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Wisdom of the Fathers

A Series of talks on the gifts the Desert Fathers and Mothers can offer today’s church.

On Zoom:  Tuesdays 7:00pm
30 Jul, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug

In the Old Church: Fridays 2:00pm
2 Aug, 9 Aug, 16 Aug, 23 Aug

To sign up, please contact Reverend Cara;
Or use the sign-up sheet in the Parish Centre

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Starting at the end of July, I will be offering a series of talks on the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These were the forerunners and founders of Christian monasticism, those who placed the search for God at the very centre of their lives, willing to make great sacrifices in the search for spiritual wisdom and union with God. These men and women emerged in the fourth and fifth century, venturing into the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. They ventured, too, into the desert of self-examination, prayer, and the discovery of what it means to live well with one another and with God. It is a blessing that we have great numbers of their teachings preserved and collected for our edification as we make our own pilgrimages through the deserts of this world, and it is on these teachings which I will be reflecting as we gather through August to listen attentively to what these Mothers and Fathers have to teach us down through the centuries. And there is so much! I once thought that holy men and women living such radical lives so very long ago must be very different in character to myself, and therefore of little relevance when it comes to spiritual teaching which might equip me for my own challenges, but when I read the Sayings (the general terms for these collected teachings) I find a vision of humanity which is utterly recognisable. These are people who struggle with ego, temptation, inter-personal irritations, frustrations in prayer, restlessness, and finding a healthy balance between work, study, recreation, and contemplation, as well as every other matter under the sun which can get Christians into a tangle. The wisdom is gentle, humane, insightful, and often brings a smile, as well.

As a teaser-trailer for the course, I’ll share with you just a couple of Sayings to whet your appetites. (For the sake of clarity in reading, “Abba” or “Amma” translates to “Father” or “Mother” and is a term of respect for the wise and holy ones. Ditto “old man”!)

“Our life and our death is with our neighbour. If we win our brother or sister, we win God. If we cause our brother or sister to stumble, we have sinned against God.” (Anthony 9)

“Amma Sarah said, ‘It is good to give alms for other’s sake. Even if it is only done to please people, through it one can begin to seek to please God.” (Sarah 7)

“A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard he said to the old man, ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes (John 6:27). Mary has chosen the better part (Luke 10:42).’ The old man said to his disciple, “Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else.’ So when evening came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal. When no-one called him he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, ‘Have the brothers not eaten today?’ The old man replied that they had. Then he said, ‘Why did you not call me?’ The old man said to him, ‘Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the better part and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.’ When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, ‘Forgive me, abba.’ The old man said to him, ‘Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised.’ “ (Silvanus 5).

I do hope you join us. Times and dates are on the attached poster. Please don’t hesitate to write to me at with any questions or thoughts, or to sign up.

Grace and peace,