ian adams has a ten minute or so reflection on finding stillness on the nomad podcast...
am planning to head over to see martin daws and gav mart on tour on oct 15 in kingston. join us...
singer songwriter and arts curator gavin mart, + young person's poet laureate for wales martin daws - are coming to Kingston with a creative acoustic set that explores what
'it' is at the heart of the artist.
through expressions in songwriting, music, poetry and spoken word gav and martin explore the following questions:
how does the artist express their yearning for an understanding of something bigger?
what does god mean through the eyes of the artist today?
what is 'it' that triggers our creativity?
how is god understood in contemporary culture?
how can we connect with and support local artists within our communities?
i am looking forward to october 14 when we have a day at cms on pioneering spirituality. this follows on from the day we had last year. that was so good we ended up producing the pioneer gift. there are several speakers and workshop leaders. i am particularly chuffed that steve bevans will be with us as he is one of my heroes... the idea of the day is to push out conversation and thinking about pioneering mission about which we are learning lots and have lots more questions. i hope too that we will simultaneously begin to pull together some resources around pioneering spirituality. we'll keep you posted.
following the last worship trick which was music out of the ground, grace produced an amazing labyrinth type experience at greenbelt on the saturday called event horizon (i wasn't involved as i had a ton of other thing going on at greenbelt). it made use of a perfect location for it with an installation called orpheus which slopes down geometrically to a pool of water. the photos are better than a description. there were 8 stopping points on postcards on the journey down and 8 on the way back. and along the way were pieces of music to listen to. it was amazing. and steve has added all of the reflections here along with a description and a set of photos. so a definite worship trick to add to the series 4.
proost now has a us site at proost.us!
for years we have had this cool little thing in the uk called proost which is home to wonderful inspiring resources that have been produced from artists and communities doing creative things. this includes movies, books of authentic liturgies, music, experiences such as the labyrinth and so on. but to access the resources you no longer have to come to the uk site and negotiate foreign currency of pounds - it's all in dollars.
the big deal (and you guys love both big and deal) is that you can subscribe for a hundred dollars for a year and that enables you to log in to the back end of the site and download anything you like.
we have some friends in the usa but not enough! so if you know about us do spread the word - in many ways this is still a hidden gem. but thought you'd like to know...
chris has posted a series of 12 dispatches/short poems that he wrote and has posted on cliff tops at the start of such retreats. they are totally wonderful both for retreat and/or pilgrimage. the reason i have added them on pilgrimage is that i happen to have a series on the go for that and they seem to connect with the wild places and wild spirituality akin to the irish pilgrimage.
here's the first and go here to find all twelve...
There are rumours-
Like smoke signals blurred in desert wind
He is here
Not in metaphor
Not whipped up in the collective madness of charismata
Not just politely suggested by the high drama of religious ritual-
With mud on his shoes...
this statue of a pilgrim is at clonmacnoise in ireland. the site was at the crossroads of the east/west road and the shannon river i.e. bang in the middle of the trade routes. it was founded by st ciaron who only lived there for a year or so but a community was there for hundreds of years (and was ransacked over 40 times by various groups but somehow kept starting over again). this statue reminded me of the one i had seen on lindisfarne a couple of years ago - so powerful and evocative.
i have not done much pilgrimage. i have done plenty of retreats. but they are very different things. a retreat is space and silence and reflection and prayer. a pilgrimage (at least in a group) is conversation, journey, stories, exploration, laughter, prayer, community, place (and guiness!).
at the heart of this pilgrimage was a quest to try and connect with the wild spirit of irish christianity, and to be inspired by the stories and lives of some of the saints. we'd travel to the place, touch, taste, see, experience, imagine it, and hear the stories of the place. we'd have some of our own space at each place, and in several of the places would pray together and reflect on how the stories connected with our own stories. depending on how people like to process things conversations, journalling, group times, reading and some spiritual direction were all part of the mix.
i first came up with the idea for this trip when i read about michael mitton and russ parker's trip to wales a couple of years back. michael's poems caught my imagination and i felt there was something in the stories of the saints that resonated with me, and perhaps with pioneers today. michael and russ agreed to lead a trip for a group of us and so we benfitted so much from their experience and wisdom.
michael wrote a couple of new poems on this trip which he has added to his pages - i can't seem to link directly - so go to his site and click on books and select poems from the drop down menu. here's one of his new ones about sennach whose island we sailed round in a surging sea where we were graced with the site of the fins of a school of dolphins which was amazing
Sennach founded a monastery on the island of Illauntannig, just north of Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Visitors to the island can still see the remains of the monastic community, including some beehive cells, a cross, church and burial ground. Access to the island is not easy!
Your hand that clutches the rim of your coracle
is the same that gently lifts its blessing
on your isle.
Such swells and currents don’t disturb you
for you dream them in your salty sleep.
You feel the surges of God in these waters
divine heaves and sighs
signs of the yearnings of God;
glimpses of the grace of God
in the fin of a passing dophin.
Is that why you set sail to this island
and built your tent from its rough earth?
I see you there, your blistered hand lifting dark stones
one upon the other
transforming these cold rocks into a vibrant home.
This your dysart, beckoning the surf of God
to break over the dry, dry land.
Oh Lord, when I settle too much on my mainland
take me back to these waters.
Let me feel again the movements of the great sea
the surgings of your restless heart.
Let me see the glittering surf
your life breaking through the waters my soul at last in tune with yours.
the feeling captured in the last verse is what i experienced on the pilgrimage - a longing and stirring for the same kind of wild spirit to be at work in me and indeed in cms pioneers and the church. we're tentatively planning another trip for pioneers next year. give me a shout if you are interested.
i have written a reflection for christine sine as part of her lent series over at godspace on giving space for soulwork. here's an extract...
We are all fractured and wounded, more perhaps than we know or like to admit and it is far easier to keep the front stage shiny and bright rather than risk have a look back stage and God forbid make ourselves vulnerable by allowing others to come and have a look back stage. But this journey towards the brokenness of our inner selves is essential if we are to become more fully who we are, which is our life’s work. We talk about this with students as ‘soulwork’. Lent it seems to me is a season that is a gift to us to do some of this journey, this paying attention and soulwork. see here for full article
there are so many resources around for lent now - my advice is to pick one thing and stick with that! if you want to see the things i have linked to over the years i have tagged anything with lent so you can scroll through.
christine sine is prolific in producing resources for both advent and lent. she has a whole range of stuff going on including a new book, lots of blogging and guest bloggers (i will be one), and this 40+ ideas for lent and holy week
we (jenny and i) have janet morley's book with poems for lent to look through at home.
grace are going to be reading through an altar in the world (not especially a lent book but lent is a season for reflecting on what it means to follow christ so will do nicely).
a book i think would be wonderful too is ian adams running over rocks. see beloved life for a whole load of resources around what ian and gail are up to...
make the most of the season anyway!
cms is the community i am a member of. 40 days of yes is another lent resource if you would like something to reflect particularly on mission. i have used it before and i am pretty certain have blogged about it before. but it's another great lent resource and mark berry will be adding a weekly reflection too... oh and it's free!
following oin from my first post about lent resources on proost, we have published another! and it's a first on proost for andy freeman - francis: stories and reflections
This new devotional book comes from Andy's love of St. Francis and includes creative rewritings of the stories of Francis mixed with practical activities, prayers and reflections. There are forty daily devotions in all so it is perfect to accompany Lent but also can be used at any time throughout the year. The book is also accompanied by five original drawings from Andy's daughter Jess.
i always like to have something on the go daily in lent and if you too like that then this fits the bill.
i have neglected to blog about proost here for a while. we have had a bundle of new resources of late. lent has become a really strong season for creativity in worship and spirituality for those on the alternative/emerging end of things. we have gradually built up quite a collection. anyway here's the latest proost news which outlines some resources old and new…
Lent was once described as the "bright sadness". It's a season which embraces every human emotion and every spiritual experience. In this time we learn to hope in pain, to become at peace in turmoil. At Lent we learn to find God in all things. We hope some of the resources available on Proost will help you in this journey.
This month we're launching a wonderful new book by Tim Watson. Old Lost and Broken Dreams is a beautifully moving journey through pain, disappointment and loss through poems, litanies, blessings and prayers. This is a wonderfully inspiring book to help you through Lent as Tim's inspiration is St. John of the Cross' idea of the Dark Night of the Soul - that somehow at our weakest point we learn new maturity in our understanding of God. Tim writes
"And as we journey through life as people of faith we will face all kinds of challenges. Perhaps we will find ourselves feeling like isolated prophets. Perhaps sometimes we will feel like Thomas after the resurrection. Sometimes we will have more questions than answers. Sometimes we will have to wait doggedly for the voice of God or for the leading of the Holy Spirit."
I want to recommend this book to all of you. I found it deeply inspiring as I read the manuscript before publication and I've come back to the poems and prayers again and again since then. I'll be looking to use a poem or prayer each day to help me through Lent. Do take a look.
As well as Tim's new book there are lots of resources in our Lent section of the website. A particularly popular resource is Si Smith's 40 and it's accompanying 40 Book by Si and Chris Goan. These are two inspiring interactions with the story of Jesus in the wilderness with moving words and beautiful illustrations. Each Lent we find loads of people download this resource and love it, coming back to it each year.
Another great resource is Cave by Harry Baker. This is all about seeking God alone and echoes the yearnings and challenges we all find in solitude and isolation. Harry's poetry is incredibly popular and this one is a Proost favourite.
At Lent we often find people seek out Pocket Liturgies on the site to help their community or church travel through the season together. Making Communion from Grace is one of the most popular in this line of Liturgies. Making Communion is the second set of Liturgies from Grace but specifically explores Communion and is packed with creative, innovative approaches to the church's most ancient rite. It also has a long introduction which helpfully shares Grace's story and how they have negotiated a creative approach within the Church of England.
As well as these individual resources you may want to explore the other areas of the website. A Get it Allsubscription is a great way to do this, enabling you to get your hands on everything on the site for one whole year. Why not sign up today?
This is the first of two updates you'll be getting from us this Lent as we have more new resources to launch shortly. Watch this space.
The Proost Team
i was back at st beunos at the weekend for another dose of silence which was like drinking. i found it quite easy to settle back into it. it was a guided retreat which means you have a conversation with a guide once a day. i can't remember what we were talking about that led to it but my guide showed me a painting by sieger koder of the table with christ's hands breaking bread at the front and faces looking towards him. the people round the table are a motley crew - i think they are something like a jew, a prostitute, a beggar, a misfit/clown, a scholar, a rich woman, a migrant. it's a lovely picture of christ's table filled with outsiders. on the wall behind is an image of the prodigal son with the father and son's embrace while the older brother looks on aloof...
i remember when we created the labyrinth at st pauls cathedral how surprised i was that lighting a candle on a laptop by clicking on it with a mouse felt right - it was conducive to prayer, it mediated a spiritual encounter. that was back in 2000 and the world of digital technology has changed enormously...
on saturday at grace at home in the world we were exploring ignatian spirituality and in the grace facebook page is a list of suggestions of resources for people to follow that up. we did an examen at grace and one that was mentioned was an app called examine which i have since added to my phone and intend to try and use. it enables you to do the ignatian examen and it tracks the previous 90 days so you can get a sense of the flow. i'll let you know how i find it. i am making it a worship trick - 50 in series 4.
but it got me wondering what apps people use for prayer and spirtuality on a regular basis. perhaps if you have some you use, you could leave a comment, a tweet, or facebook message? it might also be that you have ideas for an app?! in which case add those as well.
ian adams latest book running over rocks came out over the summer. i read it on holiday (our holiday started out sharing a meal with ian and gail before cycling from south to north devon so it was nice to catch up with ian as well). it's a lovely book of spiritual practices.
there are a number of reasons i like the book.
the first is that i think i have become more and more interested in how to live a life. that is perhaps a glaringly obvious thing to say. is there any other option? in the summer john drane was reflecting with some of our pioneer students that the old adage believe-belong-behave had been reconstructed some years back as belong-believe-behave but now the front foot is perhaps on behave-belong-believe. i can think of a thousand argumenst to have with that phrase anyway which is not the point - the point is that it reminded me that lifestyle or how to live out a life as a human, as a person, in community, following christ, that somehow makes a difference in the world is what many people are seeking after. in other words its a life that is embodied, lived, practised. i certainly am interested in a life of faith that enables me to live in a more christlike, prayerful way, paying attention to the world, god, others.
the second is that i think ian has a great way with language - he seems to talk about faith in a way that is open and welcoming and accessible and creative. i am sure he has thought hard and worked carefully on this. it's no mean feat.
the third is that the practices are really good and helpful. there are 52 in total and they are organised into sections - like earth and body, stillness and movement, possibility and so on. you can dive into any section or any practice. you could pick a practice each week of the year. i think it would make a good book for a community to go through in a season like lent. the practices are also a good mix of ancient tried and tested along with creative and fresh ideas. here's how ian describes practices in the intro
Practices are the earthy business of encountering ideas, then working out how they might take shape in us. They help us move from aspiration to reality. They work slowly over time. We shouldn't expect immediate results, but we can expect that through them the change for good that we seek will come, gradually forming something new within us.
the fourth is that ian has great wisdom. he has soaked himself in much of the understandings of those who have navigated the religious life and draws on it in a way that is accessible but has depth. the section of practices of descent is a good example.
the fifth is that ian has written a poem for each practice so there are over 50 poems which is a delightful addition.
practice takes practise - in other words this is not a book to read like i did - in a week! it's one to try out and practise. in my defence i have kept the book with my journal having read it so that i will come back to many of the practices. it reminds me a little bit of anthony de mello's book sadhana a way to god - which is a book i have come back to so many times with its spiritual exercises.
ian and gail are leading a retreat in may which looks like an absolute bargain if you would like a weekend to be introduced to some of the ideas.
a friend kim recommended an altar in the world by barbara brown taylor (which i had not heard of). i then got to hear her on the first night at greenbelt this year which was a treat. she is a lovely writer - some people who write books are really speakers who write but bbt is definitely someone with the gift of crafting written words.
i have leant the book to someone else so haven't got it in front of me to remind me of the content. but the phrase that stuck in my mind from the intro is 'x marks the spot and you are standing on it'. she suggests that often we are thinking - if i do this or hear this speaker or get that experience or go on this retreat or pray harder or whatever else you'd like to add then i will be sorted in my spiritual life (which of course is my whole life in relationship to god). but instead we need to stop looking elsewhere and notice what is in front of our eyes right now. and in paying attention we may well discover that the site we are standing on is an altar in the world, a thin place. this notion is of course very similar to the ignatian spirituality catchphrase 'finding god in all things' which i mentioned in the last review. it's a sacramental view of all of life. in many ways this kind of instinct has been the bedrock of alt worship's spirituality over the last few decades - discovering god in culture rather than in church spaces. i also think it is a very important instinct to nurture for anyone in mission or pioneering.
the book then unpacks around 10 (i can't remember the number) practices - such as pain, being with people, walking, blessing. the point about them is they are things we do anyway - the difference is in paying attention, noticing to the presence of god in front of our very eyes. i think my favourite practice was getting lost - when did you last get lost, off your beaten track i wonder?!
kim reviewed the book but i searched and couldn't find the link - i'll add it later if i find it...
in her own way barbara is qute deconstructive - she has moved out beyond churchiness (her book leaving church is also very popular) and is no doubt odd in her part of the american religious landscape, but in doing so has bumped into god everywhere. i like the notion of spirituality as waking up or having eyes opened - that seems to be what this is about. so the deconstruction ends up opening up the practice of life in wonderful ways. i have been reading some stuff on various mystics (i read the biography of theresa of avila over the summer). they often have a similar emptying out and letting go and an unknowing that leads to a deeper union with and love for christ. they are laced through with extraordinary lives of faith and prayer.
there's a lot of stuff around at the moment and there was plenty at greenbelt (which i didn't get to hear much of) which is similarly deconstructive, and lays claim to some of the mystics notions of emptying out. but unlike what i read in the mystics or see in barbara brown taylor, this trajectory doesn't seem to lead towards seeing god in all things or union with christ or even a life of practised faith. the end point is emptiness - the big surprise is that god isn't there and the resurrection is reduced to living with doubt at best. my own personal experience of faith in recent years has been characterised in some ways by unknowing and i think doubt is an important part of a life of faith, but it has led me to a much deeper sense of the presence of the resurrected christ in the world and in my own life. i am much more interested in a life that's practised as suggested by the likes of james martin and barbara brown taylor (and ian adams which will be my next review).
i have lots of books that i have read that i always intend to say something about on the blog but never quite find the time. life will probably take over but before a new intake of students start i'll try and at least mention a few i have read this year...
i picked up james martin's the jesuit's guide to almost everything when i was at st beunos on silent retreat. i found bumping into the jesuits a reminder of the extraordinary freedom there is in christ. it's ironic to feel this as the assumption lots of us make is that those who commit to particular ways of life would be constrained rather than free but perhaps those of us who just choose to do what the hell we like are less free than we imagine - are we are tied to consumerism and think we're free?! the jesuits were founded by ignatius and ignatian spirituality is the term for the charism or shape or gift of what is at the heart of the way of life of the jesuits that has helped thousands of people without having to be a jesuit! remarkably this book is a new york times bestseller. i can see why because it is so clear, well written, inspiring and practical.
spirituality is a way of living in relationship with god. and in the book martin lays out four things at the heart of ignatian spirituality - finding god in all things, incarnational spirituality, contemplative action, and freedom and detachment. he is wonderfully honest about his own life. it's extremely practical and down to earth.
desire is a big theme - paying attention to your own longings as a means of discerning where god is at work in your life. prayer is conceived of as friendship with god with some very helpful ways to pray. some such as the examen, imagining a scene in the gospels, silence are well known but i found it inspiring around prayer. and discernment is a big theme.
the thing i sensed when i was in silence was that i needed to 'be me' more fully - and there is a whole section in the book on what it means to be you which strongly connects with the theme of desire.
after reading it i couldn't help thinking how closely i share these four things at the heart of ignatian spirituality and how much it is like what cms is trying to be by way of a mission community. there is so much wisdom and so much treasure in these communities. and since reading it and encountering the jesuits i have found myself on several occasions remembering the freedom and joy that comes with following christ. i think too that i am particularly drawn to spirituality of communities that are spread out in mission to live in the world rather than spiritualities (e.g. benedictine) that are for communities who live in community in the same place.
it's a surprising recommendation no doubt - it took me by surprise too...
this is the sixth in a series of blog posts on silence. see also:
on silence  - fragile poet | on silence  - in the Presence of Silence | on silence  - ineffable and inephotographable | on silence  - individually guided retreats | on silence  - soulwork
these are a few quotes i stumbled across on silence on my retreat
The voice of God is best heard in silence (Anthony De Mello)
If you love truth be a lover of silence... More than all things love silence: It brings you a fruit that tongue cannot describe (Isaac of Ninevah)
Filling every part of this infinity of infinity there is a silence, a silence which is not an absence of sound but which is the object of a positive sensation, more positive than that of sound. Noises if there are any only reach me after crossing the silence. (Simone Weil)
I have shown you the power of silence, how thoroughly it heals and how fully pleasing it is to God (Desert Father Amononas)
Sometimes you have to disconnect to connect (James Martin)
this is a prayer that i breathed in and out for the first two days i think to help me slow down. i have loved this prayer for years and posted it as a worship trick way back in the first series. on the first evening of the retreat the two lines 'say nothing, ask nothing' summed up my intention for the retreat. i wasn't there for activity or even lots of words in prayer but simply to be in the Presence of Silence.
Before your God
Let your God look upon you
That is all
She loves you with an enormous love
She only wants to look upon you with her love
this may seem a slightly stranger one but the recent single from the villagers 'nothing arrived' first struck me when i was preparing a grace service exploring the ideas of john of the cross. he suggests that we need to let go of our desires for ambition, pleasure, knowledge, possessions and religious experience. and in doing so paradoxically find peace and union with god. i'm sure it's not quite what the villagers had in mind but it's been knocking around my head ever since and came to me several times on retreat.
I waited for Something, and Something died
So I waited for Nothing, and Nothing arrived
It's our dearest ally, it's our closest friend
It's our darkest blackout, it's our final end
My dear sweet Nothing, let's start a new
From here all in is just me and you
I waited for Something and Something died
So I waited for Nothing, and Nothing arrived
Well I guess it's over, I guess it's begun
It's a losers' table, but we've already won
It's a funny battle, it's a constant game
I guess I was busy when Nothing came
I guess I was busy (when Nothing arrived)
bruce cockburn's song 'mystery' has some lovely lines that in the beauty of the environment i sang to myself in the silence. these are a few
You can't tell me there is no mystery
It's everywhere I turn...
Infinity always gives me vertigo
And fills me up with grace...
And don't tell me there is no mystery
It overflows my cup...
This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Just like the finest wine
and in a moment of feeling at one with the world, with god, with myself, experiencing being looked upon by the love that loves us, of union or connectedness 'gorecki' by lamb (which i last heard i think at nic's funeral or at least it will forever be associated with that in my mind) was just extraordinarily appropriate, ecstatic even as i sat on a bench in the woods
If I should die this very moment
I wouldn't fear
For I've never known completeness
Like being here
Wrapped in the warmth of you
Loving every breath of you
Still my heart this moment
Or it might burst
Could we stay right here
Until the end of time until the earth stops turning
Wanna love you until the seas run dry
I've found the one I've waited for
All this time I've loved you
And never known your face
All this time I've missed you
And searched this human race
Here is true peace
Here my heart knows calm
Safe in your soul
Bathed in your sighs
Wanna stay right here
Until the end of time
'til the earth stops turning
Gonna love you until the seas run dry
I've found the one I've waited for
The one I've waited for
All I've known
All I've done
All I've felt was leading to this
All I've known
All I've done
All I've felt was leading to this
Wanna stay right here
'til the end of time 'till the earth stops turning
I'm gonna love you till the seas run dry
I've found the one I've waited for
The one I've waited for
ian adams runs morning bell - it's a simple e-mail and usually one sentence to reflect on prayerfully each day, a call to prayer. it gets sent via e-mail, twitter, facebook - take your pick. i realise i think i have never made it a worship trick so will add it to the series...
starting today is a series on silence with images and thoughts from me...
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.