Rector’s News June 2020

A look through the calendar for June gives us a whole host of saints days. We have St Barnabas on the 11th, St Richard of Chichester on the 16th, St Cyril of Alexandria on the 27th, St Irenaeus of Lyon on the 28th, Ss Peter and Paul on the 29th and of course our very own St Boniface on the 5th. In addition, there’s a whole host of other commemorations too.

As I am now allowed to say prayers in church on your behalf, I walked around one day last week and looked at the stained glass windows and one in particular caught my eye. It’s one that I hadn’t registered before and is in the north choir aisle of Holy Cross, along from the organ, and it depicts four saints, of whom one is St Lioba.

St Lioba’s name means ‘beloved’. In her early years, she entered the Benedictine Abbey at Wimborne (one of only three churches in the country, which like Crediton has Governors) and was professed as a nun. She was related to St Boniface and corresponded with him for several years and he was so impressed by her holiness and wisdom that he invited her to join him in his mission to Germany.

Whilst in Germany, Lioba was entrusted with great responsibility and she can rightly claim to be one of the great holy women of the Anglo-Saxon church.

Lioba died in Germany and her final resting place is now behind an altar in a church dedicated to Mary and the virgins of Christ in Petersburg near Fulda.

Our stained glass windows tell us the stories of Christ and also the lives of the saints. They are a narrative and we are fortunate to have some fine windows in the churches of the benefice.

I’m reminded of some words of scripture:

Through a glass darkly “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Stained glass windows… these coloured icons add beauty and interest to our churches, depicting Biblical scenes and the saints who have done God’s will down through the ages. All these scenes in glass-paned picture books that first provided instruction for the way of faith, in an age when many could neither read nor write. They shine out in reds and blues, greens and gold, illuminated by the daytime sunlight, and by electricity when night falls.

The varied colours tell their story: white for purity; purple for kingship; red for the martyrs’ blood. As we gaze, the lessons of Scripture become inscribed upon our memories. We revere the saints for their example of courage in the face of persecution, their faithfulness in times of temptation. Such is their charisma, we might forget that even saints begin their lives as helpless babes, equally vulnerable and with the same need for love and nurture as you or me. Some of them seem almost to have attained saintly status despite, rather than because of, their worldly achievements. Think of Mary Magdalene, St Peter and St Paul: one a fallen woman, one who denied Christ, and another a persecutor of Christians.  Think of St Boniface and his courage and devotion… of St Lioba and her holiness and wisdom too. But it wasn’t human accomplishment that immortalised the saints in glass, but their response of faith, unconditionally given, and mirroring the unreserved love God showed in meeting them where they were. In the same way, God reveals Himself to us to awaken in us that same unconditional self-offering so that we might live for him.

God’s revelation of himself will never be fully understood this side of eternity, for like our vision through stained-glass, our understanding is incomplete. But in our stained-glass windows, we are given the pattern of the Saints and the teaching of the Scriptures, to encourage us to continue our pilgrimage, steadfast in faith, firm in hope and generous in love, until we arrive in the heavenly kingdom, where God will no longer be revealed “through a glass darkly, but face to face.”

As we remember St Boniface on June 5th, let’s remember our brothers and sisters in both Dokkum and Fulda too, giving thanks for the gift of friendship.

Matthew Tregenza

In my Rector’s Notes, I mentioned that I had been into church to pray.  The Bishop of Exeter, in line with C of E guidelines, has given the following advice:

Clergy (or a Licensed Lay Minister as agreed with their Incumbent) may now enter the church building in their own local parish for private prayer or for streaming of services, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken.
It goes without saying that during prayer in church I continue to pray for you all and for the needs of the benefice.

As Covid-19 restrictions pertaining to church buildings are relaxed, I’ll keep you fully informed… please do keep an eye on the weekly newsletter.

Matthew Tregenza

Photographs © Bill Jerman