ordinary people in a field with ordinary people

busy boot fairOur current boot fair season came to a close yesterday …. and that gives me some sadness. I have loved getting up at 5am on a Sunday morning (really… I have!) and working with an amazing team who also got up at 5am for the chance to engage with people at the boot fair in some spiritual way.

I really have been pretty overwhelmed at how the Ruach Cards have caught the imagination of many passers by and how God has connected in real ways with people through these readings. It seems that this just works …. and it’s just a few pictures and some scripture connecting powerfully with people in the middle of a field with some shattered people. I am amazed!

The conversations we have had over the last two months have been amazing. I still hold the man in my prayers who was a recovering Heroin addict … he really connected with me and I have been caused to pray for him each day … and wonder whether one day I may find out how he is doing.

Other team members have connected with other people whether it be through Ruach, prayer beads, prayer braids or simply chatting. I believe all of us have had significant conversations with people. I’ve gone back through the notes of each time and it seems we have had contact with around 130 people which I think is pretty exciting. 130 people that God brought cross our path.

I believe that is 130 people that God has blessed … not instructed, or taught, or even convicted …. but simply blessed them for who they are while wanting them to know they are accepted, approved of, loved and ….. most of all I think … understood and not alone.

I seemed to chat with many who felt alone or bewildered by their experience … and it seemed that God used our willingness and a few tools to reassure just loads of people. I’m still surprised and amazed that this has worked so well. Just ordinary people, in a field, willing to spend time with other ordinary people. I have been reminded that, given the right inviting opportunity that some of these people at the boot fair are spiritually searching for something that works.

In my last post I spoke of John Drane’s challenge … ‘how do we make people feel so much that they can’t help asking’ … well … being in a field and using cards or prayer seems to be one way of achieving that.

People felt a presence
people asked
and we prayed with them

Our boot fair takes a break until September … so this is a good place to thank the team … thanks loads for your commitment and willingness …you really were an amazing joy to work with ….  you are all cool!

the stall with no name yet returns ….

boot fair signToday we start the stall that was perviously called ‘dekhomai’ at the Gillingham Boot Fair.

The team has grown a little. As with last year we are offering prayer for healing, Psalm Readings, Jesus Deck readings, blessings and Ruach Insight readings. I addition to this we are simply a group of people that believe in God, and come from a Christian tradition, who wish to welcome and be good news for people that we meet.

As well as being excited, I think we are all a little nervous. We have taken on a big commitment to have a presence here for around 12 weeks. That is 12 weeks of getting up at 5am on a Sunday morning to set the stall up at 6am when the boot fair opens. We then work until 12 before going home.

This years stuff:
Jesus Deck readings … you can see these here. We ask people to choose a card, look at the story from one of the gospels together and see if that resonates with the person in any way. We then offer to pray for them.

Ruach insight readings … Liz and myself hd training in this only last week … but we think this will work well in the boot fair setting. We shall see and stepping out means trying new things to see how they work. We will be looking at cards, asking if anything resonates or clicks with the person. At the end we will offer to pray with them.

Psalm readings … we have short quotes from psalms printed and laminated on different coloured card the size of a credit card. Each of these is placed upside down on a table and weighed down by a different stone or piece of pottery. We ask people to choose a card or stone they like the look of …. and then we read the psalm together, and ask if anything strikes or resonates with them. Then we offer to pray for them.

Prayer Beads … a card explaining this can be seen here. Guess what …. when the person has made the prayer cord we ask them if they would like us to pray for them.

Blessings … we are using John O’Donahue’s book of blessings. I have bookmarked some blessings such as ‘for a mum to be’ or ‘a new job’ or ‘for courage’. We ask the person to chose a blessing they would like from the book and then we pray that for them, offering to anoint them with oil as well. That already includes prayer.

I think prayer for healing is quite self explanatory … and we will be offering to pray!

You may have picked up the pattern that we offer to pray … we are also the only stall there that is not there to make money … everything we offer is free. That’s quite an important concept to us, as anything we give os from God … and God doesn’t charge for that so how can we!

So … please … if you do pray … this morning please pray for this team venturing out to serve people. Better still, if you are nearby … please come say hello, see what we are doing, have a reading , buy us tea and bacon …. or whatever.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what God does today …

Ruach cards

wp0_wpa1aa95e3I had a great day yesterday at a Ruach Cards training  day with with one of my good friends, Andrea, from Sacred Space in Kingston.

The day was fun, informative, challenging, and engaging as we practiced giving and receiving ‘ruach  insight readings’.. and most of all, for me personally, very much needed as I am ever searching for new ways to engage effectively with people outside the church. The opportunity, as well, to spend a day with like minded people who work on the edge and outside of church is always refreshing and I hadn’t realised how much I have missed this.

The cards are beautiful and, I think, give more options to engage with people than the Jesus Deck does. The boot fair ministry stuff all kicks off next week … and I think having Ruach and Jesus Deck available will just help us to engage with more people. They seem to offer a greater spectrum of possible engagement.

I have just returned from a kind of training session with the team for this years boot fairs.wp1b645935 As well as looking at the stuff we used last year and explaining how we work to the new team members we all had a brief look at the Ruach cards before 4 of us then retired to a local cafe to practice Ruach readings. This turned out to be an amazing time and I felt we all experienced a special moment when the youngest member of the team, a teenager, practiced with the cards and it became rapidly cler to all of us that this young person has a particular gift in this area. Why is it that those special God moments always take me by surprise?

So …. next week …. if you near the boot fair in Gillingham next week pay us a visit …. or of you want to get involved on the team … it’s still not too late … get in touch!

calling shattered people …

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWARNING: this is a blatant recruitment post … ‘if you have not felt a great desire to sign up to this by the time you have got to the end of this blogpost then you are either living a very long way away … or just in complete denial, and maybe really not listening to God’s call on your life! Which means you will miss out! Something will be missing from your life’s happiness!’ If you could hear my voice there would be sarcasm, and see my body language it would be jokey …. ok I don’t really mean that stuff (the bit in italics … just to be clear!) … but I wanted you to know before reading this that I am looking for people to get involved with one of THE most exciting things that I ever get to do as a pioneer!

This seasons boot fair dates have been announced. When I saw them late last night / early this morning my immediate emotion was one of excitement. I loved last seasons experience of running a stall for ‘spiritual seekers’ at boot fairs. If you look back to my posts of June and July last year you will see some stories … like here or over here or maybe here and other posts in that general date area.

As I read back over those posts I can sense again the real excitement and buzz laced with incredible awe at what God can do with people who just put themselves in the middle of a field to be used.

That was my immediate emotion. This was quickly followed by a sense of frustration and anger at myself. I have been talking about training and recruiting for such a long time, having ideas for development and thinking about names and … and… and … done sod all about any of it really! I feel like lots of time has rushed by and now I really need to pick up stuff and run to catch up with new people on the team, training and everything.

Not that I think there is a lot of training we can do (although saying that … we will run a training session of sorts for people who are interested). We are looking for people who just like to be around people and engage with them in simple normal interested human kind of ways. The best way to learn the stuff that we are doing is to come see and have a go, and get involved and be simply amazed that God has already prepared the people that God wants us to engage with.

I’m cutting and pasting from another boot fair post from last year …. and for me this kind of sums up the excitement and passion underlying why we do this:

… a friend summed it up in a short inspired sentence: ‘I like the fact that God is there with absolutely no religion to ‘help him out’..if you get me – just a field, and a few shattered people.

That says it all. The team are shattered after 6 hours of being ‘on duty’, but i think some of us arrive shattered after waking up at 5am! But …. the real exciting thing here is that God is simply there and waiting to meet with people. Ok we are using ‘tools’ to help us, but there is no dressing up or a drawing message. The one thing that unites all of the people we have engaged with is that God has been drawing them, speaking to them, connecting with them is some way that they have not really recognised or been aware of until they have stumbled upon us in an open field.

… those tools are The Jesus Deck, Psalm Readings, Prayer for Healing, Prayer Beads …. but in the main we are there with just a simple willingness to be there and support people in whatever way they need supporting!

This is really exciting stuff … and on a Sunday morning this is where I see God busily at work in the lives of real people in a real way that they can understand and relate to.

There are many stories we can share of how God engaged with people. As I read back over them … I sense something exciting, i know this is something that In really love doing and long to be involved in again, it’s genuinely something that I want lots of other people to experience as well …. because I believe everyone can do this type of stuff to differing degrees… and I believe many of us say we believe God is alive and working … but deep down we are unsure and we long to see evidence of that. Well … come to the boot fair with us and you won’t just see the evidence, you will be part of it!

Stories to show this from last year:

a man in his mid 20′s who chose a Psalm Reading  He said he was looking for guidance and randomly chose Psalm 27:1:
‘The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
With a smile on his face mixed with a little confusion he remarked ‘this is for me; this is what I have been looking for!’
One of the team then prayed with that young man.

a team member prayed with a Hindu lady who wanted to make a prayer cord because, she said, ‘I know that Jesus Christ is the only person who offers me real forgiveness’

we spoke with a lady that wanted a Psalm Reading, then to be prayed for healing … but then the real reason for her coming … which was to talk about her dad who had died nearly a year ago

these are not major transformation or spooky stories … these are stories of real people with real lives simply needing to know that there is a real God that walks with them.

So … please get involved … email me, message me, call me, let me buy you coffee …. this is an amazing thing to take part in! You don’t ave to be shattered … but i suspect it helps!

I await your response …..


boot fairYesterday saw the last boot fair in Gillingham (it now moves across the river to Wainscott where we will continue to work) which marks a kind of goal post in my mind.

Some things that I thought would happen did not happen. The boot fair is walking distance for most people I see during the week and so I thought there would be people I would see at both the boot fair and in the High Street. There were a few, but not as many as I thought there would be. The boot fair community is almost another separate group of people that we have started to get to know.

Interestingly we have seen ‘regulars’ over the 7 weeks who come to say hello, take a Psalm or tell us a joke. These individuals have valued having someone to come and see. I don’t think we expected that to happen in such a short space of time. It’s illustrative of a lonely society, which we were aware of, but usually people are more suspicious.

I have also been surprised at what has worked on the stand and what has not. Prayer for healing and hand massage, which based on other events I thought would be popular, have not really featured at all at the boot fair. I think in the 7 weeks we have run so far that 3 people have asked for prayer for healing and one person has had a hand massage.

Psalm readings, which I must admit I thought was a bit ‘twee’ have been incredibly successful. People have come back each week for a Psalm. Universally across all age ranges the Psalm Readings have been a real way that people have connected with God. Jesus Deck Readings have also been very popular, but I was not surprised by that.

I wonder if people like to engage with something from a little distance. I think this could be why Psalm Readings have been so popular. I wonder for next year whether we need to think about some experiential stuff for each week that people can connect with. Something that asks them a question, or involves taking something away with them. In my mind this makes sense to come together wrapped in some way with a celebration of eucharist. Now there’s a challenge!

The pilot continues for 5 more weeks and we will learn more stuff from that as well, but it does already seem from doing this for a few months that there is a clear role for us here. We are unique in that we sell nothing. We are unique in that we are there for the wellbeing of others rather than the wellbeing (or profit) of ourselves. We have flatly refused to take donations form people when they have wanted to after we have done a reading or prayed with them. I think those two values have both surprised and challenged people ….. Christians, and the church, have been very good at ‘selling’ our charity and need fr finance and personnel …. possibly a bit more than our gospel message.

Most of the people that visit a boot fair would never dream of visiting a church, or even that the God who created them would be interested in them at all. Dekhomai has, over the last few weeks, though, caused some people to re-examinine their view of a God. Maybe some have even started to realise their is a God who is interested in them. I pray that is the case!

“where have you been?”

IMG_0774A question we received from a number of people today after not holding the stall at the boot fair last week was ‘where have you been?’ or ‘Were you here last week as I couldn’t find you?’. It seems we were missed and today lots of people returned to take Psalm readings away with them for the week.

I don’t know how many people we spoke to and prayed with today, but it was a lot! In particular two people who were friends who wanted Jesus Deck readings stick in my mind. For each of them the ‘reading’ or ‘interpretation’ of the card they had chosen really seemed to resonate with them in a very powerful way to the extent that the second person said ‘are you sure you don’t kno us?’ The cards they chose and word they received from God fitted perfectly with the ‘stuff’ that was sharpening in their lives at that every moment. They went away amazed at the thought that God could be speaking to them.

I saw other members of the team today talking and engaging and praying with lots of people around the dekhomai tent and we remarked that the 6 hours simply flew by today.

Today though we did continue the conversation for the future after the end of this trial. What about communion? What name should we use as we think ‘dekhomai’ does not really working a Gillingham boot fair setting. What about our practice? Do we keep hand massage and healing prayer as this is requested very rarely? Do you bring in more experiential question type stuff? If we do the whole 3/4 months next summer, should we then do something in the non boot fair months? This is a journey with a lot of questions!

But for now … back to today! Today was encouraging on many levels. It’s amazing to see how the team have grown in confidence. It’s mind blowing to reflect on how people trust us with the ‘stuff’ that’s going on in their lives. It’s flipping awesome to see that still God uses a field and a few shattered people!

Shiny boots

We have now trialled the Dekhomai stall at three boot fairs. There have been some interesting reflections as we have sought to become part of this community.

First, it seems that many people like to see us there. This seems to still be the case even if they are not particularly interested in what we offering. We have had one or two people that have loudly said things like ‘I don’t do Jesus’ …. but in the main people seem pleased to see us there.

We have had a number of interesting conversations. It seems that people want to share their stories with us. Some people want to share their struggles while other seem to ‘test the water’ by seeing what comments we will make to stuff they have shared.

This week we had around half a dozen people come back to take a Psalm reading. They said something like, ‘can I take another one of these, because last week it really helped me.’ (for clarification we have around 12 verses from psalms printed on coloured card and weighed down by a stone, printed side down. We ask people to take the card they either like the colour of or the stone. The person then turns the card over to reveal the Psalm reading, which we read with the person, talk and offer to pray). Knowing that people are coming to take words of the Bible away to be sued for the week is pretty amazing! (I can hear some vicars wishing their congregations would do that!)

An amazing reflection is that through this simple, seemingly random, act God is powerfully talking to people. We have had tears and joy as people have read words which have cut to the centre of their current experience. Yesterday one person did a Psalm reading with one member of the team and then a Jesus Deck reading with another …. and the message was the same! This was a message of hope and new beginnings. Coincidence, or God?

At the Sweeps festival and MBS fairs hand massage and prayer beads have been a real hit. So far this is not the case at the boot fair. Here it seems that Jesus Deck and Psalm Readings is where it is at. We need to think on that as we consider what to offer as time goes on. If people are more interested in the experiential stuff, maybe we should be looking at what else we can offer thats meets this need.

Another reflection is that this is not for everybody. Actually, it is not for the majority …. but for some, maybe only a few percent, this is already starting to have an impact. We already have people coming to search us out … after only 3 weeks!

So … what are we thinking for the future. We are thinking we will continue this for the rest of the boot fair season, which ends on 8th September. We are short of team members, but ok, on some of those Sundays …. so if you think you might like to join this team why not get in touch about receiving some training and getting involved.

Another idea from the team that grabs me is to hold a short communion service. I am wondering on the context of this and how we can stay ‘legal Anglican’ as well as be contextual for a boot fair. It should be easy but I am not sure that it is. But … it’s an exciting thing to be thinking on. It’s something i believe we need to try in some format.

So … that’s our reflections on boots so far…. shiny boots! (did you see what I did there?)

that was the fair …

dek bootfairWell that was pretty amazing, and the best and most exciting Sunday that I think I have had for such a long time.

Most of the team awoke at around 5/520 am  to arrive at a large field by 6am. It was grey, quiet, a little chilly ….. but many people were active. As stall holders set their stalls up people were already trying to buy stuff. People asked if they could buy the icon and our deck chairs, and I think we could have sold the holy oils!

All through the day I think it’s true to say that people did not quite ‘get’ that we were the only stall there not trying to sell anything. People wondered about the catch and were not entirely comfortable with receiving something for nothing. We were not even pushing what we had to give away. If people looked interested we invited them to look more closely and take part. This sensitive low key approach ensured people were comfortable.

The day was amazing. I’m guessing thousands of people passed us, and we probably only engaged with say 50 people, but the levels of those engagements were quite amazing. People asked us to pray for or with them or for family members. People were interested in Psalm Readings and Jesus Deck readings. One person told me how they had met Jesus as they were trying to commit suicide and how the experience stopped that from happening. I think this was raised as the person was trying to make sense of what they had experienced.

That one conversation made the whole day worthwhile for me. The other personal highlight was, though, seeing the rest of team grow in confidence as they put their training into practice and saw that God used them … even in their nervousness! I love seeing people realise that they can be involved in mission and that it is all about listening to stories of other people.

As a trial we think this went well. As we ran the stall we were able to think of other things to offer (maybe a short communion service at 11am?) and how to set the stall up differently.

If you visited us today, then thank you it was great to see you. Sue and myself aso wish to thank the team – you really were amazing! l. It seems that everyone had at least one significant conversation with a guest to Dekhomai. So … next week we will be there … if you go to boot fairs come and say hi … if you think you might like to work with us on the stall, there is space and time for training so get in touch.

So … that was the fair …. bring on the the fair!

going where people are …

imgresIn Medway, as in many other areas, the boot fair season is about to open.

Thousands of people each Sunday morning will drive past many churches and worshipping communities to connect with other ‘searchers’ as they wander along corridors of peoples stories looking to add something to theirs.

Maybe many of us look at this behaviour each year and think people are simply looking for bargains. That is obviously part of the reason, but I also think people go because they like getting together with other people. This is a developing community where conversations and relationships can develop over weeks.

Wherever I see lots of people gathering on a regular basis I start to wonder how we may  develop something that fits which will give opportunities for people to explore and experience faith and spirituality.

For the past few years regular SHP reders will be aware of my involvement with Dekhomai at MBS fairs and Rochester Cathedral during Sweeps and Dickens festival.

I’m quite excited to be able to share that with Sue Kerr, the other pioneer minister in this area, we are developing a couple of teams that can run a Dekhomai type thing in a boot fair setting. We will be aiming to be present on a Sunday morning, simply engaging with people but also offering prayer for healing, Jesus Deck readings, and so on.

We will be holing a training session sometime after Easter, so if you have worked with us before at Sweeps or Dickens or would like to explore joining in with this exciting project that please get in touch.