ian adams is leading a retreat day in london - presence in the city which i am sure will be good. it's on saturday 4 november.
it's the beginning of term. a new year is always both crazy busy but hugely energising. at cms in oxford we have around 100 pioneers doing some training with us at undergrad, post grad and doctoral levels. it's such a joy and privilege meeting them and encouraging them in who they are, their sense of vocation, their learning and practice. i teach a couple of modules at undergrad level. one is an introduction to practical theology and reflective practice. we had the first day of that yesterday where amongst other things we discussed theology as a quest, as faith seeking understanding, as conversation about god, as something for everyone and not justan elite educated crew, as something lived, as something contextual and local and intercultural, as something global and not just western and so on. one of the ideas we came back to was theological homelessness (scroll through this edition of anvil and you'll find an article by me and cathy ross on it).
as you would expect, for every module there is a reading list. one of the books on that is theology brewed in an african pot by agbonkhianmeghe e orobator and an essay option is 'what does theology look like brewed in the pot of your community?' which i think is a fun title (i am not so sure students think it's fun writing essays mind!). i have always loved learning from other cultures and contexts and putting my western learned sense of things in conversation with that - it's a gift cms has given me. it's such a relief to find that wesrern theology (ies?) are a local theology rather than universal and will be enriched in conversation with other theologies. i'll never forget john mbiti sharing names of god he had collected from his travels in africa and he had over 300 names. orabator has various prayers and liturgies in the book, one of which is inspired by john mbiti. it's called an african invocation of divine names and i found it online here and am taking the liberty of posting it below (largely because i have learned over the years of blogging that links eventually don't work!). what does theology look like brewed in the pot of your community i wonder?
Consoler and comforter providing salvation,
Grandfather who alone is the great one,
Watcher of everything who is not surprised by anything,
Piler of rocks into towering mountains,
Divider of night and day,
Response: We praise You!
Sun too bright for our gaze,
Eye of the sun,
Drummer of life,
Owner of our head,
Large and deep pot,
My feathered one,
Mother of people,
Response: Bless us!
Great nursing mother,
Great personal guardian spirit,
Unsurpassed great spirit,
Great source of being,
Great mantle which covers us,
Great leopard with its own forest,
Great healer of eternal life,
Greatest of friends,
Great spider, the all-wise one,
Response: Enlighten us!
Controller of destiny in the universe,
All-powerful, never defeated,
Father of laughter,
King without blemish,
Possessor of whiteness,
Whiteness without patterns,
Caller-forth of the branching trees,
Unique great one to whom one can take petitions and requests for counsel,
Response: Hear us!
The first who always existed and will never die,
The only one bull in the world,
The one who sees both the inside and the outside,
The one we meet everywhere,
The one who is in all ages, everywhere and at all times,
The one who turns things upside down,
The one who has power to destroy completely,
The one who makes the sun set,
The one who gave everything on this earth and can take everything away,
Response: Guide us!
Axe that fears no thistle,
Hoe that fears no soil,
Ram of majestic sinews and majestic carriage,
Hero who never flees before the enemy,
Big boundless hut,
Victor over death,
Response: Protect us!
Compiled from John Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion (London: Heinemann, 1975); Robert E. Hood, Must God Remain Greek? Afro Cultures and God-Talk (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990); Joseph Healey and Donald Sybertz, Towards an African Narrative Theology (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1996), and other sources.Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator - Theology Brewed in an African Pot
i am adding this as a worship trick - yes i'll be getting those going again sporadically.
on the pioneer practice tour we encouraged people to share ideas they had percolating. in portsmouth catherine shared that she loved the argentine tango and found dancing was a spiritual thing too. she had an idea of a day with dancing in the cathedral in the evening but a workshop in the day. well it turns out that idea has got legs and is happening in portsmouth cathedral in a couple of weeks - the divine dance:tango at portsmouth cathedral
the sacred podcast interview with nick cave and sean o hagan is really remarkable. i have seen nick cave many times and love his music. i have been intrigued by or drawn to the spiritual quest that seems to infuse his song writing in places. seeing him and warren ellis at the royal albert hall last year was a spiritual experience which ended in prayer or a kind of blessing. he wrote an intro to marks gospel in the canongate series some years back. his letters to the community that rallies around or towards him are honest and searching pastoral letters of a sort. some have called it the church of nick cave! i have also been blown away by the films of the last few years especially one more time with feeling which is the most raw thing i think i have ever seen on grief, grief for the loss of his son arthur.
the podcast explores the themes in the book faith hope and carnage (which i have not read but now will definitely do so) and the theme of the sacred. it is so interesting to hear nick suggest that it is easier to find the sacred in the world than in religion - the natural world, wild swimming, music and art, and so forth. i find the same to be true. but he also loves church spaces and the sense of mystery that is there. i found myself strongly resonating with the notion that christianity has diminished god with its certitude and stridentness which makes it so difficult for those reaching towards god. it's a beautiful conversation. there is a transcript on the podcast page but i do recommend listening.
i go on a retreat every year. in terms of my life, headspace, wellbeing, imagination, relationship with god it's one of the best things i do. i tend now to go somewhere quiet, alone, silent. the last couple of years that has been in the wood. but group retreats are also great. i have done a few of those. last year johnny sertin and paul rose ran a mountain one for pioneers that sounded wonderful. they are running one this year. places are limited so book early if you are interested. book here
it is always a delight to discover friends creative projects. i spotted on instagram a new collaboration between poet chris goan and illustrator si smith. chris penned a few books of poems and liturgies on proost, and si is probably best known for the wonderful 40 series of illustrations of christ's journey in the wilderness.
after the apocalypse is arranged in three sections - before, during and after written and drawn in and around the pandemic. you'll find yourself in the words and images - it's a landscape we all traversed. artists have a knack of being the kind of nerve endings of a culture or something - a sort of feeling their way on our behalf or something. the times we are living in have made it hard to feel genuinely hopeful but it does blend grief and sorrow with hope against the odds.
chis blogs at fragile tent and is someone who has really stuck with the blog format over the years and done an amazing job. you can see some illustrations from the book and poems if you scroll down - like i want to live on this post.
while i was looking to see what was there i really enjoyed chris' latest 4 posts which are explorations of theopoetics - spirituality through artful making. this is a link to the fourth - click on that and scroll down. well worth a read...
the book is available from seatree argyll - that's also the site for chris and michaela goan's creative projects working in pottery, words, wood. they both left jobs a few years back now to pursue a simpler life where they could explore their passions and creative interests and make a life from that. it seems to be going pretty well!
over the years i have been involved along with others in grace in making a whole range of labyrinths. in 2000 we installed one in st pauls cathedral which went on to be toured round the country and translated into an online interactive version and then turned into a kit format in the USA. we have run various ones at grace. and this has included mowing a range of patterns - my blog post here from 2006 on how to mow a grass labyrinth has proved popular. anyway all that is to say it was a delight last weekend to be at the opening/launch of the wolf fields labyrinth in southall. we were invited to partner with arocha uk and the table community at st johns to create an outdoor labyrinth. steve collins came up with the design and it was made by clearing the area, putting down a membrane and then painting the pattern on that. the paths were then created by using small wooden stakes and the paths filled with wood chippings. there are a few flower beds en route. it has all come out rather well. i took the photo above but steve coillins has documented it in this photo album here which gives you the idea of how it was made from start to finish. thanks to idina dunmore for inviting us.
of course that has to go as a worship trick...
i have always loved labyrinths since i was first introduced to them by kev and ana draper back in the nineties! this year should see a new one land at wolf fields as we (grace) are creating an outdoor one there for friends in southall. it should be ready by easter i imagine - you can see progress above.
but meantime as seems to be our wonderful habit there will be a labyrinth at grace this saturday - it's a pretty easy thing to remain socially distanced on as we are small in number. do join us.
i was interviewed recently by david cotterill for the V12 podcast. it was good fun and the topic we were talking about was worship and the adventure of making that in creative ways that relate to the culture(s) of those outside of the church. you can find it on whatever your preferred podcast podcast app is - but here's a link on google or here's one on spotify
i got an email this week from someone asking me about how you navigate the liturgy and rubrics of your denomination or church in relation to pioneering with groups who won't relate easily to that - i sent a link to this interview as an answer. it made me realise that whilst some of us who were involved in alternative worship back in the day - navigating the contours of faith in the postmodern turn, these questions are still very pertinent and new to others. in some ways worship has been backgrounded or at least put layter in the mission process but it is still an essential component to explore. hope this helps if that is your question.
congrats to stephen radley on his unsung hero award for amateur photography 2021. he runs regular workshops and retreats on the theme of contemplative photography and mindfulness which he developed since leaving the military 5 years ago. i titled the post when two worlds collide because i am a photographer and part of what i like about photography is that it helps me notice and pay attention similar to what stephen describes - that's one world. the other world is pioneering and stephen attended the make good week we run a few years back to develop his idea for what has become soulful vision. it's exciting to see how it has developed. he has written a piece about it over on the pioneer blog.
proost is still going strong i am pleased to say hosted as it is now by space to breathe. there are two recent books that are available as free downloads or you can buy as printed books
the first is a collection of liturgies collated by heather cracknell for fresh expression called opening the doors. mark berry, ruth wells, tim watson and dorothy woods are the contributors so i am sure it is good. i gave printed copies to a couple of people at christmas.
the second is the long promised return? by tim watson, a set of poems and prayers written in the latest lockdown. i have just downloaded it.
i also noticed future present is currently in the free downloads section so if you have never got yourself a copy of that it's definitely worth getting hold of.
i seem to be on a liturgy theme this week. so in that vein one of the most natural things to do when crafting prayers, liturgy, a service is to play with the words to make them fit well with the context and with the moment. with technologies of cut and paste this is of course so easy to do. so i was delighted when martin wroe who is a wonderful poet and writer and crafter of words sent me a rework of the communion prayer jesus and the powers that i wrote in july - st luke's holloway have used it in their worship.
if you want or need a practical theology frame of reference or two for this doug gay in his book remixing the church has a brilliant schema of audit | retrieval | unbundling | sampling | remixing and pete ward in introduction to practical theology talks about the processes of remembering | absorbing | noticing | selecting/editing | expressing.
that's not to say everything needs to be messed with - some things are beautifully made and crafted and are artful in their own right. but in the tradition i am in there is not enough play - there is an assumption that there are the 'right words' to use which often ends up being one more area of defendedness rather than open source gift of a tradition that is alive. the reality i suspect is that everyone gets on and remixes anyway - i hope so. most weeks i listen to craig charles funk and soul show on bbc 6 music which is an interesting comparison. the tradition, the old classics get played again and again but they also forever being played with, remixed, reworked, resurfaced. the tradition is a living thing.
martin's email ended by saying
I’ll probably remix it more as time passes… probably you’ll remix it too
exactly! anyway all that to say here is martin's latest remix of the eucharist prayer i wrote back in july. see what you think and by all means download, edit, remix, sample and upload/share...
The Prayer of Thanks
The Lord be with you.
All And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
All We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All It is right to give God thanks and praise
We give thanks for your life, on this earth, walking by our side.
How you announced a new heaven and a new earth, found at the margins of this world,
an offensive against the strongholds of oppression, the dawn of liberation.
With signs of healing and deliverance
You proclaimed news of another commonwealth,
you chose a life of nonviolent confrontation with the powers of the age.
You restored wholeness to the sick
and those called impure.
You tore down the boundaries of tribe, gender and sexuality
of black and brown and white,
All the walls we build to exclude those whose difference makes us uncomfortable.
You overturned the dynamics of status and honour,
insider and outsider.
With you there is no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile.
Patriarchy, slavery and racism have no place in your new world.
All are made in the divine image,
Everyone included in the revolution
where the last are first.
The powers that be opposed you
We still do.
You chose love over fear.
You were put to death,
lynched and hung on a tree.
In the great reversal of all history,
on the cross you overcame the powers of this world and broke the power of death.
You sang a song of a new heaven and a new earth.
And with angels and saints and all who walk your way.
Still, we join with you, in that song...
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth
are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
When we forget this song, remind us of the tune.
When we lose sight of your way, guide us.
When we despair and are overwhelmed,
send your Spirit to comfort us.
You call us to a conversion of heart,
to turn away from the seductions of empire,
To turn towards a new heaven and earth,
a community of resistance and healing,
gathering at a table where you promise to meet us.
God of all life,
lighten our path to your new commonwealth,
when there is bread and wine, shelter and security,
for all people in all places
when the good earth breathes easy again
and violence and greed are made history.
May our homes be open, our tables welcome,
May this table today be such a place.
May we live from love and not fear.
Gracious God, present with us now in every place and time,
bless this bread and wine with the presence of Jesus.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died:
Christ is risen:
Christ will come again.
Among friends, gathered round a table,
Jesus took bread; and when he had blessed it, he broke it and said,
‘Take this and eat it. It is my body. It is given for you.
...Do this to remember me.’
Then later, during the meal,
he took a cup of wine, and when he had given thanks, he said,
‘In this cup is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death.
...Take this, all of you, to remember me.’
We break this bread
To share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body because we all share in one bread.
So come to this table,
you who have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time; you who have tried to follow Jesus
and you who feel you have failed;
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.
following up on yesterday's post, another really wonderful book of reflections, prayers and liturgies is seeds of hope. this is produced by amos trust, a charity focused on human rights, justice and solidarity. it's in a similar space to liturgies from below organised into sections such as solidarity, protest, planet. i got it for christmas and am reading it through it daily. i am going to make that and liturgies from below the two books i use to pray and reflect during lent this year. it's also only £10. there is something really good about organisations/movements like amos trust articulating their spirituality. it began as a series of daily reflections in lockdown but it's great they have turned it into a book.
this book is simply brilliant. you have to get it! one of our students put me on to it last week and i ordered it straight away and it does not disappoint. if you want to get a feel for it and indeed access lots of the liturgies for free head to reimagingworship.com . these are liturgies in the context of empire written from its margins in places of oppression, poverty, injustice. it's a project of the council of world mission.
i write and curate liturgies and love that in grace the community i am part of that is part of what we do rather than just take worship off some centralised shelf. as i have reflected on why that is impotant i have come over the years to think of liturgy as world making. we live in a world and indeed church that is run on particular logics and imaginaries. where do we find spaces where the world gets unmade and remade? where dominant narratives get subverted and resisted? one place is the arts. but another should be the church. this collection is most definitely world making. as sudipta singh says in the preface
the book is an invitation to resist the temptation to be co-opted by the empire and to find the nerve to come out of the empire creating counter imperial alternatives
honestly this book is so refreshing. so much worship and liturgy can frankly be vacuous. this is anything but.
i submitted my communion prayer on jesus and the powers and it has been accepted on the web site which i am pretty chuffed about too. it feels an honour to contribute to such a project.
one thing that is intriguing is that there are two covers and subtitles - one is praying with people at the ends of the world and the other is prayers in defiance of empire. i love both but the one that arrived for me has the former - does that mean that the uk and usa can't cope with the second title? i have no idea...
thank you to claudio carvalhaes who is the artful curator of this collection and project.
i wrote a communion prayer for grace on saturday...
Eucharist: Jesus and the powers
Thank you for your incredible life.
You announced a new kingdom at the margins of the world,
an offensive against the strongholds of oppression,
and the dawn of liberation.
You made a way in the wilderness.
You proclaimed good news of the kingdom,
brought healing and deliverance,
lived a life of nonviolent confrontation with the powers.
You restored social wholeness to the sick and “impure”.
You tore down the boundaries of tribe, gender, skin tone, religion, disability and ill health.
You overturned the dynamics of status and honour
to make way for the outcast Jew and alien gentile.
With you there is no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or gentile.
Patriarchy, slavery and racism have no place in your kingdom.
All are made in God’s image,
all are welcome,
all are included in your “last as first” revolution.
Almost every ruling faction in society opposed you.
Your resistance was through loving enemies,
meals with the wrong people,
refusing to live under the domination of the powers and their way of ordering life.
You chose love and not fear
pursuing kingdom practice even at the cost of death.
Ultimately they did put you to death.
You were lynched and hung on a tree.
In a great mystery and a great reversal
you overcame the powers on the cross.
Three days later you were raised from death,
a sign that the powers have been defeated,
a sign of hope,
a sign of a future kingdom when all will be well.
You shattered the powers’ reign of death in history.
When we forget, help us to remember.
When we are blind help us to see.
When we are deaf help us to hear.
When we despair and are overwhelmed send your Spirit to comfort us.
You call us to a conversion of heart,
to turn away from empire, its seductions and iniquity.
This is not a call out of the world, but into an alternative social practice,
a community of resistance and healing,
gathering in homes and around the table with you.
You have given us a meal to remember you by
a meal to remember the ending of slavery
and deliverance from the power of Pharaoh’s dream;
a meal in which you broke bread and drank wine -
your body broken for us,
your blood of a new relationship with God.
May our homes and our tables be open,
May they not have rigid boundaries.
May this table and this home today be such a place.
May we live from love and not fear.
We break bread and drink wine now to celebrate your life, death and resurrection.
And we look for the day when all slavery, all oppression and all domination is ended.
When we will be free at last
Your kingdom come
we'll post the whole service on the grace site at some point and i'll come back and post a link here. if you are interested in what is behind this take, things in the background are probably multiple but some that spring to mind:
i am adding this to the worship trick series 4 - that will be no 79 - i must try and get to 100 before it's been a decade that that series has been running!
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 fres[email protected] and we will email you an invitation link.
this is the first in a series of blog posts which i have called musings from the other side of the world.
i have spent a couple of weeks in new zealand - part holiday and part study leave. i have just got back and i am going to post a series of reflections inspired by the trip. i am a little cautious about it because i don’t know a lot about new zealand and there will be people who have studied and reflected at depth on the things i touch on. i am also english and we english are part of new zealand’s story back in the day as colonialist settlers. i also work for church mission society (cms) and cms missionaries landed in new zealand pretty early in that story and are tied up with its founding and treaty and, as i discovered, that is in quite contested fashion.
i am deliberately writing these as blog posts because blog posts are in the moment, journal like, sharing some thoughts that soon scroll down the page. but i welcome any push back or conversation. i loved talking with people i met in new zealand about these things.
my experience of friends i know from new zealand is that they are super proud of it. they love talking about it. they love making a connection to anyone or anything from new zealand. in fact if there is a chance to claim someone has a connection to new zealand they make it. i love that. i think i particularly love it because i have never felt that way about england - as far as i am concerned there is too much shame in our story! so for example i can never bring myself to wear an england shirt.
anyway all that is to say it is a beautiful country. i loved it! i only really got to see some of the south island (plus a day in wellington) and even then i did not make the north or the west coast of the south island. at some stage i hope i can go back and spend some more time there. a friend roger who used to be a neighbour and is now retired lives there for a few months every year and he has kept trying to persuade me to visit - he also has become an evangelist for new zealand! he hosted me and chauffeured me around - i really appreciated his generosity and kindness especially as i ended up staying a bit longer than planned due to having to change my wider plans because of coronavirus.
we did a whistle stop tour loop largely of mountains and lakes beginning at christchurch and travelling to…
mount cook which was out of clouds and looked stunning across lake pukaki;
queenstown which really is tourist central where you can do all manner of sports and outdoor activities - like paragliding - i remember my sister showing us a video of her bungee jumping in skipper canyon when she was travelling in a gap year so it was nice to drive by that bridge. we had a more gentile activity going on the earnslaw steamboat down lake wakatipu;
i also travelled on day trips to banks peninsula and akaroa. in akaroa where we went on a magical boat trip seeing endangered hector dolphins, blue penguins, albatross and seals. i loved seeing the albatross swooping behind the boat with its amazing flight and huge wingspan. ever since i was a kid i have felt excitement whenever i see dolphins especially in the wild so it was a treat to see hector dolphins. i love the outdoors and being in environments like new zealand do wonders for my soul and spirit.
there is so much beauty in the world and new zealand certainly has its share of it. it has amazing natural resource. it’s a similar size to britain but with only 5 million people. its people are laid back, sporty, hard working, friendly and love to travel. and they make great coffee! what is there not to like?
i have added an album of photographs to flickr - new zealand
kiwi and proud - seems so much simpler than being english and embarrassed! and yet maybe there are some layers of complexity underneath? while i was in christchurch i met some local church leaders and people interested in pioneering and mission. over breakfast we shared conversations and stories and questions (and breakfast!). one of the people who shared what they were up to described their pioneering as exploring what it meant to be a kiwi church and what kiwi identity might be. this was clearly a space in which there was plenty of deconstructing and reconstructing going on. i asked what they meant by kiwi identity as opposed to new zealand identity. kiwi spirituality or church or identity for them seemed to be a way of naming the desire for something beyond anglican, presbyterian, weslyian or vineyard (or whatever other form of western shaped, constructed and inherited church) and also something beyond new zealand identity as constructed solely in the settler communities. in other words a new kind of authenticity that weaves together a hybrid from the various threads of the communities in new zealand in a way that feels honest. like england this is about the wider changes in culture and needing something that resonates in today's world but my sense of this was that it is also getting at the settler, maori and pacific islanders stories and identitites as well. this is not what was said but i read this to be a quest for something post colonial as well as missional. indeed i began to wonder if it was possible to have one without the other.
the conversation took me back to a scene in the film whale rider where the maori grandfather is explaining the maori tradition and the importance of it and the ancestors (the whakapapa) to his granddaughter with a piece of rope showing various threads. he then uses the rope to start a boat motor and it snaps at which point he says 'useless bloody rope'. that tension - a longing for the gifts in the traditions, the ancestral wisdom and a feeling that it is also broken in today's world - is a tension i sensed is very much alive in new zealand. how do you reweave the rope? to really be kiwi and proud might need that weave.
something i hadn't expected was to be confronted with england and my own englishness...
lent means spring so it was nice to see some crocuses and daffodils out and magnolia starting to appear as i walked this morning. it's a season of year i love both for spring and for lent...
lent in the season of the church's year is a preparation for easter. people interpret it in different ways and do different things. but broadly speaking my assessment of it is that for many it has become a time of year for a focused reflection on faith and what that means. grace, the community i am part of, always have some kind of focus which includes regular meals, conversation and prayer for example and that usually includes exploring a theme or a book together. this year following january's grace which explored themes of soil, soul and scociety we are all being encouraged to take up a practice or practices in one or more of those three areas. and there are a series of gatherings and meals related to those themes. here's the blurb that got sent round
Most things are helped by practise - music, sport, craft, skills. When it comes to faith it's the same - prayer say takes practise. Lent is a chance to try out a new practice (or more).You could pick a practice in each of the areas of soul, society, soil. Or just one (or indeed none - there is no pressure to - it’s not a guilt trip so it's fine to just be). But if you want to then we look forward to seeing what people might come up with and indeed finding what people do anyway. Here are a few suggestions if you are stuck for ideas:Pray - try a regular time of silence, or use the examen, or try active prayer (when you walk, run, swim…)Read - we suggest the story of Jesus in Mark's gospel - see below for a couple of chapters each week that if several people followed would mean it was a shared practice. You could try lectio divina or the Ignation way of reading (google them).Sign up for an email - we could share suggestions in whatsapp but by way of example Richard Rohr sends one out weekly or Enneagram Institute do a daily email for your personality type.Get outside in whatever way works - walking, cycling, running, gardening.Think of a small action you can do to help the planet and add that into your lifestyle.Grow something - spring is a great time for thatMark’s gospel suggestion for reading plan -W/c 25 Feb Mark 1+2W/c 2 March Mark 3 + 4W/c 9 March Mark 5 + 6W/c 16 March Mark 7 + 8W/c 23 March Mark 9 + 10W/c 30 March Mark 11 + 12 + 13W/c 6 April Mark 14 + 15 + 16
lent kicks off today with ash wednesday where you can attend a service of ashing where ashes are marked on your forehead and the words 'you are dust and to dust you shall return. turn away from sin and be faithful to christ' are spoken to you. i need to hear that call away from my shadow, my dark side, my own selfishness and to follow in the way of christ whose way is so inspiring and heed the call towards being the best version of me that can shine in the world. i will be attending a service this evening to hear and respond to that call.
the internet has really made lent boom i think because it means so many people are sharing their ideas or resources which you can jump into. the challenge is that there is a lot around so you need to choose. it could easily end up being exhausting or unfocused or both - less is probably more.
it's probably a bit late now and you may already be sorted but a couple of things i noticed...
a poem a day podcast from martin wroe. i loved the lifelines book and we used it in our weekly tuesday group to explore themes chosen by different people. and it so happens that the first poet on there is none other than harry baker who is currently on tour round the uk!
cms have produced a resource on lament. it feels like the state of the world calls for plenty of lament, not least the state of the church which continues to feel so flawed. the news of jean vanier's abuse left me reeling this week.
proost as ever are producing creative things and they too are in the physical object mode sending lent letters to your door which i am sure will be delightful. sign up quick though.
i am sure you know of other things but if you choose to use lent as a season of reflection on life and faith go well. turn and be faithful!
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.