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Foreword to the published
2005 Holy Week Sermons

These are snapshots on a journey. They were taken and developed, to continue the analogy, within the eight days of Holy Week at CMC Vellore [2005], and although recorded here in more permanent form for those who requested such a book, I have kept the amount of reworking of the delivered sermons to a minimum. I do not regard myself as a preacher, but somewhere in these pages the reader may detect not only recurring themes but an emerging notion of ministry that has, as its centre, a theology of place and a theology of story.

The title, Black Rooks in Rainy Weather, is taken from a Sylvia Plath poem. It seemed to me that the suffering and inner turmoil we all experience, which like Plath’s own mental anguish may not be seen even by those closest to us, is apposite for a region coming to terms with the tsunami of 26 December 2004. The rook is a bird of death, and the poem an honest reflection of the hopelessness that many will take with them into Holy Week 2005, ‘no longer expecting a miracle… patching together a content of sorts.’

For once, I was astute enough to heed advice and leave behind in England my notes and most of my reference material, although this has meant that some of the footnotes are not as full as they might have been. But it has allowed a fresher approach than I could have hoped for, even if some of the snapshots on this journey contain memories from a less recent past.

These snapshots are also suffused with fresh and cherish memories of someone else’s journey. I was privileged to share in the final chapter of the story of Pearl Holdsworth, who was able to fulfil a lifetime’s wish and come to minister here at CMC in 2004, tragically in the final year of as life cut short by cancer. Her story for the most part must remain untold in these sermons; but it will always remain in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved her.

Finally, like most travellers, I am indebted to those who have shared this journey and put up with me, both here in Vellore and in my new home of Grimsby. Not for the first time in India, it has been a real joy in the motto of CMC “to minister and not to be ministered unto”. In Grimsby I have benefited enormously from the hospitality, wisdom and generosity of my colleagues. I would like to thank Bishop David and Jonathan Fox for encouraging me to write and reflect respectively. My friend and former hospital chaplaincy colleague Dr Christine Laird not only provided me with the title for these sermons but tin a few hectic days discussed and finalized with me the theme for each day. Her Quaker insights continue to be signposts along my journey, as they were for our dear friend Pearl.

And it is to Pearl, whose ashes were scattered in the beautiful college garden here underneath the blossoming temple tree on Easter Sunday 2005, that these snapshots on a journey are dedicated.

Michael Ward, April 2005.

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