Back in my middle teen years, my mother and I were driving on Route 3A in Hingham. I have no memory of where we were going, but at one point, she pulled our care over and point off into the distance. Just over the tree line was a tower and on the top of that tower was a cross. I had no idea at that moment in time, but that was the start of a relationship with Glastonbury Abbey that has continued for many years.
If you have been reading these pages for any length of time, you know that back in the mid 90’s I was a professed member of the Benedictine Community at Glastonbury Abbey. Glastonbury is a small community of Roman Catholic men seeking spiritual life and living according to the Rule of St. Benedict. As it is for all Benedictine Monasteries, the rhythm of Glastonbury is that of work and prayer. Five times a day, the bell summons the monks to prayer, and in between, they provided hospitality to pilgrims.
Glastonbury is where I received my first formation in praying and reading the scriptures prayerfully. These are skills that I have continued to use in my ministry. Glastonbury was also the place where I first encountered the Church of the East in great depth. I did not know it at the time, but that exploration would lead to my eventual ordination and service in the Orthodox Church.
My years at Glastonbury were years of self-exploration. Long periods of silence lead one to turn inward and explore who you are and what you are all about. Those years were also years of exploring my relationship with God and examining the call that I was coming to grips with. Although my ministry and the place I minister have changed over the years, my calling to ministry has stayed true, and it was those years, alone in my room underneath the chapel, where that call became apparent.
Glastonbury Abbey holds an extraordinary place in my heart for all the reasons I have just mentioned. Glastonbury has also been the place of events that have marked my life. My wife and I were married on the grounds of Glastonbury in the shadow of that tower that my mother pointed out all those years before. Glastonbury is the place where we have laid our parents to rest and will be the place that I am laid to rest when my time comes.
This spring, my wife and I started to attend Mass at Glastonbury. The Sunday morning Mass takes place on the great lawn, which is abundantly easier on our 14-month-old daughter. But it has also given me time to reconnect to the community. Although I am no longer entitled to call myself “brother,” I still feel very much at home and peace when I am there.
Glastonbury Abbey is a very spiritual place, and the monks there open their hearts and their home to pilgrims in search of whatever it is that they are in search of. But, for me, Glastonbury Abbey is a thin place, that place where heaven and earth come very close and almost touch.
I am glad my mother pulled that car over on the side of the road all of those years ago.