Go volunteers!

Saturday 14 March 2020 Cogitation 11 Lay volunteers in Church of England congregations across the Diocese of Truro in Cornwall are annually recognized for outstanding service with the Cross of St Piran. On 7 March, we attended the first of two Cross of St Piran Thanksgiving Services, where, in the 3:30 service, 10 individuals received the award. Since the award’s inauguration in 2011, 150 volunteers have been recognized.

We met in the Parish Church of St Piran in the Parish of Perranzabuloe. The church traces it origin in Celtic history to the 5th century Oratory (small chapel) that Piran built on the beach at nearby Perranporth (remains uncovered in 2015 in the sands on Penhale Dunes) and the second church, a half mile away, whose foundations were excavated in 2005.

Piran (b. circa 349) was a 5th century Cornish abbot and saint who crossed the Irish sea from Ireland, by one ancient tale, with a millstone tied around his neck. Piran became patron saint of tin miners and patron saint of Cornwall (shared today, too, by St Michael and St Petroc).

The Pelynt Male voice choir from Looe sang as people gathered for the 3:30 service.

In the opening order of service Bishop of Truro Philip Mountstephen said, “As in this service we remember God’s servant Piran who came as a pilgrim to these shores / and inspired the Church in mission and service; / so we celebrate the life of this Diocese through the centuries, / and the ministry of all God’s people / in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. / We give thanks for the special contribution / of those whose work and ministry is being recognized today. / And we pray for each of us in our own pilgrimage, / that on this day of thanksgiving and dedication / we may each commit ourselves anew / to discovering God’s kingdom and growing his Church.”

Roger Sullivan was among the lay volunteers recognized in a service of thanksgiving.
Roger and Doreen Sullivan invited friends to lunch prior to the service. Doreen was a 2019 recipient of the Cross of St Piran. The cross is made from Cornish silver by Martha Edwards of Sennen, based on a design by Revd Ann Butcher. High crosses set up across Cornwall proclaimed the crucified Christ and served as way-markers both physical and spiritual, said Bishop Philip in the sermon.
Recipients of the Cross of St Piran pose with Bishop Philip.

The volunteers

Roger Sullivan, whom we’ve known for a dozen years, was nominated for the award by Penwith Deanery, the area where we spend most of our time in Cornwall. The text for his award reads:

“Roger Sullivan learnt to ring bells at St Anta & All Saints Church in Carbis Bay in 1952 as a 12 year old boy. In 1974 he became the steeple keeper and from then has spent time caring for the bells, teaching people to ring with some coming to faith as a result. Roger was made Deanery Steward in 1982 for Penwith Deanery which involved visiting as many towers as possible, giving support, assistance and encouragement, being out bellringing 5 or 6 times a week. He stood down from this role in 1999, however until recently, he has continued supporting other towers many evenings a week. . . . He helps to clean the church and support his wife in her ministry. . . . He is a much loved character both locally and further afield. He would go that extra mile to give assistance and encouragement to anyone when needed.”

The bell tower at St Anta & All Saints, Carbis Bay, where Roger and Doreen Sullivan invited us to have “a go” at ringing the bells in 2008. Such a fond memory, even though our cup of tea is listening to the bells rather than ringing them.

Excerpted text from other award recipients:

Patrick M: “. . . uses his therapeutic and sculpture skills, as well as his own personal and professional life experience to bring healing to those suffering long-term effects of trauma . . . to facilitate a men’s prayer group and through this has been mentoring men of all ages in their life struggles and on the journey to faith with an unconditionally loving welcome for all. . . . It is a natural outliving of his deep love of Christ and the thread of ‘service, not self’ which runs so clearly through his life.”

John T: For wide-ranging musical leadership and community service, “John is well known and loved in the local community and he makes no secret that it is his faith that motivates his actions.”

Ann S: “She has been a true pastoral visitor, knowing everyone and supporting them in their hour of need–quietly, regularly, and faithfully. She scoops people up and brings them to church and events and various outings . . . She has a particular gift with ‘difficult’ or awkward people–a true reconciler–prepared to work alongside anyone and absorb the flack.”

Deborah H: “Debbie has been instrumental in leading contemplative prayer and has been part of the team for piloting a new Sunday afternoon service. She will normally arrive with a cake and is almost always the last to leave one of these groups.”

Elaine S: “. . . always finds time to help. When it was mentioned that a coffee morning should close for the summer it was Elaine who said,’no’ and that she would be there weekly to ensure it stayed open for the outreach it provided.”

Linda C: “Her local knowledge and enthusiastic welcoming plus her support for the church’s activities both inside and outside the church helping us to welcome newcomers and place the church at the centre of village life.”

Malcolm H: “He will always step in and help individual people and the wider church, sometimes at a moments notice, among other things driving countless people to hospital appointments. . . . Malcolm never seeks the limelight but works in n unobtrusive, low profile way in the two church communities . . . and in their wider communities.”

Lindsay H: “She has a profoundly positive Christian influence wherever she goes which does much to inspire and encourage others . . . She has also dog walked for The Cinnamon Trust, volunteered at the Cornwall Blind Association’s help desk . . . and has now been a befriender at the Foodbank for six years.”

Brian S: “Brian works with 14-17 year old young people, usually boys, and usually from a deprived background, who have been brought to court and given reparation hours to do. . . . His skill is in coaxing the most unlikely characters to begin to believe in themselves and by encouragement and patience to get them to enjoy what they are doing and to understand respect. . . . He has sometimes accompanied young people to court too when, as victims, they have faced the most grueling of circumstances.”

The service ended with a Commission. The Bishop said to the congregation, “We have celebrated together our Christian inheritance with Saint Piran and with all whom we have honoured today. We have shared together our faith in God’s future. I ask you now to dedicate yourselves anew to rejoice in that inheritance and live out that faith.

“Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk in God’s future trusting him to be your guide?”

All: “By the Spirit’s power, we will.” Following four more responses, the Bishop said, “May the Lord strengthen you his children with the gift of faith, that his Church may be revived with the breath of love, and the face of the earth be renewed in hope, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

A phrase from stanza 4 of the final hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, rings in my mind, “Let the Amen sound from his people again; gladly for aye we adore him.”

Lent walk last Saturday

Bug Mansion in the mile-long King George V Memorial Walk, Hayle.
Wrap-up to a very pleasant, reflective walk.

Scenes from the week

Evensong, Truro Cathedral

We took part in Evensong on Wednesday, listening to scripture in word and song, able to sit in the quire behind the 12 gentlemen and 18 boy choristers, joining in singing the final hymn. The Truro Cathedral Choir has honoured the choral tradition since the 1880s, part of the wide variety of regular cathedral worship and services offered seven days a week, year-round.
This carving in the pulpit at Truro Cathedral appears to me to be of Isaiah, brought food by the raven. Will check it out next visit.

Thoughts on Covid-19

Top of mind around the world is the new disease coronavirus, Covid-19, officially termed a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 12 March (pandemic: an uncontrolled worldwide spread of a new disease). On the same Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson conducted a news conference, flanked by the government’s Chief Medical Officer Matt Hancock and its Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

I was impressed with the solid, considered, comprehensive approach the three outlined in moving from the initial containment phase (catch cases early and trace them to avoid spread of the disease as long as is reasonably possible), to the delay stage (ramp up efforts to delay the spread). Because the progression of the disease and new initiatives to combat it are in flux, I’ll not get into details, other than to note the overall advice for people with new persistent coughs and/or high fever is to self-isolate at home for seven days, work from home if possible, follow social distancing practices (stay at least two metres or two steps from others), and wash and dry your hands/use sanitiser gel, use and dispose of a tissue when sneezing or sneeze into your sleeve.

While one wishes for answers with breakthrough clarity, one can take to heart that there are reasons to remain calm about the new coronavirus. I quote from subheads in a 10 March article by Ignacio Lopez-Goni in i news. The writer is a microbiologist at the University of Navarra, Spain. He writes, “It would be wrong to say there is good news coming out of Covid-19, but there are causes for optimism–reasons to think there may be ways to contain and defeat the virus.” Scientists are making advances, he writes in ten points: “1. We know what it is. 2. We know how to detect the virus. 3. The situation is improving in China. 4. Eighty percent of cases are mild. 5. People heal. 6. Symptoms appear mild in children. 7. The virus can be wiped clean. 8. Science is on it, globally. 9. There are already vaccine prototypes. 10. Antiviral trials are under way.”

Clearly, Covid-19 poses a serious challenge to peoples, professionals and governments everywhere, like no other in modern history. The disease is not someone else’s problem. Significantly, the ever-increasing connectedness of our global community means we have wide-ranging scientific, social and financial resources put paid to respond effectively to Covid-19, seek a comprehensive approach informed by World Health Organization, national and local expertise (such as Chinese health experts currently sharing their experience with experts in Rome), tune up economic engines to make it easier for sick workers to stay home, sharpen the social safety net, invest in research and development, including for vaccine, all in view of returning to a sense of normality, way beyond the reassuring nudge of the slogan, “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands.”

A reading respite

Of the three, Peter and the Piskies is my favourite read at the moment.

I’m benefiting from a book loaned to us by friends Terry and Ann, Peter and the Piskies: Folk and Fairy Tales, by Ruth Manning-Sanders (Oxford University Press, 1958). The book belonged to Terry’s mother. I’m so chuffed to be reading it. These folk tales are peopled with giants and saints and wicked demons, thieving, spiteful spriggans, mischievous piskies, and little bearded knockers “who work industriously in the mines, and who, they say, are growing smaller with every year they live so that there will come a day when they are no size at all.” A real delight and not just for children!


14 thoughts on “Go volunteers!

  1. Interesting experiences and history! It would be really tough for Mennonite churches to recognize the most deserving volunteers, in my opinion. These Anglicans have really made a difference, I acknowledge.

    “Chuffed?” Excited? Enthusiastic? ________________________________


    1. Ah, yes, Marcia, the familiar response, “I feel so unworthy,” said both sincerely and tongue-in-cheek. I was inspired by the St Piran service, the music, prayers, sermon, presentations, and commissioning for all present. And, oh yes,the post-service buzz around small sandwiches,tea and cakes. Chuffed, as in very pleased. I’d be very pleased to actually see a chuff flying over the Lizard area of the south coast of Cornwall. These birds are making a slow comeback.


  2. We will welcome you back in our Goshen community, but my guess is you could easily remain there year-round!

    Your posts are wonderful.


  3. What a marvelous service — honoring a pilgrim of the past as well as those who carry the Light forward today. Glad to see the floral beauty you are enjoying these days! Our spring is not quite so colorful yet, but will be soon — heather, hellebores, daffodils, hyacinths, and a few green leaves are unfurling.


    1. Inspiring service indeed, pilgrims unsung no longer. We’re sitting tight for new restrictions to large assemblies and other measures to be introduced this week. Weather promises to be dry and sunny for at least three days in a row. What else to do but keep on keeping on in the fresh air and sunshine, even as we wander out to pick up a newspaper. Your spring looks like it’s bursting out all over. Enjoy!


  4. How inspiring to hear about the recognition service — in an historic church — for today’s heroes. Also, to hear about a service at Truro Cathedral that we attended with you a year ago. It’s so good to hear about vitality in the Church of England.


    1. Yes, Steve, stories and sounds that bring heaven close to earth. Food for mind and soul. So glad you visited last year. Seems like people visiting this year would have to paddle their own canoes across the pond. Be well!


    1. Thank you, Jim. We are blessed with friends far and near. All good things on the paths you are treading and the cuppas you are raising with those along the way.


  5. What would the world be without volunteers. Interesting people you described and recognition is important. So many volunteers go unnoticed but their services so beneficial. I brought some spring flowers into the house. At least the snow is almost gone.


    1. Yes, Kaye, I think of all the volunteer work Granny did, rolling bandages; the service people give at the Thrift Store; driving people to appointments; delivering meals . . . go volunteers everywhere! Come the warmth of spring. Be well!


  6. iThanks, John. Peter and the Piskies sounds like a good book to read during this time of social isolation. After minimizing the risks associated with this virus, the Trump Administration is finally ramping up a defense and taking it seriously. All activities in our Senior Park are closed and we are being very careful about washing our hands and using hand sanitizer when out and about. It looks like Great Britain is taking the same precautions! Stay well and take lots of walks in the open air!

    Monty & Ginger


    1. Walking we can still do, even as more of the country contracts and cancels gatherings, schools and travel. We take it a day at a time, grateful for all front-line workers, researchers, and the common good-neighborly response of many. Be well!


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