From our Chaplain Canon Graham Bettridge
‘The Gate of the Year’
‘Shear Madness’ is a Murder Mystery, (a must attend), the longest running non musical play in America; we took the scholars to this comedy play when we were in Washington. The play is set in a unisex hair salon in the city, the staff are a general mixture of characters and the customers are drawn from a cosmopolitan interesting social group. It is an interactive performance, any of the cast could have ‘dun it’; at the interval the audience are asked to vote the identity of the murderer.
The actors then play the second half as dictated by the majority vote, which varies with the changing audience. This willingness to adapt lays a great burden on the players and requires trust, imagination, and a responsive skill from each of the ad libbing cast. It is good fun.
A gimbal is a mounting that is found in small sailing vessels and takes account of the sea’s activity fore and aft, interacting with the movement of the boat in the water. This gives a security of balance in an unsteady world. It allows for the safe boiling of water and the heating of the essential baked beans. The land lubber had of necessity to become familiar with the wonders of the gimbal. Making a can of tea was the only activity allowed to him, he watched as the kettle swayed and swung in an increasingly wild sea. We had left the little harbour of Burnham on Sea against the advice of the met. report but the confidence of the sailors, father and son, was undaunted by the challenge of the building storm. Something had to give and when the mast split with a mighty crack, we were forced to turn around, the calmness of returning with the wind and under power was a welcome revelation.
Adaptability, courage and on this occasion necessity did aid our response.
The gimbal, this safety aid, responding to the real movements of the sea yet calm and still at its centre allows the dips and summits of life to be managed. The Christian Gospel can be thought of as a balancing mechanism of life. This accepts the circumstances around it in the real world of ‘changes and chances’ and, like Pilgrim in ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’, is not easily daunted or diverted. This requires imagination, adaptability and responsive skill from each of us.
My first prayer book had as a frontispiece: the painting The Light of the World by Holman Hunt and the words the King quoted. We are being deprived of normal community interaction during this unnatural isolation and for some our serenity of being has become elusive, the message of 1939 seems strangely relevant to-day. King George 6th quoted the poem by Minnie Louise Haskins (a lecturer at the LSE).
“and I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ He replied ‘Go out into the night and put your hand in the hand of God, that shall be better than light and safer than a known way’….”
This requires imagination, courage adaptability and responsive faith from each of us, and for each of us.
Graham W Bettridge
Hon Chaplain Parcevall Hall
August 11th 2020