Rectors Reflections

A Saint from Somerset

Are you familiar with Somerset?  Personally, I have a soft spot for Somerset – I was born there, in Frome, and although we moved from the county when I was very young, I still have a sense that I belong to Somerset. I’m thinking of Somerset because of St. Dunstan, who was born in the county back in the 10th Century.

Why I am thinking of St Dunstan and who was he? Well, he was a nobleman who later became a monk and then Archbishop of Canterbury. He did much to further to spiritual and political well-being of England back in the 10th Century.  We know quite a lot about him from various contemporary documents.

Dunstan enjoyed working with his hands. He practised painting, embroidery and metalwork. In the Bodleian Library, there is a manuscript from the time of Dunstan which includes a portrait of him, prostrate at the feet of Christ. This picture could well be Dunstan’s own work.

Dunstan was committed to handicraft, and he encouraged every priest to have a handicraft. I can remember at primary school that we all had lessons in cookery and woodwork. I didn’t understand at the time why we were doing this, as I thought school was all about reading and writing and maths. But I still remember making cheese straws and enjoying eating them! As I have got older, I have come to value the importance of the learning that can come through doing things, things as simple as making cheese straws and doing a straightforward piece of carpentry. With schools being shut and much learning of necessity having to be relocated to the home environment, I think it is re-assuring to know how much we learn simply by doing, especially under supervision. We can all learn by doing stuff on our own, but it’s less messy and painful if we have a more experienced person to guide us on the way!

I wonder:  is there a practical skill which we might learn? Is there a friend or a family member who might be only too happy to teach us? Is there a practical skill which we might teach to someone else?

After all, Jesus himself was a carpenter, and he must have spent much of his childhood watching Joseph at work. Perhaps Joseph had other pupils as well!

Fr Jason