Christmas, Easter and the May Charleston Festival: these are the three fixed points of my year.
I discovered Charleston near Lewes some twenty five years ago. I was a huge Iris Murdoch fan, and seeing she was appearing there as part of the Brighton Festival, I went and discovered Charleston Farmhouse, nestling below Firle Beacon at the foot of the Downs. It was the summer outpost of the Bloomsbury Group, where the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived as the focal point of a whole group of artists, writers, poets & economists who made a huge impact on the cultural life of the early 20th Century. For the last twenty-nine years there has been an annual Literary Festival there, and for the last twenty-three I have joined in, going to everything as an “All-Event” ticket holder. It started off with about twenty events and now numbers over forty, so is something of a marathon, but it’s worth it! Highlights this year include Sir David Attenborough, Jeanette Winterson and Ali Smith and I can’t wait!
Every year it furnishes me with my books to read for the coming year, and challenges me to engage with Art, with History and contemporary life; it reminds me that there is so much more to life, beyond the clerical hamster wheel I often feel I’m scampering around on, and opens my eyes to the wonderful world around me, both the physical landscape of the beautiful East Sussex Downs and the intellectual landscape of the mind.
Why am I telling you all this in the Rector’s letter? Because it mirrors exactly what the Resurrection does for all of us during Eastertide. Jesus’ rising from the dead challenges us to look at the world around us with new eyes, it reminds us that there is so much more to life than just the routine surface we so often focus on. The Resurrection calls us to live in the world of the Spirit – transformed, renewed, inspired- so that we can become channels of God’s love to the world.
The Charleston Festival to me is life affirming: the Resurrection shows the life we should and could lead, filled with the joy of Christ’s life flowing through us, making all things new. Alleluia!
Love, Fr. John