The Consecration of Guthlaxton Lodge

The consecration of Guthlaxton lodge took place on 15th February 1961. The Oration on that occasion was delivered by Rev Bro. Lawrence Jackson, perhaps one of the greatest preachers and public speakers of his generation.

It was entiled ‘In Futurum Condamus’ – Let us build for the future

Below is the body of the speech

Oration given at the concecration of Guthlaxton Lodge

The sound of mallets dies away, as in the West the sun sinks low o’er marsh and fen, and Guthlac’s masons laying down their squares and other working tools of masons’ art go on their way to rest and sleep.  Then in the quiet of evening time does Guthlac stand upon the rising walk of his new chapelry at Croyland, gazing out across the stark and naked, barren wastes of Lincoln’s fen, and now commending self and those his brethren whom he loves to God’s good care, in solemn, all-perceiving retrospect, allows the changing caravanserai of former days to move kaleidoscopic in their changing moods across the ever constant stage of his imagining.  About the stage of early years come stories of his mother Tetha, and of her vision of a wondrous cross etched clear against the sky against the time of Guthlac’s birth, proud harbinger of sanctity and holiness within a life scarce yet begun.  The clash of steel, the noise and tumult and the smoke of battle pass before his steady gaze, great feats of arms, the thrilling shout of battle cry, the halt-ashamed, half proud experience of a victor in a feat of strength, the awful memories of those de­feated, the dying and the dead.  Yet had not God endued him with such charity of heart that now before him float the half astonished, unbelieving faces of those vanquished in sad and dire defeat, receiving back a major portion of the spoils of war, and come to see in Guthlac such a man who even its the midst of battle cares for love of God and of his brother men.

And as the shadows nearer close around him, and in the firmament above, the lamp of heavens night bathes all the land in silver light, now from the fen rise mists that, dank and chill, bring fear and apprehension to the soul, still Guthlac stands, and wonders at the Love of God which called him once for all to lay down warriors’ arms, and fight, a soldier in a greater and eternal war, the battle ‘gainst greed and selfishness and evil, which spoils God’s world and brings to desolation and despair the lives of countless men.  In futurum condamus, rightly so, for as this saintly man did stand in solemn thought upon the rising walls of his own church at Croyland long ago, he must have known that in the days to come, beyond the span of his own life, a greater church would rise, an Abbey Church upon this very spot, a brilliant and a gleaming light in this dark world, would glow with incan­descent splendour, illumined by the truth it sought to teach of Love of God, repentance, faith, and saving name, and brotherhood of man.  So after Guthlac’s passing from this world into the nearer presence of his Saviour’s love, his good and royal friend King Ethelbald with proud connivance of dear Kenulph monk of Evesham founded Croyland Abbey to the lasting memory of one whose passage through this world had left example of sanctity and holiness which changed men’s lives and made them centre all their hopes in God.

And what of us this day who dare to call our brotherhood by name of such a man as this?  We build too for the future  Ay, indeed, ‘t’would be a man of vision circumscribed, unseeing past the limitations of this mortal coil, who could not see beyond the journeys end in life to those immortal mansions of realities eternal and look with hope and expectation for the life which is to come.  Against the certain knowledge of life’s future state we must perforce live out our lives each day.  With every passing second are laid down the stones which either build an edifice of glorious shape, secure upon the solid rock of Love of God, with kindliness, and faith and charity of lies it, ashlars of those architectural orders which together in a composite, reveal we learn to love our neighbour as ourselves. Or else, conforming to the pattern of this world, which Guthlac, for our good example shunned and left behind, we build our deep foundations in the shifting sands of transitory values, and our stones and bulwarks cry out selfishness, and greed of gain, fast studded with the glittering gems of pride and lust for power and for worldly wealth which steadily have lured men to destruction, till the building of such characters crash now, or then, quite Babel-like to dust and nothingness.  The ancient chronicler records St. Guthlac’s eminence of reputation as a counsellor, a comforter of sore afflicted souls, a healer both of corporal and spiritual maladies, in short – as lover of his brother men.  We learn of veneration passing wonder borne to Guthlac after death, and of the high endeavours far and wide in honour of his blessed memory.  Bells were cast, rich caskets for his relics, likenesses in stone, all these resultant from a life of virtue and of all surpassing sanctity.  All this mark well.  At Croyland Guthlac built a church upon foundations firmly laid, but how much greater and of lasting worth were foundations laid in countless other lives, rough ashlars fashioned, buildings beautiful in all their parts by lasting influence of Guthlac, man of God.  So following in the footsteps of this saint of bygone days, we must learn well that no man to himself can live alone, but each and every day by thought and word and deed, we influence lives of other men for evil or for good, for we so oft unwittingly are architects of others’ lives and builders of their destinies.

Today we lay foundations well.  With faith and hope in God we lay the Corner Stone of Charity and start to build an edifice which we intend shall long proclaim the love of God and qualities of living in a brotherhood of men.  Then let us, with the future in our hands each one work well, that as we raise a goodly house which shall endure eternal in the heavens when time with us shall be no more, so also may we build this lodge, the vision of our patron ever in our thoughts, that those, who with the passing years, when we ourselves grow old and journey on, come young and fresh within this family of men, may build themselves in goodness, truth and love and shower a thousand blessings in the world of men.

Tonight St. Guthlac smiles.  Let us build for the future do I hear you cry?  Then build ye well, and in the future cast good honour on your name and mine.