Sweeps Festival

The bank holiday weekend has seen The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. My role throughout this has been to be a ‘presence’ in and around the cathedral. It’s been an interesting role – not particularly pioneering, but there have been some interesting questions and discussions with people visiting. I have prayed with a few people, answered faith type questions, and advised a young man getting married that feeling nervous is quite normal. A lot of the time, though, has been spent smiling and greeting people as they come into the cathedral.

On a couple of occasions I have managed to get outside the cathedral and taste the real flavour of the festival. While the cathedral is a place of calm the streets are overflowing with people enjoying the folk music and the morris dancing while enjoying a pint or two of real ale. The festival has a great atmosphere with people looking to have a good time while enjoying and remembering some traditional English arts. On a few occasions I have been able to enjoy the music and the beer.

As I wondered around on the Saturday I had one negative, but interesting, comment from a woman who walked past me as I was standing outside the cathedral. ‘Ugghhh morris dancers and priests! They don’t go together!’ In a sense she is right, but I wonder (1) why she thought that and (2) is it actually the case.

The tradition of morris dancing is popularly thought to have its root in paganism, and I guess the comment came from the woman because of this. As a Christian, however, who believes this world is God’s creation and that there is nowhere where God is not present, then I have to say I disagree with the comment. Morris dancing and priests do go together (and yes I know I am a deacon, but it was not appropriate to point out the difference to this lady). Actually I have looked into this pre-christian pagan thing and apparently there is no evidence to suggest that is the root of morris dancing. I have also met over the last few days quite a few people involved in church who are also heavily involved in morris dancing.

As I wandered and chatted with some people there seemed to be quite a large open-ness. Large numbers of people seemed to be interested in ‘things spiritual’. I wonder if the interest in Folk and the interest in Morris Dancing feeds a spiritual appetite in people. While the interest many had with things spiritual, it would not be seen as mainstream Christianity. People spoke more of ‘mother earth’ and a ‘deep energy’. I had a sense of people worshiping creation rather than the creator.

I think this may be the case and I am wondering whether a better way to engage with people at this festival is more along the lines of what we offer at the MBS fair I spoke of a little while ago. Certainly many people were interested in spirituality and an opportunity to explore some of these in a relaxed way as we do at MBS may well work here. I wonder whether through things like the Jesus Deck, prayer beads and dream interpretation may the kind of thing that these folk and morris lovers that people here might be able to experience some of the wonder of the creator God.

These are all just early thoughts off the back of the festival but I’m just wondering – does anyone else out there have experience of MBS type stuff being done at musical / folk festivals? If so, I’d be really interested in talking to you.

fawlty creativity

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.”
John Cleese

As the week draws to a close this quote from one of my favourite comedians reminds me how fortunate I am in my current situation – I am being trusted to ‘play’ in order to create. Along with this permission to ‘play’ I also believe that complicit with that comes a permission to, or an understanding that things may, fail. There is an acknowledgment that some of what I try may not immediately, or ever, work.

It’s a privilege being based at the cathedral for which I am thankful and I pray that this permission and space to play becomes infectious in the diocese.

infinite creativity

“Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.” Ghandi

a different perspective on creativity.

creative freedom

‘Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you`ll find that when you`re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out’.
Tina Turner

the voice of creativity

At the end of last week I was able to accept an invitation to the launch of Nucleus Arts which I have blogged about before when it was in Rochester. I hope its new location means more people are able to access this extraordinary creative space.

I love this space not simply because of the creativity, but also because it is an exhibition space for local artists as well as a space for local people to acquire great art.

The visiting of Nucleus has caused me to think on the creativity of God and how humanity has a sense and ability of that creativity from being created in the image of God. I have been reflecting, personally, on how I need to find space away from ‘normal everyday life’ and have quality time mull over stuff before I am even able to think creatively yet alone start to create.

The Lentern desert is a space where that hidden creativity which is suppressed within us by the normality of life is able once again to find its voice. If we allow ourselves to enter that silent space, we hear our voice of creativity again. If we listen and act, we may be surprised by the outcome.

a creative sunday

Yesterday I had planned and expected to be a deacon, and carry out the ‘deacon’ role, in two very different environments. In the morning I was to deacon in 10.30 Eucharist at Rochester cathedral and in the evening at the MOOT Eucharist.

What may surprise many is that I encountered innovation, refreshment, delight and surprise in both services. I always feel a great sense of serving when I am in the role of the deacon. The preparation of the table, the placing of the bread, and the pouring out of the wine have become very powerful and symbolic parts of worship. Particularly as I pour the wine I find myself thanking Jesus for the act we are remembering.

Yesterday I had the privilege of experiencing this in two very different settings. In the morning the Girls Choir sang magnificently Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass. To have the familiar liturgy set to such powerful jazz music was simply amazing. I have found an mp3 sample here. (although our girls sounded much better!) This was a great and worshipful experience and I went away that morning smiling at the thought many have that cathedrals are stuffy and lack innovation!

Last night I had another privilege of deaconing at the Moot Eucharist. A different experience again with a community of people that are battling and learning what it means to live as Christians in the city of London. The theme of this service was ‘accountability’ and after an interview with Brandy and Travis, which you can hear on the Moot podcast, we were presented with some challenging questions. Questions that I need to spend a lot of time considering.

Questions like:
how much do you reflect on the way God and others love you for who you are?
how do you relate to others about your spirituality?
how do you get beyond your own thoughts and feelings and help others?

There were a lot more … but those are the 3 I’ve chosen to focus on first.

Two amazing services which displayed integrity, creativity and innovation while maintaining the centrality of the importance of Eucharist. And people wonder whether the diversity within the Church of England is a good thing!!!!!

not lost – just tired in space

I am aware that I have been quiet here for the last few days. There are two main reasons for this; one being there has not been a massive amount for me to write about, and the other that I have been incredibly, and unusually, tired.

I am finding that the actual practice of being and waiting can be quite tiring.

It seems an odd thing to say. It is certainly an odd thing to experience. A few months ago I was enjoying a role with YFC which could see me leave early in the morning, drive to the other side of the country, speak at a couple of meetings, pop in on another team and arrive home late to repeat the process again the next day, maybe with the difference of using the train rather than the car. While that was tiring, the tiredness I am currently feeling is very different.

This tiredness seems to be a deeper tiredness, and I can’t really explain what I mean by that.

I do know that I am not really physically exerting myself, neither am I putting my brain under great pressure in moving from one activity to another. I am simply sitting and waiting to see what will happen today. Someone asked if I was going out to chat with people and my response was ‘no’, actually I am not. I am going out and waiting to see what God will do in the places I visit. I am asking why this process of waiting is so tiring.

I think it is so tiring because the waiting space is allowing space for ideas to grow and develop.

One thing I am noticing as I wait is that I am starting to consider things more deeply in an imaginative and creative way. When I was a child I did do a fair bit of dreaming when I should have been learning. In my waiting it seems that I an again finding this ability to daydream and imagine what could be. I guess this links to the prophet role I blogged about here a little while ago. In the past I have enjoyed tinkering with this, but time has always been a factor and I know I have had to draw the dreaming to a stop to enable something, a project or a retreat session, to be completed.

It seems now I have the space to think and go deeper.

On my desk I have a three postcards, and one that jumps out at me as I write today and it says Big Ideas need Big Spaces. It was a card I picked up in a pub in London advertising the Deisel Wall 2008 competition. The postcard has been there for a few months and now I am starting to understand the idea the statement is getting at.

The world we live in places extreme demands on us. It’s ironic, in a sense, to realise that the machines we have that were planned to make life easier for us have inadvertantly had the opposite effect. Instead of making life easier, they have in fact increased the expectation we place on ourselves and upon others to respond and perform. This has resulted in us working longer with boundaries of home and work melting into the shape of a laptop and so space to dream and create to diminish.

Seven or eight weeks on of waiting and having space to observe, to pray, to be available and I am finding that only now is my mind just starting to find the ‘big space’ that it needs to be able to start to imagine what is possible. I don’t know where this leading – but I do know it feels pretty weird – but then having space in a packed world is bound to be odd!