Posted January 13, 2011 in MH Robin Hood's Bay, England:
Pushing Back the Darkness

by Cheryl Ann Smith.

"Oh no," I cried to myself. "Surely they’ll cancel it. They can’t go out in this weather!"

It was an ecumenical prayer service at the dock on Seafarer Sunday. It was a traditional event on the shore of the North Sea in Robin Hood’s Bay, England, to pray for those who worked and died on the sea and for their families. It was a looming ordeal for me, who hadn’t yet acclimatized to the cold North Yorkshire weather.

Earlier, this had sounded like an intriguing service, but all day a storm had raged, and now, twenty minutes to D-hour, the wind was so strong, it was driving the rain sideways.

Slowly and reluctantly I pulled on winter boots, a wool sweater, a winter jacket and a full length rain poncho. (This was August!) Still no phone call had come saying it was cancelled. We’d have to go. I couldn’t believe it.

Thankfully, the rain petered out as we approached the sea, and it seemed a little warmer.

A hardy band of souls from local churches of different denominations had gathered by the shore, the banjo and guitars protected by an overhang. What a motley crew, all in rain gear, with faces barely peeking out from hoods and hats!

As we began to sing and pray, waves crashed behind us. Wind and occasional rain spatters ensured that we huddled together and gripped our song sheets.

A couple of women from the adjacent pub came out to join us. One man also emerged from the cosy bar, but only to replenish their wine glasses. Their singing reflected their wine consumption, but it was sincere and enthusiastic.

They had timed their annual visit to the sea to coincide with this particular prayer event. They loved it last year and obviously were right into it on this stormy evening, too.

Stormy evening… Suddenly it hit me. We were praying for seafarers who had lost their lives in such storms and for their grieving families. We were praying for those who might be at sea battling for their lives at this very moment.

We were praying for those who felt tossed and buffeted by such a livelihood, which provided for their families but also kept them from their loved ones for months on end.

What we were experiencing was the perfect backdrop to our intercessions. How could I want such a prayer service to be in a warm, comfortable setting!

I looked around at the group again. We were from the Methodist, United, Church of England and Roman Catholic traditions—and from whatever the persuasion of our tippler guests. All were united in prayer, love, solidarity with those who suffer on the sea. All of us had braved the elements to proclaim our faith and to intercede together.

Suddenly, I saw what this ragtag group really was. A group illuminated with a holy, heroic hue standing at the furthest edge of this secular, materialistic country, this little group was holding firm, pushing back the darkness, calling down the Light of God.

I caught just a glimpse of this divine power and splendour, though anyone hearing us would have laughed at such a description. But it was the deepest truth.

After our seaside prayers, we walked to the Methodist Church, peeled off our soggy clothes and had a cup of tea. Then we gathered in the church for more singing.

We were warmed not only by the heating system and the tea, but even more, by the love and faith filling the room. Together, we sang our favourite hymns and proclaimed our faith with all our hearts.

Afterwards, as I walked home in the soft darkness, I felt as if I were floating. I was filled with gratitude that I hadn’t chickened out.

What an apt image of our life in Robin Hood’s Bay this prayer meeting was! We at Madonna House are also a motley crew of believers. Our efforts don’t amount to all that much, and the "results" don’t seem particularly impressive.

Yet, in the Heart of God, and through the Holy Spirit, our faith tells us that light shines through us, and that in some mysterious way, the darkness is being pushed back.

Cheryl Ann is the current local director of MH England.


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