In search of Julian

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

I can’t quite remember when I first learned about Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, anchoress, and the first woman to write a book in English. Her writings, theology, and legacy have been important touchstones for me for many years. One of the first pieces I composed after arriving at Luther was a choral setting of one of her most famous writings, where God reveals the vastness of creation in the form of a hazelnut.

Next fall, as part of my sabbatical project, I will return to Julian’s writings and create a theater piece for solo soprano, dancer, and electronics based on her work. In preparation for this project, I have begun rereading Julian’s “Revelations of Divine Love,” and recently, I visited Julian’s church in Norwich, where she lived as an anchoress for at least the last half of her life.

As I told a number of people I met during my visit, I wasn’t quite sure why I traveled to Norwich, or what I hoped to learn. I suppose I simply had a desire to see the place where she lived, and that, perhaps, some idea, image, or sound would come my way and aid in my creative process. Mostly, what I learned is that Julian’s church is quite small, very plain, and these days, surrounded by homes and business. In some ways, it feels like a typical “neighborhood” church—it blends in with its surroundings and doesn’t really call attention to itself. And yet, Julian’s church is a place of pilgrimage, attracting hundreds of visitors every year.

Mostly, what I learned in Norwich is that Julian’s writings have engendered a devoted following, and that many people, from both Christian and non-Christian backgrounds, find wisdom and guidance in her words. The small group of volunteers who maintain The Julian Centre, a study and resource center next to the church, showed me a hospitality and kindness that Julian would have made Julian smile.

Take a listen to the two sound files: the first is the choral setting mentioned earlier, the second is an audio postcard from Norwich, featuring some gently processed recordings of change ringing bells I made while in walking past St Giles on the Hill church.

From "Revelations of Divine Love" by Julian of Norwich.
Julian's church in Norwich

{ Return to Ideas and Creations for more posts. }

Comments

  • July 9 2019 at 11:08 am
    Linda

    The last dong of the church bell must have been me not setting my bell at the right moment- lovely to meet you and glad you enjoyed your visit 

Add a comment

Name*
Comment*
The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
Not Comment
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
not URL
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
Avoid
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)