Paphos Pilgrim

Paphos is the most tourist-centered, westernised of Cyprus' cities. Yet here the apostle Paul travelled from Salamis to meet Cyprus' Governor Sergius Paulus, and here I preached in 'St. Paul's Pillar Church', so named because the pillar on which Paul was flogged was on this site. The Orthodox allow the Latin Church to be the custodians of this ikon-splendoured church of Ayia Kyriaki, and they let Anglicans hold two weekly services in it. One of the Latin priests fought for Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, and another fought for the British. They are a parable of how in Christ enemies turn into friends. A third priest, Father Fernandez, invited the Anglicans to join the cast of their outdoor passion play. I urged that we again draw water from ancient well-springs in order to heed Christ's wake up call in today's Gospel reading.

Cyprus is in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I was loaned a stole from St. George's Baghdad. The famous 'Vicar of Baghdad', Canon Andrew White, has been ordered to leave in order to save his life (though he remains very active in the Province). This parish continues to faithfully serve the many people in need and urgently needs funds for this work, so they make and sell these stoles. and other products

There are three Anglican churches in greater Paphos. In the morning I led the worship and preached at St. Stephen's, in the village of Tala - a complete contrast. The church is under a supermarket. Free church members probably predominate. So I told them about our Ecumenical Partnership at Bowthorpe, Norwich - how we were led to honour different strands such as the evangelical and sacramental, the silence and the daily prayer; and how we built up God's kingdom in the neighbourhood through week-day workshops. You can read more about this in my book 'Church of the Isles: the emerging church in Britain and Ireland'. I recalled how a man due for a job interview the next day asked me to pray that his piles be healed, otherwise he would be unable to sit or attend. They disappeared within an hour! My point in telling this was that Protestants who said Christ was in the hearts of believers around the Communion Table but could not be in the bread and wine realised that if Spirit can transform matter in sick bodies why squabble as to whether Spirit can transform bread and wine? However, a visitor asked me to pray for her teeth. I duly prayed for teeth for the first time in my life.

The third church is St.Luke's in the village of Podromi. This has transformed a former tavern into an accessible and attractive church. I joined twelve people who sat round a table for a Bible Study on Jesus' Beatitude 'Blest are those who mourn'. A picture of Christ with his twelve disciples at a table overlooked us. This helped me. To have feelings freed from falsity and open to compassion is a rare gift much to be sought after. Afterwards we enjoyed a lunch of delicious soups. They draw in village friends to help make them. Through such ways of friendship this congregation has grown.

Derek and Sue, who have a fruitful and busy ministry at Limassol, such as the Chinese learning group, generously drove me to Paphos. Catherine and Andrew, a church warden and Reader, generously hosted me for my first days. Andrew Symonds, the out-going Associate Priest, and his wife Rosemary hosted me for the remainder of the time, and he took me, between a wedding (when I visited the nearby site of Cyprus' Roman Governor's house) and a hospital visit, to the grand Roman stadium, baths and houses at Kato Pass and to St. Neophytos' Cave and Monastery. They have ministered among the poor in Bangladesh and this gives their ministry particular value here.

It is February 29. I am sad to miss the farewell to Graham and Ruth at The Open Gate on Lindisfarne. I wrote this blessing which will be given to them on a beautiful card by Mary Fleeson of Lindisfarne Scriptorium:

Blessing of memory be yours - of heaven opening gates in pilgrim hearts

Blessing of journey be yours - companioning others in their sorrows

Blessing of homestead be yours - its gravel bejewelled by God.

Posted at 06:57am on 28th February 2016
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