Materials for Worship at Home for 24th October 2021

Nerys writes: At Night Service this Sunday we are joined by Hugh Donald, former director of Place for Hope and an old friend of St Mary’s. Hugh is part of a team that leads reflections at Refugio, a monthly evening gathering at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. Refugio is a reflective, quiet space in which people are invited to stop, and listen, and to simply be with God. I have invited Hugh to share with us a written version of his reflection and to give us a taste of Refugio in our Materials for Worship this week.

The service usually starts with a stilling practice that helps set aside the busyness and concerns of the day and enables you to become aware of who you are and of what you are feeling and experiencing in that moment. Before you read Hugh’s reflection, I invite you to take some deep breaths allowing the muscles in your body to relax so that you’re comfortable in your seat. Take a moment to fix your gaze on a candle flame or the view through your window, to listen to the sounds in the room and clear your mind of any anxious thoughts.

Hugh writes: A few years ago I was introduced to the word ‘hefted’. In his book The Shepherd’s Life, James Rebanks who is a shepherd in the Lake District talks about a kind of sheep which are described as hefted. These special sheep live out on the wild mountainsides of the Cumbrian hills. Without fences or walls, they are free to roam, always knowing the land to which they belong.

The word re-emerged for me following a recent conversation with a friend , as we talked about what church means to us, and on reflecting upon how the past 18 months bears upon that question. We explored together our need for community, places where we can encounter God through being alongside others in a mutual spirit of openness and vulnerability. So I began to wonder. Am I hefted? Where am I hefted? What might this mean in living life? As I am enjoying exploring these questions, I offer them to you.

Where am I hefted?

I look upon those sheep
roaming so freely,
out on the high crags
no fencing or walls to enclose.

Hefted sheep I am told, who
through the generations
from ewe to lamb taught
to know the land to which they belong.

Finding the right paths to take,
the places to shelter from the storms,
freely wandering, always
knowing the land to which they belong.

Where am I hefted
in these changing and uncertain days?
Anxious thoughts and doubts
that fence me in.

Might I like these sheep
need to know that I am hefted,
that place where I belong,
am held, loved, free to roam?

Take your time to think about the idea of being hefted, the sense of belonging and the freedom it contains.

Where are you hefted? Is it to a place, or to a way of being, or to someone? What does it feel like to be hefted?

Might there have been times when you have wondered away from where you are hefted and sense a need to return? These sheep seem to know the right paths to take. Do you know how to find those pathways? Who can guide you?

Having reflected on the image of the hefted sheep you may wish to turn to the verses in John chapter10 where Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd.


You may finish your time of reflection by listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd and responding to it in a time of prayer.