i have added more photos to the nine elms advent trail album - jen and i cycled in for a view of things we missed - this time in daylight
jen and i cycled in on what turned out to be a wet and windy evening to go round the nine elms advent trail. it's quite a big area and due to building work not straightforward to work out where you are going so it is quite a trail. we probably managed half of it but enjoyed it and hope to go back. it's outdoors so it's socially distanced and all that. our walk was punctured by news that christmas in london is under tier 4 so it means our plans to see family and grandkids are scuppered - feels like a depressed london today. i definitely feel in need of a bit of light in the darkness. big thanks to betsy and others who put this together.
i have added a photo album here - as ever in the dark i had to work quote hard to get anything like a half decent photo but i do quite like that challenge.
betsy blatchley is a pioneer in nine elms which is a huge new housing area near battersea power station just south of the river thames in london. the focus of her pioneering is arts and community building. she has pulled off what looks like an incredible advent project no doubt with some others - nine elms advent calendar trail. every day through advent a new location is unveiled on social media which reveals a piece of art produced by an artist or community group or some sort of collaboration. but it sounds as though the whole trail is up already so you can go round it. i plan to cycle in at some point and wander round and take some photos. there is a really good instagram and twitter flow with images every day. this is such a good project for this year when you can only really meet outside. and it is an amazing project regardless of the year. a huge effort is behind this i am sure. you can download a map of the trail and follow round it. i really like the look and feel of what is happening through nine elms with the living room and other things - it's been quite a while since i last saw betsy and it looks like things have developed in really creative and good ways since we last spoke. i must catch up! great to see creative pioneering like this in london.
i am making this a worship trick - two in a row!!!???
ben bell loves advent! when he was a youthworker he always produced something creative and now he is a priest he is still up to his old tricks i am glad to say. angels over hoxton is a street art project where two churches have worked together to angel bomb the area and encourage photos to then be posted on social media using the hashtag #angelsoverhoxton - follow the instagram here
it's a very simple idea but it makes perfect sense to take advent to the streets this year perhaps more than any other year but i always like things like this that engage in public space rather than simply inside church buildings.
i am adding it as a worship trick. i'll blog about the other advent project that has caught my attention tomorrow.
i am a member of london independent photography (lip) and every year there is an exhbition. well this year unsurprisingly an actual exhibition was difficult so it was decided to curate one online lip chronicles: life under lockdown. it went live today for one month only. the more permanent record will be in a printed newspaper which is only £5 and you can order here. i am delighted to have have two photos in the exhibition in the nature section. i am sure we will look back in years to come at images like this and find it quite extraordinary.
if you are on instagram the images are gradually being posted on @lipchronicles
it's the time of year for harvest - grace's spin on that is firstfruits. here's the bliurb
Please bring something of what you do in life to offer to God at Firstfruits. It can relate to your work, your garden, your home, a sideline, your art, your kitchen, your music making, your volunteering, your child rearing, your caring... We are all makers, creators. Please don’t be shy - we’d love to pile a virtual table high with offerings of the firstfruits of our making to God. (And if they are not the first fruits that doesn’t matter!)
We’re not quite sure how this will work - it might be you have a story to tell, a basket of vegetables to show, a song to perform. But have a think about what you would like to bring. A photograph on the computer can be shared for example but we’d love contributions that could be performed too if you have any. It might be for some you, want to bring grief because there is an absence of making - that too can go on the table.
There will also be a space to think about how we might give out of what we have been given. You might like to ponder that ahead of time too. We won’t be overly prescriptive about that - i.e. there won’t be a joint project but an opportunity to reflect on what you might share with others.
this mural is on water lane in E15 london. we cycled over from ealing and it was totally worth it. it's been painted as part of london mural festival. what a great idea for a festival during the pandemic - outdoors and socially distanced. it's painted by adele renault who loves painting pigeons. i found it a good flip in my own mind, a reframing of the pigeon. pigeons are often thought of as dirty, but here they are elevated to something beautiful in the landscape of city life. i looked up the meaning of pigeons and they are signs of love as apparently they mate for life. they are also of course signs of peace through their better loved family member the dove!
it was fun to get a map of the murals and follow the trail - ended up cycling 41 miles and only saw a small amount so could be a good rason to get on the bike for some exercise in the next few weeks.
i love street art and was delighted to see there is a london mural festival - there are around 50 artists taking part. one of the great things about festivals like this is that you get some really big pieces and of course they will stay around for years most likely. it seems a particularly genius idea to have it at the moment as it's outside. there's a map on the website - i hope to get on my bike at some stage and find some of the pieces - no doubt photos to follow...
next grace is july 11 8pm - join us on zoom or whatsapp. here's the info
Communion* by numbers @home Grace July 2020 “Wherever we are we will remember God who always goes with us”
This month Grace will be a communion by numbers. Join us on zoom or you can also follow along on whatsapp. If you’d like to take part and are not in our mailing list or whatsapp group email [email protected] and we can send you the zoom link and add you to the whatsapp group. There will be no obligation to remain - you can leave the group afterwards.
Communion by numbers is a simple idea. We have a simple structure with numbered sections led by different people and you simply follow along on zoom or whatsapp to take part.
The title comes from a prayer we have used at Grace many times over the years. It’s sort of our community prayer. We’ll conclude with that prayer together.
*This is not a Church of England communion service. It’s just communion.
this saturday grace will be very laid back. we often do some sort of retreat this time of year. so grace wil be reflective with space for some guided contemplative prayer followed by the cafe. if you want to join see below for email to get zoom info from. here's the blurb
The next Grace will be a Zoom gathering at 8pm on Saturday June 13th.
Take some to pause a while from the business of life to listen, reflect, pray, review and share.
There will be a virtual cafe afterwards.
If you would like to join us please email [email protected] and we will email you an invitation link.
st mary's in ealing is a beautiful space and it was perfect for lasers, smoke and incense bathing the building in light as we celebrated a eucharist of light. it included a wander round to gaze on the amazing installations of light.
in the same way you 'break bread' we also broke light with some glow sticks!
it all looked very beautiful so i took some photos of course though it was a bit challenging in the low light! i have added an album on flickr - grace eucharist of light
we return the favour and will be visiting beyond on may 3 to lead an evening for them in brighton.
i am really looking forward to the next grace. we have invited martin poole and beyond to come and lead it (beyond of advent beach hut fame in brighton). they will be leading a eucharist of light. here's the blurb
Light is a metaphor for life. Going from dark to light reminds us of the journey from death to life, from ignorance to knowledge, from sin to grace, from bad to good.
Advent and Epiphany remind us of these themes and as we journey from Winter towards the light and warmth of Spring and Summer, Beyond combines these themes with the symbolic action of breaking bread and sharing wine and adds an opportunity to experience the wonder of light as we ask God to lighten our darkness and enlighten our lives.
Guest curation by Beyond who are a creative worship community based in Brighton. Cafe afterwards as usual.
i really loved the 24/7 exhibition at somerset house. it's on until 23 feb. inspired by a book by jonathan crary's book of the same name it explores the always on nature of our lives. i found it powerful, challenging and in some ways a bit disturbing. there are a whole range of installations. the photos above are from one that alternates between a relaxing slow moving sleep state projection through several layers of perspex (the top image) and then switches to projecting real time tweets including the word sleep from a part of the world (the second image). it's made by a company in somerset house who interpret data. the tweets made you feel like it's no wonder we struggle to sleep at times! this was simply one among many brilliant pieces. one of may favourites was some alternative design watches which i didn't photograph but they played with time in very different ways. this would be an ideal exhibition for lent but it finishes just before. go if you get the chance...
having plugged harry baker's tour in my last blog post, i am now plugging esther baker's play (my sister). she is the director. turns out the family are on a roll!
esther is directing the special relationship for a month at soho theatre. this is pretty huge! i am not expecting you to come and hang out with me necessarily but jen and i are going on feb 27. the play explores issues of immigration, detention and deportation. i have seen loads of plays over the years directed by esther and they are always exploring contemporary challenges in the system for those at the edges. ths has been written out of conversations with ex prisoners and those involved in immigration - should be good and no doubt hard hitting.
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.
it was really wonderful last night to join london school of pioneers for their first graduation. i have added photos and blogged about it on the cms pioneer blog. so i am just reblogging myself! it was so encouraging to hear from pioneers on the course what they are up to and how the course had really inspired them. see the link above to find out how to join the next round which starts in january and is recruiting now. the venue was laid out beautifully with origami birds suspended and we were invited to add one to join the murmuration.
the chihuly exhibition at kew gardens is amazing. we visited at night. i am sure it looks incredible in the day but i love this sort of thing after dark. it's hard to photograph but i had a go and there's an album of some of my better attempts here.
been meaning to blog this for a while but harry and chris are now on tour so check out their dates on the web site and see if they are coming near you. they are in oxford tomorrow i noticed. we'll be going to their london gig on sat 20 dec if anyone fancies it - see you there?!
i feel so overwhelmingly sad about the state of the planet and the climate crisis. this beautiful world, our home is being pushed to its limits by us. and heads have been in the proverbial sand for a long long time. today began two weeks of action around the world to try and highlight this state of emergency. extinction rebellion have three demands in the uk which are
if you are in london go offer your prayers, protest and support if you can. there is a faith bridge at lambeth bridge for example if you are wondering where to head. you will have read of arrests in the news probably but those getting arrested are arrestibles which is amazing but you don't have to be one to get involved.
i went to listen to extinction rebellion at greenbelt festival and was so impressed with their plans, their passion and their non-violent approach. their handbook this is not a drill is really worth getting and i had a wry smile when i saw rowan williams has written the afterword - what a legend! the anglican church thinks about mission through what it calls 5 marks of mission and one of those is creation care - this is a huge issue in mission today.
i was reflecting that 24 years ago, in 1995, jon birch and i recorded an album 'whose earth' lamenting what was happening and celebrating the wonder of planet earth. it is so hard to fathom how we have done so little as an international community. it's time to change. the music will sound dated so i'll spare you that but i have had the words of a song i wrote in 1995 in my head recently and confess to being depressed at how they are still so resonant...
there’s a hole in the sky
oil in the seas
the desert is increasing
and we’re burning down the trees
species are extinct
acid rain is in the air
we’re destroying the creation
entrusted to our care
show us your mercy
toxic waste is in the ocean
sewage on the shore
in the wake of every war
resources are depleted
the poor are still in need
we’re abusing the creation
to satisfy our greed
show us your mercy
we have sought salvation
and backed up uninvolvement
with our theology
yet this is your world
you hold it in your hand
help us turn creation
into the promised land
show us your mercy
i enjoyed visiting in real life - olafur eliasson's exhibition at the tate modern. this exhibit wasn't working properly but seemed to look nice without the rainbows or whatever else was supposed to happen! it was also good to go to an exhibition where they let you take photos... there are a few more over at my flickr site