alastair mcintosh says that the triune basis for community is soil, soul and society - community with the earth or place, community with one another and community with spirit/self/god. i really like this as a simple framework. johnny sertin first introduced me to it and they have made it the basis of what they are up to in earlsfield.
anyway all that to say that at grace last night we started the year exploring those themes with a space for each. soul was the labyrinth, and then two other spaces with interactive installations. i loved it and think we're bound to pick those themes up further. in classic foolhardy new year fashion i have decided to try and blog with a bit more intent this year. life is so busy that it is a genuine challenge but i'll start as i mean to go on... so i'll add this as a worship trick and have uploaded the descriptions and a photo of each below in case any of you want to chew over the themes or nick them for you own use.
there were four activities in this space and a poem to reflect on. the four activities are below and the poem was the very thought by gerard kelly
The earth, our home, one tiny planet spinning in space in the vastness of the universe is extraordinary with its wonderful creatures, plants, landscapes, and habitats. To gaze at the ocean’s horizon, to walk in a forest and listen to birdsong, to climb a mountain, to sleep under a starry sky, to hold a newborn baby’s tiny fingers in a hand, to enjoy a freshly cooked meal with friends, all evoke wonder and thankfulness. What a gift life is, what a gift it is to be alive! The Christian story is fundamentally a story about the world, the heavens and the earth that have been made good and entrusted to us as gift to look after with love, tenderness and care.
1. Put your hands in the soil
The Soil by David Benjamin Blower played on loop (I love that tune)
Put your hands in the soil
And feel the groan
and can you feel the joy?
And be still
Take a moment to be still.
You are human made in God’s image
Adam was the first human - the word adam means ‘of the soil’
You are made from dirt, from soil, from the stuff of the earth
We are earthy
Place your hands in the soil and be still
Feel the groan of the earth in our times and pray
Feel the joy of the earth in all its beauty and give thanks
And be still
2. Lament for the heat
Have word soil spelled in candles in soil
Te world is too hot. Global temperature is rising due to emissions. The last IPCC report suggested there are 12 years left in which to change and limit warming to 1.5 degrees which, as we are experiencing, is already having dramatic impact. David Wallace Wells in his remarkable book which has over 6 pages of footnotes citing the evidence to back up his writing, outlines the cascades taking place that will only accelerate as we reach that temperature and beyond. He opens the book with the ominous words “It is worse, much worse, than you think”. We all have seen the images of fires in Australia, a sign of our times if there ever was one.
Blow out a candle as a prayer for the world’s fires and warming
We have sinned against you and against the earth
It is too hot
Lord have mercy on us and on the soil.
Cool the earth.
3. What a waste
Compost is like magic. Our waste is thrown in the dark with other waste. Over time it rots and becomes beautiful rich soil that feeds new plants in the next season.
Take some food waste
What feels like waste in your life
What are you throwing away
Offer it to God with whom nothing is wasted.
4. Drop in the Ocean
The challenges of the world seem so big that it can paralyse us. But as Greta Thunberg says - no one is too small to make a difference. Or as Harry and Chris say
They say it’s just a drop in the ocean
As if that’s a reason to stop
But maybe they’ve forgotten the ocean
Is literally made up of drops
Take a drop and add it to the water
Soil is about connection and community with the land, the earth itself. Our first challenge is to become lovers of the earth, the land, the home in which we live. We are all too easily disconnected from the land. How can you nurture being a lover of the earth, of the land, of the soil?
Write on a drop something you could do that helps you to be a lover of the earth, to be closer to the soil.
Write on a drop something you could do that lightens your footprint on the earth and its resources
To be human is to be related. Even God is community!
Add yourself to the web of relationships
Write your name on a card and then connect it to others with a piece of string. Then think about your connections to others. perhaps friends, perhaps groups you belong to whether local or far away. Write them on other pieces of card and build up the web.
Grace is our faith community.
What is it about the community that helps you, that nourishes you? Give thanks to God!
Are there ways you would like to participate?
Are there gifts you have to offer in the year ahead?
Do you ever feel alone?
Do you know others who are alone?
Is there someone you could show friendship to?
Hold them in prayer.
One of Grace’s ethos words is engage
How will you engage in society locally this year?
How will you build community?
this was the labyrinth - i just took a photo on a phone before we started which isn't great. no doubt someone else will have a better one. but you get the idea. we pretty much reused the words from the first labyrinth we ever did in 1999 by the then live on planet earth! here they are...
Take off your shoes...
The labyrinth is a walking meditation. Take off your shoes, pause at the start and then slowly follow the path. There is one path to the centre and then you follow the same path back out. There are others on the journey. Take your time. If you have to wait that is a good thing probably. There is no rush! Taking care and paying attention to your soul, your true self, the you of you is important soul work. Use this journey to give your soul some time. Soul is also about your relationship to God - take time to be with God in this space. Below are some prompts for the journey in, the centre and the journey out. But if you prefer to simply walk in silence and ignore those prompts then that is also good.
The inward journey:
As you move towards the centre of the labyrinth begin by confessing and letting go of things that hinder your relationship with God. This stage is also about shedding images or projections of yourself so that you can be real with God. Let go of what other people think you should be, their expectations of you, their projections. As you journey, empty yourself, peel away the layers - grow by subtraction. Prepare your inner self - the you of you - to meet with God.
Think of hurtful things people have done or said to you. Imagine a symbol or a word to describe this....
Jesus said, if you let go of the hurtful things people do to you - so God will also let go of the hurtful things you do. Think carefully. Are you willing to 'let go' of the things people have done or said to you?
Think of things you do - patterns of behaving that you know are harmful to your relationship with God, others, yourself or planet Earth. Imagine a symbol or word that symbolises those things.
If you are honest with yourself and God, if you really want to let go of these things... "If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1v9) God will help you to move on. Do you want to take it with you? Or do you want to let it go? If you want to let it go open your hands as a sign of letting it go and move on.
The centre of the labyrinth:
At the centre of the labyrinth is that point where we symbolically meet with God. Please spend some time here. Relax. Enjoy God's presence. Meditate on God. Commune with God.
The outward journey:
As you journey back out of the labyrinth take your encounter with God with you. Reflect on how this encounter might affect or change you. John said that God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood - think about how you might allow God to be made flesh in your life and in your neighbourhood.
What boundaries do you need to pass through?
Which of your abilities are you neglecting?
Look around and notice. Even though they may be at different stages, others are on this journey too.
As you approach the end of the labyrinth think about God who has been the host for this part of your journey. If God asked you to fill in a guest book - what would your comments be?
i have added the photos to a flickr album grace labyrinth - soul + soil + society
i loved the soil section the most - we need much more engagement with the earth, the planet, soil, place, our home and lots of soulful liturgies, prayers, songs, spirituality.