Caroline Woollard’s tribute to Dean Jeremy Winston at the Memorial Service in St Mary’s Priory on Saturday 21st January 2012. Tributes from Bishop David Thomas and the Lord Rowe-Beddoe can also be found on the blog.
Father Jeremy was a man of words – which may seem an odd thing to say given that he was a priest and words are priest’s stock in trade. But there are wordsmiths and then there are wordsmiths. And Father Jeremy knew the power of words – the power to comfort, to bring joy, to teach, to make you laugh, to inspire, to change your life for the better, to heal …. and to do exactly the opposite. Above all, he knew their power in the sacraments, to bring the Word of God to the people of God.
I’d like to share with you two pieces of writing – the first by Father Jeremy and the second by the 17th century poet whose writing Jeremy called ‘tantamount to the best in the English language’.
The poem Dust was written by Jeremy after the death of Private Richard Hunt, a Welsh Warrior who grew up just outside Abergavenny, and who was the 200th soldier to die in the current campaign in the heat and dust of Afghanistan. He died of wounds sustained while on vehicle patrol inHelmandProvince as a result of an improvised explosive device.
The second is Peace by Henry Vaughan, the last line of which has particular resonance for this church.
by Jeremy Winston
Dust that is grey is always grey – grey when heated and scorched,
when damp and sepulchral – grey, grey, grey.
Wretched and mean, lifeless and vague
harbouring deceit, distortion and misery.
Lay it here – no one will see, no one will know,
until the happening.
And then, as if by miracle, everyone will know of unheard tracks
cross unknown abyss – told out to every nation.
Whirl, whisk, went, womb, weep – and dust…
And dust in eyes of those whose hands scooped out the graceless grave;
whose vacuous ideologies stoop to nothingness – no purpose.
And dust in eyes of shoulderers – no task fulfilled, their young hearts shaken.
And dust in minds, in pockets, and in palaces – e’en the mighty shall fall!
And dust that sweeps across the valley floor,
that grits both eyes of lovers and the loved.
That grey, grey dust, that knows no barrier, no border.
The dust scooped out once more – across a river, where roots find life.
No longer graceless, or grave.
The dust in eyes and hearts giving way, dimness no longer.
Laid heroically, heroically laid.
And the dust is shaken off – and he lives.
© Jeremy H Winston
by Henry Vaughan
My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skilful in the wars:
There, above noise and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
And—O my soul, awake!—
Did in pure love descend
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges;
For none can thee secure
But One who never changes—
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.