With faces downcast….

27 06 2014

In the few short weeks between the start of term and the exam season we spent some time looking at the Easter Story. Easter itself always occurs while the university is closed and most of us are not around Leeds. Thankfully the Easter season lasts a little longer.

Gemma offered to lead a session for us exploring the story of the road to Emmaus. In looking at the text the phrase ‘with faces downcast’ caught her eye and her imagination. From that she created a path for us to follow around the chapel. With faces downcast we could see the steps on the way. Each of these led us further into the Easter story. Along the way there were also some diversions offering places to stop, rest and ponder.emmaus5 photo 2


We took time to wander and reading the story as we went and taking time to turn aside and ponder as we did so.

At the first ‘turning aside’ was a plinth with an illuminated scent diffuser. There was an invitation to sit and enjoy the experience and to think about all the different senses we were using to do so. The questions were then asked ‘how do we experience Jesus?’ ‘do we ever struggle to recognise Jesus?’ ‘Why do you think God kept the travellers from recognising Jesus?’ ‘How is this significant for us today?’

The next ‘turning aside’ had a pile of texts of prophecies from the Old Testament and their fulfilments as found in the gospels. We were challenged to match up pairs and then join them together – eventually creating a paper chain of prophecy/fulfilment.




The final ‘turning aside’ was at the altar. Here a plate with broken bread on it had been placed alongside the question ‘ ‘the men only recognised Jesus when he broke the bread… why do you think this is? What does this tell us about how we should think of Jesus?’

The final steps of the path invited us to return back and discuss all that we had experienced with others.

Back at the tables over more coffee and cake a discussion developed as we thought about what it means to experience Jesus. There were all sorts of comments, but i was struck by a few.  ‘We recognise the reflections of Jesus in other people and situations’  ‘ We can’t see the whole person unlike the disciples’ ‘sometimes we see God in the tiny things – like the still small voice or the mustard seed’

We also talked about the problem of creating our own versions of Jesus. We have a problem of distance in time and space so how do we keep true to who he really is? We talked about the search for the historic Jesus, but the danger that even in that we have  a selective reading. We were also aware that our images and our understanding of Jesus changes as life moves on and we journey through it. That was where we saw church as being important (and we meant church in the sense of the community that discusses and shares prays and challenges and encourages)

Turning the Tables

7 05 2014

As usual we gathered over coffee and cakes, but it the Chapel there were 5 different tables.

After a while we were invited to go in and explore the tables, what was on and around them.

The first table  was a small cafe table. It was covered in bottles and empty glasses. It looked like a good evening had been had already. There was a note inviting us to pull up a chair, find a glass and pour a drink. There were also headphones to put on – the music playing was Elbow’s song ‘Sad Captain’. Cards on the table read ‘O taste and see”, ‘Have you tasted?’ ‘Can you see?’ ‘Or will it take another miracle table?’  There was a bible story to read too – John 2:6-11

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The seccond table was laying on its side. Hung from the table legs were images. The first was of a series of spoofed adverts on the reverse of which was the text ‘Hope is not a business’ .  The second was of a Nike advert that had the caption ‘Test your faith daily’  – the reverse read ‘Faith does not require an advertising campaign.  On the floor was a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. A book mark had the text ‘Love is…. not a product to be consumed’. On the floor was the text from John 2:13-21, Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple.

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The third table was set ready for dinner – 4 places laid out ready. At the end of the table was a napkin with a cross made of ash on it and palm crosses scattered onto the floor.

Those who ventured under the table found it dimly lit. Quietly in the background ‘God help me through this day’ (By Jesus and Mary Chain) was playing. There was a single palm cross on the floor and a text pinned to the underside of the table (Luke 7:36-50) A bottle held a piece of paper that read ‘Somethings that are hidden go intentionally ignored.’

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The fourth table had mugs of tea and a plate of biscuits on it.There was another Bible story (Matt 15:21-28). On the floor was a First Aid kit with plasters and antiseptic cream laying next to it.

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The final table was the communion table. To end the evening we gathered around, heard the story of the last supper and then shared bread and wine together.


Thanks to The Story – a Church in Sarnia, Ontario for the inspiration for this installation.

Lent 2 – poetry and sewing

18 03 2014

For our second Lenten week we were given a creative evening of poetry and needlework!

Josh introduced a poem by George Herbert.


Having been tenant long to a rich lord,
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold,
    And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old.
In heaven at his manor I him sought;
    They told me there that he was lately gone
    About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn.
I straight returned, and knowing his great birth,
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts;
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied,
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Along with the poem were a series of questions to prompt reflection.

What, if anything, have you given up/taken up during Lent? How do you think this action develops your faith?

What event or experience has most developed/challenged your faith over the past year?

What is the best Christian book you’ve read?

Herbert’s character only sees God when they’re forced to look somewhere they hadn’t thought of. When have you met with God and not expected it?

Where has Lent removed the clutter from your life and allowed you to see clearly again?

Having been given the poem and prompter Emma introduced the next part of the evening. lent sewing

We were to create small pieces of embroidery. Some of us looked a little unsure about the idea. some of us were more technically challenged than others, but Emma carefully explained what we needed to do and gently encouraged us to have a go with it.

lent sewing2The chapel moved into a quiet concentration as people began to draw designs onto fabric, choose colours, thread needles and sew the designs.

It was amazing how quickly the evening went. By the end of it everyone had created something.

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18 03 2014

Even though we’re now into Lent CafeChurch continues to meet over coffee and excellent homemade cakes. This week we were all asked to bring with us a family recipe and an ingredient that goes into making it. On our tables Vicky had placed envelopes that had instructions written on the outside and then a series of prompts for action and discussion on pieces of paper inside the envelope.

We are asked to place our ingredient on the altar and then return to our table, open the envelope and see where we headed…. The altar soon had a varied assortment of jars and bags on it containing a strange variety of ingredients. Someone said it looked like a chefs invention test…. On opening the envelopes we found the following:

Lent is so often a time of giving things up, of abstinence, denial. But the purpose of Lent is to stop, to notice, to reflect.

Tonight you are invited to stop, reflect and revere one of the things we so often take for granted – food, the people who produce it , shape our lives and connect us to God’s earth.

1)     Share the recipe you have brought and why you have brought it.

Who does it connect you to?

What memories does it bring back?

When do you make it?

2) Take an ingredient from the altar. Take some time to reflect on it. Savour and revere how it looks, feels, smells, tastes (depending on the ingredient)

Think about where it came from, who produced it, how it connects you to God’s earth

3)       Choose someone else’s recipe. Take it and their ingredient home with you.

Set some time aside to make the recipe this week. As you cook, revere each ingredient and with it the people involved in making or producing it.

Think about the story behind the recipe and the person who it belongs to.

Give thanks for all these people and the ways they connect us to the earth, to each other and to God.

Share the food you have made, and the stories it comes with (including your own experience of making and reflecting on it) with someone else.

Soon people were sharing their recipes with each other. The stories that unfolded spoke of home and growing up, of family and relationships, of concern for each other (more than one was a recipe given to make sure there was at least one thing that could be cooked upon leaving home!). There were recipes that had been given by friends, and those that were alway shared with friends. There was a recipe recreated from memories of having eaten it with a dearly loved grandma. At times you could almost imagine the kitchen and the creative joy in making food for others, followed by the simple act of sitting and eating together. True communion.

Looking at the ingredients was perhaps more of a challenge. We have become a bit removed from the cultivation and  production of food. It was almost impossible to think about who had grown and processed the spices that went into a jar of curry powder.

At the end of the evening there was a flurry of activity as people tried to get their favourite recipe from its originator. Clutching recipes and at least one key ingredient we finished the evening heading off to contemplate cooking the food and sharing it with others.


5 02 2014

Well, Christmas has come and gone and we never quite got round to writing a blog entry about our visit to Narnia, our Christmas meal or the now traditional Cafe Church Christmas game (it’s hard enough coping with students desperate to take home the star prize, let alone trying to explain to a 5-year-old that all the gifts she thought she had have just been given to someone else).  As Epiphany almost escapes us it’s time to write something.

Epiphany is all about God being revealed in the world. We started early in the week by asking people to take photographs of their everyday places, of the ordinary places they spend their day, the familiar objects that are in those places. As people arrived these images were displayed on the screen.

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We then looked at the story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). God is revealed to an unsuspecting crowd gathered for a party. Although it was a celebration event and special because of that, it was an ordinary place, where people thought they knew what was supposed to happen. That led us to thinking about how we encounter God in the everyday.

Sat around our tables, over the usual coffee and cakes we picked up the Ignatian idea of an Examen exercise and shared with each other ‘for what am i most grateful?’ and ‘For what am i least grateful’ (or a variation on that – where did i feel most alive/most drained today). After a discussion that took us quite deep into how we really feel where we each were in life we headed into another (warmer) room.

Here we had a contemplative reading inspired by the Wedding at Cana story. The reflection came from here

After we’d finished pondering on the story there was an invitation to head into the chapel and pour a glass of water and prayerfully ask God to refresh those parts of our life that were dry. There was also a small piece of paper on which we were invited to put a cross and then place in our purse or wallet as a reminder that God is with us, meeting us in the ordinary and everyday. All we need to do is open our eyes.

The Mustard Seed

18 11 2013

This week’s parable was another short one – The Mustard Seed. It appears in three of the Gospels (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19). After reading the versions and chatting around why they might be different to each other  we headed off into what looked like pretty ordinary Bible study territory with some questions:

  • Who is the man who sows the seed? 
  • What might be the garden?
  • Who are the birds of the air?
  • What does the parable tell us about the Kingdom of God?

What became clear is that Mustard seeds are not the things that we grow into salad ingredients or form the basis of Coleman’s profits (our profit is on the side of your plate!) They are very small seeds that grow into very large shrubs. They were prolific and caused a great annoyance to the Romans threatening their sense of order and control – unruly plants growing beside and in neatly planned and cultivated crops, sheltering birds that would eat the carefully planted Roman seeds. A blog by Brian Sutken gave some really helpful insights.

After some discussion about modern day equivalents (maybe the buddleia is close) we moved on to think a bit further about what the Kingdom of God is really like and how that contrasts with the corporate world that dominates our society. (It’s an idea that is tackled by Tom Sine in the book ‘Mustard See Vs McWorld’ 

Around our tables we were asked to write on large sheets of paper what we thought the values that characterised McWorld and those that characterised the Kingdom of God? 

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Having done that there were some more questions:

  • How should the Church work to bring about the change from McWorld to Mustard Seed?
  • What practical things can we do as the CafeChurch community to help grow the Kingdom of God?
  • What thing are you personally going to do that challenges the values of McWorld?

There was then an invitation to write what we were going to do on a piece of kitchen paper and take some mustard seeds away to plant on the paper and as the seeds grow to be reminded of the commitment we had made.

Some of the commitments we might have made could look pretty insignificant but we were reminded of another time Jesus talked about mustard seeds in Matthew 17:14-20. 

Parable of the Talents

4 11 2013

This week Paul and Hattie helped us to look at the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25: 14-30.

This is probably one of Jesus’ most challenging parables, and has been interpreted in a number of different ways.
The parable tells the story of a rich man who goes on a long trip. Before going, he calls three servants to him and entrusts them each with an amount of money, or talents. When he comes back, two of the servants have invested their money, and are able to return it to the master with interest – this pleases the master, and they are rewarded. The third servant, though, hid his money, and only returns the amount given to him. He says to the master that he knew he was ‘a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed’. The master is angry, saying that the servant should have invested the money. He proclaims that ‘whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them’.

We started off reading through the parable in groups, then brainstorming on large pieces of paper trying to answer these questions:
• Is this parable familiar?
• What interpretations of this story have you heard before?
• Is this parable challenging? How?
• Who do the different figures in the parable represent?

Each group did this in silence, however, so that each person’s individual reaction to the parable was represented on the mind map, visually bringing to light people’s varying reactions to the story Jesus told and differing interpretations of what it might mean. We then got a different perspective on the parable by looking at the account of it in Luke’s gospel, 19: 12-27. In this account, called the parable of the Minas, the master figure is perhaps portrayed as an even harder character.

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What was most obvious from examining this contentious parable is that there is are multiple different ways in which it can be interpreted, many of which are very credible, but none of which seem to be entirely comfortable of straightforward. One of the most common ways of interpreting it is to say that it teaches us the importance of using the gifts that God gives us, but we also came across interpretations which said that it might support capitalism, or, contrastingly, support socialism.

We also looked at some other people’s varying reactions by reading the following blogs on the internet:

We certainly didn’t reach any firm conclusions on the meaning of the parable, but were able to gain fresh perspectives on one of Jesus’ more challenging teachings.


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