Vicar Carol writes.


Practicing Holiness


St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain,

For forty days it will remain

St Swithun’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ‘twill rain na mair


On the 15th July, the church remembers a fairly well known Saint - St. Swithun.  We all know the folklore about St Swithun as the traditional rhyme tells us.  But what else do we know about him?  What's the true story?


Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century, though little is known of his life. He was bishop for ten years and appears to have been the trusted adviser of Egbert, his king in Wessex. He had asked to be buried 'humbly' and not in a great shrine and, when he died on 2 July 862, his request was fulfilled. However, when a new cathedral was being built, Ethelwold, the new bishop, decided to move Swithun's remains into a shrine in the cathedral, despite dire warnings that to move the bones would bring about terrible storms. No one heeded the warnings of course and his bones were still moved.  This happened on the 15th July 971 and it apparently rained for forty days after.


There are other legends told of St Swithun.  One legend claims that Swithun tutored the young Alfred the Great. Another says that he built the first stone bridge over the River Itchen that runs through Winchester. Another story tells of a miracle - a simple act of human kindness to a poor woman. When crossing the bridge, she was jostled and dropped her basket of eggs. The saint took pity on her – and made her broken eggs whole.


Perhaps it is something to do with the British preoccupation with the weather that we remember more about the rain element of his story!  Sometimes, with the years rolling on, things from the past get a bit twisted and take on completely new meanings and significance.  The feast-day of St. Swithun has become now more to do with weather folklore rather than as an occasion for celebrating Christian simplicity, service and holiness, which Swithun demonstrated.


For us too, a variety of others things can take on more meaning and significance than our basic calling to be simply disciples of Christ.  We think more about maintaining our church buildings than we do about maintaining our spiritual lives.  We put more enthusiasm and effort into keeping certain traditions alive and forget to love and serve God and others by being holy people and a witness to God’s love for all creation.


To achieve this we need to put more effort into practicing holiness.    By prayer, by disciplined reading of God’s word, by worshipping God with other Christians and by asking God’s Holy Spirit to continually inspire us and strengthen us, we honour God and give glory to him.  Whatever the weather, whether our days are filled with blue skies or stormy skies, we should be mindful of what God really requires of us.


O God, the shepherd of your people,
whose servant Swithun showed forth

the loving service of Christ
      in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
we pray that you will awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our calling in his name;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you, now and for ever.  Amen.