Sunday, July 26, 2015

Little Gidding

I first found out about Little Gidding in 1980 /81, 34 years ago. It was the title of one of the poems I studied for my English A level. One of the sections of the poem really stood out for me because it tells the story of a journey to a little chapel or church in Cambridgeshire where the narrator - the poet T. S. Eliot - came to pray and describes a mystical encounter with God. As I came to know the poem over a period of months I realised that the poem was telling my own story of a discovery of a church close to where I lived in Harrow, where I felt that I had had a mystical encounter with God.

I've read that poem again and again over the years. I've performed it in public and I've preached about it twice in my own church in New Malden. But it never really occurred to me that I could actually visit the little church at Little Gidding.

But this weekend we did visit the church and stayed the night in Ferrar House - named after Nicholas Ferrar the 17th century son of a merchant, who restored the church and built several houses close by to create a Christian community. The church of St John the Evangelist is situated in the grounds - or garden of Ferrar House. The house is a Christian retreat centre and is open to individuals and small groups to stay.

It was an incredible visit. Both my wife and me can barely believe that we actually spent a couple of hours in the church on Friday and then spent the night next door in Ferrar House where we were looked after very well. And then the following day we spent a few hours in the library of the house and then a final visit to the church before heading off.

Click here for a link to an article about Little Gidding.

Click here for a link to the Ferrar House website

Click here for a link to a printed extract of the poem

Here is Eliot reading the whole of Little Gidding. He first visited it in 1936. The poem was published in 1942

And here is my reading of the first section of Little Gidding

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