"A warm welcome to the church of St Mary's, Holy Island. Our church is open daily to welcome visitors. Come and explore our history, reflect on our Christian story and faith and take a moment to enjoy the stillness and tranquillity of this sacred place."
Coronavirus update January 2021
St Mary's Church building is closed at this time. Although we are still able to open during National Lockdown we feel it is not safe to do so at this time. The church is still very active in the community and being creative in these times we are in.
If you would like more information on services going forwards we will update the website as the situation changes, or contact us .
Please know that we are praying for you all and look forward to welcoming you back to St Mary's and to Holy Island when it is safe to do so. God Bless you.
Lord, help us to be with one another even if at a physical distance. Help us to build a kinder world. To reach out.To love and to care. To be sensible and not to panic. Help us, Lord, to hope. Because together we can. Amen.
Revd Sarah Hills
Holy Island Support Group
Our aim is to support each other, to help in practical ways, and to provide comfort and advice in these trying timess. Our Holy Island community continues to pull together as it does so well. Thanks to everyone for the many offers of help – both practical and supportive.
As well as services in church, a number of services, meditations and videos are being uploaded here and to the St Mary’s Facebook page. Please do join us.
And we are still praying…if you would like prayer for anyone or a particular situation, please let Sarah Hills and Sam Quilty (St Mary’s), Rachel Poolman (St Cuthbert’s) or Steven Purnell (St Aidan’s) know. These prayer requests will be held in confidence. We are praying for everyone on the island regularly.
• A number of us are praying morning and evening prayer (individually in our own homes of course!) at 9.30am and at 5.30pm every day. Feel free to join in or to light a candle - or just to take a moment to stop and think and be quiet if praying is not your thing.
Revd Dr Canon Sarah Hills, Chair of the Holy Island Support Group
Catalyst Discovery Project
Easter Day on Holy Island
Come and join us (virtually) in worship this Easter Day. Usually our 10:45 communion on Easter Day has up to 300 attendees packing our little church. This year we have to be closed so we've combined new and old footage to bring the experience to you online.
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen - He is Risen indeed!
Harvest and Scarecrows
Reflection: A touch of love or a touch that kills?
I have been feeling, like very many of us over the last week, angry, sad, bewildered. George Floyd in Minneapolis died being held down, kneeled on, struggling for breath. Touch comes in different forms. George died from a touch that killed him. That touch was sustained, unwarranted, brutal and deadly. That touch of a policeman’s body was seen by those around them in the street that day. It was seen by millions on TV. And that touch has come to symbolise much that is wrong in our world. Hate, racism, division, arrogance, even evil. And then Donald Trump touches the bible in front of an Episcopal church. Another touch – calculated, shocking, sinister. The bible is a book about love. The gospel message found within it is one of inclusion, not division. Of love triumphing over death. Of righteous anger, forgiveness and justice. Of diversity and welcome and healing. Of reconciliation. But these are not only words. These cannot only be words. The bible embodies these words in the touch of Jesus Christ. His touch of love for us. And he let us touch him - his cloak, his side, his hands and feet.
In Church in Holy Week, we recreate Jesus’s act of touching his disciples as he washed their feet, days before his own death. I find this act of foot washing on Maundy Thursday one of the most moving and poignant services. Touching another’s foot, drying their toes carefully, feels like one of the most sacramental of acts. An act of service, of devotion, of intimate connection. The feet come in all shapes and sizes, some toes painted, some misshapen and painful looking. Feet with a story to tell. Where have these feet walked? Who with? Why? Have they had to run from danger? Or made prints in the sand on the beach? Touches of love.
My father died at the end of March. I had not been able to say goodbye to him, and so I really wanted to see him at the chapel of rest. I did – but what I most wanted to do was to touch him. And I did. I held his hand, kissed him, and said goodbye. Of course, that last touch was not the same…but it was a touch of love.
I wonder if George Floyd’s family were able to give him a last touch of love, after the touch that killed him?
Our need for comfort through touch, through hugging a friend, through sitting on a parent’s lap, through holding a dying hand, is about goodness. It is grace filled, and in theological language, sacramental. It is about love being made visible.
It is an abhorrent distortion of this touch of love to kill someone because of their race. Or their colour, or creed, or sexuality or gender. Or for any reason.
I am a white South African, full of privilege. I am a mother and wife, delighting in our two boys and our Labrador. I am also Vicar of Holy Island, and Canon of Reconciliation for the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. As a reconciler, it seems no accident that I find myself on Holy Island, a liminal place straddling the land and the sea, a beautiful place where pilgrims come to have their hearts and souls touched. A place founded by St Aidan in 635AD, an Irish monk sent from Scotland as a peacemaker.
My life is full of privilege. I know that. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this piece. But I believe that as a South African who grew up in Northern Ireland during the troubles, now priest and reconciler living on a holy island, that I have some duty to say something. And so I offer this in humility. Not because I am an expert. Not because I have experienced the racism that George Floyd and millions of others have. But because I am confused and heartbroken. I feel the need to offer something of myself through writing this in order to work through what is going on around us, and in case it resonates with anyone else. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has said that to be silent in the face of oppression is to choose the side of the oppressor. This oppression has benefited me and all of us who look like me.
This last week I have been forcibly reminded of the time of apartheid in South Africa that my parents and countless others fought against. Of numerous deaths because of race and colour. Deaths due to the touch of blows, of batons, of bullets, of electric shocks. I was born in South Africa, and my parents were both involved in anti-apartheid activities. We left when I was a young child and went to Northern Ireland where I grew up.
As a medical student I spent time in back in South Africa working in a rural hospital in the 1980’s. While there, I found myself joining in protest marches with thousands of other South Africans, demonstrating against apartheid. During one of the marches, the police fired on us. I joined other medics in the back streets of the township treating those who had been shot. I touched someone’s shoulder as I fought to remove the bullet lodged in his muscle.
Afterwards, the bullet out, we exchanged the touch of a bloody and careful hug. He and I were fortunate that day. George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Ahmaud Arbery, Belly Mujinga, Steve Biko, the people on the bridge in Selma, and thousands of others were not.
My dear friend Glenn Jordan died earlier this week. He was a true reconciler, a brave and beautiful man. Funny, hopeful, deeply humble and one of the most profound and poetic thinkers I have known. I remember him sitting on our sofa here on Holy Island, glass of whiskey in his hand, touching my heart, and all of ours there that evening. I suggested a swim off St Cuthbert’s beach below our garden the next morning. The touch of the icy water, then the touch of our frozen hands as we high fived afterwards. The touch of love. I never got the chance to hear what Glenn would have to say about the situation we find ourselves in this week. In the USA, and if we are honest, everywhere in our broken world. We have lived, we continue to live with conflict, violence, and the touch of death. But I know that Glenn would not want me to stop there. Nor would my father.
The touch of love is here to stay. The touch of love enables us to be angry. And so we should be. To grieve. To lament. To search for justice. For all those suffering racism, brutality and discrimination throughout our world. For our children and our children’s children. And these things – grief, lament, searching for justice and even forgiveness, we must do. Without them, reconciliation is useless. But if we can hold fast to the touch of love, reconciliation will come. Maybe not today. Or tomorrow. But it is there in the hope that Jesus Christ brings us. The touch of love is stronger than the touch that kills. Always. And forever.
I end with a prayer from the ‘father of reconciliation’, Desmond Tutu:
Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us. Amen.
Vicar of Holy Island
A Community Prayer for Mothering Sunday 2020
Let us give thanks for the mothering that gives us joy
Let us share the gifts of care and love with our neighbours
Let us take time to see beauty on our doorsteps
Let us be a community of strength and peace.
Radio 4: Daily Service
Sarah and St Mary's Church, Holy Island were featured on Radio 4's Daily Service programme on Thurs 2 April: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wzfs
You can listen to Sarah's meditation and readings about the present situation, isolation and exile on Holy Island, Saint Aidan and connecting with God.
Villages by the Sea
'Villages by the Sea': 7:30pm, March 12 on BBC Two features Holy Island and some lovely images and interviews. Our episoide is 'choice of the day' in the Radio Times. You can watch it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000c7m1
News in brief...
Revd Canon Dr Sarah Hills, is one of the authors of a letter: Call to Action in times of Transition and Change - you can read the full letter on our news page.