Direction and Hope

fullsizeoutput_b2b.jpegYesterday was a day when I felt some things had been accomplished.

I have been seeking a new Spiritual Director for far too long and yesterday Brother Sam from the Franciscan House in Plaistow agreed to be that person for me. We had a great conversation and gelled almost immediately. I hope as we meet over whatever the next period of time is that I will be challenged and able to think differently and experience  more of God and of contemplation and how it relates to who I am and the mission I am involved in.

After our chat I joined the other Brothers for Eucharist and then for lunch. The atmosphere was incredibly warm and welcoming and I was excited to see 2 young men who have joined and are novices in their first and second years with the order. We chatted lots about the world, the religious life, Fresh Expressions and New Monasticism. Essentially we told out stories and listened to the stories of other.

It was a really special time to be able to hang out with these guys and just ‘be’ together. I plan not to be a stranger at this wonderful place of life and peace and reality.

Later in the day I was able to meet with some of the groups which use the church space and chat about what doing on into the future might look like. From these 2 meetings I have good hope that we can move in the same direction with some things being done differently but our joint mission(s) being more accessible because of it.

During the evening I met with another gifted person who I hope may be able to support me and St. Barnabas more in the Sunday stuff. We discussed things over a beer or two, so now we will do a bit of ‘wait and see’.

It’s interesting that after my last post of wandering without direction, that the very next day I see some inklings  of a possible direction …. maybe, and receive some little ray of hope. Still … it’s not a very discernible or strong ray of hope at the moment. But … it is there …. piercing the darkness  … in its own fragile, sleek, but determined way. But piercing the darkness nevertheless.

Suffusing soul?

IMG_0301Most of you who read this blog will know by now that I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily thoughts. Some of you will have subscribed yourself and some of you have been meaning to for a while …. and others have expressed there freedom to not subscribe.

As with all ‘stuff’ sometimes the words of the thought really resonate, sometimes they are way off mark and you forget them quickly, sometimes they challenge and sit .. and you don’t quite no why.  Today is a day when the words are just there and do not shift … even though I am in the midst of essay writing, the words of this morning’s thought keep winding their way back into my conscious thoughts.

In a post about listening to our bodies, Richard Rohr quotes these words from John O’Donohue:

Your mind can deceive you and put all kinds of barriers between you and your nature; but your body does not lie. Your body tells you, if you attend to it, how your life is and if you are living from your soul or from the labyrinths of your negativity. . . . The human body is the most complex, refined, and harmonious totality.

Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. . . . The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul. And the soul suffuses you completely.

As I said, I don’t really know why they are sitting and hitting today … but there is something in that image of body being a ‘crowd of different members’ working in harmony. An ordered harmonious crowd is quite a challenging image to grasp.

It’s a bizarre image, but a deeply provocative and maybe even disconcerting image of who we are …. and that image of soul …. I’m not even sure I can grasp what that means entirely, and what the implications are for how I be myself …. but I will continue to contemplate and see what arises ….


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

capture, surround, saturate, drench!

cp_18I’ve had a pretty amazing weekend at the ROMBS (Reaching Out in Mind Body Spirit) conference, put together by Steve Hollinghurst and held at Wilson Carlisle Centre in Sheffield. Essentially this was a conference for Christian working in the world of MBS and new spiritualities.

As I’ve said above …. the conference was amazing. This is a collection of people that are all working from the same premise and simply get each other. This was a collection of people who work ‘on the edge’ and seek to help people connect with the God who created them. Clearly, this is a group of people who I feel I fit with and who are pretty inspirational in the way and the things they use as they try to connect with a variety of spiritual seekers.

One of the best things about this conference, as is the case with all good conferences, was the time devoted to conversations over coffee or in the bar during the evening. I always learn from up front presenters …. but I feel I am inspired more in those coffee/beer/whisky laced conversations as we pull apart thoughts and questions.

On the first evening we looked at statistics and contextualisation. This was a lot better than it sounds, although I struggle with stats at the best if times. It is great, though, to start by looking at the context and trends of where we are at …. in my experience too often the church seems to neglect this vital bit of questioning and just does what she thinks is ok and right.

On saturday I was blown away by Ole Skjerbæk Madsen, of In the Master’s Light as he spoke about Christfullness, which he defines as being ‘filled, saturated, surrounded by and drenched in Christ’. Ole talks about this here. I simply loved that image because that captures, I think, what many people are looking for. Maybe people are not specifically looking for Christ … but they are looking for something that totally captures, surrounds, saturates and drenches them. I think this is a different expression of John Drane’s thoughts last week when he was challenging us to think about ‘how do we make people feel so much that they can’t help thinking’. Being drenched in Christ certainly means we are able to feel …. and want to ask!

Other highlights of the weekend seem to revolve around meeting up with old friends or linking with new ones. Highlights included catching up with Andrea over Ruach, hearing more of Diana’s story in Glastonbury and Ruth’s story in Liverpool … matt’ story with Forest Church … and Martin’s story with Viking re-enactment. It was a packed weekend so I may have some of those names wrong … apologies if that is so!

The challenging / comfort zone issue for me was attending a session on how to use Tarot cards in a Christian setting. I got a great insight into how the cards developed and may be used in helpful ways. This was fascinating …. but those readers of mine who are having extreme worries about my spirituality …  please remember …. this was a conference held at Church Army headquarters and headed up by a great Church Army guy. They are pretty ‘solid’ …. so if you don’t trust me you clearly know it is ok to trust them!

If I went with anything, it was a question that goes something like … ‘at the boot fair we have connected with all these people … is it right we just stop and wait until next year’s boot fair dates are out …. or is there something we can offer that may open up different spiritual paths’ That was my question and I am coming way with some areas of thought.

One particular suggestion worth exploring is the nature of follow up in ‘days’ or ‘events’ rather than the traditional course type . It’s easy to say that we need to provide something for every week … when the reality is that people may still only wish to dip in and out.

So …. the weekend was great, I felt I gained a lot from just being part of many conversations with great people. We ended our time together with a Forest Church communion lead by Steve and Diana. Al I can say is this was an incredibly real and moving experience and something I really genuinely resonated with.

To Steve as organiser and others as participants …. thank you.

an amazing experience

hannah bootThe Boot fair happened again on Sunday.
The amazing team managed to drag themselves out of bed at 5.xx am and made their way to Greenfields field for 6am.
It was already warm at 6am, we knew the day was going to be hot, and last weeks boot fair was cancelled due to the weather. So … we expected to be busy.

The day started quite slow, as it normally did, before picking up quite majorly. We were ‘hit’ quite early on by an older guy who sat in a chair and asked ‘who is God?’ There is nothing like a bit of a theological discussion before 7am in the morning!

From that point on the team were pretty much immersed in discussion or prayer bead making. The Ruach cards were again the overwhelming hit …. we did over 20 card readings and, again, at points during the morning we had people forming a queue.

People seemed very amazed when the cards linked with aspects of their lives. ‘That’s weirdly accurate’ or ‘that’s so me’ were the type of comments I heard from people throughout the morning. It seems that God … the Creator … really does use these cards to speak powerfully to people so that they leave feeling blessed and in some way touched by The Divine.

Without breaking confidences … some of the stories we heard …
one person’s reading was all apart caring and a new start and to have courage – this person shared after the reading that they were a carer, had just been promoted and was unsure whether she could do the job
another person’s reading centred around remembrance and thanksgiving – this person then shared they were learning to cope with bereavement
another person returned from last week and has three times received the same card … which talks of love and acceptance which is what I believe this person needs to accept for themselves

This three snapshots are just a little indication of the wonder and awe that people seem to go away with after having a reading.

For me, a particular highlight is always seeing the team grow in confidence. I want to put a bit of a spotlight on an amazing young person of 15 who has joined the team – you can see her in the picture using the Ruach cards. It was amazing to see her engaging powerfully with people in conversation while making prayer beads as well as through Ruach. Even more exciting are her plans for development … so soon … very soon … I think we will be offering prayer braids as a different way to engage with people.

I’m struck, from just the 2 weeks of this new season how people seem ‘hungry’ to connect with something outside of them. We do not push any of this … in fact a lot of the time we are sat down chatting and only respond to people who show interest. We are the only stall that is not selling anything for money and we extend that philosophy to not pushing in any way what we do upon people. So … we will not stand in the aisle and coerce people to the gazebo … we sit and we wait.

As we wait it seems people come … and God speaks ….and people connect … and that’s better than making any amount of money on earth. It’s amazing to experience.

I just want to say thanks team again for working so well … this is such an amazing opportunity. The privilege of seeing people connect with their creator, and the joy of working with such a great team makes this all such a great thing to be involved in.

The next boot fair we will hopefully be covering will be on June 1st … I say hopefully as I don’t have a full team yet … so if you fancy coming and having a try … please give me a shout!

simple trust

IMG_1161Yesterday was a good day.

I caught up with Sister Diane, my spiritual director, and the new home of the Sisters of St Andrew in their new ‘pad’ in Gillingham. The new website is not up and running yet, and the centre is nearly ready to accept people on retreat as well as host people for away days … I could see the gathering may make good use of this space!

I particularly loved the new chapel … the pic I took do it no justice. The chapel is circular, with light streaming in from the point of the roof. I could have stayed and prayed their forever … well nearly!

My time with Diana is challenging and great as always. I shared some stuff with her that I have been mulling over … and I am always amazed at how this holy woman can cut right to the basic of stuff in seconds. I was particularly amazed today at her wisdom, understanding and ‘holiness’ which I do not use lightly.

Interestingly the 45 minute journey took two and a half hours as the Blackwall Tunnel was closed and caused a tailback. Although I arrived a little stressed, walking through the door seemed to bring an immediate calm. I guess that is why I love this community, and Sr Diane in particular, as they have a great and infectious acceptance of whatever may be which comes out of a deep and seemingly limitless trust of God.

And that was my message from Sr Diane today … just trust God … stop worrying about what may be …. trust God … don’t ask how you will achieve this …. trust God

So … I’ve been kicked back into shape by Sr Diane … and my task now is to gt out there and live a life that trusts God! Why is that so easy to run off the tongue when the reality is so arrrggghhhh!

spirituality for mission

spiritI’ve just got home and I’m pretty buzzing so rathe than sleep, I thought I’d blog! Tonight I returned to Aylesford to lead a session of the MSM course as part of my one day a week MACE role with the diocese.

My session was ‘spirituality for mission’ where we looked at the 10 marks of mission spirituality, or of apostolic people. The main aim of the session was to share with each other stuff we have found useful and real life illustrations (testimony) of what sustains us spiritually in ministry.

We discoverd together that apostolic people are people who are learning that they:
are called and sent;
are greatly loved;
see and listen;
travel light;
are people of prayer and the Holy Spirit;
go two by two (and know the value of companionship and community);
bear a message;
are wounded healers (who know how they have been made whole in their brokenness, and have been and are being saved from their sinfulness);
live rhythmically;
are adventurers.

The session seemed to go well, but I am buzzing because of the amazing testimonies that were shared this evening. People made themselves incredibly vulnerable by sharing some pretty deep stuff. More than that …. a number of these people are doing incredibly amazing things like moving to different parts of the country, giving up well paid jobs to be involved in mission, and working in some pretty challenging and exciting circumstances.

I was blown away tonight by all of the testimonies. It was a real privilege to be part of this session tonight … so, to those that stumble here, thank you for all you shared. I’m a little sad not to be with you tomorrow (we have a gathering away day which I am VERY excited about as we meet with Ian Mobsby to look at rhythms of life and ‘stuff’). I will rejoin the group on sunday and look forward to seeing what God has been doing.

Now I’d simply like the ‘buzz’ to deflate a little to enable me to sleep!

walk … don’t run

overcastabI have just returned from an amazingly relaxing time in Cornwall with some good friends. I had some plans for things to do, but actually when I got there found myself to be pretty exhausted and simply happy to be in a good place with good friends.

I spent a lot of time looking out of the window … the view in the photo shows why. I still find I can endlessly watch the sea and become immersed in its movement, as I regularly did as I was growing up in Weymouth. I find even now that I can easily lose myself to the extent of not hearing others when we they talk to me, something that Sarah often teases me over! Clearly, for me, proximity to the sea is something like a thin place.

This time while in Cornwall I was reminded of these words from Rob Bell: (thanks Graham)

Walk, don’t run.
That’s it.

Walk, don’t run. Slow down, breathe
deeply, and open your eyes because there’s

a whole world right here within this one. The
bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire, it’s been
burning the whole time. Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he
does, he takes off his sandals. Not because
the ground has suddenly become holy, but
because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.

Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed,
or even success.
But walking-
which leads to seeing-
now that’s something.
That’s the invitation for every one of us today
and every day, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing
so, to see a whole world right here within this one.
Walking and seeing a whole world, slowing down enough so that I can see that the ground urlI walk on is holy is amazingly easy to do in a place like Cornwall, with friends, while resting and gazing at amazing scenery and beautiful sunsets.
But back in Gillingham it is harder.
The ground here is no less holy than that bathed in the glorious colour of a sunset. It’s no less Godly because it’s harshness is sometimes painful to the eye. Maybe we, I, simply don’t always acknowledge the holiness of the paving slabs because I don’t slow down enough to see. It may not be a thin place, but it is a holy place, holy ground.
I guess my prayer needs to be something like …. ‘Lord, teach me to walk, so that I may see.’

holding what gives us life

gathering logoOn Sunday the gathering gathered once more.

I deliberately planned a simpler time together as I was aware of new people joining over the last few weeks and wanted to allow more time to be able to chat more and get to know each other better as we ate cake and drank coffee.

As well as sharing communion in the gathering style we did the examen together as a group and then shared as much as we wanted to in different size groups, mainly family units. People seemed to be engaging and sharing quite well.  I find the examen useful and think its appropriate for all ages.

I like the use the examen regularly, s it helps me to identify God throughout my day, and yesterday I introduced this using Sleeping with Bread. The introduction to our gathering examen may be found here. This also explains the title of today’s post.

On reflection … the gathering yesterday was one of the most life giving moments of my week. Tonight, I shall sleep holding that thought.

our journeys so far

Yesterday the gathering got together. We had a very thoughtful, and sometimes challenging, time as we considered our personal journey’s, which for all of us (as with everyone) are a mixture of highs and lows, joy and sadness, fun and scarey. The group that planned yesterday did so skilfully, enabling us to have this time for reflection and questioning.

For the next few months the gathering is following what will be a very heavily adapted version of of Essence, a course looking at spirituality from SJI. Essence aims to give an ‘experiential introduction’ to Christianity. As a course it seems to take a lot for granted which is why we are heavily adapting it for our needs…. to be more ‘gathering like’ in giving people opportunity and space to explore and discover. It’s particularly relevant for the gathering as we value and accept very much the concept of ‘all being on a journey’ and all being in the right place on the journey while all being at different place on the journey.

We listened to Psalm 23, we drew or created images of parts of our life journey using lego or chalk/paint/crayon. At the start of out time together we were asked to illustrate our life story using 5 or 6 beads with a willingness to share what one of the beads represented. Each ‘life’ was then placed around a central table and, for me, showed the strength of how coming together caused our journeys to become connected in some way.

Personally, this simple activity gave me an opportunity to think about what I have in my life, and how rich my life can be if I only take the time to remember. By that I do not mean material stuff; but rather the quality of experiences, the beauty of people I have got to know, the strength of relationship of family and friends.

Next month the gathering will be looking at ‘the journey within’ as we think more about our identity and image. If that sounds interesting to you … feel free to join us … Sunday 8th July, 3.30 for 4.00pm.