brought together regular attenders with some new participants to ponder the theme of Communication.

2 wings group

This year’s Two Wings and Some Prayers was a little earlier - 3-8 May. 

This meant that we managed to get up for the beginning of the dawn chorus!...

The 'Called to Work' weekend was for anyone interested in linking their work and their faith, especially if they were thinking of a change of work, or changing things at work.

It began with an introduction led by Sr Margaret, who explored the language we use for different types of work and leisure.

The next morning James Atkins, Founder and Managing Director of Vertis Environmental Finance spoke of his vision of working for the environment, of what inspired that in him from childhood and of how he keeps the vision alive in his firm.

Helen Bailey, an expert in helping and individuals companies manage change spoke of how her work had been enriched more recently by training in teaching mindfulness and in spiritual direction, and explored ways of making changes at work.

Fr Dermot Tredget, a retired priest of the Diocese of Cardiff, also had an interesting personal story to tell, beginning work as a chef and moving via lecturing to a range of responsibilities during his time as a monk and priest, including using The Rule of St Benedict to help business people reflect on their work.

Martin Lawson, a professional banker and businessman, explored an alternative, Christian, vision to the standard profit-driven model of business, and gave the powerful example of the Clean for Good cleaning company, which provides fair wages and conditions for cleaners in the City of London, and which he helped the Parish of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe to found in 2014.

Participants were also able to join in Mass and Office with the Community, to enjoy a social evening together, and to watch the film Outsourced, a humorous but thought-provoking film about modern working practices.

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