a thin place

Jun 11, 2024

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Last week I completed the first part of my sabbatical – two months in the rural mid-west of the US – and for the past ten days I have been on the move, first to Edinburgh where I spent time with my sister, her husband and my teenage nephew and niece.

The days with Kathryn gave an opportunity for a short road-trip to visit the home-town of my great great great great (it sounds better with all the greats) grandparents who were married in the village of Balquidder on January 21 1793.

The church in which they were married is now in ruins surrounded by a graveyard (where they are buried), and the new (mid 19th century) church alongside is home to many artefacts from and information about the old including the artwork above depicting the church and cemetery.

Until recently my family didn’t know much about my maternal grandfather’s ancestry. There is some rich history there, my grandfather’s mother was born in the midst of the Gabriel’s Gully (Central Otago) gold fever, and as Kathryn and I spent time sitting on the grass in the Balquidder graveyard sunshine 230 years vanished and in silence we imagined what was going through the minds of Patric and Margaret as they walked together out through the church door into their thirty-one year marriage.

1200 years ago St. Angus stood on the same spot. He is credited with bringing Christianity to this part of Scotland and recognising Balquidder as a Thin Place – a location where the environment and the vibe suggests that the distance between heaven and earth seems to vanish.

Such a thin-place-awareness has become a sabbatical theme for me.

Too often the demands and routines, the ups and downs of life make it difficult to live with appreciation of divine and heavenly presence in every place, every person, every encounter and every experience.

This fragile awareness is necessary for healthy and happy living. It gives a perspective which enables me to breathe deeply and to live every moment more deeply in intimate friendship with the divine.

6 Comments

  1. Beautiful, tranquil, profound. Thankyou for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing the thin places with us God is with us Gratefully

      Reply
  2. It does indeed look like a heavenly place. Thanks for the virtual travel you’re giving us John, as well as your always thought-provoking writing.

    Reply
  3. Looking back, I think I’ve always been aware of the reality of “thin place”, so easy to ‘dip’ into no matter where here I am, if only I would choose to do so more often. There’s a wonderful “silence” there. I call it ‘silence’ for want of a word, because it’s spacious yet close, free yet safe, warm yet cool, empty yet full. I can find it anywhere! Why don’t I?

    Reply
  4. Those magnificent ancient Yew trees, markers of birth and death guard these thin places with such symbolic stoicism and quietude. Love the artwork which captures the beauty hidden within your photograph. Fascinating theme for these months away.

    Reply
  5. My ancestors also came to the Central Otago goldfields, and it was deeply spiritual to visit the ruins and urupa-to touch the gravestones of those of family who have gone before us.

    Reply

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