The Faith Forum for adults takes place in the Parish Centre Hall on the first Sunday of the month at 9.15 am; Tea and coffee are served from 9.00 am. The Forum takes the form of an illustrated talk, often by a visiting speaker, followed by time for discussion. Current details are posted on the Faith Forum page.
Our Mothers' Union Abingdon branch normally meets on the first Tuesday of every month in the St Helen's parish hall at 10.30 am. (See our yearly programme for more details). Our vision is a world where everyone prospers. We actively pursue this vision through prayer and action, helping to build confident people and resilient communities. We participate in many campaigns to care for family life all over the world.
Mothers' Union is a global Christian movement helping the world’s "hardest to reach" communities to transform their lives. We have been providing support for families for over a hundred years. Over 4 million women are active in 84 countries, building a future where everyone can thrive. We are committed to stopping gender- based violence, poverty, and injustice and fighting inequality through activism, advocacy and practical action. Our grassroots work promotes peace and safety and self-reliance. We support the clergy in delivering their mission and to gain their support of Mothers' Union. We are keen to recruit younger and non-churchgoing members, welcoming people from all walks of life to join us and offer whatever help is needed, to whoever needs it, whenever it is needed. Our current membership is 26 and we belong to several churches in the Abingdon area. We have a varied programme of speakers and activities and have an annual eucharist service every September. We regularly support and fund raise for both diocesan and national Mothers’ Union charities. If you would like to know more, please contact St. Helen’s parish office, 01235-520144.
We support CHRISTIAN AID's fight against poverty through fundraising and other activities. For more information about the Abingdon branch of Christian Aid and their work, please contact the Parish Office.
The parish has a keen group of ringers who look after the ringing at St Helen's and St Nicolas' every Sunday. To find out more about the bells and about joining the team or learning to ring, see their website. Some members of the society also enjoy tune ringing on handbells. Practices are concentrated in the autumn and the team performs seasonal music in December for old people's homes and carol services.
There are a number of House Groups which meet in people's homes for discussion about the Christian faith. Please contact the office email for more details.
As part of the Abingdon Town Twinning initiative, the churches of the town have for many years fostered links with the churches of our twin towns. For more details please see the Abingdon Twin Towns Society webpage and the Church in Abingdon webpage.
The Labyrinth in St Michael's Church is open to all, and is currently used:
- as a place for the Gospel reading each Sunday
- as a gathering point for circle dancing each week
- as a gathering point for Moving into Stillness once a month, where dances to Taizé chants are interspersed with periods of silent reflection
- as a walk option during our monthly Silent Reflections
- annually on World Labyrinth Day as we join with peoples around the world to walk at 1 pm
- for regular walks during Advent each year
- for walks on Quiet Days
- for individuals to walk in their own time.
The labyrinth was included as part of a major refurbishment of the church in 2008/9. The Labyrinth Builders constructed it to an ancient design found in an 11th century book produced in Abingdon. On its completion, the labyrinth was dedicated by Stephen Cottrell, the then Bishop of Reading.
Labyrinth designs often mirror the spirals and circles found in nature and can be found in many cultures around the world, some dating back as far as 5000 years. Labyrinths are not mazes; there are no dead ends, so you cannot get lost. If you follow the path, it leads you inexorably to the centre, and retracing your steps brings you safely to where you began, but as T. S. Eliot says in Four Quartets:
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
To walk a labyrinth is always to go on a journey. It offers a body meditation that parallels the inner journey of prayer and reflection, the making of a mini pilgrimage. The path is not straightforward, there are many twists and turns, and you meet others coming and going, as you do in everyday life; people who are your companions on the road. The way in is frequently spoken of as a time of releasing, the centre a place of receiving, and the way out a place of returning, as we resume our daily tasks in the world, often with new hope, fresh insights and perspectives. Travelling expectantly and attentively with an open heart and mind can lead to a greater understanding of who we are, and to an encounter with the God who, as the 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart says, yearns a thousand times more strongly for you than you do for Him.
Meister Eckhart (from his sermon Eternal Birth, quoted in various Internet sources)
St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Abingdon, Oxfordshire (www.stmichael-abingdon.org.uk)
The Labyrinth Builders (www.labyrinthbuilders.co.uk)(copyright holders of the photograph)
T. S. Eliot (2001) Four Quartets. London: Faber and Faber Ltd.
Silent Reflections is a monthly event held on the last Tuesday evening of the month (except December) in St Michael’s, a time for people to come apart for a while, to examine their lives in the stillness of a sacred space, to be open to an encounter with God. The Benedictine monk, Christopher Jamison, says that 'when we enter into periods of silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. We come to know ourselves, and come in touch with that deepest part of ourselves.' We are an ecumenical group, open to anyone who wants to 'come and see'. Few people manage to come every time, but that is the nature of the group. We enter quietly and take our places in silence. If someone wants to leave their name at the end, that is fine; if they wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine too.
We begin at 7.30 in the church room for the first 10-15 minutes. The theme is introduced, the candle is lit, often to music. At 7.45, we move into the church. Material on the theme is provided, and people find their own space. There is always the opportunity to walk the labyrinth, which offers a body meditation that parallels the inner journey of prayer and reflection.
At 8.30 there is an option to return to the church room to share with a partner or people remain in the church for a further 15 minutes. At 8.45, the singing bowl is sounded for the final time and everyone returns to the church room for the concluding prayers. At 9.00, people either return home, or stay for simple refreshments.
Many people feel daunted at the prospect of prolonged silence, fearing the distraction of their thoughts; this is true for everyone. There are ways to help with this, and shared silence in itself is very supportive. Why not come and see for yourself; you would be most welcome.
Circle Dancing in a ring is a common tradition in many cultures for marking special occasions, strengthening bonds and encouraging a sense of community. The dancing takes place on Thursdays in St Michael's Church at 11am. Modern circle dance draws on the rich and diverse traditional dances of many countries, including the Balkans, Israel, Russia, and France. There is also a growing repertoire of new dances to classical music and contemporary songs. Circle dances can be energetic or gentle and reflective, a meditation in music. We have been circle dancing in St Michael and all Angel’s now since the church was refurbished in 2009. We use the labyrinth to circle up, and find it very moving to dance in such a sacred space. There is always a centre piece that includes a lit candle. At the end, we gather around and together blow out the candle, sending the light to wherever it is needed; sometimes to personal friends and family members, sometimes to troubled areas of the world.
We are led by our teacher, Mary Williams, who is very patient with us. She constantly inspires us with new dances, and her husband, John, ably provides the music.
Ann Lewin’s poem, Jeu d'esprit, expresses what the image of the dance can mean:
Flame-dancing Spirit, come,
Sweep us off our feet and
Dance us through our days.
Surprise us with your rhythms,
Dare us to try new steps, explore
New patterns and new partnerships.
Release us from old routines,
To swing in abandoned joy
And fearful adventure.
And in the intervals,
In your still centre.
We meet on Thursdays from 11 am until noon. Further details are available from: email@example.com. There is a fee of £2 per session. No particular church affiliation is necessary, and we welcome men and women.