Launde Leaves is a journal mailed to Friends of Launde twice a year which is also available to visitors at Launde Abbey. The editors aim to produce a publication that is an informative, stimulating read with a focus on spirituality, personal experience and news about Launde, for Friends near and far.
The extracts below, from recent editions, give a taste of what’s included in a typical copy.
The Warden’s Letter
‘Living water’ is not a catchy phrase dreamed up by some modern marketing guru for today’s happening retreat house. It comes straight from the lips of Jesus as he engaged in conversation with a woman beside a very ancient well associated with the patriarch Jacob. The historic watering place became the scene and inspiration for a life transforming encounter. Certainly that is something of the hope for our anniversary celebrations. We want to revisit history, not just from academic interest or nostalgia for the past, but to be shaped and inspired in the present. We want to highlight that it is still the enabling of life transforming encounters with Jesus Christ that is our core ministry today.
Of course such encounters can happen anywhere. Yet places are significant, and I speak to too many people who have experienced Launde as a special place of spiritual refreshment not to reckon that we have here a particular well that we need to draw from and share. It is hard to define exactly what constitutes its specialness. There is beauty and setting certainly. There is hospitality and welcome. Yet there is also that more mysterious quality of spiritual heritage, an ancient place of prayer which somehow holds the faith of the years.
Whatever ingredients of history lie behind the current experience of Launde Abbey, this place continues to tell the ancient stories of faith to refresh and renew the retreatants, pilgrims, seekers, guests and casual visitors who find their way to Launde each year. We hope to attract many in this 900th anniversary year, and trust that these ancient wells will quench their thirst now and for many years to come.
From an article by the Right Reverend Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich
Launde Abbey is a holy place, steeped in a long and rich history of engagement with the divine, a place energising and shaping religious meaning, an environment freighted with the comfort and challenge of human-divine relationship, a spiritual well enabling guests and staff to make sense of their experience as they plumb its depths. Of course the Abbey has had different seasons – some times of dormancy, some times of intense prayerful focus, some times of spiritual apathy, but over time it has proved itself to be pregnant with spiritual possibility for the seeker. What of course enables our openness to this holiness has always been obedience to our Lord Jesus, his way and his teaching, and thus having a community at Launde which prayerfully and diligently endeavours to live Christ’s way makes a huge difference in accessing that which lies at the heart of Launde. In the Celtic tradition the phrase ‘colonies of heaven’ is used – Christian communities whose practices include welcoming all, placing prayer at the centre, embodying a simplicity of life, exercising warm hospitality, inviting the embrace of God’s healing; and people themselves who are quick to forgive, slow to take offence, where mercy always triumphs over judgement, and leaders do not climb ladders (propped in any case against the wrong walls) but who dig deeper to be servants of all. Such witness becomes part of the “Living waters” which refresh, and the enduring faith of generation upon generation of such witnesses hallows this environment. Indeed one can find, in sitting in Launde’s cool and calm chapel, absorbing centuries of prayer and worship, that in the outward and inner silences we more easily register something of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.
The proof, finally, is in the pudding, so perhaps instead of ruminating one should ‘come and see’, remembering these words of T.S. Eliot,
You are not here to verify
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid
From an article during the Remembrance Day season by Dr Steve Gould, a Friend of Launde who lives in Perth, Australia.
Seeking answers to (some big questions) led me to discover Launde. I was born in Northamptonshire 58 years ago, 15 years after the end of WW2. My family never had a car, so I spent my youth in the vicinity of Corby and nearby Desborough, not venturing very far from either. I migrated to Western Australia in mid life and was away for over 20 years before returning to visit. I still have family here and on visiting them I made an internet search for accommodation to which I could escape for solitude – and found Launde.
For me, the draw to return ‘home’ was mostly my connection to the land. Or, rather, an increasing feeling of disconnection from the source of my life force. I was tired and wearing out. Yet while I was living here I took never noticed the need. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return….
Australian Aboriginals speak of this connection as the core of their culture. Despite living in Western Australia’s beautiful capital, Perth, and having been very happy there, I have never felt a connection to its landscape. I personally need to walk England’s country lanes, see the hedgerows and trees, see the colours, hear the birds, breathe the fresh air and feel the gentle sunshine. Most importantly, vitally, while immersed in that environment and away from noise I can hear myself think. As it says in the Launde garden, ‘Come with me to a quiet place and rest’.
Remembrance is mostly about the people whose actions bequeathed our liberty and way of life – our forbears and relatives, their sacrifice and values – our national mateship. One of the most beautiful features of ANZAC is a statement by a Turkish commander in their defence of Gallipoli who subsequently became the father of modern Turkey:
“Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
That’s what I remember. To my mind, the present day venue for the ANZAC spirit – because of the application of the ANZAC spirit in earlier times – is no longer military but social, intellectual, commercial and political. And now in peacetime, I strive to think for myself, and conduct myself so as to be worthy of what these strangers did for us. And I keep myself strong and resourceful to preserve their gift for future generations … for all people everywhere.
From an article by the Reverend David Clark, a retired priest in Leicester diocese who made the wooden crosses in many of the bedrooms at Launde.
I don’t like crosses. They remind me of torture and excruciating pain. If you use the rosary to pray, you meditate in the second day on the five sorrowful mysteries. So, in imagination, you envisage Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he wrestles with his choices. Then you see him being whipped while tied to a pillar. As you move the next ten beads, he is crowned with the circlet of brambles. Following that, he is struggling to carry his cross to the place of execution, helped at one point by Simon of Cyrene. Finally, your prayer encompasses the awful moment as the soldiers hammer the nails into his wrists and feet. But the prayer goes on to reveal Jesus’ words from the cross. I suppose for me these words are the most potent, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’ are the. Forgiveness and the love which drove Christ to forgive his executioners are at the centre of the Christian good news. In excruciating pain on the cross, nevertheless he compassionately put his mother under the protection of his closest friend, John.
I don’t like crosses, but they speak of the deepest part of the Love of God. I’ll have to put up with them, and even make them for Launde Abbey. The trouble is that there is a tendency to prettify crosses. I’m guilty of doing that by using the most beautifully grained yew wood. When looking at the cross you have to ‘see through it’ to remember the most important part of God’s love in action. Then, of course, apart from hints of the shape of Jesus on the cross seen sometimes in the formation of the grain, the cross is empty, speaking of the resurrection. And this is perhaps the most beautiful story in the world.
The crosses I made for Launde speak, I hope, of the reconciling power of God, the cost of salvation through the suffering of our Lord (the crucifixes), and the glory of the resurrection (the empty crosses). The ten crosses which I made for the bedrooms of Launde Abbey in 2011-13, do not rise to the beauty of many ornate crosses, but each one is unique, and made in yew wood from Launde, cut for me by Sean Marlow, when he was resident. Recently cut, unseasoned timber must be dried if it is not to split. Piece by piece, they were fed into the microwave oven for 2½ minutes, allowed to steam a bit, then weighed. When the weight registered as the same twice running, it was dry. Cooked crosses! I did like making them and more are on the way.
From an interview with Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani, Chair of Trustees
Who would you like to spend the night in the chapel with?
My night in the chapel would be spent with Elizabeth Fry. I am related to her on my mother’s side – Elizabeth Fry was five grandmothers back. My PhD was on women missionaries in Iran, so I could have chosen one of them but Elizabeth Fry must have been an extraordinary woman. She was extremely active in ministry, also deeply contemplative. She was a Quaker and was able to be both an activist and deeply contemplative. Elizabeth Fry was the mother of 11 children and a prison reformer. I imagine I would be intimidated by her for the first few hours but I would have a huge amount to learn from her and would love to hear her version of her life and faith.
A poem by Anna Bossata, written while Anna and her husband were living in Manhattan, New York. Anna is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and choral conductor with a home in the Hertfordshire countryside. She said that this poem poured out of her one afternoon in New York City. Try reading it to yourself, then read it out loud.
Where no-one seeks
I saw God in the dancing dapple of the sidewalk poplar.
In the bone-warming heat of day,
Wafted cool by a considerate breeze,
Branch and leaf cast jiggling patterns:
Shimmering shuddering shaking shapes
Of light more light less light dark more dark less dark
(How to describe the transfixing tremble of these shadows?)
Here holy hidden
In such an underfoot scene.
An I-don’t-mind-if-you-tread-on-me God,
Below-your-gaze, out-of-sight-out-of-mind God,
Epiphany-God, who hides where the garbage bags lie;
Where pigeons bob and peck and shimmer pinkpurplegreen-grey,
Where city dogs sniff and pee.
Where no-one seeks,
But occasionally someone finds.