Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden describes itself uniquely as a place where you can be “sleeping with books.” Whilst this is often my own experience some nights in bed with a book that just failed to hold my attention, Gladstone’s Library, founded by that same Prime Minister, boasts twenty six bedrooms and food for thought as well as the fabulous cafe of the same name: “Food for Thought.” Think homemade scones, cakes and tasty meals. It is well worth a visit, if not a stay, and there is a vast and growing library of books initially collected by Gladstone, many with his own margin notes, on law, history and theology.
Looking out on the statue of Sophia (Wisdom in Greek) by sculptor Tom Waugh, grandson of writer Evelyn Waugh
Here the tale of eight would-be Readers for the Diocese of Chester, including me, nears a milestone as we prepare for licensing in Chester Cathedral in October this year. An informative weekend, but one dedicated to the subject of prayer, stillness and like-minded companionship and a friendship born from three years of study together. Our hosts, John and Roey, with loving pastoral and parental-like care created a time and a space for us to explore the subject of prayer together. Two Readers from local diocese and Bishop Libby came to share their thoughts on prayer over the weekend as we prepare for the next step in our spiritual and ministerial journey as Readers in our respective parishes. One of those Readers gave us a vivid picture of the journey as a gate. We could picture this lonely gate along a path, each of us had to tread. To start it seemed long way off, but now we arrive to pass through that gate, and, at some time in the future, we all look back at the gates we have entered in our lives and see them a long way behind us. Most of us travelled this journey together, starting back three years ago on Foundation for Ministry, some going forward to be accepted as trainees for Readership, others for Pastoral Workers. We have grown and learned as fellow disciples and students, each sharing what has at times been a hard road where the gate was hidden in the mists that descended on our lives. Equally we have shared the joy of Jesus and his love for us and between us. And now the gate ahead beckons us to become Readers, qualified, but humbled, challenged, but changed. Bishop Libby reminded us of the importance of prayer to her and for all of us. She taught us how, in the times we find it hard to pray, or life leaves us not enough time or energy to pray meaningfully, there is a need to draw near and stay close to God in prayer. She shared with us the prayer that the Bishop of Durham also prayed as he went on a pilgrimage around his diocese recently: the Jesus prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”