New Year Blessing

fireworksMy friend Mark Berry is excellent with words.

Like myself he tends not to make New Year Resolutions … not because of not wanting to see change, but more out of an understanding that with God and with urselves change can and does happen every moment if we allow it and want it.

Mark’s blessing really resonated with me when I read it.
I think the words are simply stunning and he’s kindly allowed me to share them:


My prayer is that whenever the need for change happens in your life you will find the courage and the confidence to make it!

May you be surrounded by people who love you for who you are not what you give to them or what you might become.

May you have friends who want to journey with you and who allow you to journey with them.

May you know when to jump in and take risks and go on adventures.

May you know when to be still and to be in the stillness.

May you know what to give up because it drains you and what to pick up because it gives you energy.

I pray that the next four seasons will flow with blessing, learning, grace and love for you and those you love.


Beautiful words.
Happy New Year!

Trinity Language

Last night Holy Trinty celebrated their Patronal Festival. I was encouraged as there was a good turn out staying in double figures and we had some visitors. After sharing words, stories and Eucharist we celebrated with cake and champagne. I enjoyed the opportunity, as well, to hear someone else’s take on The Trinity and Alistair did a good job of getting us to think about relationship rather than explanations. I also thought I need to get more people to give the homily (but that’s a mother subject).

I had some difficulty writing and preparing liturgy for last nights service. Essentially I have ensured with stuff I write that I use inclusive language. I understand how either ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ are not always easy terms for helping people connect with God. For some, like myself, neither label is great as both are quite empty ‘labels’ for me.

For some while I have related to the labels of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer or Companion. People in gatherings and communities that I have been involved in also seem to relate well to this sort of language.

But in my preparation for last nights service I suddenly started to have a hassle with this.

While contemplating the subject for the service I was hit quite massively by a feeling that however we describe ‘The Trinity’ is, the Trinity screams of relationship. Not just relationship but a mutually giving and receiving relationship. As I followed this thinking I became aware that whereas Father, Son, Spirit talks of relationship, my prefered descriptions of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer talk of role. I am not sure but I think that takes something away from our understanding. Trinity is about mutually giving, receiving and accepting relationship … But I feel a great lack in being able to express that in a helpful and meaningful way.

As I wrote words for us to say I tried parent, mother/father, begetter, pro creator … But all sounded hollow, false and just too clunky. Finally I followed a traditional route of Father, Son, Spirit and although not entirely happy (particularly as father for myself equates to an overriding double rejection) as I am not sure that is the best we can offer in helping people reconnect with their Creator.

I wonder … Is anyone out there tussling with this at the moment? Any ideas, pointers or suggestions?

to comfort all who mourn

This morning Jean led morning prayer.

I have grown to acknowledge this group of words as being words of value and sustenance.
Today’s liturgy included this canticle:

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The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
to comfort all who mourn,
To give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit,
That they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
For as the earth puts forth her blossom,
and as seeds in the garden spring up,
So shall the Lord God make righteousness and praise
blossom before all the nations.
You shall be called priests of the Lord;
they shall speak of you as ministers of our God.

It’s a sobre reminder that in confusing and saddening times, that we are called to bring good news, to comfort the mourning ….. in short, to be helpful in thoughts, words and actions.

Following this Jean invited us to light candles which symbolised those who had been killed in Norway as we prayed for the bereaved, the survivors, the nation and those charged with bringing justice in this horrendous case.

We continue to hold the people of Norway in our thoughts and prayers

we gather together to …

At Sunday’s gathering looking at creation, Howard wrote our opening liturgy which I really enjoyed. I think the way this sounds with the language of ‘openness’ gives some idea of the sort of community we wish to become: a community that travels together, not pretending to be sorted or having all the answers, and not pretending that things do not hurt, but a community that is open to God and each other.

The gathering ‘way’ is for half the group to read aloud one line and the other half to respond with the second line:

We gather together to explore
May we be open to see new perspectives
We gather together in awe of the world around us
May we be open to new insights
We gather together confused by things that happen
May we be open to hear new questions
We gather together to be encouraged
May we be open to each other
We gather together to journey
May we have the space to find our path

Sunday pt 1: the wonder of BCP? (did i say that??!)

Yesterday I experienced some of the extremities of my role as a pioneer curate, charged with developing a new way of being church, while based at a cathedral which by many is seen as very traditional in its out look and practice.

My Sunday started at 8.00am as it was my turn to preside at the 1662 Book of Common Prayer service of Eucharist. I do find the language of this service quite a challenge to me but there are some parts where God causes me to think. I particularly like the BCP language after we have shared bread and wine which seems to capture more of the mystery and responsibility of the meal than the Common Worship text does.

In the BCP yesterday we read at the end of the service:
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son.And we most humbly beseech thee , O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

whereas in CW we say:
Almighty God, we thank you for deeding us with the body and blood of your son Jesus Christ. through him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Send us out in the power of your spirit to  live and work to your praise and glory. Amen
CW seems to go down the power line with the image of being sent out for mission quite aggressively. The language seems quite dry compared to the BCP which is quite artistic in its language here as it calls to mind our mission responsibility by reminding us that the mission we are called to has already been prepared by God. With this language it seems to me that is easier to remember that I am called to see what God is already doing and join in. BCP language reminds me that we are called by God, to work with God, and incorporated by God in some mysterious way into the Body of Christ. 
I believe that it should be quite hard to leave a BCP service without having eyes reopened to what God has already started and is calling us to do in partnership with him. I guess, for that reason, it is a shame that we have lost this language from our Eucharists for the majority of those in church. Maybe we, as the gathering, should be looking at BCP language as as well as CW language as we share eucharist together.?

A Judas meditation

This evening at Choral Evensong (in which the boys and girls choirs sang amazingly!) I led a short meditation based on the reading of Luke 22, particularly developing the theme of Judas betraying Jesus.
I did this quite late in the week and so it is quite ‘unrefined’ but people seemed to find it useful and so I am putting it ‘out there’ in case it maybe useful for others.

Judas Meditation

We wonder why Judas betrayed Jesus
What on earth did he think he was doing?
what possessed him to do such a thing?
to betray such a friend?
the Messiah

Was he not there when Jesus walked on water!
or when he fed the 5000?
changed the water into wine?
did he not know who Jesus was?

what possessed him?
to do such a thing …
is that the reason … was he possessed?
like the boy called Legion
part of a spiritual battle
the last gasp attempt of the deceiver
to blow God’s plan off course?

or was Judas just confused?
this was not the Messiah he was expecting
the messiah was supposed to overthrow the oppressors
and lead them into a new Kingdom
a place they could call home
true freedom at last
why didn’t he act?

Was he naively trying to help?
thinking he was assisting
collaborating in the big plan
accelerating the inevitable overthrow of oppression
‘if I do this …. Jesus will have to act
they will be no match for Jesus
because he is the Messiah
never comprehending the consequences of his meeting

Maybe Judas was just frustrated
and never really got it
So … he tried to force the hand of God
coercing the redeemer to act
embracing personal intuition
deaf to the compassion of Jesus.

And what about us
it is easy for us to judge

have we never got frustrated with God?
never tried to push God?
to rush God?
to make God aware of our need for now?

are we guilty too of
trying to force the hand of the creator
when the right thing to do
was simply watch and wait …

Lord of all hope
creator of all
lover of all
Lord in whom we can trust absolutely

forgive us for those times when we have believed our finite schemes
rather than trusted your infinite creative design
when we are tempted to take things into our own hands
remind us that your hands are more than big enough to cope
and that we need to trust
to wait
to listen
and respond with you.
Rather than playing safe amongst our undeveloped blueprints
give us courage to tentatively wander in your creative bliss.

discomfort, anger, tears

I have recently come across the missional church network blog and was particularly challenged by this Franciscan benediction:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

What exciting words to leave a worship space with!

real liturgy

I regularly come into contact with people who seem to have a problem with ‘liturgy’. I think the complaint is mainly that saying a set of words each day seems a naff way of connecting with God. I have always found this view interesting as most of these people come from churches that sing the same or similar songs each week – so maybe the problem is with words without music … but I don’t know.

One of the complaints that I can go with, though, is that a lot of the language used in Common Worship does not resonate with many of us. It is very wordy and the vocabulary does not always aid worship or assist our imaginations as we worship God.

I have been following this Hold This Space for a while now which Jonny has mentioned a few times – the ‘liturgy’ used here is both relevant, challenging and often quite beautiful. Today’s post from Cheryl called ‘welcome to the world’ is another great example of how liturgy can be real for people.

Ordinary sacredness

I know this has been a bit of a theme for me over the last year or so. I love this written by Cheryl (who I first found via Jonny’s blog) who writes a lot of rich and beautiful words. This made me stall and wonder this morning.

It takes little faith to see the sacred in the extraordinary.

to have faith the sacred is in the ordinary, though,
takes courage to believe the mundane can be enough;
that grace can emerge
even through the dull,
the slightly disappointing,
the not quite right,
not quite as we intended,
not really what we hoped…
the clumsy,
the awkward,
and the imperfect.

let your act of faith be to let what you do be enough.

let what you do be enough…

Bringing and receiving hope

Today I led the prayer meeting for the Waltham Forest YFC team. I always enjoy meeting up with this team and it is a privilege to join them each term to pray. Over the last year I have been conscious how the team has changed and been under pressure as well as experiencing the agony of seeing young people involved in gun and knife crime. It’s been a tough year, but in places like Waltham, every year is a tough year.

I felt strongly that I wanted to encourage this team and remind them of the hope that they have in God, and the hope that we can breathe into the lives of those that we work with ‘who do not know where to go and are like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9: 35-38).

I used an idea from Ben Edson at the OPM day recently who told the story of Pandora’s Box. After opening and shutting the box (which let out all the evils into the world) the only thing left in the box was hope. In the box that hope was symbolised by bread and wine which I brought out for us to share. We also joined in this liturgy which I wrote for the occasion:

In their reality of broken and hurting families
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their fear of being an individual
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their experience of violence and gang culture
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their feelings of hopelessness
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In our conflicting pressures at home and work
Lord; give us your hope.

In our frustrations of being misunderstood
Lord; give us your hope.

In our tears over lack of care and resources
Lord; give us your hope.

In our fear of stepping out and being rejected
Lord; give us your hope.

This week
May we be agents of hope
Breathing in your hope for our lives
And breathing out your hope for the lives of others