Sweeps came and went. The weather meant that the festival was a bit of a wash out with last minute cancellations and the accompanied lack of hoped for business for local traders. There was definitely a lot less visitors around than there have been in previous years which is a real shame as this is an excellent festival to come to.
The lack of numbers at the festival meant that there were less people walking past the Dekhomai stand but the positive flip side of this meant that we had more time to listen to people. I will remember this Sweeps festival as being marked by the sheer privilege I have experienced as I have been invited into personal lives alongside the great feeling of inadequacy I have felt as I have prayed, asking God to meet with these lives.
I personally wanted to push out and try something new at this years Sweeps and have been thinking and working a lot on dreams; in particular asking myself the question ‘could God still be talking to people through their dreams?” I have done some prayerful research of God speaking through dreams in scripture alongside psychologists interpretations of common dreams. Did you know, for example, that a common dream is being found naked in a public place; apparently the ‘common’ interpretation is that the person is living a lie and worried about being exposed. I have always found dreams quite fascinating.
To cut a long story short, I decided to offer ‘dream discussions’ at this years festival. I felt ‘dream interpretation’ was quite a major claim for a bunch of amateurs to be able to make… but I also have a real belief that, actually, if people are dreaming and that if there is a meaning from God then those people, really must be able to understand the dream for themselves and how it applies to them. If that were not true, then there would be little point God using this method of communication with people!
I have had a good number of dream discussions over this weekend. They were amazing. No two were the same but as we chatted together and I prayed remarkably people were able to focus on their dream and gain some understanding. I have started to wonder now whether those that do receive dreams simply need to take time out to think about them, and that is what we seemed to be doing over this weekend at the festival.
The team from all over the diocese worked brilliantly this year, and it was great working with you all … our visitors and guests were also a joy to work with -thank you. Once again, Sweeps has been a highlight of my year.
It’s the start of the Sweeps Festival today. As I write the rain is continuing to fall outside … and I am so hoping that stops very very soon.
If you are around pay a visit to the Dekhomai stand in the cathedral, you can find us in the south transept, which is the space right next to the lady chapel. Visit and take the opportunity to express God in a different or new way through a variety of things we have on offer, from the dekhomai prayer cord to prayer for healing. Or … just pop by to say hello (and if you come via the coffee shop bringing great fresh coffee even better!)
Maybe see some of you there!
Next weekend in Rochester sees the return of the Sweeps Festival. This is probably my favourite of the Rochester Festivals which is a collection of great music (most of it free in or outside pubs), dancing (50ish Morris Dancing groups) and of course beer. If I were to choose one festival to come to in Rochester then it would be the Sweeps Festival without a doubt; the atmosphere is great, and people come to relax, listen, watch and have a good time.
In the cathedral we will again by hosting our Dekhomai stand from Saturday until Monday. This is a ‘welcoming place’ in part of the cathedral which offers a place to sit and chat, prayer for healing, dream interpretation, the making of prayer beads and hand or foot massage. If you are in the area why not pop in and say hi … or if you would like to get involved we could still do with a another team member on Sunday or Monday afternoon. The ethos of the stand is to simple welcome and serve people with an aim of helping those who are searching to re-connect with God. At the end of every encounter, whether it is a Jesus Deck reading, a foot massage or a general chat we offer to pray for each person and their family. In this way we believe people meet with God.
In previous years people have asked about the Jesus Deck which, sadly, have been out of print and difficult to get hold of. They are now back and you can order a Jesus Deck here. While on the Jesus Deck I was intrigued to see it being used as a lectionary over on Steve’s blog … hadn’t thought of that and I could see that being really powerful for some people.
Involvement in Dekhomai at the Sweeps Festival was yet again an amazing experience. The team who gave their time worked amazingly together. We designed this postcard for the stall as St Florian is the patron saint of firefighters and chimney sweeps.
Being involved was, for me, a vey humbling experience. People shared deep stuff with members of the team and asked us to pray with them. People seemed to simply want to talk and share. Something I noticed this year more than others was that there was no need to offer prayer … people simply asked for prayer for a variety of situations.
Although I love working in this way I found it very exhausting this year and I think that was because this year, more than other years, I was moved to tears on a number of occasions due to situations people find themselves in. One family in particular will remain with me for a while and as I continue to pray for them in their desperately horrible situation I continue to shed tears for them.
I look forward to next year when we may do this again (but before then the original Dekhomai will be at MBS London at the end of the month – so I look forward to being there (why not come too!?).
The Sweeps festival is here again and we are again hosting Dekhomai in the cathedral as a safe place to find rest and explore spirituality.
This year we will again be offering foot and hand massages, prayer for healing, blessings, Jesus Deck readings, prayer cords and a chance to simply chill in the special place that is the cathedral. This year as well we are going to attempt to offer ‘dream discussions’ as an opportunity to explore and talk about dreams that people have and whether there may be any meaning to them.
I’ve said it before … but I love the Sweeps festival. The vibe is a good one, people are chilled and interesting in chatting about a load of stuff.
The stall is in the cathedral all over the bank holiday and Sweeps weekend so why not pop in for a free massage or to talk about your dream ….
The Sweeps Festival is not far away and is on the weekend after Easter, Sat 30th April until Monday 2nd May.
Last year we ran Dekhomai, an MBS stall, offering a variety of things to help people connect with God. We offered hand and foot massage, prayer for healing, prayer cords and used The Jesus Deck. This year I hope to be able to offer the same over the 3 days of the festival and maybe look at dream interpretation too.
This will be the third time of running the stall inside the cathedral, at the feet of a window that has a stained glass image of St. Florian who just happens to be the patron saint of sweeps and fire fighters. Each time we have run the stall we have been amazed at what God has done in the the lives of people. It has been amazing just to sit back and watch God at work, it has been humbling to be trusted with peoples stories and it’s been amazing to think our willingness to listen has been used in some way.
This is a recruitment post!
I am looking for more people to get involved by offering to be around for a morning or an afternoon (or a whole day if you like) on the stand.
Do you like people?
Are you willing to listen?
Are you happy to offer to pray with someone?
that’s all it takes …. if you are interested then get in touch!
I look forward to hearing from you ….
The weekend is well and truly over but I am still ‘on a buzz’ over what happened over the weekend. The rest of my Sweeps photos are here if you are interested.
We engaged meaningfully with loads of people. People were surprised to see us serving in this way in the cathedral. They were visibly touched by the welcome and the love shown from the team. It’s a shame that we cannot keep this kind of different space alongside the other areas, such as the chapels, for people to dwell with God.
The team had loads of amazing conversations with people searching in a variety of ways for a variety of things. People have been healed both physically and emotionally. People have experienced the Spirit using them to bless a fellow human being.
For me, it was the first time that I had really engaged with the Jesus Deck with people. At one time on Monday I think I did something like 6 back to back readings. As I looked at the cards with some people more people became interested and so a little queue grew. I have always been nervous about looking at these cards with people but the links people were seeing with their lives were quite amazing. It was a privilege to stand with people as they started to clearly see the Spirit of God communicating with them in their present situation. The situation is hard to explain, but as every person thanked me for my time my natual response was ‘no … thank you because it has been an honour.’ And it was – people have been letting us into a small part of their lives, trusting us, sometimes, with parts of their lives that they vacuum packed and compartmentalised in their memory.
I felt a sense of sadness as we packed down on Monday as the festival drew to a close. Rebecca asked me what I had learned …. i had to think a while and I guess I have been reflecting on that question all day. I guess I have re-learned some stuff – particularly that God is drawing people and I don’t really have to find people but just be available. I had a sense of sadness that we had to work inside on Sunday, but it soon became clear that working inside the cathedral was the better place to be. Maybe I had mis-heard God for the Saturday, or maybe not, but we engaged with far more people on Sunday and Monday inside the cathedral than we did on the Saturday outside the cathedral.
I have also re-learned that if we give God space, God will work. Too often we try to force the hand of God through our activities or events. Here we gave God space and people have been powerfully effected.
I guess I have learned most of all this weekend that it is this engaging with people through spirituality, engaging with people through serving them, and engaging with people who have a genuine quest for faith are the things that really energise me and make me think ‘this is what I am here for – to listen, to serve, to love.’ I’m missing Sweeps already – I hope we do this again next year.
The weather today was rubbish and so we moved the Dekhomai stand into the south transept of the cathedral. Initially I was feeling a bit disappointed about this but it seemed to work quite well and by the end of the day we were talking about carrying on inside the cathedral tomorrow whatever happens with the weather.
Inside the cathedral, with access to power, the stand looked more inviting and welcoming due to the use of light. The atmosphere was calmer and conversations with people seemed to flow easier. People came into the cathedral because they were looking for ‘something’ and finding Dekhomai was like finding ‘an oasis’ according to many that I spoke and prayed with today.
Today I have had the honour of praying with people, laughing with people and even shedding a few tears with people as they have shared things which they would welcome prayer for. That may not sound that unusual to some – but as 90% of those I listened to today would not call themselves a person of any faith in particular I find that pretty mind blowing.
What started as a day with me feeling sad at the ‘lost opportunity’ of being outside and available to the masses ended as a day where I felt very excited by what had happened throughout the day. I was reminded that it is God who draws people and that it does not matter where we are – people who are searching will be drawn to those places where they might be able to make one more step on their journey.
Towards the end of the day Ross, one of the team, looked above our stand to the stained glass windows of the south transept. There above us, unnoticed was a stained glass window of St. Florian, the patron saint of Sweeps. Is this God telling us we are in the right place for this festival. we are giving out the prayer of St Florian and praying the blessing of St Florian with people; where better to do that than at the feet of the window of St Florian himself? Or … is that just coincidence?
The first day of the Sweeps festival has gone really well. There is a wonderful vibrant atmosphere as people celebrate and enjoy the music and the dancing.
After a slow start Dekhomai became busier and busier as the day went on. Loads of people were initially warey over what the cost might be but after a while word got round that we were offering stuff for free and so people came and had a look.
As well as massaging feet and helping people make prayer beads we have had a lot of chats with people and had the privilege of praying and anointing people for healing. Many people were also intrigued by the St Florian prayer cards.
At the start of the day I was pretty nervous how all this was going to go down in this festival atmosphere – but our presence in a way that provides something that clear;ly fits with the atmosphere of the Sweeps may festival seems to have been appreciated.
WE have another 2 days so if you re around come and find us. Our only concern today is the weather- as I write it is trying to rain. If it succeeds then we will have to move everything in to the cathedral which I am quite reluctant to do as we won’t then be available to the masses of people outside.
‘Medway’s annual Sweeps Festival recreates the joy and laughter enjoyed by the chimney sweeps at their traditional holiday: the one time of the year the sweeps could leave the soot behind and have some fun. The sweeps’ holiday was traditionally held on 1 May each year. Locally, they used to mark the occasion by staging a procession through the streets of Rochester. The modern day Rochester Sweeps Festival is a colourful mix of music, dancing and entertainment with more than 60 Morris sides and entertainers celebrating throughout the three-day festival.’ (Medway Council website)
Essentially, Sweeps is a 3 day folk, Morris dancing and beer festival. The people that attend are looking for an experience and searching for opportunities to engage and/or make sense of with what is going on around them.
At Rochester Cathedral we have a history of being open and available during festivals and in more recent years we have attempted to attempt to engage more with people during a variety of worship and art installations.
Following attending my first Sweeps Festival last year I noticed very much that the festival goers appeared to be looking for an ‘experience’ and were interested in ‘spiritual’ areas of luck/blessings associated with sweeps and the spirituality that exists around morris dancing and folk music.
Our plan this year is to set up a stall outside the cathedral, pretty much along the same lines as Dekhomai; offering foot and hand massage, prayer and anointing for healing, prayer beads, blessings, prayer postcards based on St Florian (the patron saint of sweeps) and so on.
The festival runs from Saturday to Monday and I am looking to recruit a team to cover 6 sessions over the 3 days. I hope to recruit six groups of 3 people, around 18 people in total to cover a session. People are fee to volunteer for a whole day or days rather than a session if they wish. The sessions will run from 10am – 1pm and 1pm – 5pm. Of course we can be flexible with these timings as well!
If people have not done stuff like this before hand we will run an informal training session at the cathedral.
If you might be interested please contact me through the blog and we can take it from there.