ARCHBISHOP BENSON’S HUMMING TOP

PUBLISHED  SEPTEMBER 28TH 2018

 

ARCHBISHOP BENSON'S HUMMING TOP, ADRIAN LEAK, BOOK, RELIGOUS, CHRISTIANITY, ANGLICAN CHURCH, SHORT STORIES, MEMOIRS

 

 

Adrian Leak’s  second collection of brief essays has been shaped in part by the sequence of the Church’s Calendar, some of their subjects  being  linked to the seasons of the Christian Year.

They are addressed not only to churchgoers, but also to that large number of people who, while they have not been blessed with the gift of faith, care deeply for the Church of England.

Included in this volume are a number of  biographical sketches of men and women whose lives and work have helped to shape our church and nation , and who, like Benedict Biscop,  Thomas Ken,  Josephine Butler,  Sabine Baring-Gould and Eglantine Jebb, were lights to their generation.

Adrian hopes that you will enjoy dipping into these pages and find there something to excite your curiosity and warm your heart.


Praise for Archbishop Benson’s Humming Top

Caroline Chartres, former Features Editor, Church Times writes: Archbishop Benson’s Humming Top propels us from Greek hats to gardens, via compassion fatigue and hunting parsons to the songbirds of Istanbul. Underpinning and uniting these wide-ranging reflections is the conviction that God is to be found in stillness and silence, and that we need to be able to listen if we are to hear the still, small voice.

Adrian Leak has created a box of delights: quirky and thoughtful, with plenty of still centres, to be dipped into and savoured: nourishment for the soul, with no damage to the waistline.

Robert Cotton, Rector of Holy Trinity, Guildford,  Canon of Guildford Cathedral, writes: There is always grace, eloquence and wisdom in Adrian Leak’s writing. He offers reflections on simple, familiar matters with poetic richness. Common sense, such as Adrian has in abundance, is as rare as it is valuable.

It has been said “As the tribe is dying, the dance gets faster”. Adrian shows a different way: how by paying respect to others, we grow in confidence; how humility is a step on the path to resilience. These characteristics are needed (as much as they are under-valued) in the Church today. This is a book of gentle, honest and grace-filled hope.


 

AND HERE IS A TASTER:

THE DAY LIES OPEN BEFORE US

 

  1.                     Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
  2.                    Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
  3.                    Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
  4.                   The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.
  5.                                                                                                         Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1123)

 

Old Khayyam shook Saki’s bare shoulder, ‘Wake up, girl! Wake up!’ She turned sleepily, one arm stretched out across the pillow. The morning light – officious hunter of the East- was even now shining through the window. ‘Hurry, hurry, we’ve no time to waste,’ he said, and from the tavern opposite they heard the cry –

  1.         Awake, my little ones, and fill the cup,
  2.         Before Life’s liquor in its cup is dry.

Six centuries later, John Donne* awoke to the sun’s rise and grumbled:

  1.               Busy old fool, unruly sun,
  2.              Why dost thou thus,
  3.              Through windows, and through curtains call on us?

 

And told the unwelcome morning light to go away and ‘chide late schoolboys and sour prentices’, but to leave him alone with his mistress.

Surgite! Surgite!’ shouted the duty prefect in Latin, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’  It was 5 a.m. and time for the pupils of Winchester College to start their day. Never did sleepy schoolboy greet dawn with such grudging reluctance as James Woodforde, aged twelve years, in 1759. Struggling from sleep he joined the others at morning prayers, when it was their custom to sing words written for them by Bishop Ken:

 

  1.                 Awake, my soul, and with the sun
  2.                Thy daily stage of duty run:
  3.                Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise
  4.               To pay thy morning sacrifice.

 

Whether from the arms of a lover or at the insistent call of an intrusive alarm (busy old fool), whether in answer to habit or duty or to the urgent and untimely demands of  guilty pleasure,  whether we wish it or not, our whole world turns inexorably towards the light as we rise once more to face another day.

Each of us devises our strategy by which to navigate the rocks and currents of those early hours. Some make a hearty breakfast, listening to Today on Radio 4. Others, pressed for time, grab a cup of coffee, while chivvying the children for school. Others in smart hotels gaze with jaundiced eye upon the Trimalchian feast of  cereals, figs, prunes, cold meats and sizzling mixed grills of bacon, sausage, kidneys and black pudding. Some, driven by who knows what, go on an early run before a shower and the long commute to the office. Others – soldiers, prisoners and children at boarding school – awake to the unceasing clamour of community life. Old people and insomniacs switch on the light and welcome with relief the end of another long and lonely night. Others with nothing left to live for pull up the duvet and wish life would all just go away.

Some of us have found another way of greeting the morning. The Daily Office is a brief spiritual exercise during which texts from the Bible and Christian tradition are recited either privately or corporately:  ten minutes of duty (officium) first devised by St Benedict fifteen centuries ago.  It is a formula which over the years has been translated and continually revised to meet the devotional needs of each generation of Christian believers.

As I pray the Office – regularly, though not without lapses, sometimes with feeling, often without fervour, never without profit – I draw comfort from the knowledge that I am surrounded by that great host of men and women which no one can number whose faith is greater than mine and whose quiet persistence in an unbelieving world must surely be a mark of saintliness.

The night is past and the day lies open before us,’ I begin, as our world once more turns towards the light.

******************************

*John Donne, poet and priest, 1572-1631

copyright; adrian leak 2017

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