Sacred trees, altars and travellers

Weeping Beech

Just two days after the feast day of St Brendan (the Patron Saint of ThirdSpace?) it seemed appropriate to focus on travel. Brendan had long been an inspiration to us after our friend and writer Michael Mitton likened our journey to that of the Celtic saints who set off in their coracles and let the wind / Spirit blow them to the right destination.

His book ‘Travellers of the heart’ picks up on the theme of travelling across Old and New Testaments, and a week and a half ago we were discussing 2 chapters of this brilliant book, reflecting on our journeys through or around evangelical and charismatic expressions of Christianity.. Some of us felt, when looking at the question of what we might have lost from our evangelical roots, that we needed to return to our prioritising of the Bible.

Here then were the strands that led to this time in the park – in a stunningly beautiful, sunny, warm morning (at last!)

We met at the bandstand and began our gathering with words from Ray Simpson’s book ‘Celtic Worship through the year’ (Hodder & Stoughton):

In the name of the sending Father

In the name of the pilgrim Son

In the name of the wind-like Spirit

In the name of the Three-in-One.


Each then received a copy of verses from the end of Genesis 11 through to Genesis 13:18, charting Abraham’s travels from Ur to Haran, to Canaan, to Egypt and back again to Canaan.

Armed with a map and starting questions we found places in the park to sit and reflect in the tradition of Lectio Divina.

The questions were:

What are the key features of this story that intrigue me?

What does this tell me about Abraham?

What might this story mean to Jewish readers?

What might this story say to Christian readers?


These were followed by four more suggested questions…

Possible questions to explore for ThirdSpace:

What might stop us from travelling onwards?

What have we left behind / do we need to leave behind?

Who or what are we being called to?

What have been our altar moments? (Moments of encounter / sense of God’s presence?)


We will be sharing our reflections on these questions on Wednesday evening when we meet at the Gate on Smedley Street.


We reconvened under a beautiful weeping beech in the park.


It is worth noticing that sacred trees feature often in the early books of the Old Testament as the ‘thin places’ people then found (the oak of Moreh & the oaks of Mamre in our reading today). There they built altars – places of sacrifice. Whether we are from high or low church traditions or not, it seems to me that every re-enactment of the last supper – the breaking of bread and pouring of wine – is a symbolic building of an altar, as Christ is in some mysterious way, sacrificed for us again. So, under our own tree, in our own thin place, we had our altar. There we wanted to be in communion with  those undergoing hard journeys and we prayed for many, placing stones symbolically as we all gave our ‘Amen’ to each prayer…

We ended with the following words:


In this sacred place, in union these people we have named

In this sacred place, in union with our brothers and sisters across the centuries and across all continents,

In this sacred place, in union with our forefathers Abraham and Brendan,

In this sacred place in union with all who have stepped out and journeyed into the unknown in response to your call, we share bread and wine

We break bread:     Jesus our companion.

We drink wine:        Strength for the journey.


And if this all sounds very solemn and deep – who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour? – here’s a picture of Steve who went through the whole things dripping, having had to get into the river to recue the dog who couldn’t get out after a rash entry down a rather steep slope!!

Steve’s unplanned baptism