Ashing, Eating and Awesome

ashwednesdayToday has been a busy day, but one of those days where you feel good to be alive, thankful for beautiful friends and mindful of just the awesomeness of some of the things I find myself involved in.

The day started at our secondary school where I was asked to take an Ash Wednesday service. We offered ashes to the students …. and I was totally thrown to see so many, more than 100 in all, lining and waiting for me to ash their foreheads or hands while saying ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return …’ The atmosphere in the hall was one of great dignity, respect and reverence. It was a complete privilege to be part of such a great event.

Following this I visited another one of our schools to work with the pupil faith team. We have just finished writing the school prayer (we being the whole school community but the students in the main) and today we were planning an assembly in which we plan to introduce the prayer to the ret of the school community. Again, I was in awe of the ideas that these amazing primary school students were putting together.

I then popped to Stanmore to see one of my best friends who is currently in hospital. Her bravery and determination was just beautiful to see. She is a real inspiration to many, myself included and today reminded me that good friends are like gold dust … and we really should make more time to appreciate those special meaningful friendships.

The day ended with Agapai where we ate together, prayed together, watched this short video together and then chatted about Ash Wednesday and Lent. The evening then drew to a close as it had started …. with me ashing the people of Agapai with the same words I used in the morning … ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’

Those words have hit me in many different ways today …
Saying it to over 100 energetic full or promise 11 years olds this morning was incredibly moving and quite choking ….
Saying to to the old lady on the tube who requested them after she noticed my ashed forehead and dog collar gave me an opportunity to hear her story and her desire to ‘go home’
Saying them tonight at Agapai with people I am getting to know and admire in a great ways hit me as a concrete way of serving those around me
Saying them tonight, to myself, at the end of the day as I write and reflect …. causes me to challenge myself and ask what is this Lent going to mean to me, and how am I going to use my life from now on …. because …. one day I was formed from ash …. so it follows one day I will return.
Amen.

mind-ful (l)? launch

mindful-jpegTonight we ran our first Mindfulness Meditation session on the Peninsula. It’s great to be able to do this in partnership with the people of Now Gallery.

We used the John Main school of meditation and his use of the mantra or sacred word such as maranatha or metanoia.

This was the first event HTGP has done like this …. and there was not as many there as I thought there would be based on feedback …. but also there was not as few there as my worst fear would have liked me to believe.

Tonight was a good start which I hope we will build on … not so we look good or can say how many people we are serving … but because we genuinely believe this is what the people of the area need in their lives …. time to just be and discover or rediscover ‘stuff’. In the feedback slips everyone felt their stress level had dropped which is why we are there!

So …. if you feel you missed out … same time and same place next Tuesday!

Holy Ground …

collectionToday I am pretty proud to be a resident of GMV.
The response to our collection was amazing … we have too many bags of clothes to fit in my car, which is a pretty awesome problem to have.
People responded to the social media adverts but at least 3 sets of people walked past us and returned home to get clothes to bring to us to be given to refugees. I will deliver these clothes to GRACE this week so that that can happen.

Today showed that the people who live here want to make a difference. I think it shows that people here are concerned about the plight of their fellow humans and particularly of those that have been forced to leave their homes.

A particularly touching moment was when a man walked past and wanted to make a donation because he had once been a refugee from Bosnia and remarked how welcomed he had been made to feel when he arrived. I guess I wondered if he would till receive that welcome today in what seems to be our broken in a attitude country?!

But … today was good, today inspired people and the few of us from HTGP that were ‘out there’ in the cold have been encouraged too.

Tonight I spoke on Transfiguration and took the tack of not allowing ourselves to box God in. I felt the message tonight was that we were supposed to help spread Holy Ground and get the message of love and care ‘out there’ where the people are. For a coupe of hours today I hope that we did that.

Clothes collection

refugee-collectionOn Sunday, from 4pm until 6pm we, the local church (HTGP) are hosting a pop up drop off point to collect clothes for refugees. For a while we have wanted to do something real that will make a difference and help people who have been forced to leave their home.

We are collecting with and for a local charity called  GRACE … and of you are in the area of the Greenwich Peninsula please do come and see us with your clothes gift in the Millennium Village Oval Square.

The two pictures below show what we are collecting …

grace-women

 

grace-men

 

we hope to meet you tomorrow …

community building

building-communitiesOne of the things we called to be involved in here as HTGP is that of ‘building community’.
In a listening survey I carried out in my first 9 months here I asked 3 simple questions:

What do you like about living here?
What frustrates you here?
What is lacking in this place?

To that last question the overwhelming majority answer (46% of people) said that the place lacked community feel. The next most frequent answer, at 14%, was facilities for teenagers. Nearly half of the people ho live around me feel there is no community or community spirt of feeling here. Whether that is right or not, it is a massive ‘popular’ opinion.

When I got here I quickly became part of the Residents Association and now, somehow I am secretary! This is actually  group the campaigns well and puts on good events. Tonight I hosted a planning meeting for a large summer even, loosely called ‘The Village Summer Fete’. I’m excited about this because we are responding to the 46% by trying to deliver something that will bring community together . The plan is not to just have a one off event, but to have a forum or some method on the day itself for people of common interest to connect and maybe do something that will further develop community.

How does community grow?
I’m not sure I can answer that yet.
I wonder of we need ‘nodes’ or catalysts to ‘form’ around.
I hope The Village Summer fete might be one of those nodes or catalysts that gets something going.
I’m just think aloud really … because the Peninsula is quite a unique place … we are trying to develop community on land where people have not lived previously … in other areas of new builds this is not always the case and people are displaced or there is a community around that people either link, or not, with.
On the peninsula we do not have that option … we build together from nothing
It’s another exciting thing to be involved in.

So … if you live on the Peninsula …. or even if you don’t cos we are a pretty welcoming bunch …. put the date of Saturday 15th July in your diary and watch this space.

noticing God

img_1413Tonight was Agapai.
Each week we get together at 8pm as the christian community that we are and we eat together.
This evening there were 4 of us.
Eating together and spending time together and listening to each other is the main purpose of Agapai.

We always ask two questions  while we eat …

What has God been doing with you recently?
and
What can we pray for?

In the past some have seen the God questions as a bit of a threat and not wanted to engage with that with challenges like:
‘What if God is doing nothing?’
‘What if I can’t see God doing anything?’
“What if I don’t want to think about that question?’
or observations of:
‘God never does anything because God is not that interested!’

Of course those views and observations are ok to point.
Before you challenge me the fact I say they are ‘ok’ does not mean I agree with them!
I certainly don’t believe in a disinterested God! Exactly the opposite!
Sometimes, though,  we do feel that God is distant and doing nothing … but I do believe if we never ask the question and consider what God might be doing, then we are never going to notice what God does.

If we take space, even if it is a little short pause as we eat, I believe we end up noticing a lot more of the stuff that is happening around us, and then we can wonder where God was in it … because it is pretty certain if we believe in a present God then God is there. Some would say somewhere … I think more in terms of everywhere!

A few years ago as part of IME training I remember Jean Kerr sent us out into a local high street and look for evidence of God’s love working. It was an amazing experience as all these young curares returned with unique observation after unique observation ranging from couples holding hands to people sitting with homeless and distressed individuals.

Tonights Agapai was a night of noticing God … every body could see an element of God somewhere in their past week or so ….. so tonights Agapai was pretty cool …. pretty inspiring …. and community building ….. why not think about joining us next week!

 

an unexpected day

mindful-jpegToday has been a good day.
A day of surprise conversations.
A day of unexpected opportunities.
A day of good interaction.
A day of sharing some dreams.
And even some laughter.

All the above came as a surprise.
Because today was supposed to also be the start of a new project which has had to be delayed at the last minute for a few more weeks. So, actually, I was expecting today to be a bit of a ‘meh’ day to be honest. Adding to this that  I had a meeting that I needed to be at this evening which meant I would not be able to go to the Gills match with Joe meant I was expecting nothing of real value to come out of today.

But I was wrong.
And sometimes I like to be wrong.
A couple of new opportunities arouse today but the real exciting part of the day was to see this advert on the NOW gallery website. The above picture is our advertising postcard and flyer. So …. it’s official …. next week I will be leading our first meditation session in the gallery. It’s taken 18 months to get to a place where we can attempt to try to deliver stuff that we think will be a support to the local community.

18 months of listening and trying things … and I now feel that we are on the brink of a new era, a new way of working and new relationships …. time will tell …. so watch this space … tomorrow I will be sharing how you can ask get involved in this excitement!

 

Homeless Sunday

c2We had another good service tonight at HTGP as we concentrated on, and were challenged by, Homeless Sunday. We used resources from Homeless Sunday to help us in our planning.

Joe gave the homily which was good as he is the Chief Exec of Homeless Action in Barnet. Joe gave a good challenge to be involved in politics and to stand up for people that are vulnerable. He also gave a challenge that resonated with me on how valued taking time to listen to peoples stories can be. You can hear his homily on the HTGP website or here.

In open space we invited people to take a blank front door key while they considered when they first received their front door key themselves. One of the most dispiriting and demeaning aspects of being homeless is that you are also doorless and keyless. So we invited people to take a key, place it on their key ring and use it as a prompt to pray. If you’d like a key let us know … we have a few spares.

Next week we will be discussing ‘The wasteful and Obscene Extravagance of God’ with the ‘Wedding at Cana‘ as our text. Maybe see you there.

 

Beauty and creativity?

img_1305While on holiday over the summer in Derbyshire I came across David at an exhibition of local artists. I enjoyed chatting with David and left wishing I had enough money to purchase a painting I fell in love with.

A few months later I was able to contact David through his website as I had saved money for the painting I had loved …. only to be told that his cat had slept on it the night before and ruined it … so the painting was no more.

But … then … the email conversation got a little more exciting when David said he could paint one very similar for me. Of course I agreed and waited a few weeks patiently. I got an email to say she was finished … but that the weather was meaning the oils were taking an age to dry.

img_1307A few weeks ago I took delivery of this amazing painting loosely called ‘the Lady  in Oils’  …. my title as I could not come up with a definitive name for her. I find the painting stunningly beautiful. The calmness, dreaminess and serenity of this painting just draws me every time I look towards it …

And … I love ‘The Lady’ in her setting on this wall in my study with creations from my amazing friends Zara, Rikard and Andi.

I find this wall to be a gentle catalyst in my thinking, particularly when I am reflecting on what is happening around me. There is a saying …’beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ … to an extent that is true … but are there also universally understood ideas of beauty, for example? Lots of people have visited since I have received ‘The lady’ … and everyone, without exception, has remarked on the beauty of the painting. So … I think there must be.

Is there a point to this post?
I am unsure …. I am still tying to return to writing regularly sett a long break when stuff just crowded my head.
Part of this is just that I have not written anything … so writing rubbish and rambling is better than writing nothing!
I guess the point is that this … this space … here … immersed within and confronted by my wall of beauty created by others and kindly offered to me …. here is the space that I attempt to create.

Through reflection I am very aware that I can be creative, but for that creativity to thrive I need to be working in a  creative environment, preferably with others of a similar focus. So … I have the environment …. I simply need a few more people  ….

So … for now … back to look at my wall of beauty … back to reflect … and maybe create something better than the ramble I have just written ….

Mind-ful(l)?

meditationToday was a pretty exciting day.

A little while back I met with some of the great people from NOW gallery on the peninsula.
Today we met briefly again and made some definite plans.
The image above is the resulting flyer … the photo I took from the balcony outside my kitchen with the sun setting behind Greenwich.

For a little while I have been looking for a special space to hold a meditation session for people coming home from work. In a few weeks we will be piloting a short John Main style meditation from the gallery …. how exciting is that!

This is part of HTGP‘s testing out of a hypothesis that mindfulness and wellbeing are ways that we can both support and relevantly engage with people on the peninsula.

The publicity from Now will say something similar to this:

Mindfulness Meditation is simple, being simple means being ourselves.
It means passing beyond self consciousness, self analysis and self rejection.

Meditation is a universal spiritual practice which guides us into this state of prayer which brings us to silence, stillness and simplicity.
The meditation itself will last for 20 mins and involves the repetition of  single word faithfully throughout the meditation.

This is a very ancient Christian method of meditation, originating from the 4th Century and rediscovered by John Main (1926-1981), a Benedictine monk, in the 1940’s.

Recent research into the effects of mindfulness meditation found that after just four sessions participants with no prior meditation experience had improved mood and reduced fatigue and anxiety.
Join us at NOW Gallery on a Tuesday from 6:15pm until 7.00pm for Mind-ful(l)

We will be praying that this will be a real and relevant support for people who live here
Sound interesting to you? …. watch this space for the February launch date