St Mary’s Church Coddenham

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From The Rectory – The Great Congregation

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Coddenham Church

iona chapel

As our time on Iona drew to a close, we gathered for the Eucharist one last time.  From many parts of the Christian family, we shared the common cup; a symbol of our unity and shared roots.  Over just a few days, strangers had become friends, bonded by table-fellowship; both the dinner table and, more importantly, the Altar Table.

Iona has been a centre for Christian faith and prayer for nearly 1500 years.  During that time it, and the communities it has supported, have known riches and poverty, violence and peace, fame and obscurity. Through all this the Gospel presence has lived on. The current abbey church, built in the 13th century, abandoned at the Reformation, rebuilt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries lives out this often turbulent history in stone.  Through all those times, faithful people continued to meet and pray, even as their buildings crumbled.

In the Bishop’s House Retreat Centre chapel, the chalice bears a dedication inscription from 1848.  Our presiding priest observed that this meant that not only were we sharing a common cup with each other, but also with all the other thousands (millions?) of pilgrims, local and far travelled, who had drank from this same cup over the last 170 plus years.  Our church silverware is, for the most part, not that old.  Nevertheless when we drink from the common cup, we too share not only with those around us but with generations past and those who will drink from it in the future.

What is true of the cup of wine is true of our prayer and worship also.  Like the Iona Abbey church, all our church buildings date back at least to the 13th century and most, if not all, occupy sites of prayer and worship far older.  When we enter church for prayer and worship, we join our prayers not just with today’s congregation but with the greater congregation of those who have gone before and will come after.  In this we each become part of the great congregation of those who have worshipped in these places across the centuries, seeping prayer into the very fabric from which others too will draw life in times to come.

Rev’d Philip  Payne

Holy Communion at St Mary’s Sunday 7th July at 11.00am                                    The Notice Sheet for 7 Jul 24 can be found here.


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