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Saint Martin of Tours Guston Parish Church


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News from Guston


Having recently returned from a pilgrimage to Assisi, I have been reflecting on the experience. A pilgrimage is a journey in search of moral or spiritual significance and is typically to a shrine or other location which is of importance to a person's belief and faith.


I joined seventeen other people, at the end of April, for a week in Assisi, the City of Peace (Citta della pace). This small medieval city sits high in the hills of Umbria, built on a steep sided hill above the valley of Spoleto with the ruins of a crusader fort, Rocca Maggiore, keeping watch over the town from the highest point.


Each one of us embarked on the journey with our own particular aims and objectives, hopes, aspirations and needs and each one of us hoped to return with some or all of these expectations achieved, or even surpassed. I met with old friends, made new ones and shared in both spiritual and everyday experiences. Leaving the mundane and routine of everyday life behind for a brief period allows the mind and spirit the freedom of looking at things from a different perspective as well as facilitating prayer.


Wandering through the streets in some free time, I was struck by the abundance of Christian images, ranging from medieval to modern, principally involving St Francis, that were incorporated into the buildings: plaques, statues, sculptures, wall paintings, carvings and more. How different it was from the UK, with our society becoming more and more secular.


At one of the Franciscan sanctuaries, Greccio, the silence was profound. Our first night was spent there, before journeying north to Assisi. Greccio is situated high up on a steep wooded hillside, well away from the towns in the Rieti Valley, which it overlooks from a distance. Waking in the early morning, having slept with the windows wide open, the sound of birdsong filled my ears, heart and soul, a blackcap trilling its warbling song. To this was added the distinctly continental sound of a church bell, plaintive yet alluring, announcing the first mass of the day. In the warm afternoon, we had an hour to ourselves and I chose to take a back path, which ran along the contour of the hill, away from the buildings. This was the path St Francis would have taken eight hundred years ago, as he walked from one sanctuary to another, hundreds of miles apart, in leather sandals and taking very little for the journey. In my short walk I encountered peace, tranquillity, birdsong and wild flowers, noticeable amongst the latter were the vibrant wild cyclamen, with their flame-like purple flower.


Travelling with a group means that there has to be give and take, but the rewards can be immense if the group dynamic works. This particular group dynamic did work and so the benefit I reaped was profound.


Assisi and the associated sanctuaries are places to enjoy the simple peace of St Francis, whose greeting to his followers was Pace e bene - Peace and goodwill. He also greeted the people of Poggio Bustone with 'Good morning good people'. What better greetings could there be for us and for our world?



Italian Cypress trees at Greccio, reaching heavenwards




Services for June:


Sunday 3 June 6pm Sung Evensong

Sunday 10 June No Sunday School this month

Sunday 17 June 6pm Holy Communion (BCP)



NEW - Every Tuesday at 8am, Morning Prayer



Services for July:


Sunday 1 July 6pm Sung Evensong

Sunday 8 July 10-11am Sunday School

Sunday 15 July 6pm Holy Communion (BCP)

Sunday 29 July 6pm Compline