A salty unity.

Simone Weil was a French Jew who died of hunger during World War Two.
Simone was extremely well educated and came from a wealthy family.
She worked in the factories and lived on tinned rations. Simone was so affected by what was happening to others she decided to live as they lived.
Simone was drawn strongly to the sacramental life of the church . Her desire to be baptised became overwhelming to her.
Yet she declined, and spent the rest of her short life regarding the bread and wine of holy communion without ever eating them.
Regarding them was enough for her, determination to stay hungry gave her strength.

During this time of lockdown I’ve been hungry too.
Experiencing those familiar unsettled feelings often felt during the first few weeks of a new diet. The longing to find chocolate and cheese in the fridge . Only to find precooked jacket potatoes and a withered salad .
After a while you start to understand the answer to satisfying your hunger cannot be found in the fridge.
It’s about a change of attitude.
As the world endures the worst imaginable suffering . The hunger I feel pierces a bright light in this dark storm.
It’s from these pains of hunger that I take a new fresh bearing. Discovering worship in a different timeless dimension. Worship that does not start at 9.15 on a Sunday morning. Nor does it end after 45 minutes.
Worship is barren of rules, no dress code, no words. A sacred intimate place of mystery. Time stands still as struggle with the pain and sorrow . Tears roll uncontrollably as I find joy in this creative hunger.
An empty glass move my thoughts from hunger to freedom. I become more aware of my own personal rhythms of prayer. Awareness of the frailness and pain of the earth.
It’s taken me back to the story of Simone Weil. I am reminded that is important and ok to be deeply affected by what’s happening around us.
To weep each day does little to ease the pain. The tears have an energy of their own. A salty unity that partners with a overflowing love for each other.
During lockdown we have literately fed each other. Prepared meals for neighbours and friends.

Our combined hunger is woven and twisted into a strong soft blanket. A blanket that hugs me into Gods waiting arms, sharing sorrows of the world.

The alters maybe naked, the candles extinguished and the church doors locked. My spiritual diet has changed.
I’m hungry; the hunger pains are real essential and fruitful.
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Church is People.

Sitting in church with my mum trying to imagine what was church means for both of us.

A fertile field, an empty pew.
Ploughed, polished
Majestic oak rooted, harvested and carved.
Emerging growth, traditionally planted.

A muddy field, a quite pew
Scattering seeds, row upon row,
Self seeding, hybrid T’s.
Free-draining, managed soil.

An open gate, a heavy door.
Porous, water tight.
Weathering the seasons, heating on.
Exposed , sheltered
From the shared storm.

Coloured skies, painted roof.
Natures palette, hues of glass
Dog eared pages, carefully read.
Weathered cold and well feed.

Muddy footsteps, clicking  heals.
Boots and suits.
Kids that dig
Babies that scream.
Those that talk
Those that say nothing at all.

Flasks of coffee, teapots and cosies.
Picnics,  biscuits on china plate
A tree stump, a chair.
A shared conversation.
A friend.

We are all church
God’s  gathered people
Loved.
Growing.
In our own way.
Our own pace.
Same space.
Church is people.

 

Wrestling with compost.

It’s strange how certain activities trigger memories that unlock a world I have yet to understand. Physical actions gently push my mind, nudging my world closer to the words that I struggle to comprehend. Words that need to find a place in my heart. Require a practical understanding so I can relate to them in my own way. So I can learn to pronounce, remember and recognise them. To understand what they mean to me and others. I need that word to become visual almost tactile to revival something of it’s self to me. It’s a slow often frustrating way of learning. Taking time with just one word, allowing it to guide me in practical way.
The word Koinonia came into my life this week. I must have heard it before but for some reason I locked onto the word and tried to unpick what it means to me.
I discovered my answers while wrestling with a large heavy bag of compost. It sounds the most unlikely of places but together my faith joined my gardening world and made their magical connections to Koinonia.
I was taught at horticultural college to shake, turn and mix a bag of compost before opening it. It’s hard heavy work that I often question. I wonder how many other people get hot and bothered turning over these brute sized bags? Theirs no written notice on the bag “ exhaust yourself by shaking and mixing bag before use”.
Yet I know by putting in this effort my seeds/plants get the best compost to grow in. In the wrestling I mix all the nutrients and soil types within the bag. Ensuring my little seeds have everything they could possibly need to grow.
I never lose the wonder in planting seeds. It’s the endless possibilities, a unison between the creator and creation. My role is to mix compost, seeds, water and love together.
It’s that mixing that connected me to koinonia. It’s a community of love in which we grow. Its a seamless interchange of mutual love which unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The more we live in communities of love, the more we can grow into the image and likeness of God who created us.
It’s that powerful incredible linked togetherness with others and God, at the same time being profundity at one with nature.
We are together as a family, as community. Expressing our need to be feed nourished fed and healed by God who is a community of love.
When wrestling with my compost bags, I mix love. Providing that micro community within my glass house. A community that loves, feeds and nurtures my seeds.
We are not as good as we could be at mixing ourselves. I never realised just how much we must move and mix within and outside of our community in order to grow.
Sitting in the same seat in church each week, doing the same things can slow down our growth, and the growth of those around us.
Sitting in the same seat has a lot todo with habit. When we do the same nothing changes, we expect the same.
Moving and mixing is difficult, it challenges us to sit among different people. To get to know someone new, to see a different perspective, to notice things we have never seen before.
When I walk into church this Sunday, I will sit somewhere different. Challenge myself and those who sit with me to change seats each week. Making us more open to change and growth. Mixing with those we do not know.
Maybe in that mixing we will build a stronger community. A Community that together can reach out to heal our wounded planet. A Community of love that grows flowers and fruits in likeness of God who created us.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

My first sermon.

Be Generous, Be Patient, Pray, Listen

If you’re wealthy be generous. If you’re worried be patient. If you have some possessions share them with others. If you have problems, give them to Jesus.

Our lives are full of noise yet we often fail to listen. We learn to stop listening, we become consumed in the noise of the modern world. We have to many options, to many choices.
Our lives are so full of noise we often forget  we can hear in the silence.

I’m not saying noice is bad far from it. We all have a favourite piece of music that we enjoy listening to. But what gives you that buzz of excitement every time you hear it?
Connects with your emotions deep enough to stop what you are doing and to just listen.

For me I find that  buzz of excitement in the silent darkness just before dawn.
Siting outside in the garden or woodland waiting listening for the moment the first bird sings.
It’s that explosion of airborne joy. You can hear the Robin, Blackbird and sparrow so clearly. Yet they remain invisible in the twilight of the morning.
The first time I did this it was my 16th birthday . I remember being amazed by the energy of the bird song. The teenage me just heard birdsong.
The difference is today when I get up early and sit quietly in the darkened woods. I listen to  God. Its one of the few times and places I can be really still. Stillness in the presence of our Lord. Stillness in the anticipation of a new day that’s about to dawn.

God speaks out of the silence. It’s not just silence. Its a stillness full of positive energy and life. A sacred space where I can just be. A space that God speaks his word.
It’s as if everything is on hold in this silent place the atmosphere is charged: than the first bird sings. This little oasis of creation speaks and rejoices in the new day.
Imagine if we equally rejoiced in the new day shouted it out “We are loved”
Our voices also beautifully in tune with creation. Our message being heard above the chatter of our busy lives around us.

Listening to the reading today James is asking us to be Generous, to be patient and to pray.
He’s not asking us to be generous with our money, he’s asking us to be generous  with our hearts. Giving a homeless person a pound as you walk past is easy.
Stopping and spending time with them is generously that comes from Christ . It’s being with this person valuing them . A person like us, loved by God.
It costs nothing to stop and listen with our hearts .

When we stop to listen we must do just that – STOP.  We can’t solve all their  problems  but what we can do  may go a lot deeper than mere problem solving we  can  come alongside the  person in their  difficulties.
This involves listening to the story they have to tell, hearing their complaints, their fears or sorrows. It means empathising, feeling what they feel, and joining them in opening the Bible to seek hope and strength.

James asks us to go out to the people that have wandered away from God.
He asks us not to write them off, “but to bring them back.”
How do we do this ?
It’s a big question and one that’s constantly  being asked .
How do we Bring back those who have wandered away from God. The size of the question does not excuse us from taking any action. We know that we can’t involve ourselves in every problem, every situation in which there is need; but we can do something.
Maybe that something is to take an interest in one person or one family or one cause.
To give our time.
To share our resources. Simplify our own lives .
To pray for those in need of our help.
To bring them into the silent spaces that God holds open for all of us.
To live in the now.
For each moment holds the greatest possibles of the future.
In that moment.
listen to the voice of love.
That whispers your name.
It is the voice of the one who is love calling you.
To go and tell what you have seen and heard.

James 5

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Hope.

Love : I know love heals, I know love hurts. I did not really understand just how much love gives hope.
Friday I attended a service of remembrance. There I felt and saw the love that gives hope.
Gods unquenchable, unstoppable love freed my heart opening my eyes to the abundance of love that filled the church with hope.
Hope allowed me to smile when I wanted to cry. To feel the wind of Love that comes from knowing God.
The words in the service echoed the words in my heart and mind. Weaving prayers, poems and memories with love so powerful it become visible.
Visible love traveled in conversations, It filled a church, It provided sandwiches, cakes and tea and coffee.
It’s no surprise the wonderful lady we came to remember was very gifted in making God visible. She really knew and understood what it took to love. She never stopped, even when she hurt and was in so much pain herself she still loved. She still smiled, still found time to make fairy cakes with chocolate buttons on the top.
Her love will never go away, she has touched so many lives that her love will last forever. The work she has done in our community’s will continue, taking on a life of its own.
She never changed the world, she helped change the worlds of the people she meet.
It was a privilege to have known this beautiful lady, that her world touched mine.

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The illusion that all is well.

We meet together to consider how we can offer the best pastoral care and friendship to any LGBTI+ people in our churches.
It was an evening to listen and discuss ways in which we can make our churches more inclusive.
It was at this evening I heard Lizzie Lowes story.
It’s lizzie story that I want to share with you. Its not a easy story to share but it’s important story that I feel it needs to be shared.
September 2014 Lizzie Lowe took her own life. Lizzie Lowe was 14 years old and gay.Her tragic death shock her church, her school and her wider network of friends.Nobody in her family or church knew that lizzie was gay (they wished they had).
Lizzie like any teenager was still exploring her feelings, juggling those powerful teenage emotions.
It was only at the coroners hearing, her family and church learnt that lizzie sexuality and her perception of faith were at odds with one another. This was expressed in text messages that lizzie had sent to her close friends leading up to her fatal decision. Lizzie had became convinced that God could not love her the way she was.
Something deep inside tells us our churches are not as they should be. Many like lizzie are marginized because of their disabilities, race, class, sexuality or identity. Things need to get better.
We need to give a voice to what we want to see made new. We need to be able to tell our own stories without feeling the church will no longer welcome us. We should not be ashamed of who we are, we need to talk to each other . We can change, it’s seems overwhelming, it’s easier not to change. To keep the the illusion that all is well.
Yet Jesus taught us to love one another, he taught us “ you are the light of the world “ his words dare us to believe that we can participate in making not only our churches but the world the inclusive place we long it to be .
More than any other generation we are aware that everything is connected, we shape the world by our choices.
Change begins with us – all of us.
Each day brings us new opportunities to step into action, to live by doing to others what we would have them do for us. To love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
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Doing things different.

This picture was taken in 1976, a 5 year old little girl presenting the lord mayor with a flower button hole. The occasion was the grand opening of the church’s Christmas sale .
The picture is staged for the local press. Everyone smiling and the little girl is doing just what is expected of her. The newspaper cutting shows us how life has changed. Lord mayors opening the Christmas fete is surely something only happen in years gone by.
The little girl at the front is me .

I had forgotten until recently about this photo. I can’t remember the day of the church sale. I can’t even remember the photo being taken. But I do know I was a member of a church community that loved me.
The photo shows me before I started school, before the education system started to erode the person that I longed to be. I was painfully shy and that made me different. Struggling with school work, daydreaming, instead of engaging with the written word.
I was told I was not good enough, told I did try.
These comments shaped me, shyness slowly developed into fear, and lack of confidence .The fear of words and shyness would start to rule over me.

I have been reconnecting with my childhood journey of faith. The child that still lives strongly within me is taking me back. Showing me that God has always been with me .
We are each called for a particular purpose, we’re supposed to be wildly different. We are called to show God’s love for us. Show this love in our actions / doing things different, the way we spend our money, the TV we choose to watch, the conversations we have.
The coolest thing is when the Holy Spirit lives within us we connect to our creative child within ourselves. We never lose our sense of wonder our world just gets bigger and more full of love.

laughter and legend.

The community that greeted me the other Sunday morning, gave me a real sense of belonging. It was exciting to be in such a warm and openly friendly place. It felt liberating to be part of a community that I could openly share with others the week’s failures and successes.
The best part is they wanted to listen, they were sympathetic to my problems. Knowledge was shared with simple storytelling involving laughter and legend.
After introductions were exchanged we shared simple food and ate together.
This community overflowed with one common love and one common passion that contagiously spread throughout. We all spoke the same language we all choose to belong to this like-minded group of people.
I will treasure my first Sunday morning on my allotment.
When I asked “ how do you see the future church? I will think of myself on the allotment muddy and happy sharing bitter tasting salad leaves.
I will hold onto that openness and excitement in my memory for a long time.
I know that the allotment community won’t always be like this. Problems will arise, someone will use someone else’s wheel-barrow, allotments will become overgrown and this will all cause fiction between allotment holders: It’s real life.
All communities have their ups and downs, our church communities are no different. It would be so wrong to think we are perfect because we are Christians. We are people, annoying, funny, angry, happy, sad, flirtatious, depressed people and despite our differences we place ourselves and each other before God.
That’s what excites me about the church community we place ourselves and each other before God just as we are. When we meet as Christians we need to be real with each other. We need to be able to live our faith in our community’s as we are. Loved on our good days and bad days.
The church I belong to is a kind loving welcoming community. I value the teachings and the wonderful congregation that has supported our family for over 4 generations.
The allotment community just took it all to another level. My Sunday on the allotment felt like church, My little patch of mud is a God filled space overflowing with love and potential.

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1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Good News Translation.
5 After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. 7 The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow.

Question 6 – The silent Wow – part 1

When I discover beautiful views, walk behind a waterfall, when I sit in the stillness of the garden the vastness and hugeness that comes from God is beyond words. It’s the moment when you just stop and feel that wow factor.
I’ve tried to blog about that wow moment, take the wow beyond three simple letters, give that silence space some meaning so that others can understand, but nothing comes close to sharing how I feel inside.
Exploring my vocation is very much in that vastness moment. It’s that wow with no words. Stopping in that wow to write what I feel I just find tears and no words.
This has been frustrating as during this discerning process of exploring my vocation I need to talk to others about what I am feeling in these wow moments.
Praying about it is great, it’s easy and natural to do. After all these are Gods plans not mine. God also knows what going on in my wordless silent wow moments. But for the past year these wows have manly stayed just between me and God.
Last month the frustrations of not being able to find the words all got too much. I wanted to run away from the whole process. Go and hide somewhere where the words Priest, Deacon, ordination, vocation and discernment do not exist. But obviously you can’t run from God, this too has also been very frustrating.
Where ever I go this hugeness comes with me. It’s like a nagging little earworm that whispers and keeps whispering. When I am completely quite its whispers are sometimes the only thing I hear.
It’s no longer avoidable, I need to think about the bigger picture. I am required to answer question 6 on the BAP registration form (Bishops advisory panel form )
Which ministry are you a candidate? 1. Deacon ( distinctive) 2. Priest
All I need to do is tick one box . Deep down and for a long time I have known which box to tick. Ticking and acknowledging this is harder than I thought.
It seems wrong to give the answer to something so big by simply putting biro tick in a box. It’s so huge, one little tick in a box and then onto question 7 !!
I felt the question was not mine to answer. It felt presumptuous giving so much certainty to such a question. It’s a not promised path, It’s another step on the journey of exploring my vocation. Another step along an unknowing path trusting God.
I am sure many have filled out this huge form and boldly ticked the box. Feeling confident in their calling. But for me these two little boxes have been consuming my thoughts.
It feels such a huge relief to have faced this, to no longer feel quite so scared of what I am feeling. The last few months I have been nudged, loved, prayed for and gently coaxed to find the words that are etched in my heart.

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Acts 6 The Message (MSG)

6 1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”

My Secret Garden .

I have a fully formed vision of my garden in its mature years. It’s my vision, it’s not committed to paper, It’s not something I share, it’s my secret garden fantasy. It’s a vision that includes my favourite trees all grown to maturity.
I imagine my Bramley apple tree, a mirror image of the one that once grew in my grandmothers garden. I picture my grandchildren climbing this tree ( grandchildren yet to be conceived !!! ). Taking the same joys and pleasures from this enormous tree as I did in my childhood.
I visualise myself padding in the steam that will flow through the garden. The stream blending into the landscape as if it had always been a there.
I see the wet footprints I leave behind as I exit the stream via a network of stepping stones. There are cold frames and glass houses full of pelargoniums, all beautifully displayed in clay pots on gravel benches.
My vision has no space for failure. In my mind the apple tree will reach maturity, The plants that I grow will not succumb to drought or disease.

The reality is gardening does not happen like this. Our lives are the same, we think we are going one way but God has different plans for us.
Meeting Jesus four years ago was the start of the most beautiful journey. My life plan changed overnight. My heart was suddenly aware of not being alone. The dark lonely path ahead was lit with love. My faith allows me to fall and stumble over and over again. I continue to stumble, each and every time I am picked up by God.
I have been changed from the inside, my world has been turned totally upside down. New words and a language unique to the church have wiggled their way into my world.
Discernment, vocation, are just some of the words that are shaping my journey today. My world is changing it’s getting bigger and every so slightly bolder. I am starting to see myself as the unique individual that God created and loves.
The word discernment has encouraged me to I reach into myself, to discover what lies in the deaths of my heart. This journey of exploring my vocation is emotionally draining but at the same time transforming and exciting. It’s ( This journey is on God’s time scale, not my timescale ) giving me a new direction to slowly grow into the person God created me to be.
It’s a journey with the vision that comes from God.

My six this Saturday shows my gardens journey over the last 4 four years.

Picture one is approx 4 years ago – Picture two is the present day.

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.