St Mewan, Cornwall, UK
St Mewan was a Welsh Celtic Christian thought to have been born in 540AD and died 617AD. His family were wealthy nobles, relatives of St Sampson of Dol. Mewan and his close friend Austell followed Samson to Cornwall where they all founded prayer communities. Mewan and Austell settled about three miles apart. St Austell town and St Mewan village still bear their names. They both left Cornwall eventually, following Samson to Brittany where Mewan was given land to found a couple of monasteries. The two remained close friends and died just a week apart from each other.
I was keen to explore St Mewan church and find the holy well. Sadly, the church was locked and so we didn't stay, even though it was apparently built on a circular 'lan' the indicator of an earlier monastic prayer settlement.
We knew the holy well was still in existence in a field to the west of St Mewan church. We found the rough location and asked permission of the farmer to cross his land. He gave us directions to find the well but was a bit bemused that we should even be interested. 'There's nought much to see'! Anyway, having traipsed the field, avoided some frisky young cows and criss-crossed where we thought the well should be, we systematically searched among the large trees the farmer had mentioned and sure enough we saw some masonry. It was June, so the grass and brambles were hiding the well. The first thing we saw was a ten foot drop into a square basin and then off to our right a flight of overgrown steps hidden under ferns and brambles.
Fighting our way through, we cleared a path and dropped down into the remains of the well enclosure. There was the wall which we'd first looked down from on our left, the square basin ahead and another wall. Stone seats flanked both sides of the basin and although the well was deeply silted up it was still damp. Next time we need to take a spade with us to clear it out, as it looks like the spring still flows.
Overhead were two magnificent 50' tall trees in full leaf, a sycamore and a beech. These are good indicators in the hedge as to the well's location. As is our way, once we felt comfortable, we began to worship and pray. It was easy here to welcome the Holy Spirit and to raise up the name of Jesus. It felt spiritually unpolluted and immediately there was joy as we worshipped and the presence of angels, one of whom took my hands to dance with me in worship. The sun burst through and the trees started to rustle, as if joining in with the joyous moment. Birds started singing and a huge rookery flew overhead. We notice this at wells that still harbour God's presence, nature is at ease and birds sing raucously.
Somewhat unexpectedly after such a joyous start, I'm suddenly grief stricken and weeping in intercession sensing God's broken heart. It felt as though his heart was weeping that so much of this expression of love for Him has been shut down by well meaning but overly religious puritanism. The mysticism, the delight in His creation and nature, the love of the beauty around, the delight of pulling aside quietly to be with Him away from the bustle of life.....all these beautiful expressions of a living faith but so often frowned upon by 'religious' folk who prefer structure and patterns within walls. As I kept praying, I sensed God wanting to reawaken and reopen what was lost of the Celtic expression of Christianity and the freedom of community, living life together, walking the walk of faith together, ministering with miracles and power, sharing the love of Jesus in a meaningful way, honouring the animals and plants - all of this valuable but devalued part of faith, He is wanting to restore. So through my tears and groaning in prayer, I shared God's heart for a brief while, grieving for well meaning earnest Christians in previous generations and perhaps even now, who dismiss that which they don't understand with the rational mind and miss the beautiful mystery of a walk of faith in the unknown of areas of God. For me, it was a very precious encounter with the living God, unexpected but profound. To glimpse, just a tiny part of how He feels is a huge privilege and one I don't take lightly. So we are glad we persevered in seeking out St Mewan's holy well and hope to revisit at another time. It's pretty incredible that Mewan lived over 1500 years ago and yet he still has something to teach us of God and there is still a deposit in the land of his prayers and faith!