Art and Mediation on Wednesday night

Sarah B led us in a wonderful evening of creativity and reflection. We began reading the following words:
Genesis 2 v 7
Then the Lord God formed a human from the dust of the ground and breathed into their
nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.

Then with a pen in hand, we drew lines up and down as we breathed in and out, helping us to be aware of our breathing…

On a new piece of paper we drew a straight line a third of the way up. Taking 2 pens, one thicker and one thin, we drew 5 thin loose lines across the top and 10 heavier lines below the horizon, adding water colours

lights in the vault of the sky

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night,
and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights
in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.

Then we added to the piece made before to add stars and lights using spatter metallic paint

the light shines in the darkness and the names of god
(NIV degendered John 1)
in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. They were
with God in the beginning. Through them all things were made without them nothing was
made that has been made. In them was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Instructions were:

  1. Write a list of words that you feel are connected to God, the spirit, characteristics, don’t overthink
    it, just jot down what comes to mind.
  2. Art – centred circle painted in water and colour, loosely draw round with a black fineliner allowing
    the lines to loop and overlap in a loose form
  3. Now go back to your word list and select three that pull you most strongly. Select and area in the
    art and slowly with care write the letters of the word – add colour if desire.

An amazing evening – heartily recommend doing this!!

Spring at the bandstand

Julie and Steve led us this last Sunday in a very special time together. Here’s their stuff!


Please remember to leave your anxieties

As you make your first foot step on the path Feel the warm greeting

The sun’s got your back.

Listen to the birds sing:

They’re pleased to share life with you

Don’t be surprised

If you seem to understand their voice

It’s the joy of living.

Walk with rhythm,

pace and purpose

Remember many feet have touched

Where yours do now

Silence your thoughts

And let your Maker

Fill your ears with

the language of his love

Receive this, soak it in

Let you eyes feed on

Lime and emerald greens,

and cerulean blues,

brown and chestnut ochres

nature’s dazzling hues

Fill the pockets of your

hungry soul with spring’s abundance.

Taste the air – breathe it deeply

and receive again the glad invitation to the dance,

in step with God beside.

(with acknowledgement to Andrew Rudd, ‘Rules for Visiting a Cathedral’ 2018)

Spring is finally arriving, gardens need tidying, plants need feeding, shoots are poking through  and blossoms are beginning to show. So today I want to think about nurture,  feeding, pruning, watering and preparation for growth.

The last two times I have shared with you I have used ‘the woman at the well story’ and  guess what: I’m going to start with it again today.

John 4 10-15

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

11-12 The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

13-14 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

15 The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”

Song of Songs 2:11-13

11 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.

13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

So I have  a visual aid- “The tree of life” to  help us think about our  thirst and our hunger.

The tree of life (and the rivers flowing from the throne of God) mirrors the original tree in the garden of Eden, providing hope of sustained life with Yahweh. In this way, the tree both recalls the garden story and also provides an expectation of future hope.

So take ten minutes to walk or stand

 Be  brave and  try taking your shoes and socks off to  stand on (holy ) ground. Feel your roots going down deep connecting with Gods good earth.

Know that you are unconditionally loved.

Think about what you hunger for, what you thirst for and ask Jesus to be your nourishment and the Holy Spirit to fill you with living water.

Do we  need to be pruned in order for our roots to go deeper to allow us individually and as a group to flourish ?

What might our flourishing look like ?

You might want to look around for symbols of God’s nourishment to attach to the tree of life on your return or you might like to choose a symbol from the box to stick on the tree or write on a post it to share your thinking with the group.

Time for feedback

 Prayer for ourselves and others



Open hearted God

Who welcomes with arms flung wide

Like doors slung open in excited haste,

We pray you may bless this place,

That it will be a space of open doors and open hearts. That it may be a place of welcome, love and hospitality and that it may offer sanctuary.

Open our hearts

That we may be a people of welcome, love and hospitality. That we may offer sanctuary.

That we may bless others.

Keep our hearts and our doors open to your Spirit

In the name of Christ

Who stands at the door and knocks willing us to open up.


Rejoicing and weeping at the bandstand

This morning Jeremy led us in glorious sunshine, surrounded by blossom on the trees and it felt wonderful! We began with these words from Philippians 4:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Like the practice in yoga, it is good to identify one’s Intention, and here it is being content in the good and the bad. As Jeremy said, St Paul can be very annoying – it is easier said than done to be content in all circumstances – but it is a place to aim for.

Rom 12: 15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Recognising that we are all having very different experiences of life at this time, Jeremy reminded us that when we come together, we all come from different places with different needs. One to speak of joys, one to speak of woes, one not wanting to speak but wanting to just listen, one unsure quite where they are at. One of us finds our voice in a psalm like this one:

Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” 7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

8 To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: 9 “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Whilst another of us finds our voice in a psalm like this one:

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One[d] with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

So we turned to prayer realising that our prayers bring us together as we own one another’s situation without judgement

In turn we shared where we have seen God at work this week and where we would like to see God at work next week. That proved very special… We spent some time in silent prayer after that.

And we concluded with the breaking of bread, remembering that the broken bread represents brokenness (Christ completely broken is with us in our brokenness), while the cup of wine represents blessing (celebrating the good and the coming good that resurrection speaks of).

1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation[e] in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation[f] in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread

It was good to be reminded of all of these words, of each others’ hopes and needs and of the relevance of the bread and wine for all of us. Thank you Jeremy!

St Patrick’s Day at the Bandstand

We met in pouring rain – glad of the shelter of the bandstand – to celebrate St Patrick yesterday, beginning with a Trinitarian prayer in honour of his Shamrock analogy:

We meet today in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

In the name of our Mother, Lover and Friend

In the name of the Lover, Beloved and Love

In the name of the Creator, Saviour and Companion

In the name of the Source of all being, the Eternal Word and Empowering presence of God

And in the presence of Saint Patrick, the saints of old and ThirdSpace saints resurrected

Thanks be to God, the Three in One, the Divine Dance and Community of love!

We heard the story of St Patrick – how he was abducted at the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland and how there he came to faith and learnt to pray through the day and night whilst watching over sheep. Using The Message we read from 1 Thessalonians about the need to encourage one another and to pray

We heard the story of St Patrick – how he was abducted at the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland and how there he came to faith and learnt to pray through the day and night whilst watching over sheep. Using The Message we read from 1 Thessalonians about the need to encourage one another and to pray at all times , before saying together St Patrick’s breastplate. For some time, we shared how we pray, these days and then the situations and folk we were aware of that need our prayers today. Then we used an adapted version of Patrick’s prayer to pray for them:

As we arise today, I name those who need God’s presence and answers now…

May the strength of God pilot you, the power of God uphold you,, the wisdom of God guide you  

May the eye of God look before you, the ear of God hear you, the word of God speak for you.

May the hand of God protect you, the way of God lie before you, the shield of God defend you, the host of God save you.
May Christ shield you today.

(Name again those who need Jesus close… and visualise them as you use these words:)

Christ with you, Christ before you, Christ behind you,
Christ in you, Christ beneath you, Christ above you,
Christ on your right, Christ on your left,
Christ when  you lie down, Christ when you sit, Christ when you stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of you,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of you,
Christ in every eye that sees you,
Christ in every ear that hears you.

Thereafter, we returned to share bread and wine, using words Steve had written:

Bread and Wine with Patrick

We follow in the footsteps of so many, in meeting in the name of the Trinity.

The Source of all Being, the Eternal Word, the Empowering Presence.

May the bread – which tells its own story of love and redemption – bless you three times.

In bringing restoration and sustenance and companionship for the journey.

May the wine – which tells its own story of love and redemption – bless you three times.

In bringing joy and inspiration and vision for the journey.

We are sent and surrounded and upheld. We bless those who have travelled this way before us and those who are to follow. May ThirdSpace be a faithful link in the chain. Amen.

We finished by reading some further verses from 1 Thessalonians as a blessing of one another:

3-24 May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! 28 The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you!

Then it was off to coffee at Ostello Lounge for more chat and putting the world straight!!

Bring and share on a Sunday morning

This Sunday we met at Barbara’s – just 2 weeks after her hip replacement and not yet ready to be at the bandstand. It was a leisurely and special time when we were able to share all kinds of things and concerns for one another and for others we know and care about.

Barbara gave us each copies of the Beatitudes both from The Message and the NIV and we sat with those words and reflected on them before she shared the following version:

The Beatitudes – Brian McLaren & Rob Bell

The poor and those in solidarity with them – God is on your side.

Those who mourn and feel grief about the state of the world – God is on your side.

The non-violent, gentle and humble – God is on your side.

Those who hunger ad thirst for the common good – God is on your side.

The merciful and compassionate – God is on your side.

Those characterised by sincerity, kindness and generosity- God is on your side.

Those who work for peace and reconciliation – God is on your side.

Those who keep seeking justice – God is on your side.

Those who stand for justice and truth as the prophets did, who refuse to be quiet even when slandered, misrepresented, threatened, imprisoned or harmed – God is on your side.

It was good to talk about them and how they linked to people near and far – feeding into prayers.

We prayed using words from Lectio 365 – allowing us to hear messages of hope from Revelation 21’s vision of an end to tears and suffering and St Paul’s words about all creation straining for the day of God’s salvation… with time to hold those in need now…

And we shared bread and wine using words written by Steve on a previous occasion, focusing on how we are all interconnected:

Bread and Wine

We like to think of ourselves with Enlightenment eyes as
Authentic choosers
Freewill warriors
Single autonomous souls

But what if we are community?
But what if I am a community?
A host of many
More multitudinous than we can imagine
Living in bewildering symbiosis
Part of a greater interdependent whole.

What if that rich bio-chemical soup makes up me? I am my microbiome.

It is integral to my selfhood, my decisions, my likes, dislikes, values and my shalom?

What if I am formed and nurtured in the crucible of generational love and struggle? That others whose names I only distantly recognise or whose names are inscribed upon my heart, have a part to play in my story.

So we might say, “Though we are many, we are one body.” Gathered today through choice around the bread and the wine with their story of sacrificial love, redemption and renewal.

So we eat the one body…
And drink the one wine…

And we are jointly and severally co-missioned as artists and prophets, as lamed vavniks and kingdom seekers. Blessings. Amen 

Third Space Ash Wednesday

We had the most special time together for the start of Lent. The following was what Sarah B put together for us:

Lent thought on pride, confession, forgiveness and purity –
Ash Wednesday represents a duality – time to confront our pride and confession of sin within
community, with the light of cleansing and forgiveness through God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

We watched an ‘Ashes’ video and prayer from Work of the people and then heard this story:

Reading – Celtic Daily Prayer Book 1 – P123 (Samuel Moor Shoemaker)
The other morning some of us were together in a church where the rector was saying Morning Prayer,
and leading us in a guided silent prayer. He said “Let us pray for those whom we love”. And that was
easy. Then he said “Let us pray for those whom we we do not love”. And there rose before my mind
three men for whom I had to pray. They were men who had opposed my work. In this they may have
been wrong. But my wrong was in resentment and a feeling of letting myself be cut of from them, and
even praying for them because of it. Years ago I read a quotation from Mary Lyon that occurs to me
again and again: “Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we
think they ought”. If you want to know where pride nestles and festers in most of us, that is right
where it is; and it is not the opposition of others, but our own pride, which causes the deepest hurt. I
never read a word that penetrated more deeply into the sin of pride from which all of us suffer, bor
one which opens up more surgically our place of unforgiveness.

There was a time for silent prayer and and reflection, confession…

Sarah had made a digital meditation which we watched before we used the ashes she had brought.

Imposition of the Ashes
Pass to each the bowl of ashes and mark the person next to you with the sign of the cross saying:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(The phrase recalls God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:19 before the expulsion of Adam and Eve from
the Garden of Eden)
Hand washing
Lavabo – ritual of hand washing… although fallen out of practice this was and is a very important ritual
in Christian and other faiths.. we can see the practical benefits… in biblical times, people bought all
sorts of things for offerings, live animals, birds, foods, leaves. It made sense for the priests to wash
their hands.. it became symbolic for purification from sin..
In the Catholic and Anglican high churches priests wash their hands before communion and say
quietly “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”
This mystical meaning was emphasized by St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century,
when he wrote: ‘This action shows that we must be free from all sin. We perform actions
with our hands; to wash our hands is the nearest thing to purifying our deeds’”
Bowls – rosemary (symbol of fidelity and remembrance), Hyssop (for cleansing/purification),
chamomile (peace) – – warm water in a jug poured, hand towels
In turn slowly pour water over the hands of the person next you (hands over the bowl), take up a
towel and press around their hands. Let them dry off their hands.
Song : Marie Brennan – To the Wild Water
Blessing: Jesus said, a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved
..And the call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free, in humility to take the
vow, that day after day we will love one another as you have loved us.

I can’t yet include the links here – sorry – but if nothing else, I hope you can see how very touching and poignant it was to bless one another in these ways. We talked a long time about things that had occurred to us in it all…

The Aroma of Christ at the Bandstand

Last Sunday Jeremy led us, kicking off with a quiz to identify 10 different essential oils. Alas, we were all hopeless but for Kez who beat us all hands down (though it turned out that she owned the oils!!!)

Jeremy spoke of writing a poem beginning: “Heaven, for me, it will smell like…” and we shared our own ideas on that before walking with 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and trying to interrogate it / see it anew.

2 Corinthians 2, 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 

It isn’t entirely easy as a passage. Here are some things ew were sent to mull over: This image reflects a triumphal procession – celebration of war victory and of its leader. Captives at front – sometimes to be executed. [We Christians have the unmistakeable “scent” of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the very smell of doom.(JBPhillips) But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.(Message) ]. Really?

We are to spread an aroma – what, how?

We are this aroma to God and to people– how does God find us an aroma?

Where have you smelt that aroma this last week?

Tune in to your sense of smell as you walk – what is out there on the breeze?

Saved and perishing, bringing life, bringing death…

We returned to the bandstand to share thoughts – of which there were many – and to share bread and wine, focusing on these words:

Luke 9  23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 

Breaking of bread:

The cup – I deny self

The bread – I live in him

Gal 2.  20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God;

Lots to think about and to consider for the following week. Thanks Jeremy!!!

Plough Sunday and crossing thresholds

It was a crisp sunny morning at the bandstand and everything I had was from or inspired by ‘The Celtic Wheel of the Year’ by Tess Ward. We took a moment to be still and began with the words:

Blessed be you, Keeper of our past, Guider of our stories, Holder of our future.

The first Sunday after Epiphany in the Celtic year was known as Plough Sunday, when priests blessed ploughs. The next day, Plough Monday was a day of rowdy celebrations with men dressing up, performing plays and asking for donations towards a feast.  A refusal could lead to damage to property by the plough! The ploughing season began then and, just as now, people return to work after the Christmas break. Some of us were in that place of having returned to work – others of us were not – so what might this new start mean for all of us?

On the handouts we considered the following words:

January is seen as a time of journeys – of crossing over boundaries into new places. We meet in the “now and not yet” and at the crossing point of our hope and our present reality. It is a season of reflection on the past and discerning the future, of placing trust, of following our longing and taking the first footstep from the known and familiar into unchartered territory. The Epiphany story reminds us that God’s love is revealed when people cross the threshold from known places and follow a star to who knows what.

We read the story of the visiting Magi, crossing the threshold to encounter Christ and then walked with some questions and a prayer and an image of a threshold, with the invitation to write about situations and people who are facing uncertain futures on the left of the threshold and pray about the as yet unknown side.

  • What threshold may be in front of me at the start of this year?
  • What new things might await me this year that I long for or fear?
  • What would be good for me to leave behind and what new things to embrace?

Spirit Weaver go before me to be my guide

And with the gentlest fingers

Untangle the old and the unfinished

and weave their ends into the next step

As directions change

And the cloth feels new and strange.

We returned to pray – for those in Gaza, held hostage by Hamas, for the people of Yemen and Middle East in geberal, for the people of Taiwan post election and for the UK and US facing elections this year, as well as for one another and those known to us. We recognised that we cannot influence world affairs in the main but are called to be the body of Christ where we are placed…

Embodied God,

On the ladder between the home of heaven and earth’s dwelling place,

The crack between the worlds,

A baby journeyed,

Belonging to both.

Come embodied love:

To our hands that our touch might soothe;

To our ears that we might receive words of kindness;

To our bellies that we might have courage to go beyond;

To our journeys that we might be aware of a purpose;

To our feet that we might always treasure the earth that supports us;

To our hearts that we might live for more than ourselves.

Come embodied love

Walk with us in our travelling this year.


Steve had written words for the sharing of bread and wine:

This Epiphany, as we meet around bread and wine,

Untangle that which is old and unfinished and that which is frayed and broken,

And reconfigure our faith-threads so that we might journey across this threshold with purpose.

Bring Peace to the world and make us peace-makers.

Bring Justice to the world and make us justice-workers.

Bring light to the world and make us artists and prophets.

Bring the embodied Love of Jesus to our world day by day.

For our story concerns the refugee baby, the immigrant Jesus, the vulnerable traveller,

 Who died for us.

The Bread of the Kingdom.

The Wine of the Kingdom.


We finsished with this blessing:

May the God who hangs her star over unexpected places

Lure us to the place we need to be,

Where new things happen

And we have to return home by a different way.

Thanks to Tess Ward for the inspiration for everyone for joining forces to cross those thresholds together in faith and hope.

New Year at the Bandstand

This morning was our start to the new year. Julie began by sharing an Epiphany meditation:


“Jesus, you are the light of the world. In your holiness and your earthliness, you display the truth about who God is and God’s desire to be present with us. You open our eyes, ears and hearts to the ways in which you continue to reveal yourself to us today—through word , communion,  creation, and through the relationship we have with others. By your light, may we truly see. Amen.


Over and over in the gospels, the majesty and truth of God with us, Immanuel, is made known, mostly in small moments with everyday people.

Jesus is taken  to the temple, and Simeon and Anna proclaim his divinity.
As a child, Jesus reads the Torah and explains it to those listening
Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana.
He gathers a handful of the ordinary and the unlikely and calls them to follow him.
Jesus heals.
He feeds crowds.
Then, in front of just three of his closest friends, Jesus meets on a mountaintop with Moses and Elijah and is transfigured right before their eyes.

There are so many more moments that could be named and counted, each revealing just a little more of Jesus’ ability to meet people right where they are. No big production, just humble, real,  encounters that provide hope to all.


We believe in a living God, the revelation of Jesus is not over and done in this world but continues. . Where do you need Jesus to show up? And what do you need from him in that space? This week have a go at writing a prayer, asking to be open to new revelations God and how God is at work in our world.

These thoughts were inspired by words from a reflection on Ephiphany written but Amanda Berger

Jeremy read the following poem:

Winter Now – Samuel Longfellow

‘Tis winter now; the fallen snow
Has left the heav’ns all coldly clear.
Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow,
And all the earth lies dead and drear;

And yet God’s love is not withdrawn:
His life within the keen air breathes;
His beauty paints the crimson dawn,
And clothes the boughs with glitt’ring wreaths.

And though abroad the sharp winds blow,
And skies are chill and frosts are keen,
Home closer draws her circle now,
And warmer glows her light within.

O God, Who gives the winter’s cold,
As well as summer’s joyous rays,
Us warmly in Thy love enfold,
And keep us through life’s wint’ry days.

And Fiona W shared this poem:

New Every Morning – Susan Coolidge

Every morn is the world made new.
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you,—
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All the past things are past and over;
The tasks are done and the tears are shed.
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover;
Yesterday’s wounds, which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday now is a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight,
With glad days, and sad days, and bad days, which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fulness of sunshine or sorrowful night.

Let them go, since we cannot re-live them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in his mercy receive, forgive them!
Only the new days are our own;
To-day is ours, and to-day alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all re-born,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share with the morn
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,
Take heart with the day, and begin again.

Then we walked with words from Romans 8:18-end (From The Message) as we reflected on those in relation to the year ahead. We returned to burn our luggage labels, with our prayers, that had been attached to the shepherd’s crook last year and wrote new prayers for the things most important to us in the year ahead. They will hang over a doorway at Holly House, keeping our prayers always present there till next year.

Steve B led us, then, in the sharing of bread and wine before we headed to Ostello Lounge for much needed hot drinks! Chilly at the bandstand but a good time together!

Peace on Christmas Eve

Julie and Steve led us in a very special time of being together with family members joining us. The following was in our handouts:

 “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (and women) Luke 2:14 (King James)

The story of Jesus begins and ends in peace. The angels  proclaim peace to Mary, mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28) and  to the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). And upon his resurrection, Jesus himself proclaims peace to his disciples after he endured great pain and death (Luke 24:36). The  peace of Christ is very different from any worldly peace.  It is not something we can create or obtain by mastering  our own lives. The peace of Christ comes from an otherworldly love and grace: a love that sends God’s son to  earth as a vulnerable baby to show the world what love  feels like.

How in our broken world and our complicated lives do we find authentic and meaningful peace as opposed to manufactured and sugar-coated peace, both  for ourselves and for others?

Image by Julie Barber – A Gaza Nativity

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.  To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.  Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s  commandment’’. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Opening prayer “Blessed are we, the fearful, though we long to be people of peace. We can’t lie: we are afraid.  Afraid there won’t be enough:enough resources, enough time, enough memories.  Blessed are we who ask you for wisdom,  show us what to turn from, what to set aside.  Come Lord, that we might  see you,  move with you,  keep pace with you.  Blessed are we who ask that this Advent  we might dwell together quietly in our homes. Come, Lord, that we might be for others  the peace they cannot find. Blessed are we who look to you and say, God, truly, we are troubled and afraid. Come govern our hearts and calm our fears.  Oh Prince of Peace, still our restless selves, calm our anxious hearts, quiet our busy minds.’

Peace for ourselves

The above prayer echos  the same wisdom of the ancients who, in  the decades after Jesus lived on earth, saw that when we  bring it all to God there is a mysterious “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The former  Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams says that  the good life “is honest about where it lives.” From that  place of honesty, all our instinctual and reactive selves  can be brought to God whose loving gaze is the beginning of the healing we seek. Williams says that it is a  place of both prospect and refuge, “where my rhythm is  echoed, my speech is understood. My face is seen…To be  recognised and recognisable, lifts from me the burden of making myself up.”

So with the apostle Peter we can invite our worried and  anxious selves into the presence of God. This is the intimate space where peace-making within oneself begins.

  “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his  own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal  concern.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 (Phillips)

‘Peace Be With You’. While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be  with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to  them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and  my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Yet for all their  joy they were still disbelieving and wondering, and he said to them, “Have you anything here to  eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence”.    LUKE 24:36-43 (NRSV) 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  —JOHN 14:27 (NIV

What are we to make of Jesus’ words when he  says to his disciples, “Don’t be afraid.” Easy for him to say.  God is God after all. But maybe that’s actually the point.  Maybe Jesus knows that something-else-that-is-also-happening too. He understands the bigger picture and has knowledge that all will be well and all manner of things will be well. This is the meaning-making Jesus offers: His  presence at Christmas as God-in-human-flesh, God  with us. As the “Easter risen saviour” who says, “Don’t be  afraid. It’s me!” And then as the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth to be with us even into death and the end of the age. A story far bigger than our fear or anxiety.

Five minutes private reflection

  1. What are some ways you can offer the gift of peace to yourself, showing yourself love and grace? 
  2.  How can you offer others the promise and hope of peace by “passing the peace” this Advent season?  
  3. When talking about peace, Jesus said, “I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). What do you think he meant? What is the peace of the world? What is the peace of Christ? We sometimes try to console ourselves or others by trying to make sense of our troubles. Do explanations work  for you? Always, sometimes, never? If not, what works better?  Imagine Jesus was sitting with you right now. What would you say to him? What troubling doubts or awkward  questions might arise? What comforts or consolations?

Some thoughts  

Too often peace is something we have half-heartedly prayed for because we are so limited in our ability to dream of peace in a world of pain and chaos. Peace isn’t dependent on outside circumstances and peace isn’t dependent on whether you like or enjoy someone’s presence. Peace is much deeper than  like or dislike. Peace is much broader than getting along. Peace is a promise.

Peace for others

In many Christian traditions, there is a part of the service that includes a time for the congregation to pass the  peace. We leave the comfort of our regular pew (don’t  you dare sit in my seat) to turn to our neighbours and  speak the words, “peace be with you,” and receive the  words, “and also with you.” This tradition is more than a  simple exchange or greeting. It is a covenant, a promise,  shared between believers that they are living towards  the ever-expanding peace of Christ. The act of passing  the peace is one of extending unfathomable grace and  unconditional love to our neighbours, to the stranger, to  the one standing next to us. And often that person is not  one we would necessarily choose (they might not prefer us either). No matter how broken or smelly or don’t-have-it-all-together we might be, we are invited to join in the chorus of those who come in peace, just as Christ taught us.

Sharing of the peace and sharing bread and wine

Ending Prayer

Blessed are we remembering that you hold all things together. You are the invisible scaffolding that supports us, the canopy of love that covers us in the present, the stable pillars, sunk deep into our past and the sparrow that flies confidently toward the future,  bearing for us the peace we could never have attained for ourselves.

With thanks to Kate Bowler

And huge thanks to Julie and Steve – it felt very special, led to touching exchanges in the sharing of the Peace and felt very pertinent to many.