Thought for the Day : Thursday 14 January

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw (St Michael’s)

During these challenging days we need to take full advantage of all the opportunities we have been given to continue on our Christian pilgrimage. Locally we are blessed with a number of assets that are open for everyone to explore freely. You might like to visit Beckett Park next to St. Chad’s Church which is easily accessible with footpaths always well -gritted during icy weather. It includes a university campus with an impressive classical style main building, a sign of architectural creativity at its best, as you can see.

Looking in the opposite direction beyond the trees there is a marvellous view across the Aire Valley and on a clear day you can even see the Emley Moor telecommunication mast which covers most of Yorkshire and even across the Pennines. It’s the tallest freestanding structure in the UK, a sign of the importance of communication across the wider world entrusted to us by God, and a reminder of how valuable technology has been in countering social isolation during this time of lockdown.

The campus itself began its life as the City of Leeds Training College for men and women intending to become teachers. I understand that its grand opening ceremony on 13th June 1913 was disrupted by an unnamed suffragette bravely demonstrating against gender inequality by promoting the voting rights of women. She was giving a prophetic sign in favour of social justice for all humanity, male and female alike.

The following year, with the declaration of war, the college was commandeered and re-named ‘2nd Northern General Hospital’ for the emergency nursing care of the injured, something perhaps not dissimilar to the scale of unexpected emergency care required  today by the NHS for so many victims of the ongoing  Covid19 outbreak. Our Christian discipleship requires us to care for all those in need.

Beckett Park originally belonged to Kirkstall Abbey, and you can still walk down through a lovely wooded area, past a memorial arch commemorating the visit of Queen Victoria for the opening of Leeds Town Hall in 1858, then across a pedestrian railway bridge before finally reaching the Abbey where you can explore its ruins free of charge. You may even imagine yourself alongside 12th century Cistercian monks sitting by the river Aire appreciating its natural wildlife. You might even catch sight of a kingfisher flying past but be prepared to wait patiently.

Prayer is like watching for
The kingfisher. All you can do is
Be there where he is likely to appear, and
Wait.
Often nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
Expectancy.
No visible signs, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

Ann Lewin

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