Reflections from Idsworth Church.

St Hubert's Church - Visit Hampshire

Jeremy led us this morning, using images and a prayer to be found in this 1000-year old church, which has outlasted its village and now sits alone in a field in Hampshire. The prayer gave the structure of our time together as we sheltered in the bandstand from drizzle and cascading autumn leaves…

The prayer begins:

Dear God, The day is before me to do with as I will but, because without Thy help I am as frail as a cotton flower in a summer storm, support and strengthen me so that I find it less difficult to walk in Thy ways.

We then read Psalm 103 that mirrors some of these ideas – and so much of that resonated with needs of one another known to us…

Let not the evening pass into night, nor dawn into day, without my giving thanks to Thee for all Thy blessings: for my eyes that feed my spirit, my ears that guard my conscience, and my mouth which I must not abuse. Make me grateful for these gifts so that, when my eyes survey the great mystery of Creation, my ears accept the wisdom of Thy teachings and my mouth speaks of Thy divine love.

After this we took time to wander the park and to give thanks for our many blessings, using another stimulus image and thankful again for the beauty of the changing seasons as the backdrop to our worship.

In quietness let me praise Thee for the changing seasons, for the great love I feel for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, for the gift of friends, for the comfort of loving and being loved. Make me always aware of Thy favours so that when I am at peace with myself my thoughts turn outwards  towards the hungry, the sick and the unwanted.

O God, I entreat you to foster an awareness in people’s hearts so that cruelty an avarice are no more. Protect and comfort the aged, guide and help the young, save our humbler creation from those that torture and destroy them so that they may live without fear. Help those that are dear to me, give them courage to meet adversity and faith to sustain them in their hours of darkness.

At this point we took it in turns to light candles as we prayed silently for just those people – the needy, the sick, the oppressed…

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Teach me to be more acceptable in Thy sight, so that I may know the peace that falls on the spirit that aspires to keep company with Thee. Let me learn the philosophy of acceptance, so that I may be more patient, more thoughtful for others and less concerned with myself. When the days come that are hard to live through, and temporarily I forget to count my blessings, be Thou beside me to chide and point the way.

Here we took bread and wine for sustenance… And the final paragraph became our blessing:

Dear Father, bestow on each one of us that inspired faith which enriches the spirit and gives purpose to this our earthly life, so that we may know the Peace that passeth all understanding. Amen.

Thanks Jeremy – a very special morning.

Prayer of Thanks

With signs of healing and words of justice,

You revealed that another world is possible.

You proclaimed news of another kingdom,

You chose a life of nonviolent confrontation with the powers of your time.

You restored wholeness to the sick and to those called impure.

You tore down the boundaries of tribe, gender and sexuality

of black and brown and white,

All the walls we build to exclude those whose difference makes us uncomfortable.

You overturned the tables of status and honour,

insider and outsider.

We know patriarchy, slavery and racism have no place in your world.

All are made in the divine image.

Everyone included, where the last are first.

In that great reversal of history,

on the cross we believe you overcame the powers of this world

and broke the power of death.

When we lose sight of your way, guide us.

When we despair and are overwhelmed,

may your Spirit comfort us.

You call us to a conversion of heart and mind,

to turn away from the seductions of empire,

to be a community of resistance and healing and justice.

God of life,

lighten our path as we strive to live by the values of your kingdom,

may the good earth breathe easy again, and violence and greed be made history.

May our homes be open, our tables welcoming.

May we live in love and compassion.

May you arise every morning

Knowing God’s peace embracing you,

Feeling the Spirit strengthening you,

Filled with the goodness of Christ.

In all you do and in all you say

May your life this day and all days

Reflect the beauty of Christ.

With thanks to Jonny Baker. Edited and remixed by Grayden Daniels.


Here’s what Steve did with us this morning!

  1. Welcome to nowness. We are invited by Jesus into the NOW – where the past is fixed and forgiven and the future hope yet to be fully realised. We are invited to this day. To NOW. We breath with our God-given breathe – YAH – WEH – each breathe an inhaled capturing and exhaled expression of the creator herself. And with thanks.

Psalm 18 v 24

“This is the very day God acted – let’s celebrate and be festive.” The Message

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” AV

  • JONATHAN DANIELS 1939 – 1965

He was born into a white middle class New Hampshire home, went to the Virginia Military Institute and then to Harvard University to study English Literature. During an Easter service in 1962 he felt a renewed call to serve God and decided to pursue ordination at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts starting his studies in 1963 and expecting to graduate in 1966.

In the summer of 1965 he answered the call of MLK to take part in the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. He had anticipated spending just the weekend there. When he returned to his theological college, he requested permission to spend the rest of the semester working in Selma. There he stayed with the Wests – a local African-American family. He returned to take his exams and then went back to Alabama for the summer vacation. He tutored local children, helped provide assistance to those in need, worked to register voters etc.

August 14th 1965 he went to picket white-only stores. All 29 protestors were arrested and transported in a garbage truck to jail in the nearby town of Hayneville. On August 20th the prisoners were released. Whilst waiting near the courthouse for transport, Jonathan Daniels, together with a RC priest and two female black activists, walked to get a cold soft drink. Blocking the door to Varner’s Cash Store was an unpaid special deputy holding a shotgun. He threatened the group and levelled his shotgun at 17 year old Ruby Sales. Jonathan pushed Ruby down and caught the full force of the blast. He died instantly.

MLK said that “one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have ever heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels.”

The special deputy was tried and found not guilty of manslaughter by an all-white jury. The RC priest who was also shot and badly injured was not allowed to testify at the trial.

His death shocked the Episcopalian Church into confronting the violent reality of racial inequality in the South.

In 1991 the Episcopalian Church designated Jonathan Daniels as a martyr.

August 14th is the day set aside to commemorate Jonathan Daniels and other martyrs of the Civil Rights movement in the Episcopalian Church.

  • RUBY SALES 1948 – 

She was born in Alabama and was educated at segregated schools. Aged 17 she took part in the Selma to Montgomery marches. She was one of 29 people who were involved in the demonstration against white-only stores in Fort Deposit on 14th August 1965. She was arrested along with Jonathan Daniels and imprisoned. On August 20th upon their release, Ruby walked with Jonathan and two others to buy a cold soft drink.

She is a social justice activist, scholar and public theologian. She has been described as a “legendary civil rights activist” and is one of 50 civil rights leaders showcased in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. She has multiple degrees and is the founder of the “Spirit House Project” (in honour of Jonathan Daniels). Starting in 2007 this has documented over 2,000 state-sanctioned deaths against black people – 98% were unarmed.

  • Ponderwalk:
  • In honour of Jonathan Daniels. To the river to acknowledge those who have laid down their lives – for us – for Jesus – for God – for Truth – for Justice and Mercy – for others. We are living and breathing on the shoulders of giants. We give thanks for those people and their witness which surrounds us now. Pick leaves to throw into the waters in remembrance.
  • Ruby Sales – 3 oncepts to ponder, crunch and chew on.
  1. Ruby Sales speaks of “a spiritual crisis of white America. What is it that public theology can say to the white person in Massachusetts who’s heroin addicted? I don’t hear anyone speaking to the 45 year old (white) person in Appalachia who feels that they have been eradicated, because whiteness is so much smaller today than it was yesterday. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European-American; that’s not the problem. It’s almost like white people don’t believe other white people are worthy of being redeemed.”

A fascinating and compassionate comment on the Trump supporter, the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi, the Klansman. (See point 3.)

  • Ruby Sales makes the distinction between “black folk religion” and black churches. Black folk religion is a combination of the ideals of US democracy and a theological sense of justice. It was a religion that said that people who were considered property and disposable, were essential in the eyes of God. “I grew up believing that I was a first class person…our parents were spiritual geniuses who were able to shape a counterculture of black folk religion which raised us from disposability to being essential players in society…and it’s about love for everybody. Never hate – it was not a word in our vocabulary.” Black folk religion grew up in the bush and on plantations – no buildings – no institution. Outdoors in a sanctuary – trees – a secret meeting. All participated. The black spirituals arose in this environment. It was ordinary people – not black preachers. And in that context non-violence developed.

I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s “religionless religion”, of the “base communities” of Liberation Theology, of Spirit movements throughout Church history…of Third Space perhaps?

  • Ruby Sales on the USA today. “The whole business of demonization, I’ve been deeply concerned about it because it does not locate good in people. It gives up on people. And you see it in the right and the left…so at the heart of this business of finding something good in people…not giving up on people…not writing someone’s obituary…it’s very problematic today. I have deep problems with the anger and the vitriolic rage that has come out of the right and the left – and I never thought I would say this – the only safe landing space seems to be in the middle.”

Ruby Sales is somebody who has looked into the heart of darkness very directly and knows what it is to be despised and abused and shot at because of her colour. She has campaigned for Civil Rights and social justice her entire life. And yet she speaks of “the middle”.

I am reminded of the Quaker insight that there is something of God in each person. Perhaps our “ZEAL” should be for love of the other whatever their political/social position.

There is increasing talk of “culture wars” in our country – a phrase taken from America and used initially, I think, by the right and then by the left. The right want to take on the BBC and the Universities and Education more generally and woke-ism and the middle class liberal left in their patronising moral superiority towards others. The left want to take on the selfish, grasping right with their entrenched privilege and wealth and their unconcern for the poor and for social justice.

Where should a follower of Jesus position him/herself in this increasingly hate-filled and polarised society?


PRAYERS and The NOW liturgy: People and places named.

We are caught in NOW. We have no option. We wrestle to change the past and mould the future. But we know you call us to NOW; you gift us NOW. This NOW moment is for us alone and we give thanks.

We thank you for past faithfulness – for the created order in which we live and breathe, for our journeys of discovery to this point, for your enduring love expressed in Jesus who first took bread and transformed it in his self-giving on the cross.

We thank you for our future hope of all things renewed. A future free of anxiety and fear and tears, where the Kingdom of Justice and Righteousness shall reign, the Lion and the Lamb shall sit together and on the throne: King Jesus dispensing renewed wine.

And NOW we take and eat bread together – our common fellowship transformed. AMEN!

And NOW we take and drink wine together – our little fellowship joined with those around the world into eternity. AMEN!

A NOW may all be blessed, freed from past regrets and future worries. Send us out into new NOWNESS to join Jesus who is of course already there. Hold tightly and wait for the LORD. AMEN!

Blessings and being part of it all

We had a very special time on Sunday morning – not least due to seeing Jo after the traumatic premature arrival of Esme (along with Simon and Evie) and Suzi with Polly (our first chace to congratulate Poll onher engagement!

We used our litany of thanksgiving to start. Julie shared some words from Richard Rohr that were terrific and Grayden shared a story of 3 folk who had been real blessings to him on his last day of Chemo and then some words of blessing and about blessings. Here are the words given out for us to keep and use:

Being part of it all

Before conversion, we tend to think that God is out there. After transformation, God is not out there and we don’t look at reality. We look from reality. We’re in the middle of it now; we’re a part of it. This whole thing is what I call the mystery of participation. Paul is obsessed by the idea that we’re all already participating in something. I’m not writing the story by myself. I’m a character inside of a story that is being written in cooperation with God and the rest of humanity. This changes everything about how we see our lives. If we’re writing the story on our own, we think we’ve got to write it right. We’ve got to be clever, we’ve got to figure it out. If anything goes wrong, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. That’s a terrible way to live, even though a high degree of Christians do. And I would call that bad news.

The good news is a completely different experience of life. A participatory theology says, “I am being used, I am actively being chosen, I am being led.” It is not about joining a new denomination or having an ecstatic moment. After authentic conversion, you know that your life is not about you; you are about life! You’re an instance in this agony and ecstasy of God that is already happening inside you, and all you can do is say yes to it. That’s all. That’s conversion and it changes everything.

This idea of participating in the goodness and continual unfolding of God’s creation reminds me of the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that begins, “Make me a channel (or instrument) of your peace.”  I remember being so delighted when I learned my last name, “Rohr,” is the German word for “conduit” or “pipe”! As I’ve often said, I’m just a mouth in the Body of Christ. That’s my only gift. Before talks I try to pray that God will get me out of the way so God’s message will get through.

Looking back on my life, I can see that God did everything. God even used my mistakes to bring me to God and God’s wisdom to others! I hope this week will inspire you to look at what has happened when you also said yes to participating as God’s instrument in the world.


I arise today:

Blessed by all things,

Delight of eyes,

Embrace of love,

Intimacy of touch,

Wonder of creation,

Nourishment of Earth,

Miracle of life,

Eternity of soul,

Urgency of thought,

Presence of Christ.

May I live this day:

Compassionate of heart,

Gracious in word,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.

John O’Donohue.

How can we bless?

In Celtic tradition blessings were given at rites of passage such as at the birth of a child, a journey, marriage, new home, a special calling, death and bereavement.

The Bible teaches us that we are blessed not just so that we can feel good, not just so we can be happy and comfortable, but so that we can bless others. The first law of blessing is that it must flow to other people.

Some thoughts on blessing from John O’Dononhue.

  • There is a quiet light that shines in every heart; it draws no attention to itself. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, and our hearts to love life. This inner light is what enables us to recognise and receive our very presence here as blessing.
  • The gift of the world is our first blessing. Blessing invokes a sense of warmth and protection, though suffering befalls us, it can never quench that inner light.
  • Blessing is invocation, a calling forth. In the invocation of blessing the ’may’ is the spring through which the Spirit is invoked, the Spirit is the presence behind every blessing.
  • Each of us can bless. When we bless it changes the very atmosphere.
  • Always bless in the name of Christ. May we all receive blessing upon blessing. And may we realise our power to bless and encourage each other.

May the nourishment of the Earth be yours,

May the clarity of light be yours,

May the fluency of the ocean be yours,

May the presence of Christ be yours.

And so may a gentle breeze work these words of love around you,

An invisible cloak to mind your life.

A Blessing for Life.

May you arise every morning

Knowing God’s peace embracing you,

Feeling the Spirit strengthening you,

Hearing his whisper encouraging you.

In all you do

And in all you say

may your life

this day and all days

reflect the beauty of Christ.

The Crucifixion of Jesus.

Richard Rohr writes: Two theologians I deeply respect, Marcus Borg (1942-2015) and John Dominic Crossan (b. 1934), offer important historical and symbolic context for the crucifixion of Jesus. The theory of “substitutionary atonement” only became dominant in recent centuries.

This common Christian understanding goes far beyond what the New Testament says. Of course, sacrificial imagery is used there, but the language of sacrifice is only one of several different ways that the authors of the New Testament articulate the meaning of Jesus’s execution. They also see it as the domination system’s “no” to Jesus (and God), as the defeat of the powers that rule this world by disclosing their moral bankruptcy, as revelation of the path of transformation [dying and rising], and as disclosure of the depth of God’s love for us. . . .

Though Mark provides the earliest story of Good Friday . . . Mark’s narrative combines retrospective interpretation with history remembered. . . .

Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified between two “bandits.” The Greek word translated “bandits” is commonly used for guerrilla fighters against Rome, who were either “terrorists” or “freedom fighters,” depending upon one’s point of view. Their presence in the story reminds us that crucifixion was used specifically for people who systematically refused to accept Roman imperial authority. Ordinary criminals were not crucified. Jesus is executed as a rebel against Rome between two other rebels against Rome. . . .

[When Jesus died,] “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). As with the darkness from noon to 3 PM, this event is best understood symbolically and not as history remembered. . . .

To say. . . that the curtain was torn in two has a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it is a judgment upon the temple and the temple authorities . . . who colluded with imperial Rome to condemn Jesus to death. On the other hand, . . . [it] is to affirm that the execution of Jesus means that access to God is now open. This affirmation underlines Mark’s presentation of Jesus earlier in the gospel: Jesus mediated access to God apart from the temple and the domination system that it had come to represent in the first century.

Then Mark narrates a second event contemporaneous with Jesus’s death. The imperial centurion in command of the soldiers who had crucified Jesus exclaims, “Truly this man was God’s Son” (15:30). . . .

That this exclamation comes from a centurion is very significant. According to Roman imperial theology, the emperor was “Son of God”—the revelation of God’s power and will for the earth. According to the same theology, the emperor was Lord, Saviour, and the one who had brought peace on earth. But now a representative of

Rome affirms that this man, Jesus, executed by the empire, is the Son of God. Thus the emperor is not.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan continue reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ death:

Jesus was not simply an unfortunate victim of a domination system’s brutality. He was also a protagonist filled with passion. His passion, his message, was about the kingdom of God. He spoke to peasants as a voice of peasant religious protest against the central economic and political institutions of his day. He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All of this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice.

Jesus’s passion got him killed. . . . Jesus’s passion for the kingdom of God led to what is often called his passion, namely his suffering and death. But to restrict Jesus’s passion to his suffering and death is to ignore the passion that brought him to Jerusalem. To think of Jesus’s passion as simply what happened on Good Friday is to separate his death from the passion that animated his life. . . .

According to Mark, Jesus did not die for the sins of the world. The language of substitutionary sacrifice for sin is absent from his story. But in an important sense, he was killed because of the sin of the world. It was the injustice of domination systems that killed him, injustice so routine that it is part of the normalcy of civilization. Though sin means more than this, it includes this. And thus Jesus was crucified because of the sin of the world. . . .

Was Jesus guilty or innocent? Because language familiar to Christians speaks of Jesus as sinless, perfect, righteous, spotless, and without blemish, the question will seem surprising to some. But it is worth reflecting about.

As Mark tells the story, Jesus was not only executed by the method used to execute violent insurrectionists; he was physically executed between two insurrectionists. Was Jesus guilty of advocating violent revolution against the empire and its local collaborators? No.

As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed? Perhaps. Why perhaps and not a simple yes? Mark does not report that Jesus taught this, and his account of Jesus’s response to the high priest’s question about this is at least a bit ambiguous. [Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You say so” (Mark 15:2).]

As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as we all know, it killed him.

Richard Rohr

Surely God is in this place!

On Wednesday evening when we met, those words came into my mind as we shared real sadnesses and yet found laughter quick to follow. The words are from Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel and that was our them this morning in a very rainy day in the park! After some deep silence we read the account:

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above itstood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God andthis stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’          Genesis 28

The following was given as background:

Jacob was the younger of twins, losing out on the firstborn’s inheritance rights to brother Esau. He took matters into his own hands to bribe and to cheat his way into usurping those rights. Not having thought it through, he was now fleeing his home in fear for his life. He was alone and afraid and instead of having gained everything, he had now had lost it all. This dream was a gift from God to assure him that despite all his mistakes and faults, God would never abandon him. Moreover, God would bless him, protect him and provide for his future that was yet unclear and precarious. Jacob’s faith is still, potentially, limited, with his commitment to God being dependent on these things proving to be true! Is he making a wager with God here?

We are all ‘Jacobs’ at times. Many of us in ThirdSpace are currently wrestling with things beyond our control that are deeply challenging (and all of us have done and will do, if this is not our reality now). Wanting to have control over our present circumstances and futures is innate. We hate to feel powerless and vulnerable and uncertain. When things go wrong, in our own lives or in the lives of others’ that we love, we scramble to fix them as we see best in order to gain control. And sometimes, like Jacob, we are not aware of God’s presence with us in the midst of the turmoil. Yet this can be the time when we find ourselves in a thin place – where, in our weakness, God meets with us.

This morning we will take time to pray quietly and individually about the things troubling us and later for the people who we are most troubled about. Sometimes we find it easier to pray for others than ourselves. Initially, this is a time to acknowledge our own fears and concerns and to consciously engage with the presence and promise of God. We will pray together for each other and for others we are concerned for when we return to the bandstand. But, for now, take the time you need for yourself for once!

These ideas then led to the following suggestions:

Take a stone and hold it. It will be a witness to your thoughts, feelings and prayers and will be yours to keep. You can hold onto that stone when you need to hold on to those same promises made to Jacob.

Walk up towards the bridge where the river is more turbulent, talk to God about what is weighing you down – your greatest fears and anxieties. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you (1Peter 5:7) Then hear the words Surely God is in this place (not just here but in your situation) and hear God’s promises to you I am with you… I will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you…

Walk down the river to where the water is calm. Remember past times when you have been rescued from previous worries, when troubles have passed. You lead me beside still waters, you restore my soul… Surely God is in this place… Hear God’s promises to you – I am with you… I will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you…

Return to the bandstand to pray for others and to take bread and wine when you are ready – there is no rush.

Once back at the bandstand we shared our greatest concerns for others, praying for others as we shared bread and wine using these words:

As we gather around the bread and wine, we pray for our community…

May Jesus who transforms all things, leavens all situations, heals damaged reeds, tends the broken hearted, be the bread and wine for all we have named in our hearts.

And for the world…

May Jesus who brings his Kingdom to this world, its leaders, its peoples, its problems, be the bread and wine for all we have named in our hearts.

May God the Creator, Jesus the Shepherd and the Holy rock pigeon meet with you in this bread.

May God the life -breather, Jesus the friend of the poor and the ubiquitous Holy rock pigeon meet with you in this wine.

Kingdom blessings on you…and you…and you…


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.

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