NATURE?

CAN’T SLEEP. Watched Rev which helped the winding down process after the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. Ate pizza with friends – for which oh so many thanks. But can’t sleep – again – and the diary’s full tomorrow, and pretty much for the rest of the week. And actually it’s not the church meeting itself that’s keeping me awake – not this particular one, anyway! But I’ve been haunted all weekend by a photo-piece under “World” in the Times.

The full horror of nature: A heavily pregnant zebra shows dignity in her final moments as she is eaten alive by spotted hyenas in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya … she remained stoic and dignified to the end – photographer Marc Mol

I cried. Her beautiful eyes looking straight ahead – as though directly into mine – whilst being savaged to death. Oh, dear God, I cried. And I cannot erase the photograph from my mind. And the trouble is that the mind’s eye picture is a flickering one. Sometimes the eyes are those of a beautiful, beautiful zebra. Sometimes the stoic dignity is to be seen in the eyes of a young Syrian mother in a hospital bed – recovering (?) from having set herself alight, a living beacon of human distress at her enforced inability to provide for the children who stood by her whilst she burned – being savaged. Sometimes they’re the eyes of beautiful people, deeply in love – being savaged by an institution that preaches about love like there’s no tomorrow.

How’re ya doin’ Vicarage?

Well: wide awake actually. Again. And wondering how on earth I find myself spending hour after hour listening to debates about hymn books and service papers when we live in a world that’s crying out – looking me dead in the eye, whilst being savaged – stoically crying out for mercy.

I cannot bear to share these pictures here. Better to share a raindrop, a tear, if you like, reflecting a whole wide world. And I don’t want to hear that it’s not a vicar’s job to keep innocent zebras free from the threat of hyenas. They taught me that in the seminary a long, long time ago. But it is the vicar’s job, and everybody’s job, to keep persons protected from savagery – and at any rate I’ll never stop longing for the day when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb”.

Pray, pray, pray. Let’s leave the hymn book on the shelf for a day or two. No more beating people over the head with the Bible (anyone’s Bible) – lest some sad day we ourselves be knocked dead by our own crude and blunt weapons. Couldn’t we have a few days off spouting badly-understood creeds and misused sacred scriptures? – Reflect a bit upon our terrifyingly destructive ignorance? – Try to get a handle on the richness, the unity in diversity, the poetry of life?

And ACT. Gird up our loins. Speak up. Speak out for an end to each and every act of human savagery and self-centred, self-satisfied, religious obsequiousness. In God’s “dispensation” either everyone’s in or everyone’s out. And anyone reading this is called to be human and humane – and not a spotted hyena.

LORD OF LIFE, help me never to stop reflecting upon the grace with which zebras – and you alone know how many beautiful humans – “remained stoic and dignified to the end.”

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. And thank you. Thank you that Jesus wept. And for that resounding and tomb-shattering clarion call – LAZARUS! COME OUT!

OVER ALL

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THE LOST AND THE FOUND – this is the stuff of the stories we’ve heard and we’ve lived from our earliest infancy. And all that we’ve “lost” terrifies and sickens us. And we somehow forget all the “found” that, remembered, we might be healed by. Such are the constraints of TIME. But not forever. Not forever. Over all there is “the deepest silence of the night” and a smiling there, and a whispering. And perhaps a somehow familiar song on the wind: “rejoice with me! – for that which was lost is found”. Again and again and again … whispering, smiling …

When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang ‘Oh, the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!’

But one cried of a sudden – ‘It seems that somewhere there is a break in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.’

The golden string of the harp snapped, their song stopped, and they cried in dismay – ‘Yes, that lost star was the best, she was the glory of all heavens!’

From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes on from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one joy!

Only in the deepest silence of the night the stars smile and whisper among themselves – ‘Vain is this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!’

Rabindranath Tagore
Gitanjali – the 78th Song Offering

COLOUR AND THE ABSTRACT

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I’M NUTS ABOUT COLOUR and the abstract, even as I’m dotty, too, about poetry and the precise. Both, in quite different ways, leave plenty of room for liberality, for openness to life’s gifts in oneself and in others, for generosity of spirit. I wonder how many images will present themselves to you “out of” the abstract blending above? I enjoyed creating them – but that enjoyment is almost as nothing compared to the enjoyment I’ll gain from returning, and from the never-ending procession of “new” works that will arise therefrom.

I shall try to carve out time in 2014 for a bit more artwork than has been afforded in the past year. In like fashion I’ve embarked upon a new handwritten journalling project for the year. I’m resolved (how effectively remains to be seen, of course) to hand-write a pondered poem-a-day into a specially purchased journal. I hope that the act will facilitate a daily pondering and contemplation. And there’ll be the benefit, in the future, of a slightly more personal than usual returning.

And all this “returning” helps maintain a constant communion with loved ones and with friends near and far, known and unknown, in this world and in other worlds. This returning, this abiding remembering, brings me daily to the constant prayer – a cantus firmus in my life for an end to a few more of the harsher divisions and judgments still insisted upon by some members of our humankind – even whilst being thankful for progress made in the past year. If I’m nuts about colour, and dotty about poetry, I’m absolutely besotted with my conviction that the “will” of God the Source of Life is to draw all persons, all created things, always and everywhere into Unity. Tomorrow I’m hoping to see “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom” – so doubtless there’ll be more from me on all of the above thereafter.

Meanwhile, my Alice Meynell post of New Year’s Eve has touched something in my soul several dozen times since then:

… in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O, be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The myriad forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

RENEWED & REDEDICATED

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THE PARISH CENTRE – ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS BRAMHALL

Renewed & Rededicated by this Household of Faith

6 October 2013

HERE’S ONE OF SEVERAL REASONS I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately 😉 – thanks be to God for a gift of a day – and for the love, time and extraordinary talents of a very large number of wonderful people …

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King Solomon’s great (and gloriously inclusive) Prayer of Dedication was chorally-read by a representative choir of St Michael’s contemporary angels … and the Gospel Reading for the Day proclaimed by every person present …

Kaleidoscope ii & Dedication Poster

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Fr Simon with Architect extraordinaire Rebecca Gilbert-Rule

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Churchwarden Sue Taylor with Architect Rebecca Gilbert-Rule

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Keith Fenwick with Artist Stephen Raw

More slides of a special day here

LIGHT A CANDLE

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FOR OUR DEARLY LOVED ONES or people further afield – Afghanistan, perhaps, or Myanmar or Syria. The bereft and the blessed. The faraway and those having fun. The going and the coming. The hopeless and the fulfilled. The lonely and those revelling in relationship. The sad and the glad. The sick and the healthy. The suffering and the rejoicing. The wondering and the knowing. The wishful and the satisfied. The weeping and the laughing.

All we long for …

And sometimes we just don’t know what to say, or what to pray, or what to do – and it’s then that we wind up thanking God for the little miracle, the tiny gift that is lighting a candle, or maybe a small table lamp at home, the gift that lies in God’s inviting us, in the very act of the lighting and the remembering, to

Let go. Let God

It’s highly likely that I’ll have lit a candle in recent times for YOU. Thank you for your light and love and prayers for me, too.

SAME THING MANY DIFFERENT WAYS

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HUGO GOT IT immediately – the point and purpose of our 10am Kaleidoscope Mass, the first of twelve, one a month, on the first Sunday of the month, for twelve months. 

Hugo, when I asked him what he’d seen when he looked through a kaleidoscope, said

I’ve seen the same thing, many different ways

WHAT THE CHURCH IS FOR

And that’s what the Church is for! More than that, it’s what LIFE is for. Seeing the same thing, many different ways.

(Everyone gets a chance for a look: we’ll be passing a dozen or more of the marvellous instruments around during each “Kaleidoscope Mass” and then offering them back to God, collected in a basket – the offering of ourselves in our “many colours” and our innumerable perspectives).

MAKING A EUCHARISTICALLY THANKFUL PEOPLE

We’ve been wanting to draw younger people, and older people, and every age in between, into deeper ways of celebrating and making Eucharist (making thanksgiving, offering thankfulness, redemption and peace) together. How can we make connections between “the Lord’s Table”, the altar, in Church, and the “the Lord’s Table” at home, in kitchens and dining rooms?

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RE-MEMBERING

Can we encourage one another, by the grace of this Sacrament, to remember and re-member the faithfully Jewish Jesus of Nazareth – and the grace and love he proposed for all people – every time we “eat this bread and drink this cup” – whether “at Mass / Holy Communion / the Eucharist / the Lord’s Supper” in Church, or at daily breakfast, lunch, hillside picnic for 5000, or dinner?

Can we encourage one another to believe that our Christ (ie Christos – “anointed” and commissioned) intended, brilliantly, that this universal human act and need (eating and drinking) could, and might still, make communion for every child and woman and man upon earth, of whatever faith tradition, or of none. Can we see that “redemption” is a calling each of us back home to our senses? – to OUR vocation to be “christos”, called and commissioned in our world, in our time, today.

WE’RE ALIVE – THANK GOD!

How do we remind ourselves that sacramental sign and symbol is given to point us to universal (catholic – inclusive – applicable for all in every time and every place) truths? How do we help each other in Church, and at home, and at work to make a holy communion? How can we help one another to be a truly eucharistic (thanks-giving) people, thereby enabling one another to be truly, thankfully conscious of being alive?

How do we re-member, how do we “put flesh on the bones” of the Body of Christ now on earth?

… Gather us in, the lost and forsaken, gather us in, the blind and the lame; call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.

We are the young, our lives are a mystery, we are the old who yearn for your face; we have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race. Gather us in, the rich and the haughty, gather us in, the proud and the strong; give us a heart, so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.

Marty Haugen

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TOGETHER

Well: by doing it TOGETHER. And by seeing and hearing and imagining the message of a Kaleidoscope – an instrument that presents a single vision initially, and an attractive enough one at that. But it gets better when there’s some interaction, when we engage with a bit of what the Greeks call “metanoia” or “repentance” – a turning around. When we turn the viewer around we begin to see things from many different perspectives, many different times, traditions, native origins, birthrights – many different places. We begin to see the same thing, many different ways. We recognise again, as though for the first time, a great Love at the heart of all Life that seems to be be calling us all to be one: to be a holy communion.

FLEXIBLY

How though? How …?

Well: flexibility is a fundamental. And there has to be both fun and some proper solemnity – perhaps better called “depth”. We’ve found it helpful to have a big carpet for people who like to sit on the floor, with a doll or a teddy or a granny, to be able to. And we like things we can shake to make a joyful noise when we sing. And when we shake things we find that they shake us and so there’s a kind of a “Lord of the Dance” without any effort.

There has to be, for us, something of the glory of liturgy – or “the work of the people” – and we need as many as possible to be directly, physically involved. So today a very small, very young, very smiley boy headed the procession bearing a very special, very small processional cross, specially made by our very smiley Sexton.

UNSEEMLY SCRUM? or LIGHT, HOSPITALITY & HUMILITY?

And one of our churchwardens brought coloured lanterns for acolytes, borne aloft by six youngsters, encircling two more as they proclaimed the Gospel. We looked at kaleidoscopes, and the children presented a brief “It’s My Party” at which an unseemly scrum took place as some naughty people fought for best place – learning quickly and solemnly that that doesn’t make for Communion – and it’s always a wider, eternal invitation that makes for a real union. Hospitality calls for humility – on the part of both giver and receiver.

And we engaged with lavabo – washing each other’s hands; and raising bread and celebrating with wine, together (some behind and around me, some before and beside me) – together, we gave the thanks. And took, and blessed, and broke, and gave – and were fed – and were taken, and blessed, and broken, and given.

LIKE BEING AT HOME

And then we didn’t want to go home. Perhaps because we felt we were home. Sherry and squash at the West End. A buzz. Catching up on the News – and a whole host of views, about Syria, and song, and nail varnish. We didn’t want to go home. For quite a long time. Thankful. Eucharistic. Our first Kaleidoscope Mass. Seeing the same thing, differently. New life taking wing. Something new to sing.

Will it work well for twelve months? No-one can tell. But today was great. The Lord was doing a new thing. It’s very likely that in twelve months (or even before then) we’ll need another rethink. So be it. But that will involve team work, like this one, as well.

THANKS BE TO GOD

Next one, Sunday 6th October – Dedication & Inclusion – with Messy Church on 28th September in between …

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STARTING HERE

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STARTING HERE, what do you want to remember? Homily for Wednesday.

Simon Marsh has been keenly ecumenically minded from the age of 8. The preamble to this weekday homily spoke of his regular, interested attendance at a host of Christian churches and chapels in England and Wales other than the gently liberal, “middle of the road” Anglican parish church of his boyhood – and of the preoccupation in many of them, as it seemed to him, not so much with building and recognising the Kingdom of God in this world, as with a distinct and debilitating likelihood of eternal punishment in some other world ahead. But hadn’t the Lord Jesus – and later St Paul – shown a “more excellent way”, hadn’t they spoken of law in the context of faith and hope and love? – Audio file here

William Stafford’s poem You Reading This, Be Ready is here