FROM COWHERD TO HERMIT

When we were first married, 41 years ago, we decided on our first Sunday morning as Mr and Mrs that we’d go to the local churches. We’d go to the Baptist one in the morning, and the Anglicans in the evening.

When we got to the Baptist church, we were amazed to find the pastor was a woman – this was in 1971, don’t forget. She had been the first woman at Spurgeon’s College (training for Baptist pastors).

As we left the church, somebody asked Hub if he played the organ. Dunno why he asked. Hub said yes … needless to say, we never made it to the Anglicans.

We discovered our pastor had originally been a cowherd. She’d then headed up the Baptist deaconesses, before ending up as a pastor.

Our paths diverged: we went to Nigeria, she became President of the Baptist Union. When our paths crossed again, she had introduced the idea of spiritual retreats to the Baptists, become a nun (Baptists didn’t have them before her!) and finally felt God calling her to be a hermit.

A trailblazer! We’ve just got back from spending some time with her, laughing over shared history, filling in the gaps of each other’s experiences. appreciating God together.Β 

Sadly for us, she’s about to move – she’s had M.E. very badly for more than 30 years, and needs to go into sheltered housing. But she’ll still be able to practise being a hermit … once word has got around!

There are some people who, when you come away from seeing them, leave you feeling that you’ve had a treat, a feast. Sister Margaret, erstwhile cowherd, is one of those people.

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35 thoughts on “FROM COWHERD TO HERMIT

  1. I was an adopted kid and my real mother had said that she wanted me to be brought up in the Church so my stepmother told me i was to go to Church on Sundays she didnt care which one it was.xx

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  2. Some people are so spiritual, they seem blessed with an aura.
    we used to have a priest like that, he was so quiet but he had an aura of holliness about him and every visit to his mass was magical. I’ve never quite encountered it before.

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    1. Yes, there are some people like that :yes: I once went to see her in her previous home, where she had a little room set aside for prayer with a candle and cross. And we just sat there together, for about half an hour with God, not saying anything aloud. It was a very blessed and beautiful experience.

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    1. Yes, it had me puzzled to begin with. In fact she lives in an ordinary flat and does normal things like shopping and cooking. Her hermit existence is about her rule of life, primarily. She quite simply wants to spend her time in God’s company and praying for everything. So she prays several times each day and has other spiritual disciplines too. And with her ME she needs about 6 hours of rest each day – conducive to praying!

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      1. I will be contentious again ( forgive me ) ……………….. isn’t praying in a sense talking to yourself and asking ‘ what can I do to make the world and those in it better ‘ ? Consequently simply praying without corresponding actions appears to be rather empty of effect ? David.

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      2. That’s an understandable reaction and I think one with which many people might agree. But to my mind it’s rather a narrow understanding of the Christian spiritual life. Praying is not talking to oneself, but being in a relationship with God and as such, wanting to be at his disposal. For many of us with activist natures, this necessitates our practising our faith and living out of our relationship with God in ways that reach out to others and get involved with peace, justice, poverty and other issues in the world. But for some – a very few – God calls them to spend their time in conversation with him, and with the needs of the world on their hearts and in their prayers.

        It depends how you view prayer, of course. I’m a passionate believer in the value of intercessory prayer because (a) praying is what Jesus wants us to do (cf Gospels) and (b) in some mysterious way that I don’t profess to understand, our prayer joins with God’s will and can make a difference. Prayer and activity are not divided, but one, feeding into and out of each other. All my experience leads me to be sure that prayer is the powerhouse of God’s activity in the world.

        But I suspect we aren’t likely to agree on this πŸ˜‰

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      3. Thanks for that careful and detailed explanation.

        Take somebody born with severe disability. By definition God is all powerful, all seeing, and all loving and can intervene but doesn’t choose to. That’s a problem for your view throwing up many inconsistencies. How can prayer change the situation except by making you serve people with disability ? Prayer cannot retrospectively change the situation to avoid the birth of a person with disability. David.

        It comes down to the problem of the intelligent old man in the sky………. which to my mind isn’t credible.

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      4. Yes, I take your point, which is, why does a good and loving God allow such terrible things? You deduce from this that certain views of God are inadequate because they don’t give an answer to this question, or indeed, to the perennial question of evil and theodicy.

        I can only say what I’ve said before: that evil has real power, that we have real choice, that God deals with evil through the cross and resurrection of Christ – in other words, he is not a cartoon God who ‘zaps the baddies’, but a God whose power manifests in weakness. This is very counter-intuitive but I do believe it is major and fundamental. It does not give the answers we are looking for, but maybe we are looking in the wrong direction and insisting that God fits our views – in other words, making God in our image, instead of allowing our views to be challenged by revelation.

        ‘We’ know – well, Christians generally know that one day Christ will return and bring in his kingdom, in which there will be no more crying, tears, pain or deformity. This is the desire of God for us, and as we are ‘in his image’ it is part of our desire too. Prayer is a part of working out this desire, in a Christian. Without prayer, it becomes a humanist desire. I’m not making judgments here, merely observations.

        And yes, until that day, we as Christians work out the compassion and healing of Jesus through serving those in pain.

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      5. The last sentence we can agree upon………………….. Sermon on the mount…..prison / hospital visiting / feeding the hungry ……… and ‘ sheep from goats ‘ David

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      6. Thanks for asking! Surgeon wants to see me in 3 months … he’s fairly sure it’s gonna be OK but there is still a question mark in his mind because of the black markings on the nail. These are probably due to ridging of the nail but there’s an outside chance that the melanoma is popping up again under the nail.

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  3. That’s such a lovely post. Awwww, bless her. I know just what you mean about some people being so uplifting, it’s a gift I think.

    I would have loved to have met this lady.xxxxx

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