Desmond Tutu recalls when he was a young person, one day he was out walking  with his mother when a white man, an Anglican priest named Trevor Huddleston, tipped his hat to her, it was the first time he had ever seen a white man pay this respect to a black woman. The incident had a profound effect on Tutu, he decided that he didn’t need to accept discrimination and prejudice and that Christianity could be a powerful force for bringing racial equality.

The Unspoken Privilege of Being White – Richard Rohr.

For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment [because of social systems built to prioritise people with white skin]. This systemic “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognise the experiences of people of colour as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true? Now, we are being shown how limited our vision is.

Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognise the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us. [And we are quick to dismiss what is apparent to our neighbours who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour from their lived experience.]

Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of colour or any highly visible difference. The advancement of the white person was too often at the cost of other people not advancing at all.

I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in jails,  by hearing stories from counselees and, frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid!

Power and privilege never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there, we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity”. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we can let go of power and privilege and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible.


Creator God, you created and love all people.

We come before you today confessing the sin of racism in our country, our community and in ourselves.  Forgive us for our part in it, for the ways we have contributed to the oppression of others whether knowingly or unknowingly.

We want to be different and for our nation to be different, but it is hard when we face the injustice of institutions as well as the prejudice in ourselves.

Help us to see the reality of racism and bigotry wherever it exists and to have the courage to challenge it.  Through your Holy Spirit, may we be given the grace and power to change within ourselves and also, to join with others to do the work of love and justice in the world; to move toward the goal of bringing an end to racism. Amen.

Heather Burtch

Christ, you reached across the ethnic boundaries

of Samaritan, Roman and Jew,

help us to break down the barriers in our country,

enable us to see the reality of racism and bigotry,

and free us to challenge and uproot it

from ourselves, our society and our world. Amen.

John Bucki

Mark 7: 24-30 [NIV]

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

(I can’t think of another occasion in any of the four gospels, apart from this story, were Jesus concedes the argument. Interestingly, he does so to someone who is a woman, a gentile, a foreigner & a pagan.)

 Galatians 3: 26-29 [NIV]

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Isaiah 1: 17 [NRSV]

….learn to do good;

seek justice!

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.


Extract from:  ”Why ‘I can’t breathe’ has echoed around the world.”  by Ben Okri,

The Guardian, 8/6/20.


In the presence of the One who gives life and love to all creation:

Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your cares and concerns


Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your doubts and despairs


Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your fears and frustrations.


Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your tensions and turmoil


Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your haste and hurry


Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your work and worry.


May the Spirit breathe God’s life into us all. Amen.

Jonny Baker.

 Blessed are you…..

blessed are you who are raging at injustice.

blessed are you who are mourning.

blessed are you who feel numb.

blessed are you who feel sick and tired.

blessed are you who refuse to look away.

blessed are you who are peacemakers.

blessed are you who are tending to the needs of others.

blessed are you who care for the sick and dying.

blessed are you who are courageous and compassionate

blessed are you who have been campaigning.

blessed are you who have been speaking truth to power.

blessed are you who have been resisting.

blessed are you who feel broken beyond repair.

blessed are you who are raw beyond words.

blessed are you who are working hotlines and crisis centres and bearing witness to the forces of violence and abuse.

blessed are you who are running foodbanks and homeless shelters.

blessed are you who are marching.

blessed are you who are weeping.

blessed are you who remind others they are good and beautiful and beloved and worthy and capable of healing beyond their wildest dreams.

blessed are we when we dare to dream of a world without sexual violence, without racism, without xenophobia , without misogyny, without homophobia, without state brutality, without violence, without injustice.

blessed are we when we stay tender and gentle.

blessed are we when we stay passionate.

blessed are we when we dare to imagine change and transformation.

blessed are we when we labour to make it so.

Rev. Anna Blaedel

Prayers for the people and the world.


 Sharing bread and wine.

We break bread and drink wine together and remember Jesus.

Blessed are those, Jesus said, who hunger and thirst for justice,

for they will be filled.


We break this bread with those who:

hunger for justice,

dream of a land free from occupation,

long to live life free from fear,

search for food and water each day,

long for companionship.

The bread held in Jesus’ 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.


We drink this wine with those who:

see too much blood spilled,

watch loved ones die,

are judged by their race and skin colour,

are trafficked and enslaved,

long for someone to wipe away their tears.

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.

Closing Prayer

Creator God, you have opened our eyes to the world around.

May we not grow weary because of what we see:

war instead of peace,

racism instead of harmony,

despair instead of hope,

great riches for some instead of prosperity for all,

exploitation instead of justice,

climate change and pollution instead of nurture and care.

We know you continually call us to pursue justice inspired choices.

Empower us to look upon the people of the world as our neighbours

that we will not be silent at injustice

that we will not be silent about racism

that we will not let hatred or despair win over love and hope

that we will not sit by as your world is damaged beyond repair.

We pray that your Spirit will continually challenge us to make choices inspired by love, justice and compassion.



“Liturgy of Strategic Interruption”

This morning Parker led us for the first time, bringing a poignancy and power in his analysis to what has been happening in his homeland, the US, in recent times and our response to that. His notes can be found below.

2020 has been a year of near-constant “interruption.” Our lives have been reoriented and redirected in new and, at times, challenging ways. For many of us, we have known family and friends affected by the coronavirus. For all of us, we have either been directly affected by the pandemic’s knock-on consequences: interrupted or discontinued employment, holidays delayed or postponed, distance forcefully imposed between us and our loved ones.

The virus has revealed in profoundly violent ways the manner in which our societies have been constructed on systemic inequities and inequalities.

That Black Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee have died at the hands of American police forces is nothing new. That Black and Brown folks suffer disproportionately from disease, infant mortality, and now, the coronavirus, is not new news. It is simply being “revealed” en masse on social media and television.

I propose that today we enter into what the feminist theologian Susan Ross calls a “liturgy of strategic interruption.” Liturgies of strategic interruption include those promoted by liberation theologians, who were eager to give voice to the indigenous and poor communities of Latin America, marginalized and unheard by dictatorships and the hierarchical Church; or feminist theologians, who vindicated women as active objects of liturgical practice, whether from the pulpit or in biblical exegesis.

I suggest we engage a liturgy of strategic interruption to contemplate the events of recent weeks that have yet again the experience of Black Americans. Let’s begin with a few minutes of reflection and meditation as we hear this opening song by Alexi Murdoch…

This was followed by the reading of the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4 – which seemed more pertinent than ever before. Parker continued:

(Adapted from Rick Axtell, “Ever Eastward,” Baccalaureate Sermon, Centre College, 24 May 2015: Used with generous permission from Dr. Axtell, my professor, mentor, and friend.)

In the Bible, Cain and Abel are the first human brothers. The text tells us nothing of their boyhood friendship. We read only that Abel becomes a shepherd and Cain a farmer. Already in this first human family, this primal brotherhood, there is difference. And this differentiation, this unexpected reality of division in human relations, takes on the dimension of tragedy.

The brothers bring offerings to their God—Abel from his flock, and Cain from his harvest. This inscrutable Deity accepts Abel’s offering but rejects Cain’s. We don’t know why. Cain does not know why.

But it’s not hard to imagine the agony of this rejection, the arbitrariness of this preferential judgment from the authority one hopes to please, this blow to one’s self-worth. Has Abel earned this favour? What have I don’t to be eclipsed by this chosen one?

The story of this primal conflict seems inescapable:
It’s also the story of Jacob, his mother’s favourite, supplanting Esau.
It’s Rachel’s golden boy, Joseph, superseding his older brothers.
It’s the treachery of Claudius against his brother Hamlet.
It’s the opportunism of Romulus killing his brother Remus and then founding the city of Rome.
We know this story.

Cain is grieved by God’s partiality toward Abel. The God who rejected his offering now warns him that sin is crouching like a predatory animal outside the tent. God assures Cain he has the power to master this beat. But you can feel it lurking when Cain calls his brother out to the field…
“And there, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.”
His “brother” Abel, the text reminds us.

And we are left with the iconic image of Abel lying unconscious on the ground.

So God puts Cain on trial: “Where is Abel, your brother?”
And Cain’s response is as chilling as it is ethically significant: “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?”
The divine response is as powerful as any line in the Bible:
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.”

Seven times, the text repeats the word “brother.” This brother who never speaks in the text has not lost his voice. It cries out from the very soil that produced Cain’s offering; soil now satiated by the sacrifice of the innocent.

Monday, June 4th, was the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, a Marian feast day inserted into the Roman Calendar in 2018 by Pope Francis.

Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of Jesus, knelt at the Cross while her Son gasped for air. The whole world hung in the balance as the persecuted Christ fulfilled the prophecy and breathed his final breaths.

The events are among the most anguishing in our Western cultural and religious imagination.

Just as Jesus spoke to Mary in the moments before his death, putting her into the care of John, and John into the care of Mary, so too did George Floyd cry out for his mother while a police officer snuffed out his life by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

“My neck hurts.
Everything hurts.
Please. Please. Please. I can’t breathe.
I’m about to die this day.
Momma. Momma.
Momma. I’m through.”

We now know that George Floyd’s mother died some two years ago. His calling out for her was not a cry for rescue. It was a cry of reckoning, of reconciliation, of redemption. The beautiful mural created George Floyd’s memory reads, “I can breathe now.” May perpetual light shine on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of those Black Americans whose lives have been unnecessarily cut short.

In my mind, one of the heart-wrenching works art is Michelangelo’s Pietà, which portrays Mary’s motherly embrace of Jesus after the crucifixion. May we also be mindful of Tylonn J. Sawyer’s powerful re-imagination of the Pietà, which compels us to think about the Black Mothers who are forced to embrace the bodies of their limp children, victims of racism and racial injustice, but who are redeemed by the promise of Christ’s crucifixion.


The second reading was from 1 Corinthians 12: 15-26, of Paul’s analogy of the body and this was flowed by a reading of Letter to the Editor of the Courier-Journal:

When those working to find cures for breast cancer post signs saying, “Save the tah-tahs,” they aren’t suggesting that ears are unimportant.

When you see a bumper sticker reading, “Save the rain forest,” it doesn’t mean, “I hate deciduous trees!”

When we rise up and declare that “Black Lives Matter,” we are not saying, “White people suck!” We are saying that, like breasts and rain forests, we have here vulnerable and suffering lives that need special and even preferential attention if our communities are to be healthy.

Black lives matter.

(Scott Holzknecht (Religion Dept., Trinity High School, Louisville, Kentucky) 7 July 2016

Parker continued:

Am I my brother’s keeper? The whole thrust of the biblical narrative—from the Old Testament to the new—is that we are. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” The call of the other is a demand on our lives. It is a call to confront our own individual realities and privileges and then to press for systemic change so that we may cultivate our humanity and replant the soil of human history with the seeds of justice.

You can learn about the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance from the Obama Foundation.

This prayer followed:

God of Creation,
In this tumultuous year of interruption, in which we have seen the arrival of a contagion that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters by robbing them of their breath,
We continue to pray for the victims of the pandemic, for their grieving families,
And for all of those who are working to keep us safe, often at their own peril.
We ask that you grant us the patience to be at peace with each of our respective circumstances.

Lord, enliven us to become more aware and more active in the protection of our Brothers and Sisters.
May we have the courage to confront the much more intransigent contagion of racism.
May we be mindful of your call to remake the world in your image, to create a world of justice and equality, on Earth as it is in heaven.


And then we shared bread and wine:

Much like the discordant 2020 we are living through, Jesus came to us in a broken, unequal world. A world longing for the Messiah.

In His ministry, unparalleled at that time and ever since, Jesus provided us the ultimate “liturgy of strategic interruption.”

By healing the sick and ministering to the outcasts, Jesus heeded the call of the “voice of the other.”

Even on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, knowing the misery of what lie ahead, He stayed true to his mission of peace and non-violence.

When He gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room, He endowed them with the tools to carry on His ministry.

In breaking bread amongst his friends, Jesus satiated our earthly hunger with spiritual sustenance.

His Body is the fuel our ministry of redemption and reconciliation.

The Bread of Life:
All: (Taking the bread and saying) “Amen.”

Likewise, He took the cup of wine and passed it to his companions.
Jesus told them that the wine was His blood, poured out to represent the New Covenant, of prophecy fulfilled, of death defeated.

The Wine of Everlasting Life:
All: (Taking the wine and saying) “Amen.”

Dying you vanquished death
Rising you restored life
All: Jesus, shine your light amongst us

We finished with sharing of prayer needs and reading an email from Amanda in Minneapolis concerning our email of support to her in her ministry there at this hard time. Then we committed all to God’s blessing and blessed one another with our now established ‘Blessing on you and you and you and…’ as we point to one another.

A profound, sobering, challenging and moving morning with all very grateful for parker’s input.

Lockdown Pentecost

This morning we gathered by Zoom again and celebrated the Church’s birthday as never before!

Missing being outdoors, we began taking a couple of minutes standing outside listening to the birdsong, soaking up the sunshine and feeling the breeze…

Being in lockdown continues to help me see things from a different perspective and Pentecost has undergone such for me this year. For the first time, really, it seems pertinent that encounters with the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit happened indoors, in an upper room – at times when the disciples were locked in!

We had readings from John 20:19-22, 26-27 and Acts 2:1-4

What’s so interesting is that overlap of stories about the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit in different ways at different points – not just at Pentecost! Yet after Jesus breathes on them, we find them just getting on with their old life as if nothing much had changed – 7 of them are back in Galilee and fishing… It’s back indoors, in that upper room again when the breath becomes wind and flames that they are really transformed. Their lives and the life of all believers as the Church are never the same again.

I started Lockdown thinking it would be enough to just get through this time, well and without upset. But now I have come to think that that isn’t enough, I want to come through this changed and for the better – to see this as a gift of time that can change me and change all of us…
And something of that connected with a story Jane shared with me on Wednesday- so I  asked her to share that.

Jane shared how many years ago she had gone forward for prayer and blurted out ‘I want may faith to make a difference to my life’ and how she had had a  vision of a banner in the sky saying ‘God is good’. From that time on her faith was transformed…

I found myself, like Jane herself, quite interested in that emphasis of God being GOOD as opposed to God being LOVE. Clearly, she needed to hear that particular aspect of God’s nature at that time– as perhaps many do during this time of pandemic.

And along with that thought I found myself revisiting different times in my life when the Holy Spirit was depicted differently. The trouble is, of course, that the Spirit is so much harder to relate to than the Father or Son imagery given to the other two members of the Trinity – or to Jesus, who is the supremely accessible version of God for us. And historically, the Church has struggled to know what to do with this third person. Like me you must have had a wide range of teaching or experiences or at least awareness of the Spirit presented as an essentially irrelevant ‘thing’ all the way across the spectrum to some frankly oddly behaving, worrying if not terrifying aspect of God who could be summoned to do very dramatic things… And for me, there was a mismatch between so much of what was communicated about the Spirit and the other biblical title given to him / her – the Spirit of Christ. I liked and trusted Jesus but was uncomfortable with the Spirit – how can that be right?! Perhaps the Church has forgotten to emphasise that he Spirit of Christ is GOOD, Christ-like, loving and available in locked rooms…

But in ThirdSpace two images have been hugely helpful to me – and I think to many of us.


1. St Brendan, setting off in his coracle, hoisting his sail and letting the Spirit blow him to the right place, trusting in that benevolent wind to guide and to bless… That’s a good image when we don’t know the future and what will happen. The Spirit of God will blow us to the right shores if we let her…

2. The image of the rock pigeon – which is the ‘dove’ that inhabited the Jordan valley where Jesus was baptised and the Spirit descended like a dove. As Fiona pointed out – pigeons are ubiquitous and unvalued – often unnoticed… Barbara and Grayden took comfort and encouragement in seeing them at critical moments in their times of testing over the past 2 years or so, being reminded that the Spirit was with them. And then, of course, on ThirdSpace’s 10th anniversary, on speaking of this and of speaking about our use of Celtic Circling prayers, a pigeon flew into the bandstand (an unprecedented event) and walked around us all, encircling us before flying off… The Spirit is with us in all kinds of unnoticed ways, accompanying us, circling us, caring for us…

So this Pentecost, in our ‘locked rooms’ we  prepared to pray that he Spirit of Christ would come to each of us in a new way to bless and inspire and change us for the better. And we held  onto the idea that that same Spirit can enter induced comas and those locked down on ventilators, for those locked in fear or in grief – because there is nowhere the Spirit cannot break into.
And we prepared to pray God’s blessing on all those who need the Spirit of Christ now and to know God’s goodness and love and presence.
And we prepared to pray for the Church – that it won’t just revert to how it was before when social distancing is lifted, but will become something renewed and different and more effective and more loving.

So we took time to share the names of  those we wanted the Spirit of God to meet now…

And we spoke these prayers:

Holy Spirit, fabric of our being, thank you that there is no place too hard for you to enter. Break into these lives and situations we have mentioned, penetrate the darkness and bring a sense of your presence, goodness, love and calling.

Holy Spirit, fabric of life, thank you that there is no place too hard for you to enter – even those lock-downed disciples all that time ago. Come to the lock-downed church today – those in fear of persecution – those whom defeat and death and demoralisation have imprisoned. Transform us by the renewal of our minds, regenerate and renew in ways we can hardly think of, inspire and strengthen the leaders and the led

After that we shared bread and wine using the Pentecost liturgy written by Steve two years ago – which you can find in our resources area.

Finally we prayed God’s blessing on one another by placing our own hand on our heads and becoming the blessed and the blesser:

As we long for the end of lockdown, we long too for the renewal of all things, when death shall be no more and the land runs with compassion and justice.
May you be blessed with an assuredness of the Creator’s love, blessed with Jesus’ simplicity and blessed with the Spirit’s indwelling.
Know that God is good. You are encircled in God’s love. Open yourself to being blown by the Spirit to the right shores. Receive the Spirit of Christ.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have always referred to living in lock down as living in a bubble. Now with some of the restrictions starting to lift: however nebulous they are, it is like living in a tunnel with light at the end.

In any difficult situation when we can see no end, we have hope and our hope is in Jesus.

Some of those who have been through near death experiences have said it was like being in a dark tunnel moving towards a beautiful, welcoming, glorious light. So even in death there is light at the end of the tunnel

Liminal Time – by Beth Merrill Neel   https://holdfasttowhatis

Activity – Go outside, to a window, onto a balcony or somewhere you feel at peace. Write down what you experience when you:



See below some of the thoughts we had

Litany of thanksgiving:

For this time, this place, this day, these people
For calling us to this church, this freedom, this worship
We give thanks to the Lord for he is good
His love endures for ever.

For the changing seasons, light and weather,
For trees and birdsong and river and skies
For needless beauty and endless diversity…
That all creation joins with our praise today
That the sun sings and the earth hums…
If we were silent the very stones would sing his praise
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, 
the whole earth is full of his glory

For those we love, for those who love us
For those we struggle with and those who struggle with us
For old friends and new ones, for friendships yet to be made and for reunions
For all human goodness that speaks of your presence
For our frailty that drives us to acknowledge our dependence on you
We affirm that you Lord are God
It is you who made us and we are yours
For you know how we were formed
You remember that we are dust

For the freedom we enjoy
For choice and wealth and healthcare and education and opportunities and democracy
For holidays and leisure and comfort
For the privilege to be called to give to those who do not have these things
In this sacred place we remember that these are your gifts and affirm our calling
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as in heaven

For the shalom you promise
For the call to press on together as companions on the journey
For your foundational underpinning, support, comfort, direction and strength
For your constant presence – your very name spoken with each breath we take
For Jesus – for all he has done, all he does, all he will yet do for us
For loving us
Salvation and glory and power belong to you our God

Prayer for bread and wine

O Eternal Wisdom,
we praise you and give you thanks,
because the dark beauty of death
could not contain you.

You broke forth into light from the comfort of the grave;
before you the stone was moved,
and the tomb of our world was opened wide.

and you reveal yourself to men and women as a companion.
Blessed is our brother Jesus, who walks with us the road of our grief,

Today my grief is… (add your sentence here)

Jesus our companion who gives us hope and shines a light in the dark

and is known again in the breaking of bread;

The bread of hope      Take bread


Blessed are we who walk with Jesus

We remember Him in drinking the wine;

The wine of light in the dark       Take wine


Come now, disturbing spirit of our God, make us one body in Christ.

Open our graves, unbind our eyes, and name us here; touch and heal all that has been buried in us,

that we may go forth with power to release resurrection in the world.


Christ is risen from the dead. Today my hope is… (add your sentence here)


Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

Steve John Leach  – adapted


Our responses to Look: Smell: Listen: Feel: Breathe.

Look: a castle on a hill – triple towered

Smell: the crisp freshness of morning

Listen: the soprano trill and tenor whoop of winged wonders

Feel: the cool calming leaf rustling breeze 



Hope from dark places :-

Re birth :- The frost bitten wisteria coming back to new life and growth

Something from nothing :- a seemingly empty pot of dark damp soil containing a new green shoot that turned out to be a Cala Lily.


Honey bee with full pollen baskets, wren in full voice, scent of rose 


Grey skies and green restless trees

rain on wet leaves

distant bird song

cool breeze, good refreshing fresh air

How good it is to breathe

prayers for those struggling to breath suffering Coronavirus


Grey and Green

Wet, wind rustling in the trees and leaves

The smell of damp and rain

Beautiful birdsong; so many different kinds

Cool fresh air 


These were the ones shared by those willing to have their thoughts on the website

Coronavirus – a man-made crisis?

As we humans exploit new areas of the natural world, we disturb the viruses they contain, allowing them to transmit to human populations. In this way deforestation and habitat destruction enable pandemics like Covid-19 to develop. Coronavirus is a zoonotic virus, meaning that it was transmitted from animals to humans. 60% of all new diseases are zoonotic. The list includes SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 and HIV. Infectious diseases like Covid-19 are emerging more rapidly than ever before, and one reason is likely to be our treatment of the natural world. As we destroy many of the natural resources and habitats we rely on, we push further and further into unknown ecosystems. Wild meat hunters are forced deeper into forests. The animals they kill are more likely to host unknown viruses that humans have not yet been exposed to.

Ecosystem disruption.

But our disturbance is not just in the form of hunting: we log forests for wood or agricultural land, mine for minerals and fossil fuels, and destroy habitats for industries linked to our consumption. Each increases our contact with previously undisturbed animal populations. At the same time, these wild animals are pushed closer to human settlements as their habitats are destroyed, bringing viruses with them.

David Quammen, explains in the New York Times: “We invade tropical forests and other wild habitats, which harbour so many species of animals and plants – and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses.  We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

The Coronavirus Pandemic.

Addressing COVID-19, then, is not only about mutual aid networks, food banks, NHS staff and carers, and the other amazing community and health responses we’re seeing. Our relationship with the environment also needs to change if we want to avoid exposure to many further viruses of this kind.

Richard Ostfeld, a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York says: “There’s misapprehension among some scientists and the public that natural ecosystems are the source of threats to us… It’s a mistake. Nature poses threats, it is true, but it’s human activities that do the real damage. The health risks in a natural environment can be made much worse when we interfere with it.”

Farming destroying habitats.

Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources. As our demand for meat grows and grows, larger and larger areas of the natural world are being taken over for meat production. In countries like Brazil, forest is cleared for beef farming or to grow soya and other crops for animal feed. Habitats are destroyed, communities that rely on these forests are pushed further into unknown ecosystems, and humans come into contact with new animal populations and the viruses they carry.

Choosing a plant-based diet can reduce our destruction of the natural world, and in this way reduce our risk of exposure to viruses like COVID-19. Animal agriculture is a very inefficient use of land, meaning that we need a disproportionate amount to meet our nutritional requirements. Some experts estimate that if we all went vegan, we could reduce land use for agriculture by 75% – allowing more natural habitats to remain undisturbed, and agricultural land to be re-wilded.

Factory Farming – cruelty & disease.

The three pandemics that have emerged since 2000, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, swine flu (H1N1) in 2009 and now Covid-19, have all spread from animals. SARS spread from cats and bats in China, whilst animal to human transmission of swine flu first took place in an intensive pig farm in North America. Covid-19 probably spread from bats to chickens, then to humans at Chinese “wet” markets.

Factory farms confine thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens into tightly packed conditions where they are forced to suffer the most cruel treatment imaginable. As well as being very cruel, factory farming is a serious threat to human health.  Our demand for large quantities of meat and other animal products means that huge numbers of animals such as cows, chickens and pigs are crammed together in crowded, faeces-ridden factory farms; these provide the perfect breeding grounds for pathogens. Factory farming also creates perfect conditions for the spread of disease. The stress and insanitary conditions weaken animals’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to infection and overcrowding allows disease to spread quickly and easily.

Factory Farming & climate change.

Former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman and environmentalist Bill McKibben—write that it is most urgent that we “reduce the size and number of factory farms.” ……. “As the global health community acknowledges the intertwined nature of planetary and human health, it must also confront the role that factory farming plays in climate change.”

Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens and pigs, are crammed into factory farms. These animals are literally imprisoned and tortured in unhealthy, unsanitary and unconscionably cruel conditions. Sickness is the norm for these confined animals.

Factory farms contribute directly to global warming by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—more than the entire global transportation industry. The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2.  When you add it all up, the picture is clear—contemporary agriculture is burning up our planet. And factory farms play a key role in this impending climate disaster.

Palm oil and habitat destruction.

Palm oil – in 50% of all packaged products we buy from supermarkets –causes widespread habitat destruction.

Huge swathes of rainforest in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are bulldozed or burned to make room for these plantations, “green deserts” containing virtually no biodiversity. Avoiding products containing palm oil or making sure it is sustainable and Fairtrade, can also lessen our demands on the natural world. Like COVID-19, Ebola is thought to have originated in bats. “The invasion of West African forests by the palm oil companies destroyed the canopy of the natural forest,” Frank Snowden, a professor emeritus of the history of medicine at Yale University says. “And so bats, not having their natural habitat, had to move to different places — places where human beings are.”

The Wellbeing of all things.

Many researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to arise – with profound health and economic impacts in rich and poor countries alike. In fact, a new discipline, Planetary Health, is emerging that focuses on the increasingly visible connections between the wellbeing of humans, the wellbeing of other living things and the wellbeing of the Earth and its ecosystems. The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be followed by even more deadly and destructive disease outbreaks unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted, the world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned.

Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio led the most comprehensive planetary health check ever undertaken, which was published in 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), based in Germany.  It concluded that human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. Diaz says; “There is a single species responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic – us. Recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity, particularly our global financial and economic systems that prize economic growth at any cost. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones.”

Reducing consumption.

But the best thing we can do as individuals is to radically reduce our consumption. Each new purchase requires natural resources of some kind. If we can cut these down and reuse and recycle, we can drastically shift our exploitative relationship with the natural world and the pandemic potential we create.

Information culled from – Ethical Consumer, The Guardian, The New York Times, Scientific American.

Another World is Possible.

Call to Worship

From the dust of the earth, the Holy One breathed life into us.

Through the breath of God we are all connected.

Shaped in the Divine image, God formed us with a purpose:

To create

To serve

To tend

To protect

To love

That life may flourish in all its forms,

May the Spirit of the Living God be manifest in us!


Luke 4; 16-21

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “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,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Another World is Possible.

I became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth when I was a student at university.  When I look back what surprises me is that it took me over 3 years to realise that the bible is both political and religious. It is about God and God’s character and passion. God’s passion, God’s dream is for a world transformed by social justice. Jesus had a passion for the things of God; he had a passion for justice, for a world transformed by justice, equality and inclusion. This set him on a collision course with the authorities, what did get him in trouble was that he became a public critic of the authorities and the way they put the world together. Jesus proclamation of the kingdom of God was the heart of his vision and I believe it is not about how to get to heaven but about transformation of life here on earth. Jesus taught us to pray…”Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” In the world of Jesus the Kingdom of God had both a religious meaning and a political meaning.

I was born and brought up just after the end of WW2, it was into a society that wasn’t based on the ideology of individualism, but on the politics of “the common good”. It was based on the idea that none of us is self-made. I benefited from this idea of the common good – universal education which included the privilege of going to university and leaving without a penny of debt, much government built infrastructure and the newly created National Health Service.  The “common good” should concern all of us, it is a concept that our country and our world is crying out for. The common good should concern all of us, not only for moral reasons but also for pragmatic ones.  Countries that take seriously the well-being of all are safer, healthier and happier places; they have less crime and less mental illness, lower infant mortality, longer life expectancy, less poverty and less desperation.

Covid-19 has made me think a lot about the future .Things have got to change drastically after this pandemic is over, it surely can’t be business as usual. Clearly our society and our world are disordered and massively unjust. If this pandemic doesn’t challenge us to rethink what kind of world we want to live in, then I’m not sure what will. The two most pressing issues are climate change and inequality.

Seriously tackling Climate Change must go to the top of everyone’s agenda. It seems to me we are at 5 minutes to midnight and are rapidly running out of time to stop climate change running out of control with disastrously high temperatures in only 40 or 50 years’ time.

Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, factory farming as well as being some of the main drivers of climate change also create the perfect conditions for more pandemics. There needs to be serious thought about curtailing most of these activities.

Inequality must be tackled with progressive taxation and redistribution. We have to begin to use the resources of our society for the benefit of all, and we must begin to take climate change seriously for the sake of our children’s children’s children.

Blessed are you…..

blessed are you who are raging at injustice.

blessed are you who are mourning.

blessed are you who feel numb.

blessed are you who feel sick and tired.

blessed are you who refuse to look away.

blessed are you who are peacemakers.

blessed are you who are tending to the needs of others.

blessed are you who care for the sick and dying.

blessed are you who are courageous and compassionate

blessed are you who have been campaigning.

blessed are you who have been speaking truth to power.

blessed are you who have been resisting.

blessed are you who feel broken beyond repair.

blessed are you who are raw beyond words.

blessed are you who are working hotlines and crisis centres and bearing witness to the forces of violence and abuse.

blessed are you who are running foodbanks and homeless shelters.

blessed are you who are marching.

blessed are you who are weeping.

blessed are you who remind others they are good and beautiful and beloved and worthy and capable of healing beyond their wildest dreams.

blessed are we when we dare to dream of a world without sexual violence, without racism, without xenophobia , without misogyny, without homophobia, without state brutality, without violence, without injustice.

blessed are we when we stay tender and gentle.

blessed are we when we stay passionate.

blessed are we when we dare to imagine change and transformation.

blessed are we when we labour to make it so.

Rev. Anna Blaedel


Prayer for the seriously ill in a time of COVID-19:

Divine Companion,

When loved ones, friends and strangers are

Fighting for their breath and yearning for home,

Will you, Loving One,

Whisper to them the words of comfort they need to hear?

Will you wrap your embrace around them?

A promise of your care through the rising and falling of every breath…..

Assuring them of your love.

Wherever there is pain, fear, or distress,

We believe you are already there,

Willingly sharing in their darkest moments.

If death comes,

Welcome them gently as they fall into the arms of Love.

In life and in death, we take refuge in your Presence that stretches across

space and time.

And may it ever be so.


 Prayer for Our Community:

O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us.

May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and with all beings.

Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens.

Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world………we pray now for…..

Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

Richard Rohr

Meditative liturgy for sharing bread and wine.

God is with us. I invite you to take a few moments, close your eyes, and be aware of the presence of the divine…………..

Now draw your attention to your breathing – breathe in and out – opening yourself up to the divine with gratitude and thankfulness…………..

Loving One, as close to us as breathing yet reaching into all eternity, we give you thanks and praise. Your outpouring of radical love has brought forth life among us. You have shown yourself to us as creator, companion and friend. In whatever image will bring us healing and wholeness – come to us now……………..

Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with all of creation:

“Holy, Holy, Holy One, God of Love and Light. The cosmos is filled with your glory! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is the One who comes in your name. Hosanna in the Highest!”

Jesus has showed us the ways of justice and mercy, turning the norms of society upside down. He welcomed and empowered the outsider and stood in resistance to the powers of oppression and violence. Like so many people around the world today, Jesus’ choice to live his truth and challenge oppression put him at great risk.

And yet, on the night in which death, hatred, and betrayal would seek to have the last word, Jesus remained true to non-violence and radical peace and showed us love by washing the feet of his friends.

At the table he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke the bread saying “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this and remember me.”

Take the bread.

After the meal, he took the cup, gave thanks and said “Drink from this all of you, this is my blood poured out for you …… Do this in remembrance of me.”

Take the wine.

And so in remembrance of Jesus we offer ourselves as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Pour out your Spirit on this community gathered virtually here that we might be Christ’s body, reflecting the divine image in the world. Make us a taste of your Kingdom, through Christ with us, that we might leave both nourished by your great Love and yet still hungry for justice for all.  Amen.

Bad News – Good News

Wednesday this week was day 12 of my “House Arrest” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While delighting  in my back garden I was inspired to write the following for our Wednesday evening “Zoom” meeting:

Making the most of House Arrest.

There are so many joys to be experienced watching wildlife and one of the greatest is when we feel we have blended into the landscape, perfectly still and unnoticed. Our pursuit of the little details of nature – the type of birdsong or the species of butterfly or bumblebee – is intensely pleasurable and brings us alive to the many possibilities in the garden.

Tranquillity is found while observing the creatures in the wildlife pond – the multi-coloured fish glide gracefully through the crystal-clear water accompanied by amorous, playful newts. Wasps and bees alight to drink, pond skaters zip across the water’s surface and spiders sporadically imitate.

They give us an excuse to loiter amid the flowers and the honey bees, to sit still and simply be. They are a pathway to a fuller experience. Wildlife watching is the best form of meditation I know. It is a kind of peaceful exhilaration. A most tranquil joy!

Being in nature, allowing the wild world around to seep into us, is wonderfully liberating. We see ourselves as we truly are – small, transient living things that are part of grander and more ancient forces all around us.

It leads us into nothing less than awe of the Creator.


The breeze issues its last sigh

Before silence erupts

Then blackbirds have the audacity to sing

While Carpenter bees patrol their turf.

As I sit here in the quiet,

Safe – bathed in sunlight

The peace of earth surrounds

An angelic creature cloaked in vibrant red

Darts over the still, clear water’s surface.

And my heart leaps for joy.

Bad news Good news

We had a special time meeting together today, not least in seeing old friends – Tessa and Richard – and seeing Jeremy and Sue since the death of his mum last week. Sharing together was very poignant and touching.

Steve led today with the message ‘The church buildings may be empty – but so is Jesus’ tomb!’ which he had seen on Facebook this week. Consequently, the theme of bad news, good news emerged. We started with a reading of John 20:10-16 and then Steve listed some of his bad and good news:

1. After 6 months of rain and gloom – we have a prolonged dry sunlit spell
2. After years of Brexit obsession – we have some relief
3. After years of increasing air pollution – a clearing of the atmosphere
4. After years of manic, stressful, life-limiting, frenzied activity for many – we have a chance for reflection, meditation, prayer, perspective re-arranging quietness
5. After years of not having enough time to do – we have plenty of time to be creative, crafty, artistic, musical. Gardens have never looked so good. Humour never appreciated so much. 50,000 words…
6. After years of the triumph of individualism – we now realise the importance of connectedness and community.
7. After years of lording, the kings and queens of capitalism, the lords and ladies of celeb-world, realise that it’s the nurses who matter the most…

We have been invited to create a couple of our own for Wednesday’s gathering.

We shared our prayer concerns at length and Steve reminded us: For Christians, we are a people who meet at the transaction point between our horizontal reality, this world, and the vertical reality, of God. We call this the crossing place or the Cross – through Jesus, all human imposed barriers to God’s presence are dismantled. It is the place where true perspective can be found; the place where we meet Truth: about ourselves and about reality herself. 

He followed this with words from the St Hilda community:

be silent

be still



before your god

say nothing

ask nothing

be silent

be still

let your god look upon you

that is all

he knows

she understands

he loves you with an enormous love

she only wants to look upon you with her love

Then candles were lit as we named all those mentioned – adding to a tableau set up on one of the zoom screens.

We used again the Emerging Creed that we have used before and are no longer sure of its origins!

We are people who…

Have found Jesus to be beyond compare

Invite all to join us without insisting they become like us

Find more reality in the searching and questioning than in certainty and absolutes

Realise that how we treat others is the greatest test and expression of what we believe

Firmly believe in the equality of men and women, that no-one is greater than another and that all people bear God’s image

Recognise that following Jesus is costly and we need to support each other in the work we feel called to do, being peacemakers, striving for justice, befriending the lonely, healing the sick, serving the hungry and destitute, visiting the sick and the elderly, inspiring children and young people, caring for God’s creation…


We used our Companions liturgy to share bread and wine together and finished with a blessing written by Steve, influenced by Grayden’s reflection last week:

At the end of time, when preparation for judgement is imminent, an angel will approach each person in the line and ask, “Where are your scars?” And if you reply, “I have no scars,” she might say, “Why not? Was there nothing worth fighting for down there? What did Jesus make whole within you through his sacrifice? Jesus bears his scars still – in his risen body. And so must you.”
May we allow Jesus to transform all our wounds and our wrongdoings, our hurts and our flaws into something perfectly and idiosyncratically us.
May we live Jesus’ resurrection today – no more past regret nor present fear – we live replete in faith and hope and love.
And may the Shalom blessing of the Triune God be on YOU!


And then we chatted and heard more from one another and discovered the unique joy of being the body of Christ again. Thank you to everyone for being who you are and with us today.


Happy Easter

We met this morning using Zoom. We had music and pictures to inspire us as well as a step outside for a burst of bird song.

Contributions included:

Resurrected with wounds.

After his resurrection, Jesus appears to be resurrected and yet wounded at the same time. This is the unexpected appearance of the Risen Jesus.

His resurrected body remains scarred. Thinking about this over the last few days I’ve found it very strange, surely we’d expect his resurrected body to be perfect, to be unscarred.

Then we find from reading the gospels that Jesus’ wounds are part of his identity. Because it’s by his wounds that his followers recognised him as Jesus. It is only by seeing his wounds and scars that Thomas is able to identify Jesus as his Lord and his God. The brokenness of Jesus body seems to be a very important part of his identity; his wounds are part of who Jesus is.

Will we also be resurrected with our wounds? We all have wounds that are caused by sickness, by accidents, by the actions of others and by the problems and disappointments of life.

All of us are wounded.  Even Jesus is wounded after his resurrection.  Resurrection hope doesn’t seem to do away with our woundedness. By retaining the wounds of his torture and execution, is Jesus showing us that we can find hope and strength in him?

It seems to me that many Christians think faith requires denying the ways our bodies retain the scars of continued pain and injury; in our memories, in our struggles with illness and injury, in our despair over others’ apathy when faced with injustice.

The risen yet wounded Jesus wants to open our eyes to see the pain of others, the destruction of the earth due to our greed and foolishness, and our part in wounding others near and far. Jesus offers us a peace that recognises the hard reality of injury and hurt.

So our resurrection hope does not deny the reality of wounds. Jesus although resurrected with wounds is not disabled by them. That’s what I think he wants for us.

We can freely enter into his resurrection hope just as we are – wounds and all.

Our faith is in a God who is always with us in our woundedness.


Thought for our day / our times

After the meditation on Maundy Thursday I lay in bed and thought about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane  and his feelings of vexation with his disciples sleeping off the meal. I was having a sleepless night and Grayden was sleeping like a baby next to me.

I have never really suffered with anxiety, but wonder if my sleepless nights and agitated feelings during the day are due to some anxiety about the Coronavirus situation at the moment and about my mother needing care.

It led me to think of Jesus praying in torment and what sort of things would have been troubling him apart from being terrified about what his own future held.

It struck me that Jesus would have been feeling anxious about his mother a widow with no income – we see his care for her when he was on the cross when he said in

John 19 vs 26 – 27 “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

So Jesus was anxious about his family. He was worried about his friends too – living under occupation, presenting a threat to the religious and occupying powers. What would happen to them?

  • My mind went to the current situation with the Covid-19 and people’s concerns about family and friends becoming infected.
  • My mind went to a family with legal decisions hanging over them.
  • My mind went to our close friend a GP – not fully recovered from suspected Covid-19
  • My mind went to some close friends and their family and the thousands of others who have lost loved ones prematurely
  • My mind went to places where medical facilities will not be able to cope with the virus
  • My mind went to front line workers who continue to work to help us all.
  • And on and on and on – So many people with so many concerns, worries, fears and anxieties.

When I have had troubles in the past I have been greatly comforted by Hebrews 4 and the knowledge that whatever we go through Jesus has been there too and he understands when we call out to him. So can I share with you that verse that has helped me.

Hebrews 4 Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Maundy Thursday via Zoom

So we are still meeting and being community and sharing bread and wine together via Zoom! I haven’t posted all we’ve done – but everything has blessed and uplifted us. The following is a meditation I wrote for Maundy Thursday:

Maundy Thursday in lockdown 2020 – A meditation.

That last week it had been like everything intensified. I think I’d trace it back to the raising of Lazarus from death. There are actually no words to describe how we all felt when Jesus, with tears streaming down his face, called into the tomb ‘Lazarus, Come out!’ But that was nothing compared to how we felt when Lazarus appeared, on his own two feet… I know of so many who were convinced then of Jesus being the ‘real deal’ – though no-one really knew what that really meant yet and all had their own terms for it. All I know is that people started to flock to him and to be far more vocal than ever before. I think that was what led to the extraordinary welcome when he entered Jerusalem a few days later…
But just before that, Jesus stayed with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha as he often did when he was down south. They were amongst Jesus’s closest friends so he could always relax with them; it was a real home for him. It was his last sabbath, not that we knew that then, and when we were about to pass around the spice box, wishing upon each other the sweet fragrance of the sabbath to stay with us through the coming week, Mary did her own extraordinary thing. She brought out a jar of the most beautifully scented aromatic oil and she broke the seal right over Jesus’s head and poured it out. It dripped down his face and beard and there was a commotion – laughter but also a disquiet – because we knew something special was being done – but we didn’t know what. And she massaged the oil into his feet, between his toes. And the aroma of that oil filled not only the house but lasted on Jesus all through the next week. It followed him wherever he went… The sweetness of Jesus amongst us…
(Take a scented handcream, perfume or aftershave and put some onto your hands / face)
And I can’t help but wonder if that night didn’t influence Jesus for that following Thursday night – our Passover night. Our last supper with him. He’d loved it, you see. He couldn’t get over what she’d done for him – he ‘got it’- he knew everything it symbolised, what she had meant by it and what she couldn’t yet understand herself. More than anything though, I think it was the intimacy, the love that really touched him.
So, on that Thursday evening, Jesus did something he’d never done before. He washed our feet. I think he wanted to do something similar for us. Of course, Peter voiced what we were all thinking – it wasn’t seemly! Masters and Rabbis don’t wash feet! And knowing what we know now, the thought of him kneeling at our feet – well, it’s still is hard to take. But Jesus said we had to let him serve us if we were to serve him and I know that none of us who were there can get out of our heads the clear message that following him is about love. It’s all about love.
Well we all sat down for the meal. There were so many of us – yes the Twelve, as we’d become known, but all the other core team members – all the Marys (!) Joanna, Salome, John Mark’s mother – whose house it was – and young John Mark, wide-eyed, taking it all in, a little over-excited, as well as Cleopas and his wife… Too many to mention – it was heaving, just as a Passover celebration should be.
I think we had all got excited by the strengthening support of the crowds and at the same time we were unsettled by the events at the Temple and the equally growing tensions with the authorities. Jesus seemed preoccupied that night and whilst we went through the usual rituals at the meal and had a feast to rival any other Passover meal in Jerusalem, I think we all took furtive glances at Jesus during the evening, wondering what was going through his mind. He seemed to be making an effort to be present to us, whilst actually being quite subdued, troubled…
Apart from being a feast, a Passover meal is full of familiar words, songs, actions and symbolic rituals. For those of you who may not know, we only eat unleavened bread. Yeast and leavening agents of any kind are seen as symbolising pride and sin. We try to rid ourselves of these things as we clean out our houses of every crumb and forego normal breads for the week. Of course, its also because we are remembering our ancestors fleeing Egypt at the time of the Exodus, when they didn’t have time for their bread to rise. They were ‘with bread’ – with God as their companion on the journey. Bread is hugely symbolic for us…
So the time came for Jesus to take the bread that we call ‘the Isaac’ and broke it. That’s all part of what we do every Passover – we remember the one who was taken by his father to be sacrificed. The bread is broken in two and we hide the other half – the afikomen. The kids love the game of trying to find it and being the one to get the prize. John Mark was determined that this would be his year, if I remember rightly! Afikomen means ‘afters’ or ‘that which is to come’. That’s taken on a whole new meaning for us since that night. As Jesus broke the bread he looked intently at us, blessed it with the usual words and then said, ‘This is my body, broken for you. I want you to remember me when you do this in the future’. So we ate it in a confused silence. None of us dared ask what he meant.

Break the bread. Remember –the without-sin bread, the bread of sacrifice, reminding us of God’s companionship in these difficult times, Jesus’s body broken for you…

Now in the Passover meal there are four cups of wine. Each helps us remember the four-fold promise of God to Moses: The first is ‘I will bring you out’ which we call the cup of deliverance. The second is ‘I will deliver you from slavery’ – the cup of freedom. But it was as Jesus was pouring out the third cup that he said something new. This promise is, ‘I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power’ and we call it the cup of redemption or the cup of thanksgiving. Instead of the usual words, Jesus said, ‘This is the cup of the new covenant written in my blood. It’s my blood poured out for you. Drink it and remember me when you do’. Not the blood of the sacrificial lamb at the time of Moses – his blood… To be honest we didn’t have a clue then what he meant. We didn’t much like those words, there was a sadness, no more than a sadness, there was a sense of dread… something was happening, something was coming and we were out of our depth. He wouldn’t drink the cup of consummation – he said something about having to wait for that…

Take the wine. It speaks of our redemption. It marks a new covenant – a new relationship with God, bought, in some mysterious way, with the sacrificial blood of Christ. The blood of Christ…

And Jesus spoke with urgency then, of betrayal and denials and dying and the words just couldn’t find purchase in our heads – it was as if they passed through us leaving only shreds of sentences that made no sense to us. So, when Jesus said he wanted some fresh air and got ready to go to his favourite place, Gethsemane on the lower part of the Mount of Olives, I think we were all glad to escape the feeling of claustrophobia we’d started to feel in that upper room…

So we went to the olive grove. We were all weary and our eyes were heavy. Jesus told us to pray that we didn’t fall into temptation, but to be honest we weren’t really up to that – we just needed to shut our eyes for a bit. Jesus went a bit further on and we gave in to our need for sleep.
It was John Mark who told us later what had happened. He’d crept out of the house following us – just in his night clothes – his mother would never have given permission – to be honest, Jerusalem can be dangerous on Passover night with so much drinking and merriment. No place for a young lad to be out and about. He’d hidden near to Jesus, seen us all dropping off and saw and heard everything.
Jesus was really agitated. He prayed aloud, frantically, begging God to ‘take away this cup of suffering’. He seemed frightened. He was sweating and there was blood mixed with his sweat which scared the boy. Jesus appeared to be having some kind of invisible battle, he looked to be in utter anguish and, suddenly, so vulnerable. The olive trees surrounded and towered over him and seemed suddenly so strong and steady, those thick gnarled trunks speaking of age and wisdom and security.
Jesus did return to us and was uncharacteristically het up -why weren’t we praying? Why couldn’t we be there for him? Please! Please pray. But we didn’t. We couldn’t. I wish we could go back to that night and be there for him but we weren’t. He’d managed to get through the meal, washed our feet and earnestly shared the things he knew that mattered. He’d held it together, despite his growing dread and doubts But, despite all he’d done for us, he was alone.
Or so he thought. Unknown to him John Mark was there and then there were those special trees…, a community of them, interlinked, ancient, gnarled, strong, steady witnesses, faithful companions when humans failed…. And I, for one, am grateful to them.
Perhaps they helped him reach that place of peace and acceptance that John Mark saw happen: ‘No, it’s not about what I want, it’s about what you want. It’s your will that needs to be done and I can do it. I’ll do it. Your will be done Father – your will…’
For me that’s as important as what happened the next day. The battle was won there that night. Jesus stayed. He didn’t run. He stayed knowing that Judas would be on his way with the temple guards, that everything would escalate, that he would have no control… Like his mother Mary some 30 years before, he said yes.

So, tonight we choose to pray with Jesus. In the next few minutes we take time to respond to Jesus, remembering what he did there that night. And we pray for our world undergoing its own Gethsemane – praying for those fearful of death, for the grief-stricken and for those working to save lives, risking their own… We pray for God’s will and for resurrection to come after this time of trial.
Play Taize: ‘Stay with me’ (5 minutes)