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"The harvest of righteousness shall be sown in peace by those who make peace" (Letter of St. James)
FRIENDS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JOY
An ecumenical Foundation of Prayer, Peace and Reconciliation
Newsletter no 26
My dear Friends
By the time you read this, a band of angels will have transported me far away, to where East meets West, to a land of antiquity, where Mount Olympus rises, mysteriously, over the Aegean Sea.
I am blessed more than most in that I have survived the recent difficult period with relative ease, living with pleasant companions here in Storey’s House and having space and a beautiful garden to wander in. In June I celebrated my first anniversary here, where on Feast Days I am visited by young deer in what I have called the little grotto, under the Mediterranean tree opposite my window, and on most other days by squirrels and all manner of birds, grey, blue and colourful.
The recent concert I gave, fortunately just before everything closed down, was on March 6th in my new neighbourhood. It went well and was attended by folk from all walks of life. Neighbours came from my previous home in the Arbury, where I had lived for 16 years, as well as members of various churches, and some Jewish people, who hailed from as far away as Lebanon and Iraq. There is definitely a Mediterranean feel coming back into my life!
The venue I sang in, the church of St Giles is historic, dating back to 1092. The monks, who were of the Order of the Canons of St Augustine, built the church for their Liturgy and for praying The Psalms in Morning and Evening Prayer. In the 11th century Cambridge was part of the huge Diocese of Lincoln, and the Bishop of Lincoln came and consecrated St Giles. It is said that St Anselm, of French origin like St Gilles, came to the church when he was the Archbishop of Canterbury and stood under the mediaeval arch, which led to the altar, and this arch has been preserved to this day.
The Church of England now allows the Rumanian Orthodox liturgy to be held there at certain times and the Orthodox have placed a large icon at each side, near the superb 19th century rood screen, in front of which I gave my performance. I gave quite a few explanations of the songs, particularly from the Chassidic period and the audience responded with singing and clapping to some of the familiar melodies. At the end I sang Hava nagila, a well-known Hebrew melody based on 3 He brew words for rejoicing and gave an impromptu dance as well!
After we went into lockdown, I was speaking to one of the parishioners from St Giles. She said a lovely thing; that my concert was one of the last performances before the church closed and that the echoes of it were still going round!
The most memorable contribution for me during this difficult period came from the Bishop of Burnley, who was invited to speak for a few minutes on the radio on the religious programme called ‘Thought for the day.’ It was early on in the pandemic and just coming up to Good Friday, 2 days before Easter Sunday. The Bishop said that, despite being surrounded by services on technology, he felt very lonely. But, he pointed out, we are nearing the time of the Crucifixion and we must remember that Jesus was lonely and abandoned too.
BUT: From the empty tomb, He raised up a whole new human Family…
Just like The Little Sisters of Joy emerged in Provence, at Christmas, 1998.
I had booked my flight and was ready to go back to Toronto for the 11th time when the pandemic took hold. Some wise friends suggested that perhaps it was not the best moment in the summer to visit anyway and I am planning to return in the May of 2021, my 70th year.
There will be meetings with the President and the archivist of St Michael’s College and with my old friend Noel, Rare Books Librarian in the John M Kelly Library. Had I not discovered this wonderful library on my first visit back to Toronto in September 2005, I wouldn’t have encountered Noel, a loyal friend down all these years. And the rest, as they say, is history!
May the Jewish New Year, just passed and the Feast of Tabernacles bring you JOY and BLESSING.
Shalom and more Shalom from Gila
There are now 2 ongoing archives on the work of The Little Sisters of Joy, One (opened 2013) is located in The Cambridgeshire Collection, Central Library UK. The other (opened 2018) is located in the John M Kelly Library at St Michael's College in the University of Toronto. Search for little sisters of joy fonds