Maps and beyond

5 10 2015

Following on from last weeks question ‘where have you come from‘ this week we looked at the maps that help or guide us.

After yet another selection of excellent cakes and chat as we got to know more new members we were invited to enter the chapel. At the entrance was a card that talked about maps and the line that marks the edge of them. Those who are map fans will know the frustration of having a map that only takes you so far, of encountering the thick line at the edge that marks the end of what can be known. But there are always other maps that take us beyond there.If we don’t have that map then we need to take a risk and step into someone else’s territory. The card asked the question ‘Is the gift of faith for you knowing where the edges of your map exist, or stepping beyond them into another’s world and life?’

Inside the chapel were a series of different prayer installations

On a table were lots of little bottles with ripped up pieces of map inside each one. on and around the table were torn up pagesIMG_2916

of a map. The text next to the table spoke about those who have to navigate inhospitable maps in our strange country. Of how sometimes it can feel that the map has been ripped up. We were invited to remember the dreams of other people – for a new, better, secure life, and to pray for a different kind of world. If we felt able we were invited to take a little bottle as a sing of our commitment to work for the day when all people will know home.

IMG_2919On the floor was a large sheet of card. Stuck to it were outlines of different countries, but with gaps between them. In the gaps we were asked to write our prayers for the different countries, for the tensions between them and for those stuck in the gaps.

There was a small book and some pens. It simply invited us to write our prayer for tomorrow on the next blank page in the book. The pages were translucent. As more prayers were written into the book you could see them accumulated on the pages. IMG_2918

A map of the university campus was on a table. It had had all the labels and place names removed and was coloured with different zones. The key to the map showed where hope, wonder, bewilderment, regret and fear might be found. People were invited to write or draw the things that make the landscape of their life onto a little flag – the things that cause wonder or hope or bewilderment or that cause regret or fear. The flags were then put into appropriate places on the map.


IMG_2921 IMG_2920 IMG_2915

Although each of these was a reflective prayer installation to be engaged with individually there was a real sense of praying together as a community when there were several people sat around each of the installations. Taking time to read other peoples flags or entries on the map or in the book offered a sense of praying for and with each other that shifted the focus from being individual to being community.

Where have you come from?

28 09 2015

‘Where have you come from?’ is a question that appears in pretty much every Freshers week conversation. It’s part of the the process of trying to get to know each other, to find out things that we have in common, of beginning to form new friendships. But its a pretty superficial question and is often answered with a sort of ’rounding up’. Someone will say ‘Cardiff’ when they are from Radyr or ‘China’ when they are from Shenyang.27 spet 4

We began by asking people to put a pin in the map to mark where they were from (or a sticker on the globe) There was some discussion as to where ‘where you have come from’ referred to – for some it was a place that they considered home because they’d lived there longer than anywhere else, for others it was a parental home that they had left a few days previous, for others it was a place they were born. Some wanted to claim multiple places of origin (a bit like hedging your bets at an England Wales rugby match). Even knowing where you were from wasn’t as straightforward as it first seemed.

Knowing where you have come from is only part of the story. People were asked to reflect on how they had got from there to where they are now. A prompt sheet asked people to think about all the things that had shaped their journey – the events that had changed their direction; the people who had been significant. It also asked them to think about where God had been in those events and relationships as well as how close God had felt to them at the vatious points on their journey.

Having reflected upon the significant things in life people were asked to create some sort of map or timeline that showed this. There were suggestions of how to do this. These ranges from a simple time line with events marked on it, to a re-arrangeable series of colour coded post-it notes.

Some of us found this harder than others to do (which might have had something to do with age!), but eventually everyone had produced some sort of map.

27 sept 127 sept 227 sept 3

We spent time sharing what was on our maps with each other. This was an amazing time with people sharing some of the most important things in their lives with each other.

Some of us may have arrived as strangers but we certainly left knowing each other in new ways.

In the Garden – Reflective prayer drawing

6 05 2015

This week we continued with our reflections on Easter. Vicky led us in a prater exercise that helped us explore the story of Mary at the tomb and in the garden.

Sat around a table we were each given a sheet of paper and access to the collection of drawing materials. Vicky read a passage for us and then after some silence asked a series of questions to help us engage imaginatively and prayerfully with the it. As we did so we were encouraged to draw.

Mary stood in the garden outside the tomb crying.

What does the garden look like? What can you see around you? Are there any plants, or trees? What does the ground look like? Where is the tomb?

As Mary wept, she bent over to look into the tomb.

What does the inside of tomb look like? Are the walls rough or smooth? What can you see in the tomb? Does anything inside catch your attention?

Mary turned round and saw Jesus standing there. Jesus said to her, Mary.

Can you see anything in the tomb or the garden that brings you comfort?

Even for those of us who are artistically challenged the exercise gave space to enter into the passage in a new way, and in what is often a very talkative space to reflect quietly together.

IMG_3892 IMG_3890 IMG_3889

Photos of the Resurrection

6 05 2015

For our first week back of a new term and our first meeting during the season of Easter we spent time reflecting on the resurrection. Everyone had been asked to take photos or find an image that, for them, spoke of resurrection. People uploaded their images to our facebook group so we could all see them. Those who were physically present at Emmanuel talked about the images they had brought. Others who weren’t with us had made comments via facebook which helped us to explore the images they had sent. As we looked at the images we interspersed them with reading the four narratives of the resurrection from Gospels. the Here is some of what was shared.

Paul (just back from honeymoon!) sent us a photo of Berlin “Resurrection: The Reichstag building, Berlin. Destroyed by fire in 1933 in the lead up to Hitler gaining power, it was restored in the 1990s following the reunification of Germany and now once again houses the German parliament. Symbolic of the resurrection of a city and a nation damaged and divided by WWII and the cold war.”


Jo brought pictures of a boat “Ressurection: My Dad bringing our boat back from “the dead”. Has taken him months of hard work but he’s managed to take out the panels of soft rotten wood and create new bits to go in (much harder than it looks- each bit is made up of 3 layers of different wood and then bent into shape and sanded into place). Now she’s looking beautiful and ready for sailing again”.


Dave and Jo have just got a new kitten. Dave said “Resurrection (new life) Being able to give this cat a home after she’s been treated badly in the past.” He also talked about how the world is the same but changed!


Joe shared this via email “I’ve been thinking this easter about how everything was different afterwards, and how Jesus himself was different. I love the Narnia stories from childhood and the question to find an image that summed up the resurrection reminded me of Aslan. In these images from the film, he has just risen from the dead after being ‘sacrificed’. (it’s basically the story of Jesus but with a lion)

This quote is what I think of when I reflect on the Bible stories of Jesus:

“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.”

He is ‘larger than they had seen him before’. Something changed in Jesus too.”


Emma wrote “this is a picture I keep on my desk of my lovely family. My nan (second on the right) passed away just before easter; the amazing faith she had and peace she felt over the last few months of her life has definitely shown me how the resurrection becomes real in each of our lives, and what strength we can draw from it.”


Christine brought this image and talked about the different elements in it and the sense of hope that it offered.


Jonathan shared some photos he’d taken when in Rwanda. The photos are of a genocide memorial, refugee camp and sunrise over Rwanda. The genocide memorial was in a church where a massacre had taken place. The clothes of all those who had been killed there were folded in piles. This had really strong echoes of the empty tomb.


Vicky brought a selection of images that spoke to her about resurrection. The landscapes were taken at Easter this year in the Lake District when she had climbed up through the low mist into the bright sunshine above. The image of the bright buildings is a piece of art from Cape Town it’s a collage of a township made in a township and showed something of the vibrancy and hope of life in that place


Matt brought a couple of images – one from a previous cafechurch of a loaf of bread nailed to a table and talked about Jesus as the bread of life. The other is of Coventry cathedral looking from the ruined part into the new building.

Capture Capture

The Everthere – a wedding sermon.

14 04 2015

This post might be breaking the rules – it’s not about a Cafechurch event, nor about something in the style of Cafechurch that we’ve offered elsewhere. It’s about a normal wedding service. Only it wasn’t normal as it was between two people who’d met through Cafechurch. I was delighted to be asked to take the wedding service for Paul and Hattie. It was fantastic to see them getting married. It was great to see so many Cafechurchers there celebrating with them.

As well as conducting the wedding i was asked to preach – here is the text of the sermon. It explores some themes from one of the readings (1Corinthians 13) and uses lyrics from songs by Elbow.

“The Everthere”

I’m sure many of you first thing this morning were saying ‘it’s looking like a beautiful day’.

And it certainly was from a meteorological perspective.10982263_10152761125846860_2344115637622097722_n

But for Paul and Hattie I’m sure there were far more concerns than the weather. I have seen the lists that were stuck to the walls and the planner schedules. I have seen the nervousness about the service – not so much using words they never say, as what saying them means.

But now you’ve said them, and you are married.

Today it’s easy to get wrapped up in an altogether beautiful day, get carried along in the joy of the occasion, the excitement of seeing your plans coming together, the knowing that all those lists have worked and that so many of your friends and family are around you, to share in your wedding day.

It truly is a beautiful day.

Getting here has taken time and has required effort and decision. Something that doesn’t always come easily.  Something that is not always straight forward. It has required patience. No doubt you will have started to learn about compromise. However much you thought you knew what love was about when you first got together, when you first decided to get married, you are really only beginning to understand something of what it means to love each other.

Today love is an easy thing to do. Hattie may not always look quite so fabulous as she does today. Paul may have some days that his hair isn’t quite so perfect. But it won’t matter. You will be together and you will learn to really love.

If I loose a sequin here and there
More salt than pepper in my hair
Can I rely on you when all the songs are through
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

At times marriage will be the big adventure, the everything is new and exciting – opportunities will be presented, chances taken, things will work out and you’ll discover things that neither of you ever imagined possible.

That’ll only be possible if you’re able to take risks together, risks that are underpinned by a deep trust in each other.

Sometimes you’ll need to take the decision to say no, to not jump for the exciting adventure but to continue with the ongoing, the everyday, the humdrum, you’ll have to let go of the fanciful idea and take a dose of realism. That isn’t always easy.

We often want our own way. When we don’t get it we can be irritable or resentful. But you have each made a commitment to each other.

Sometimes those commitments require hard work, require you to put the needs of the other first, require that we learn to really love.
If I loose the sequence here and there10734054_10155401262305114_5208136903363510835_n
Less derring do than quiet care
Can I rely on you for a good talking to
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

If I’m totally honest, you need beautiful days like today (and hopefully more than just one a year), and the memories of them to get you through some times that won’t be quite so joyous.

However much you hope that all aspects of life will be perfect that’s just not going to happen. When things aren’t quite as perfect and shiny as you believe they’ll be it’s not just memories of happy times that will help you endure all things.

It’s not just the two of you facing things. You don’t have to bear all these things alone. Yes, you have the support of family and friends and that is tremendously helpful and important, but that is only part of it. You are stepping forward in marriage with God at the centre of it.

Part of the point of getting married here in church is asking God’s blessing today and into the future.Our service started with the words ‘God is love and those who dwell in love dwell in God, and God dwells in them’ Even in the most difficult times, the struggle, the times you don’t feel you can go on, even in those times God will be there. Whatever you feel, however joyous, or difficult marriage is proving one thing is certain. God is, and will continue to be, your everthere.

If I loose a sequin here and there11127544_10205123759766200_127190022575227405_n
And take my time on every stair
Can I rely on you when this whole thing is through
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

You have promised today to be the everthere for each other, those familiar lines ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’ express that so eloquently.

I pray that in all of those things you will know the presence, the strength, the support and the love of God,

the true, the One for everthere.

Blessed are the pure in heart…..

23 02 2015

As we continued our exploration of the Beatitudes Jo and Dave invited us to go into the chapel and play. There were a range of children’s toys scattered around the space and we were just left to play with them. People moved around choosing whether to build a lego tower, or do some colouring in, play i the sand pit or host a puppets tea party. For some playing seemed to come quite naturally, for others it was hard work. After a while we talked about what the experience was like. Some had enjoyed it, others described feeling awkward, or having a sense of wasting their time.

pure1  pure2

Jo shared with us something from Berne Brown’s book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection‘. We talked about how play can help us develop creative approaches to problem solving and how it can simply allow us time for recreation that isn’t focused on achieving something particular.

She then read to us a piece by Bonhoeffer reflecting on ‘Who is pure in heart’.  and another quote that read  ‘We approach God in a way as if we are trying to achieve something. We need to approach God like our father with whom we are invited to play. To be open and trusting and vulnerable.’

As we talked together we realised that those who had said it was difficult to play with the toys had said that they felt self conscious doing it. There was a sense of being worried about what others would think. There was also a sense that simply playing was time wasted – there was a deeply instilled sense that time should be used in a productive manner. We went on to discuss research that looked at the links between creativity and the ability to be playful. Perhaps for some of us there was a need to release ourselves from being product focused and to allow for playful experimentation.

All this brought us back to thinking about being pure in heart – the connection being that being childlike might be the thing that opened up a purity of heart and a purity of intention. We may simply enjoy being in God’s company, perhaps ‘wasting time’ with God rather than always trying to achieve more, to have a better relationship with Him,. When we are able to do that then maybe we will see God.

Blessed are the merciful…..

9 02 2015

Blessed are the merciful is the only one of the Beatitudes that seems to suggest that what you give is what you get. If you’re merciful then you’ll receive mercy. Michelle threw in the first question ‘how do we receive mercy’ closely followed by ‘what is mercy’ As we stumbled around possible definitions she offered us 5 images and asked if they showed mercy.merciful  The images were Rembrandt’s ‘Return of the Prodigal‘, a sculpture by Henry Moore of a mother feeding her baby, A painting entitled ‘The Return of Ulysses‘ by Edward Armitage, Frank Holl’s painting ‘I am the Resurrection and the life‘ and a painting of a man laying in the shade of a haystack.

From looking at these we moved our discussion as to what is mercy forwards a little. We suggested that it might be’kindness against the rules’. We thought that justice without mercy could tend to becoming vengance. We pondered whether mercy and righteousness were potentially in tension with each other.

The five images offered a sense of mercy in the workplace (shade to rest in in the heat of the day), mercy in our mistakes (the returning prodigal), mercy i our families (the nursing mother – perhaps one of the most difficult places to live out mercy) and mercy in community (the village funeral.

We then were asked to remember the story of the Prodigal son and tell it as closely as we could remember. We got most of the detail but missed a few things. We didn’t remember the son’s internal dialogue of saying he’d return and ask to be treated as a hired hand. We forgot the lavish clothing the father gave him. We missed the detail of language of the Father and the older son (the older son only referring to his brother as ‘you son’). We asked the question ‘who will show mercy to the father’

From our discussion we came to see that the beatitudes are relational. They can only be lived out in community and in relation to other people. We wondered whether mercy was the verb of compassion. We talked about whether the Church is a merciful organisation. This was a difficult discussion. Mercy means laying down power and institutions are not always good at doing that.

After much talk of mercy, what it might look and feel like we were asked whether we could think of a story about when we gave or received mercy. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded….


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 170 other followers

%d bloggers like this: