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I wonder what this stage of life holds for you, at work and beyond – and whether you are feeling constrained by limitations or open to expansive possibilities at present.  Naomi Candlin spoke to City Women in April about “Stages of Life: Change and Transition”.  Naomi is part of our City Women and ChaplaincyPlus network and a barrister at St Philips Chambers. Change can come in so many different forms at work and beyond – sometimes because of a change in external events, whether from a change of job or redundancy, sometimes because of internal changes, both physical and psychological.

Naomi shared a metaphor for embracing change, which she encountered when her walking group went to Canterbury over new year 2016.  Canterbury Cathedral is world famous: it was once a monastery and also the site of the murder of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in 1170, as well as a place of pilgimage.  Naomi would typically have her nose in a guide book as she explored a cathedral.  However, early on New Year’s Day she found herself almost alone in the wonderful space of the nave – and the unexpected luxury of time and space allowed her to respond to the soaring space of the nave without needing to immerse herself in information.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, and Naomi was glad to linger in the nave.

Creative Commons – photograph by Gerard-H

After spending some time in the nave, Naomi felt drawn to the door in the screen at the east end of the nave; so finally, with some sense of regret, she left the nave and walked through the small, dark, narrow door in the screen that separates the nave and the choir.  As she emerged into the choir, she  was surpised to realise that the space of the choir was, if anything even more exquisite: she was struck by the sense of intimacy that she felt in this space.  She was also surprised to realise that she had not “lost” the nave: looking back, she could still see the space of the nave, over the top of the screen – but from a different perspective.

On return to her church in Birmingham the following Sunday, Naomi was struck by the Bible reading from Matthew 8 vv. 13 and 14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Reflecting further on her experiences, Naomi realised that in previous times Canterbury Cathedral had been a monstery and the nave would have been the public space – so it felt to her as though lingering in the nave was rather like hanging around in the porch of God’s house, waiting to be called inside to the choir.  She also realised that the screen was near to the place where Thomas Beckett was murdered and there’s a powerful sculpture of crosses in the form of swords there: to go through the narrow door, it is necessary to slay ego and selfish ambition that could hold you back.

After this significant visit to Canterbury, Naomi gave up some things, both at work and beyond, to make a bit more space in her life.  On a return visit to Canterbury Cathedral in autumn last year, Naomi explored beyond the choir into the Trinity Chapel.  There is space there for strolling, meandering and exploring side paths (and dead ends!) – and this resonated with the space Naomi had made in her own life to “perambulate purposefully”, wandering in God’s house.

Continuing through the cathedral, the final chapel at the east end of the cathedral is called the Corona Chapel, which was built in the 12th century as one of the most sacred parts of the church, to house the cathedral’s most sacred relic, part of Thomas Becket’s skull. Naomi has a postcard of this chapel at her desk at work, as a reminder of the steady journeying, day by day, towards life’s destination and completion.

So the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral has become for Naomi a metaphor for the journey through life, allowing her to engage with the emerging stages of life in a different way.

  • Do you feel you are on a journey of faith?
  • Have there been particular milestones or crossroads on the way?
  • Have you ever experienced a sense of affirmation in the direction you are going in, or a nudge or even compulsion to go in another direction?
  • How, if at all, do you listen to God to discern the direction of your life?

The Welsh poet Waldo Williams has written some beautiful words, as we contemplate the whole vista of our lives:  “What is life? A broad hall found between narrows walls.”

Bless us as we embrace the vista of our lives,

a series of broad halls found between narrow walls.

Bless us as we move across thresholds

and live through times of transition.

Bless us in the space of this chapter,

at work and beyond.

Bless us in the encounters and opportunities

of today and of this week.

If you’d like to talk about this, do get in touch and we can arrange a time to meet.

Sarah Thorpe sarah.thorpe@chaplaincyplus.org.uk 0798 224 8949