Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 3 – Friday after Ash Wednesday
From the Scriptures:
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.
I have never quite worked out the purpose of the humble hassock and, to be honest using them for ‘Team Building Exercises’ does not seem too bad an option to me. I remember one memorable occasion in a Franciscan service, using a whole pile of them for a drama demonstrating St Francis’ rebuilding the Church of San Damiano. Which was fun until I realised that I was the one left with the job of putting them back in place afterwards!
Personally, and this is were my inner ‘flagellant’ has his way, if I kneel down I need to feel the cold hard floor of the church, so I have little use for anything which deters me from being ‘serious’ about prayer. I have another reason for not kneeling on kneelers. I remember, at St Martin’s School in Johannesburg, how girl students were forced to embroider kneelers, not out of personal devotion, but as a punishment. I was never sure that this was the best way to encourage the young to be faithful… Things have changed and St Martins, I am proud to say, is one of Johannesburg’s leading schools.
There are, however, two hassocks that grabbed my heart and reminded me of the prayers of others.
When I first returned to England in November 2000 I was staying in my hometown of March whilst attending a series of job interviews. During that time I was asked to lead a Book of Common Prayer service at St Mary’s Westry (a hamlet just to the north of March). There, amongst a lovingly kept church, I found a range of freshly embroidered hassocks one of which had the Dolphin crest of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. So it was that a priest – son of a submariner and named himself after a submarine – uncertain of his future, taking his first ever service in the Church of England, realised that he could return home…
The second kneeler was one I discovered in 2001 at St Gabriel’s school, Ditchingham in Norfolk. Unlike St Martin’s School, I am sure the nuns encouraged prayer whilst these kneelers were sewn. How else would there be, tucked away in the back of the old chapel, a hassock carefully embroidered with the seSotho words ‘Molimo ea Lerato’? Odd how, having just moved from Africa home to England, that the home-sickness of an African girl embroidering ‘God is Love’ in her mother tongue called my prayers back there?
Hassocks, and other objects we use in our churches – a well-thumbed Prayer Book, a battered Psalter – are always ‘team building exercises’. They remind us that others have prayed where we are standing and, in the fullness of time, we will be replaced by others. Our prayers, even the private and silent ones, are not spoken into thin air but are ‘heard’ by the loving community called the Body of Christ united across the years. This is one of the ways in which we fulfil our calling to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ because how else can each one find the strength to ‘carry their own load’?
Prayer is at the same time personal and corporate. Whenever we are aware that, alongside all our own needs and concerns others also pray, we ‘build’ the team that makes up the Body of Christ. Of necessity and differing circumstance our words and needs will be different but our hearts beat together. In so doing we can begin to ‘fulfil the law of Christ’ which is to love one another and proclaim for all generations ‘Molimo ea Lerato’
Spirit of God,
who moves among us
calling us to love
and make things new,
we pray that in the lands
where Jesus taught and healed
there may be peace.
Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land
- Pick up a hassock (or prayer book or hymn book) in church and spend a few moments praying for those who have used them before you.
- If you are of a creative mind-set make something useful for your church. A banner, some small altar linen, even a hassock. If you are ‘all thumbs’ perhaps you may help pay for the materials for others to use?
P.S. If you are looking for and idea some of our parishioners embroider small flannels with crosses which, after being used to dry babies’ heads at their christenings, are given to the family to take home.
Find out more about St Mary’s, Westry here: www.stmaryschurchmarch.co.uk
Find out more about St Martin’s School here: www.stmartin.co.za
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG. Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017