Over the past weekend I have been in Redditch, actually even in Astwood Bank, to spend a bit of quality time with my Mum and Martin to talk through wedding preparations. This is not really something they train you for at theological college - taking your mother's wedding. The event will take place at Emmanuel Church in Redditch - my home congregation and will be followed by a cream tea in the church hall and then fish and chips or curry for over 50 folk back at the house.
It is going to be fun and we all hope that this view will be part of it, however even if it rains we will have glorious day.
This view from the back step at my childhood home is one I can simply drink in for hours, these photos don't give you the full extent - this was a cloudy day. Often you can see all the way to the Malvern hills and on clear days even as far as the Black Mountains in Wales. I love the sense of space and the amazing sunsets.
Martin has been living in the house for just over 2 and half years. (When my mum announced his arrival in her life by telephone she said: "I have an added complication in my life" "ah" I replied you mean a man" .... in the ensuing conversation I said something daughterly like "Well just take things slowly" and Mum replied "it's a bit late for that!" hmmm ...) He is tenaciously transforming the garden - which is no easy task. Throughout my childhood the right hand border of the garden was lined with ancient rotting willow trees, all now coppiced or removed - as a result whole new horizons and views have been opened up.
My brother's bedroom at home overlooks this view - it was the room he was born in. My bedroom overlooked the main road and that is still the one I choose when I go home on my own. But the view out the back is part of me. I realised this last year when thinking about the view inspired me to write this sermon on the Mother tongue of ecumenism - a sermon that came almost fully formed in one of those rare moments of inspiration.
The view is perfect but changing, ancient but part of a very human landscape. Twenty years ago we put a big blue and white tent up at the bottom of the garden for our marriage. At the end of the day I was wandering barefoot around the garden hand in hand with Stephen. Very, very happy.
When I was a child the garden was much wilder than it is now, a place of great adventure, stinging nettles, ancient pigsties, treehouses and gooseberries, balckberries and apples to be picked.
Anyway for those who are interested here's the beginning to the sermon - quite fun to re-read it 18 months on ...
A room with a view
There is a wonderful view from the back bedroom of my parents' house. It was the room where my mother gave birth to my brother, less than a mile from where her own mother had given birth to her.
The view is of rolling fields and greenery, trees and hedges; in the distance 40 miles away are the Malvern Hills (not quite Mont Blanc or the Alps but beautiful nevertheless). Further away still and only to be seen on a clear day is a glimpse of another country the outline of the black mountains in Wales, and a reminder of a different and more ancient Celtic language, which the English language has pushed to the margins – just as the English language is pushing so many other languages to the margins these days.
This is the view my brother and I still sit on the back step to drink in on our rare visits home.
That view has hardly changed in our lifetime. It speaks to us of childhood and beauty. It is also a landscape we have simply always known, a landscape that seems to know and welcome us back into its beauty and our memories.
The view I love so much would probably still be recognisable to William Shakespeare who was born just 10 miles away. When I think of where I come from that greenery and stretching view come to mind straight away. I understand that landscape like I understand my mother tongue.
And yet …
These days when I think about "home" it's often an exercise in cognitive dissonance
Home is not just a long way away, though not as far as for many of you, but “home” is also to some extent a long time ago.
These days when I go back I often feel as if I'm in a foreign land - even though people all around speak the same language as me. I feel caught between Babel and Pentecost, which is why I've chosen those texts this morning.