Last Wednesday evening Gary Neville was working as a football pundit for ITV during the England v Denmark semi-final. Neville played 400 matches for Manchester United at right-back and 85 times for England.  He is one of the shrewdest and most eloquent football pundits.  During the celebrations after England’s victory Neville dismantled any attempt by this government to cash in on the success of the England football team. Neville said: “The standard of leaders in this country over the last couple of years has been poor. Looking at Gareth Southgate, he’s everything a leader should be – he’s respectful, humble, tells the truth, and genuine.”

Neville’s brave and timely comments inspired me to think about leadership.

Here’s a list of people that I think have been or are brilliant leaders:

Jesus of Nazareth,

Alfred the Great,

Millicent Fawcett, (Suffragist leader & feminist who campaigned for women’s suffrage through non-violence).

Franklin D. Roosevelt,


Martin Niemoller & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Leaders of the Confessing Church in Nazi- Germany).

Don Robbins, (Vicar of St George’s, Leeds who founded St George’s Crypt in 1930).

Martin Luther King,



Jim Wallis, (Radical evangelical theologian, writer, political activist and leader of Sojourners Community in Washington D.C.).

Gareth Southgate, (England football manager).

Caroline Lucas (The UK’s only Green Party MP).

Jacinda Ardern (Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2017. [Without doubt the world’s best Prime Minister/President of the last four or five years]).

Who do you rate as good leaders?

Here are some qualities that I think are vital for good leadership:

Integrity, truth-telling, compassion, competence, kindness, vision, empathy,

inclusivity, hard-working, being cooperative, being willing to listen to others.

(The first three are essential, the next five are very necessary.)

What qualities/values do you think are essential for good leadership?

What does Jesus say about leadership?

MARK 10: 35-45.

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It seems to me that Jesus’ leadership involved:

1 Always speaking the truth

2 His motivation was always love and compassion.

3 Jesus always acted as a servant.

4 Jesus encouraged people to grasp a vision of the Kingdom that was about equality and inclusivity.

5 Jesus always treated women as equals.

6 Jesus frequently offered a challenge.

7 He valued the outcast, the marginalised and the poor.

8 Jesus vision always included action, action that would make the world more just.

9 Jesus leadership required great courage and fortitude.

Raphael at the bandstand

Back to the bandstand and a time to intentionally connect with the unseen as well las the seen. Here’s what Steve and I came up with, this Sunday, which culminated in laying hands on Grayden. for healing and wholeness and the touch of Raphael..

We started naming angels we could think of – Gabriel, Michael, Lucifer… but what of Raphael? And how did we in 21st century western culture view angels these days? This led to the sharing of stories of times we have felt we have encountered angels ourselves, or stories known to us of Padre Pio and of Nadim Ednan Laparouse, who saw angels as his daughter, Natasha, was dying from her allergic reaction to sesame seeds (Do access that Radio 4  interview – A bright Yellow Light – on Youtube)

Then a bit of background on Raphael:

Rapha in Hebrew means healer and Raphael means literally, ‘God has healed’ and can be translated ‘doctor’. The Jewish concept of healing is associated with Shalom – wholeness, and so Raphael is connected with the mission to restore wholeness.

He is the central figure of the book of Tobit in the Apocrypha – a book probably written by an Egyptian Jew around 180 BC. It tells how Raphael cured Tobit’s blindness and bound a demon enslaving his wife-to-be, Sarah. Only at the end does it become known that he is an angel – an archangel in fact.

He also appears in the apocryphal book of Enoch, a book referred to in the New Testament book of Jude, which had been very influential at the time of Jesus & early Christianity. There,   God commands Raphael to heal the earth and to bind a demon Azazel. He is depicted here as a watcher / observer of the human race.

In Jewish legend he is credited with giving Noah a book on medicine, after the flood, healing Abraham of the pain of circumcision, of being one of the three angels to visit Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18 and to have been sent to heal Jacob after his thigh injury after wresting with his mysterious adversary at Peniel.


‘Touching the sacred’ is a book we have used two or three times at ThirdSpace, using  words by Chris Thorpe and artwork by Jake Lever based on 12 century Romanesque frescoes of angels transferred from hilltop churches in northern Spain to the Palau National in Barcelona. Each of these paintings depicts a hand. Where the hand is of an angel, we are told, ‘The all-seeing eyes of the seraphs, piercing the hands like wounds, watchers of both the human and the divine.’

The image of the hand of Raphael is entitled ‘Raphael- the call to touch’ – which seems incredibly poignant in this time we have lived through and are still living through. It urges us to recognise the touch of God and to open ourselves to the idea of entertaining angels unawares.

With all that in mind, we had a hand-out with the image of the hand and the following words to lead into prayer:

Raphael – sent to bring wholeness and healing

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

(Jesus, quoting Isaiah, Luke 4:18-19)

What am I in need of?

What am I imprisoned by?

Dare I ask for Raphael’s touch?


Who else do I want Raphael to see, to visit and to touch today?


Returning to the bandstand, Steve reflected on recent lockdown stories of our lives. He gave us all bright, deep red petals from a peony and had a bowl of water in the centre of the bandstand. This is how he led us:

Take a petal. We all need healing in one way or another and we have all received healing – physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological. We all bear the healed scars of former wounds. The stigmata of life’s experiences that makes us individually and uniquely who we are. Redeemed survivors. Bought for a price and restored.

Sense the petal in all its fresh fallen glory. It can represent our healing for which we give thanks. All the people placed knowingly and unknowingly along our way, to companion us to Shalom. We give thanks for them, for our healing and for this moment of shalom.


We turn to the healing of the world for which we pray.

For the land and the sea and the sky which cry out for restoration.

For our fellow creatures for whom we have so often demonstrated a dearth of care and stewardship.

For the nations of the world in their fractious and turbulent restlessness.

For those we know in need of healing now.

It was here that Grayden shared his concerns and Paul led us in prayer as we laid hands and asked for provision of all that he needs at this time…

Cast your petals on the water. They can now represent these prayers committed to God and to Raphael’s healing waters.


And so to BREAD – touched by the sacred – made by the toil of human hands – all things will be brought to renewal in Christ’s body.

And so to WINE – pressed by the toil of human hands – transformed by the divine leaven – all things will be brought to renewal through Christ’s blood.


Restored and co-missioned companions – we pray for the continued blessing of healing on YOU and You and you and you…

Mysteries and Miracles

With the ending of some of the Covid restrictions we could once more meet in the Bandstand our spiritual home since September 2009. Not since March 2020 had we all been together under one roof, even if we have plenty of ventilation with open sides. 


The joy of meeting outdoors and experiencing the changes in the seasons never fails to thrill. This morning we had organised a bring and share.

Jeremy kicked us off with a wonderful reading.

Extract from ‘A Clergyman’s Daughter’ by G Orwell.

(After doing pastoral visits because her father can’t be bothered with anything but ”the magic” the much put-upon Dorothy cycles homewards)

Outside, in the swimming heat, she mounted her bicycle and began to ride swiftly homewards. The sun burned in her face, but the air now seemed sweet and fresh. She was happy, happy! She was always extravagantly happy when her morning’s ‘visiting’ was over; and, curiously enough, she was not aware of the reason for this. In Borlase the dairy-farmer’s meadow the red cows were grazing, knee- deep in shining seas of grass. The scent of cows, like a distillation of vanilla and fresh hay, floated into Dorothy’s nostrils. Though she had still a morning’s work in front of her she could not resist the temptation to loiter for a moment, steadying her bicycle with one hand against the gate of Borlase’s meadow, while a cow, with moist shell-pink nose, scratched its chin upon the gatepost and dreamily regarded her.

Dorothy caught sight of a wild rose, flowerless of course, growing beyond the hedge, and climbed over the gate with the intention of discovering whether it were not sweetbriar. She knelt down among the tall weeds beneath the hedge. It was very hot down there, close to the ground. The humming of many unseen insects sounded in her ears, and the hot summery fume from the tangled swathes of vegetation flowed up and enveloped her. Near by, tall stalks of fennel were growing, with trailing fronds of foliage like the tails of sea-green horses. Dorothy pulled a frond of the fennel against her face and breathed in the strong sweet scent. Its richness overwhelmed her, almost dizzied her for a moment. She drank it in, filling her lungs with it. Lovely, lovely scent—scent of summer days, scent of childhood joys, scent of spice-drenched islands in the warm foam of Oriental seas!

Her heart swelled with sudden joy. It was that mystical joy in the beauty of the earth and the very nature of things that she recognized, perhaps mistakenly, as the love of God. As she knelt there in the heat, the sweet odour and the drowsy hum of insects, it seemed to her that she could momentarily hear the mighty anthem of praise that the earth and all created things send up everlastingly to their maker. All vegetation, leaves, flowers, grass, shining, vibrating, crying out in their joy. Larks also chanting, choirs of larks invisible, dripping music from the sky. All the riches of summer, the warmth of the earth, the song of birds, the fume of cows, the droning of countless bees, mingling and ascending like the smoke of ever-burning altars. Therefore with Angels and Archangels! She began to pray, and for a moment she prayed ardently, blissfully, forgetting herself in the joy of her worship. Then, less than a minute later, she discovered that she was kissing the frond of the fennel that was still against her face.

She checked herself instantly, and drew back. What was she doing? Was it God that she was worshipping, or was it only the earth? The joy ebbed out of her heart, to be succeeded by the cold, uncomfortable feeling that she had been betrayed into a half-pagan ecstasy. She admonished herself. None of that, Dorothy! No Nature-worship, please! Her father had warned her against Nature- worship. She had heard him preach more than one sermon against it; it was, he said, mere pantheism, and, what seemed to offend him even more, a disgusting modern fad. Dorothy took a thorn of the wild rose, and pricked her arm three times, to remind herself of the Three Persons of the Trinity, before climbing over the gate and remounting her bicycle.

Sue followed on with a wander and a tree hug if we wanted to try it. She followed up with the following article about communication and trees which was very interesting. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/may/28/branching-out-is-communication-possible-between-trees-and-people?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

In our meetings under the beech tree recently we have discussed mysteries and miracles from the resurrection, the appearances of Jesus when he was unrecognisable; and those when he was recognised, the strange story of the Ascension and this morning another mystery Pentecost. Something happened to those disciples meeting together at Pentecost that changed them and the world forever.


A Sound Like a Strong Wind

Acts 2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Barbara related two mysteries that had happened to her very recently and shared that she did not quite know how to interpret them, but that is the beauty of God’s mysteries. The more the mystery the more awesome and incredible our God seems. She took them to be encouragements from God and an assurance that he was walking a difficult path with her and Grayden.


We wrote prayers on flame shaped paper and thought of mysteries and miracles we would like to happen in our lives, our friends and families and in the wider world.

Bread and Wine

Steve used some of his wonderful words to help us remember who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

Wassailing and suchlike

Jeremy and Sue led us this week combining thoughts on Wassail, Groundhoog day, Candlemas and St Brigid’sday.

We started with words of The Welcome
Be still
Be attentive to the divine presence
God of beginnings and endings
as the seasons turn towards Spring
We come to you
as new shoots of life emerge
We welcome your life-giving Spirit
as mortals made in your image
We welcome each other
Welcoming the God of the circle of the seasons
(face each direction)
God of the North and the cold winds
We call to you to be the fire in our hearts
God of the west and sun setting
We call to you as we greet the returning light
God of the South and the warm breeze
We call to you to be the embrace between us
God of the East and sun rising
We call to you to bring us life renewed
Christ Jesus Be the life within us
Be the love between us
Be the light that guides us
This day And for eternity

We listened to a rendering of the folksong ‘No whte green balde rises’ as wethought about the first signs of spring:

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green

In the grave they laid him, love by people slain,
Thinking that he’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three dark days in the grave had lain;
quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
By your touch you call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.


We had historical background given on the tradition of the wassail and used some of the following:


Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bear well
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout to the old apple tree!
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs
Hip! Hip! Hooray!

Groundhog day

God of all creatures,

today we praise you for groundhogs,

unassuming rodents who carry

the tradition and responsibility 

of forecasting spring.

From their burrows they rise,

half dead: groggy from hibernation, 

hungry, alone, stressed;

awakened by an inner clock

synchronized with the 

rhythms of the seasons

telling them it is time

to explore and prepare

for the next generation.

We pray for all creatures who

count the days until the weather 

changes, until winter 

loosens its grip, until

they can reconnect with others.

We pray for all who are tired,

who are hungry or dissatisfied,

who are lonely or isolated.

In this time between solstice

and equinox reassure us that

sooner or later spring will come.

Grant us patience to see the gifts 

of this particular time, and to

savour the stillness.

In our exhaustion release us from stress

so that we might find rest. 

In moments of hunger or dissatisfaction

remind us that there is


In our isolation 

be our comforting presence.

We pray that whether the sun shines

or the sky is grey, we will count

each day as a gift with 

moments of wonder.

Let hope rise up in us, as we

align our bodies and spirits

to your greater purposes 

beyond what we see this day.



Prayer of St Brigid

 I should like a great lake of ale for the King of Kings.

I should like a table of the choicest food for the family of heaven.

Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith, and the food be forgiving love

I should welcome the poor to my feast, for they are God’s children

I should welcome the sick to my feast, for they are God’s joy

Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place, and the sick dance with the angels

God bless the poor God bless the sick and bless our human race

 God bless our food God bless our drink all homes our God embrace


We’d all made some wassail – alcoholic or non-alcoholic cider / spiced apple juice and tipped some into our gardens where we might hope for produce after winte and remembering those who deeply rely on the harvest for survival. We used the words below:

God of the seasons, of seed sowing and harvest reaping
Of blossom and bud and fruit and leaf fall,
We thank for the gifts of creation and ask you to bless them this year.
We especially ask for you to bless the harvest for…

We shared bread and wine and finished witht this blessing:

Departing and travelling further
God of the South and the light of Summer
Bless us now with your warmth
God of the West as the sunsets upon us
Bless us now through the dark hours until the dawn breaks
God of the North and the season of passing winter
Bless us now with the presence of Christ with us
God of the East and the suns rising
Bless us now with the fruitfulness of spring-life


Sunday 24th January led by Paul

Today we met via Zoom, using a prayer video by Kelly Ann Hall called The Great Reversal which is featured on The Work of the People website and was inspired by Isaiah 60. Here are some excerpts:


Look up, Love, take your eyes off the ground, show your face!

A new day is here. The light is rising over you, shining brightly, moving shadows, touching your face—you are brilliant with it!

Darkness may come and go, but the glory of our Creator is a constant companion, a steady light.

So, take the gift of this day you are given. Let the light enlighten you, emanate from within you, become you, be you.

Everything wrong side up is being upended. The table is extending, rounding. You have a place that is only yours. And everyone, everyone, everyone at this table will have more than enough.

So, stand up. Open up. Take it all in, and shine.


We discussed our feelings/thoughts on the many images in the video and then treated ourselves to 5 minutes doing something enlightening (reading a poem/listening to a song etc) which we hoped would then allow  light to emanate from us.


Then a time of prayer for others;


Creator God

Source of light

We, and all of humanity, are precious to you

May your sunlight make us brilliant and emanate from within us

So that these we have prayed for are able to shine



And finally the bread and wine


This bread is born of sunlight streaming down onto golden fields, enlivening, enriching and bringing forth plenty.

In eating it we absorb the power of the sunlight and pray it will enliven, enrich and bring forth plenty in us and those to whom we radiate


This wine is born of sunlight streaming down onto terraced purple vines, enlivening, enriching and bringing forth plenty.

In drinking it we absorb the power of the sunlight and pray it will enliven, enrich and bring forth plenty in us and those to whom we radiate

Defiant hope (vs optimism)

We began this morning with a some quiet and these words (a mix of verses from Psalms from The Message and words of David  Adam)

Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.

Be still and know…

I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking…

I’m never out of your sight.

I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
You Lord are in this place

Your presence surrounds me

Your presence is peace

You Lord


Following last Wednesday as Epiphany, we read from Matthew 2 abou the visit of the wise men, the slaughter of the innocents and the holy family as refugees. This was followed by a clip from The Work of the People, in which Nadia Bolz Weber is interviewed about her belief in defiant hope as the central message for Christians. The following is a summary of her main points:

What is the light and why can’t darkness put it out?

This is one of our basic confessions. This is a confession we have to make all the time – especially when we are surrounded by such despair… It’s a confession that has to ring through.

This is not the same as optimism – hope has a defiance to it.

Optimism is shallow and is going against the evidence in front of you. Hope is saying ‘Oh no – there’s something deeper, there’s something more powerful… and it will overcome the darkness. This is the basic confession of Christians. It has to be. We believe in death and resurrection, right? A crucified God that was resurrected

How do you get that hope? Do you just say it?

‘You have to. You have to remind each other. You have to point to it. You have to point it out where you see it. Everything else might be conspiring to convince us otherwise…. The powers of evil and darkness are raging because they know they have lost already…

We want the ball in our court. We are always going to default to something that’s going to mean that we’re in charge. There’s something terrifying about saying that God’s grace is more powerful than [our attempts to control life]

Steve then shared some ideas about defiant hope

He spoke of a history of Lockdown believers:

  • Joseph, Mary, Jesus
  • Catacombed Christians
  • Lockdowned monasteries as the empire destroyed
  • Reformation exclusivism…priest holes
  • 20th/21st Century tyrants – in China, USSR, Eastern Europe and today in so many Islamic countries etc.

Optimism v. Defiant Hope (Nadia)

Optimism – Mr Macawber – “Something will turn up.” Superficial positivity. My positive mind-set can change reality (D.Trump as influenced by  Pastor Norman Vincent Peale “The Power of Positive Thinking) – a secular version of Prosperity Theology. The Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail “Tis but a scratch” or “Just a flesh wound”. Almost as ludicrous as Trump’s inability to acknowledge failure in the election.

Defiant Hope

Is not based on events. But ultimately based on a commitment to God’s unchanging love. Altered perspective.

Existentialism – often in its 20th century form it is associated with atheism.


But Kierkegaard – Danish minister – founding father of theistic existentialism. We hope/have faith in defiance of what may be facing us. Leap of hope in the dark – an experiential relational hope in Jesus.

Light in the darkness is defiance. A life AFTER death is defiance. Forgiveness is defiance of the law of retribution. A future hope defiant in the face of present circumstances. It answers to a different law. All things (good, bad and bloody awful) work together…

How do we practice defiant hope? How do we encourage defiant hope in one another? What stories of defiant hope do we tell?



Our prayers practised defiant hope in troubled times. I adapted words from Churchoftheascension.ca where they had advent prayers on this theme.

Our world is filled with trouble

It is wrestling with a pandemic that sees health workers overstretched and people struggling for breath, frightened and dying

But we remember that God is with us.

And we remember that Jesus is coming.

And we remember that the kingdom is near.

So we pray  for hope, lost and found.  For each person in need of your presence now.

Jesus, be close.

Lord Jesus, be close.


Our world is filled with trouble

It is fractured by division, corruption, misinformation and loss of truth

And so we pray for America and for those elsewhere in instability and tyranny

But we remember that God is good

And we remember that, with God, nothing is impossible

And we remember Immanuel – God with us!

So we pray in defiant hope that God’s presence offers strength to those who seek truth and justice

Jesus rescue.

Lord Jesus, rescue.


Our world is filled with trouble

It is reeling under climate change, wilful destruction of habitats, sea levels rising, droughts lengthening, deserts advancing and refugees fleeing their homelands

But we remember that God will not abandon us

And we remember that God loves the world

And we remember that God will make all things new

So we pray in yearning hope

Jesus save.

Lord Jesus save us.


There are people we know who are filled with trouble

We name them and we cry out to you for them… Jenny and Jean; Fi and Sue; Jane and Pete; Brian, Steve and Teresa; James and family and faith and family and emily and family and Suzi…

But we remember that God is on their side

And we remember that they are not left to deal with these things alone

And we remember that the darkness cannot put out the light

And we remember that love is stronger than death

So we pray in living hope

Jesus Christ our hope

Christ our hope.


We then shared bread and wine using words Steve had written:

 Our story is born in Lockdown with Defiant Hope coursing through its blood.

The location was secret and the doors were locked for fear of the religious and political

authorities. They met to mark the festival of God’s liberation. You can imagine one saying, “Nowt is going to stop me celebrating Passover.” Perhaps Peter…or one of the sons of thunder. “We were slaves and God delivered us.” Defiant Hope. And Jesus gave them the blessed bread and wine speaking radical, reinterpreting words.

And ever since that night, for going on 2000 years, Jesus’ followers have re-enacted that meal, in every conceivable circumstance, with bread and wine.

Because the bread we eat and the wine we sup speaks not only of the past and God’s saving liberation through Jesus and but also of the future hope of that Great Feast to which we are invited.

The bread of Defiant Hope. (REPEAT)

The wine of Defiant Hope. (REPEAT)


We finished  with the wonderful Youtube song Behold our God (World edition) – sung in languages from arounf the world

and these final words:

So may we live in the hope to which we are called

And may we share that hope with those around us

Bringing light into the darkness

Because God is God and we are God’s


Bring & share in Tier 4 Zoom

In this our first meeting of 2021, Barbara began with a meditation from ‘We Who Still Wait’ by Chris Goan, Ian Adam’s, Steve Broadway and Su Smith. This followedashort time of us taking time to look up to teh  sky and reflect….

Step outside and look up.
Let the light guide you. 
To you whose hope
Seems stolen 
Know this tender thing
The bruised old sky above you
(Which seems to yawn indifference)
Is in fact leaking light. 
Particles tumble down
Like this promise;
For I know what you know 
I see what you see
The fences you built are no protection 
From starlight
My stars leave no shadow 
And in this gentle light
Shy things 
Become possible. 

Fiona shared this cartoon and spoke of how we might approach this coming year, with words from Philippians 4:

Philippians 4

 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

Julie shared John Henry Newman’s words as a meditation:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.

He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

Colin shared some thoughts too:

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

What if we reverse the flow of this verse – rather than requesting the one thing from God, how about asking what one thing God would ask of us? For me it might look like this:

One thing I ask of you, yes this is what I seek – that we may spend a day together, just one … walking, talking, exploring, enjoying each other’s company in this wonderful creation …. and then maybe sometime we could do it again?  That you may behold my beauty, my presence in the ordinary, the small, the unlikely people & places. And that finally you would seek me in that part of my temple which is in you, your body, your very life. One thing I ask of you.

MEDITATION My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton.

Wendy reminded us of prayers we had attached to the shepherd’s crook last year and we burned those in the fire, mindful of God’s fatithfulness in all those concerns. This year, folk are sending thier prayers for the tags this year and they will remain attached to the crook in the care of the Good Shepherd for this coming year.

Steve had written a Creed  to introduce our sharing of bread and wine. Insteaad of it beginning ‘We believe’ it reflected on what God believes:

God-Creed         ThirdSpace 2021

God believes in stuff, in matter, in atoms – 

And so much so that she created all that is created out of this dynamic and palpitating element

And God works with the stuff to shape and to bring to order

And God so loves the world that she becomes en-atomed in Jesus, the baby and the man

And God commits all of herself to the mission of matter as Mother and Bearer and Nourisher of all.


God believes in us – and in all of the us’s in her creation

She breathes us forth from the red clay and appoints us stewards of her stuff, fellow workers with her

So much does God believe in us that she appoints us prophets and artists and justice servants – co-builders of the Kingdom Jesus himself inaugurated when he was one of us.

God believes in the rescue and redemption of us and of the world and this belief comes at great cost.


God believes in time – an aspect of her created order

God believes in the what-has-been, the now and the what-will-be

God has and is and will

All that is created will work out her purposes in the fullness of time and we are invited to that end of term feast

And this we anticipate in the meantime, as companions together; we meet around these dynamic elements – the bread and wine – redolent with the story we believe.






We finished with an adapted blessing ofArchbishop Desmond Tutu:

Disturb us, O Lord
when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, O Lord
when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.
Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow.


Advent thoughts of obedience in the Park

Julie led us this Sunday – having had to save what was prepared for last week, when heavy rain necessitated a short time together (We cannot meet under the bandstand while we are socially distancing at present!)

She shared her wrestlings with the concept of obedience and played a song ‘The burden is light’ from Jacob Cuevas’s album ‘Fear not’

We took 15 minutes with lit candle to wander and reflect, then, on our own responses to the word obedience, reading about Mary’s response to Gabriel’s annunciation and Jesus’s incarnation and later in the Garden of Gethsemane… Focusing on the following:

What is our own relationship with obedience? We often think of Advent as waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus -but Jesus has already come. Is Advent more about Jesus waiting for us to come for our awakening? What are our blockages? What keeps us from receiving God? What gets in the way of our obedience? Do we misunderstand what obedience means? Do we mistake it for obligation, duty or a joyless trying to prove our worthiness, rather than an ‘awakening’ and ‘abandonment’? What stops us just jumping in?

On our return we shared bread and wine, as always, with the following words:

Lord Jesus,

Prepare us for your coming.

Save us from the complacency

And familiarity that can grow in us with this great festival.

Save us from going through the motions,

The cherished traditions,

The joyful celebrations,

Without seeing or understanding

The implications of your birth among us.


Here in this Bread and Wine,

Help us to know the full extent of what if meant for you to take our flesh,

To live our life,

To suffer our fate.

Awaken us and our sleepy world.

We are not ready to receive you.

Our house is not in order,

The naked are not all clothed,

Neither are the hungry all fed.

Many are still imprisoned

And the poor do not hear good news.

Stir us Lord,

So that we may greet you

As servants who cannot wait for the time to come

When you reign with justice,

Heal our conflicts,

Forgive our failures

And show us the way that leads to peace.


(From New Eden Ministry)

Finally, a blessing from words by Meister Eckhart (surely a message to be taken into the coming year)


‘We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace, if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son, if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us’


Much to ponder and wonderful words – thanks so much Julie.

All Saints Day in the park

Paul writes:

Today we met in the park (appropriately socially-distanced!) for the last time before lockdown.  Fiona had found it was All Saints Day and the lectionary reading was the Beatitudes so we read round them in The Message (which, being less familiar, makes one think more about the meaning and perhaps emphasises their immediacy) and then in the NIV (which to me has always seemed to suggest recompense in heaven when you die!). That familiar rendering was then echoed in Pope Francis’ thought-provoking description of a saint;


Saints are the simple, the humble who make room for God, who know how to weep for others and for their own errors, those who stay meek, who fight for justice, who are merciful toward all, who guard purity of heart, who always work for peace and remain in joy, not in hate, and, even when suffering, respond to evil with good. (Pope Francis)


Fiona then conducted a light-hearted quiz identifying pictures of the Saints with each of our names, and what they patronised


We followed that with an excellent prayer she had found;


All Saints’ Day Prayer: Set in the Company of Saints

You are our God and we are Your people,
and we are grateful that You have claimed us as your own.
You have set us in the company of saints past and present,
among those who have made bold witness
to Your goodness and Your truth.
Your Word opens up new futures
where we see no way forward.

You know the places in our hearts
where we are afraid
— afraid of a future we cannot control;
— afraid of losing health and independence
— afraid for the well-being of our children
— afraid that past mistakes will ruin our future

Write the stories of your people deep into our hearts
so that we may learn to trust you beyond our fears.
Give us hearts and minds and spirits
ready to trust and follow wherever your Spirit leads


The second element today was about memories and remembering (I have been clearing out the loft; so many memories and funny how we keep some worthless things because of the memories they invoke). Fiona had made some memory cards and beads to help us pray for each other over the next few weeks when we will not be meeting face-to-face.


Finally we ended with Steve Kenyon’s towering, majestic Beech Tree bread and wine words/liturgy which I urge you read in the resources section, as it is probably too long to reproduce here

What’s in a Name?

Sitting under the weeping beech beside the river on this fine autumn morning we split into small groups in order to keep to the rule of six.

The people leading this week tried an experiment in leading the groups. While one group listened to bible readings the other group meditated on some of the names of God. These activities were repeated with each group.

Three names of God chosen from the many used in the bible:

Elohim – God of Creation, the strong one written as G O D

“In the beginning Elohim, Elohim created the heaven and the earth.”

Spend a few moments in appreciation for what GOD has made …


 Adonai  –  The one who is in charge, the supervisor and manager,  written as L o r d


Yahweh – God who is in relationship relationship with his creation, the covenant keeping God

Written as L O R D

Yahweh is the most intensely sacred name to Jewish scribes and many will not even pronounce the name. When possible they sometimes use Adonai. Yahweh is God’s personal name it is a privilege to be able to speak it. (It’s rather like the queen asking you to call her Liz instead of  “Your Majesty” or      “Ma-am”)

Using the name Yahweh as we breathe  (in) Yah (out) weh – calm ourselves and become aware of the relational God’s presence here this morning.

Matthew 26, 6-13: (NIV)

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.

“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Deuteronomy 15:  (NIV)

4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised…….

10 Give generously to the poor and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy.

Jesus anointed at Bethany

All four Gospels tell the story of the woman pouring expensive ointment over Jesus, but only Mark and Matthew describe the host as Simon the leper.

Simon the leper in this story has always bothered me, particularly over recent years.

Simon the leper could not have lived in a town and could not have hosted a dinner party. It seems to me that there’s something very wrong here.

In the mid-20th Century both Feigin and Torrey made strong cases for Mark and Matthew having been originally written in Hebrew or, more likely, in Aramaic.

Edmond Macaraeg has an interesting theory. Both Hebrew and Aramaic were written without vowels. The translator reading the original Aramaic manuscript, failed to properly interpret the text. The Aramaic word that was translated into the Greek as “leper” requires the addition of one vowel, but with the addition of two vowels the word becomes “potter”.


As proof, the Hebrew Roots Bible consistently translates “Simon the leper” as “Simon the potter.”

Matthew 26: (Hebrew Roots Bible)

6 And Yahshua being in Bethany, in Simon the potter’s house*

7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster vial of ointment,

very precious. And she poured it on His head as He reclined.


* The Aramaic word for potter is mistranslated

as leper in the Greek, but a leper could not own property,

live in a city or town, or have guests at his house.



Although all four Gospels report the story of the woman pouring expensive perfume on Jesus, there is considerable variation in the accounts. All writers (except Luke) report that the onlookers condemned this waste of a year’s wages. They wondered aloud why the perfume wasn’t sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11).

But Jesus doesn’t praise the disciples for their idea for helping the poor. He praises the woman for her extravagance with the ointment. And then to make matters worse, Jesus then says this well-known line: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” On the surface for someone who’s concerned about helping the poor, this sounds pretty bad. This sounds like Jesus is taking a laissez-faire attitude to poverty and being rather callous, or at best being fatalistic.

But Jesus’ response to the disciples and praise of the woman with: “the poor you will always have with you” is actually a quote from Deuteronomy 15 – one of the most radical and liberating passages in the bible. Deuteronomy 15 is about the Sabbatical year and the year of Jubilee. The chapter explains that if the people follow God’s commandments there will be no poverty. In fact, this passage lays out the Sabbath and Jubilee laws so that the people of God know what to do to ensure that there is no poverty – how God’s bounty can be shared and enjoyed by all. But if the people do not follow what God has commanded, then “there will never cease to be some in need on the earth” (in other words: “the poor you always have with you”), and because of that, it is the Hebrews duty to God to “open your hand to your poor and needy neighbour.”

Liz Theoharis says: “This passage is about God’s plan to ensure that no one is poor is referenced by Jesus in his line “the poor you will always have with you.” Although we don’t have Deuteronomy 15 readily available in our minds, I believe that Jesus’ disciples would have. So when Jesus said this line to his followers, they would have understood his reference to Deuteronomy 15 and would have known that God had given laws for addressing poverty. Rather than selling something valuable and donating the money to the poor, the people of God were supposed to be organising their society to enact Jubilee. Jesus is demonstrating that poverty need not exist, and therefore that the poor will not need charity, if only society will follow God’s laws. The woman anointed Jesus as king of an empire that had the Jubilee and Sabbatical years at its centre. What God demands of God’s followers is justice rather than charity.”

In his book “The Upside Down Kingdom” Donald Kraybill writes: “In the light of Jesus’ continual plea on behalf of the poor, it’s hardly conceivable that Jesus now contradicts himself by telling us to neglect the poor who, after all, will always be around and there’s not much we can do about it. He’s rather saying that as long as greed and ambition govern the lives of people and their social systems, there will always be poor people. His observation of this fact does not justify its perpetuation. Rather than excusing us from social obligation, Jesus is reminding us that the alleviation of poverty is a never-ending struggle.”

Not long before his murder, while in New York, Martin Luther King said this in a sermon: “A true revolution of values will cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

And again quoting Liz Theoharis: “We need to understand Matthew 26 through the lens of the Jubilee. We are then able to implode an interpretation of this passage that suggests that poverty is inevitable and instead insist that poverty should be ended: indeed, it is God’s will.  The rules and norms of God’s kingdom are set by the Jubilee. There is no poverty in God’s empire; there is no exclusion in God’s empire. All of God’s children are valued and all life is affirmed.”

It seems to me that Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom I try to follow, came to reform structures and systems that produce beggars and billionaires. May we be inspired to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God as we strive against injustice and in so doing do God’s will.

PRAYERS: So what is in a name?

We label people in all sorts of different ways. We pray for people like refugees, asylum seekers, homeless, disabled, underprivileged, poor, lonely and sick, forgetting that each one is an individual human being. People of the world in huge numbers are suffering and we are so privileged, how can we pray?

Sometimes when watching the news I am ashamed to say I have to remind myself that the people in the report are like me – how would I cope in that situation?

Each person has the same needs, thoughts and feelings that we have.

We can’t contemplate sometimes what it must be like for people who are suffering especially if we have not been through something similar ourselves.

But God is a relational God who cares for all his creation. Jesus came and lived a life as a refugee, he was homeless, poor, rejected, betrayed and bereaved, he suffered injustice, pain and death all for our sakes. He understands.

So in his name we pray for those who:

Have no secure homes, who are looking for peace, security and comfort

For those who are sick, that they might find treatment, care and healing

For those who are poor that they may be shown love and compassion and their needs might be met

For those who seek a safe place that they may be given refuge and acceptance

For those who are lonely that they might know your presence and see love in action

For those who need God’s comfort and strength now

For ourselves that we might bring compassionate relationship to those we meet.


Sharing bread & wine.

On the night before Jesus died, he gathered with his friends to share a meal. Over food and drink they shared stories of lament and longing.

They told stories of Lament for a world of injustice and powerlessness that before they met Jesus they hadn’t even noticed.

Lament over the people who were silenced, oppressed, exploited, defrauded.

Lament over the people who were blind to the possibility that the world could be anything other than what it was.


They told stories of Longing that the new world they’d glimpsed through Jesus might become reality;

Longing that the voiceless would be heard.

Longing that the rich & powerful would be freed from their greed.

Longing for the imagination to see that this world does not have to be as it is.


Then Jesus called for bread and wine.

The bread held in his hands … the words of blessing …the breaking of the bread, and then the shocking words, “this is my body… broken… for you…”

May this bread be food for our journey as we “seek justice”.  Amen.


The cup of wine, an ancient memorial re-imagined… the blessing … and then the heart-breaking words, “this is my blood… poured out… for you and for many…”

May this wine be a sign that we are no longer in thrall to the old order whose power Christ has broken. Amen.


May this place be where hopes and dreams are forged.

May this community be a reminder that we are not alone.

May we be inspired to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God all our days.


(Jonny Baker)