Some years ago I took a photo of my teenage nephew Jess in our garden with the Abbey in the background. He subsequently posted the photo on Facebook with the caption ‘At Auntie Thelma’s house’. We at the Abbey rather enjoyed that, I’d finally made it to the ranks of the Country Life readers. Jess is interested in his family history, I am as well, and when someone told me that ancestry.com was offering free searches for the VE weekend, I decided to take up the offer and have a rummage. I found out quite a lot, no big houses anywhere in my family, and I can see how one thing could lead to another and one might be happy to fork out the cash to continue the search—but I won’t be doing that.
I suppose attitudes to genealogy must range for my friend who wouldn’t have anything to do with it in accordance with Saint Paul’s letter to Titus (Ch3 v9) to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Poo-Bah in ‘The Mikado’ who could trace his ancestry back to a ‘protoplasmal primordial atomic globule’.
Of course, some people don’t know anything about their natural family, but surely a genuine sense of belonging is very important for everyone. We at the Abbey are certainly not from the same natural family, far from it, but we do belong to the same community at the Abbey, the same Benedictine congregation, and, in common with all Christians, ‘We belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God’—from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 3:23). But what a strange thing faith is, how hard it can be for some of us to feel that we belong to anything—and in this time of lockdown some people are suffering very much from a sense of isolation, of not belonging.
For a lot of people creating a family tree can be an absorbing occupation, but how about a tree showing where we are going as opposed to where we came from? OK, so a lot of people spend a lot of time and computer power predicting the future outcome of just about everything, that’s not what I had in mind. Rather, where are we heading inside ourselves? I think that is a question we cannot cope with without a sense of something greater than ourselves, and surely that is where religious belief comes into the picture.
These strange times of lockdown are bringing some people into contact with parts of themselves that they haven’t met before, and that can be very scary. Be assured that the community here at Turvey Abbey is continuing to pray for all who are frightened or in need, for all who are in need of payer—and that is all of us.
Auntie Thelma, alias Sr Benedict