There was much consternation in 1998 when a strange light appeared in the tower of the White Church. Several times in one week the local Fire Brigade was called out to attend a suspected fire. The intermittent glow had been noticed by passers by who could not account for the strange phenomenon and raised the alarm. The explanation? Simple. A guiding light had been installed to assist the shipping in the approach to Preston. Standing as one of the highest buildings on the Fylde coast the White Church was ideally situated to serve as a lighthouse and for these past few years it has helped sailors to navigate safely into the Ribble Estuary.
So, the White Church is a lighthouse in more than one sense. It is itself lit up by the light of Christ and a more prosaic but vital light is shone out to sea for for the guidance and safety of mariners. Do you feel a parable coming on....?
THE MANX FISHERMEN'S EVENING HYMN.
HEAR us, O Lord, from Heaven, Thy dwelling-place;
Like them of old, in vain we toil all night,
Unless with us Thou go, Who art the Light;
Come then, O Lord, that we may see Thy face.
Thou, Lord, dost rule the raging of the sea;
When loud the storm, and furious is the gale,
Strong is Thine arm; our little barks are frail;
Send us Thy help; remember Galilee.
Our wives and children we commend to Thee;
For them we plough the land and plough the deep;
For them by day the golden corn we reap;
By night the silver harvest of the sea.
We thank Thee, Lord, for sunshine, dew and rain,
Broadcast from Heav'n by Thine almighty hand
Source of all life, unnumbered as the sand-
Bird, beast, and fish, herb, fruit, and golden grain.
O Bread of Life, Thou in Thy word hast said,
Who feeds in faith on Me shall never die!
In mercy hear Thy hungry children's cry,
Father, give us this day our daily bread!
Sow in our hearts the seeds of Thy dear love,
That we may reap contentment, joy, and peace;
Then, when at last our earthly labours cease,
Grant us to join Thy harvest home above.
Luke chapter 8
Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
Heavenly Father: we pray to you for those on the perilous ocean that you will embrace them with your mighty protection and grant them success in all their rightful undertakings. Grant them in all hours of need to see that they have a God who remembers them, and grant them grace in the hour of danger to commit their souls into your hands. O Lord Jesus Christ, who can rebuke the storm and bring it to silence, and lay the roaring waves to rest, show them who call to you out of the deep that you hear their prayer and will save them. And finally bring us all to the only safe port. Amen.
Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in your mercy you have set our course, so steer the vessel of our life towards the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart's desire, where you, O God, are blessed, and live and reign for ever and ever. AMEN.