Just a Cup

The Rev’d Morna Simpson, author of  tea and theology, reflects on preparations for ordination. 

 

What does it mean to be a deacon or priest? Where does our time get used and what do we memorialise? This reflection is also based on the idea of salt and light; being in the world but not of it is part of the calling of all Christians…but what about when not being ‘of the world’ takes us so far from the world that we are seen as misunderstood misfits…?

 

 

A cup is only a cup, regardless of what it is made of or holds, surely? Material cannot drastically change something which we understand to have been made in our mutually accepted ‘cup’ form as Plato suggests in his Theory of Forms. Even a cup made of glass, if it has clearly taken on the form of cup with a handle and a wide rim, is not a glass, but is universally known as a cup.

 

There are cups of different colours, shapes and sizes, some might be more correctly termed as mugs, mugs which do not generally team up with a saucer as cups do; yet they so often find themselves posing in the widening ‘cup’ category. It does not seem to matter how much liquid they hold, or indeed what liquid they hold, whether it is hot or cold; regardless of all of that it is still just a cup.

 

Is it always just a cup though? It might be a cup of tea or coffee, or on a good or bad day (very much depending on the circumstance) it could be a cup of hot chocolate. On the odd occasion it might even be a cup of water or wine…or water mixed with wine even water turned into wine.

 

At what point would the regular tea cup become a precious reminder of the cup that Jesus had to bear?

 

At what point in our church history did the humble and well known household item of ‘cup’, the one that Jesus asked God the Father to take away…”yet, not my will but yours be done”; when did that become a ‘chalice’ which people may identify with far less than the good old fashioned tea cup? Who knew that a chalice is also a term for a cannabis smoking pipe? Talk about losing context!

 

I mean if we’re talking about context, real unadulterated context, the last supper was a meal with friends. It began with Jesus washing the feet of his friends, properly washing them as an act of loving service. The meal was then punctuated with bread which represented Jesus’ ‘body broken’ at the beginning and wine or ‘blood shed’ at the end. Then Jesus told them to do this in remembrance of him.

 

But which bit? How much of this has just got lost over time? Did Jesus really mean for us to take out two components from that whole meal and focus solely on those? Are we right to ignore the foot washing as loving service for 364 days of the year and only wheel out the bowls of warm water and towels for Maundy Thursday when for one day of the year we honour that meal fully?

 

And so we focus on the cup, but I am not convinced that we understand that cup of wine, the cup that Jesus drank, significantly enough as transformative. How can it be just a cup when it led Jesus to the cross to die that we might live? That is the cup of wine which in the words of George Herbert “my God tastes as blood, but I as wine”. It is surely never ‘just a cup’ is it, even if that’s all we have….

 

cup
image by Morna Simpson

Arts Weeks 2018 Photography Workshop

 

Ripon College Cuddesdon Arts Weeks 2018 is well under way.

Yesterday Rosie Homer, author of Praying through the lens, through the year – the art of noticing, led students in a photography workshop.

Pictures from the workshop are featured in a gallery made for the occasion here.

 

flower

 

 

Praying through the lens, through the year – the art of noticing

Rosie Homer reflects on prayer through the camera lens. 

 

“Stop. Look. Listen.”

 

A phrase drilled into me from a childhood living next to a railway line – said to me every time we walked anywhere and had to cross the track. Repeated religiously, one could even say.

 

That refrain has stuck with me. It still accompanies me every time I go for a walk. It still repeats… religiously.

 

Though I have spent the past three years living in an indoor workspace, surrounded by books and words and thoughts, God and Christ make most sense to me when I’m out in the natural world.

 

Outside, it’s easier to feel a deeper connection with my particular surroundings and what it means to be a tiny part of this incredible universe in which we live. To understand things in relationship with the Divine; and in relationship with our fellow inhabitants of this Earth.

 

A personal practice of mine is to go out with my camera at certain points of the year, around the ancient agricultural festivals that the church calendar so often joins up with. An intentional act of setting aside time to be present through the ever-changing seasons. Photography in this context is my way of noticing, praying, being.

 

Being open to noticing whatever it is that catches my attention… – Stop.

 

Allowing myself time to observe that ‘subject’ to the exclusion of everything else… – Look.

 

Noticing myself paying attention, and my relationship in that moment – to the world around and to the Divine Presence… – Listen.

 

For me, this is prayer without words or intention or liturgy. It is openness and participation in that which already is. Seeing the image of the creator reflected; but also aware of myself as one who is created; and joining in with the ongoing process of creation, in observing and playing with that observation, through the lens.

 

The end product, the image, is more of an incidental by-product of the process. Perhaps in a similar way that a religious icon may be used, the photograph (or the process of taking it) for me is not the image itself, but a means of seeing through it, into what is.

 

Maybe if we stop, look, and listen to our surroundings a bit more frequently and intentionally, I wonder if we might not so often forget the fifth ‘Mark of Misson’ of the Anglican Communion – “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

 

Focusing on the Light

Andrew Hunter reflects on bereavement, and re-discovering God through light and the camera lens. 

 

My name is Andrew and I lived here at Cuddesdon from 2015-17, where I was confirmed into the Church.  My interest in photography stems from visiting a David Hockney exhibition as a child.

 

I left my camera in our bags when we moved here, but I picked it up again after my friend Robbie passed. Robbie was one of the young people I got to know through the church. When he was 18 he found out he had a tumour at the bottom of his spine. I visited him in hospital and later at his parents house, where he was confined to a wheelchair. Life changed quickly for him, but he found some sense of normality by attending college, and discovering a love for photography.

 

He passed in January 2016. My faith was shaken and I could not understand why God would allow such a thing. I didn’t want to go back to doing youth work, or talk to God… Then, one day, I picked up my camera and I remembered Robbie. Also, I joined Cuddesdon Junior Church!

 

I soon found out, I too had a flair for photography, and I started taking lots of pictures around college. Nowadays I continue to help out with childrens’ groups and I still love taking photos.

 

As a wiser man than I once said, “It is during darkest moments, we must focus on the light”. With my camera I can focus on that light. I follow it, getting up stupidly early, so I can race through the fields to find the perfect shot. It gives me hope and a true sense of delight. It helped me find my way back to God. Through the lens I can focus on the beauty that surrounds me. I try to look for that little spark everyday. That little opening to the magical… to the Divine.

 

Andrew Hunter 1

Andrew Hunter 2

Andrew Hunter 3

Andrew Hunter 4

Andrew Hunter 5