World Student Day

22 02 2016

It’s not often that we think about students beyond our own university, but world student day gave us the opportunity to do just that.

Emma created three stations for reflection in the chapel space and we were invited to spend time reading, reflecting and praying.

The first stations simply had some stories from WSCF communities around the world. These gave a small insight into the very different situations that students are in around the globe.


The second space focused on Leeds University with a map and a list of faculties and schools. We were invited to write prayers for students, staff, faculties and departments and to pin them on the map.


The final station had a display about the pressures that students face. This made hard reading as it opened up the reality of life for so many students.


After we’d all spent time in the chapel we came back together for more tea and cake and  spent time discussing some questions that had be left on the tables.

It was great to really share with each other some of the joys of university life, Some spoke of the opportunity that access to education gave them and how that isn’t possible for so many in the world. Others talked about how university education had helped and was continuing to help them discover who they really were. There was talk about the importance of faith and how faith was at times challenged but also affirmed by the experience of being at university. There was also talk about the privilege of being at a university where there was space for faith and for chaplaincy.

Epiphany Blessings

18 01 2016

After a long Christmas break it was good to be back at Emmanuel for the first Cafechurch of the new term and the New Year. As it was the start of a New Year our evening was spent thinking about Blessings. Vicky had prepared our session and as we sat drinking coffee and eating cake we were given instructions for the evening.

Some churches have a custom of blessing homes on the Feast of the Epiphany. Family and friends gather to ask God’s blessing on their homes and those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.

Many of us have other places and buildings which we might not think of as our homes, but where we nonetheless spend a significant amount of time and are important in our daily lives.

Spend some time thinking about a place which you would like God to bless. This can be your home, your bedroom, kitchen, office, or anywhere, really…

Write your name and the name of the place on a piece of paper and put it in the basket on the altar. If you want to, add the type of blessing you would like God to give this place (e.g. peace, joy, productivity)


Once everyone had placed their paper in the basket we were then given the next set of instructions:

Take a piece of paper from the basket and create a blessing card for that person. Use the materials provided for inspiration. When you have finished write the name of the person on the back and place it on the altar.

On the altar along with everyone’s pieces of paper were some examples of blessing cards to help with inspiration. Everyone took a name and set off to create with the paper, pencils, scissors and crayons.

IMG_2988When people had finished making their cards they were placed on the altar and we then used an Epiphany Blessing for the building. this was a combination of liturgy from a number of sources including the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer and



In the chapel: Blessing the chalk
Our help is the name of the Lord:
The maker of heaven and earth.
The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.
Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Outside the doorway

May God give his blessing on this place. God bless it from roof to floor, from wall to wall, from end to end, from its foundation and in its covering.

In the strong name of the Triune God: All evil be banished, all disturbance cease, captive spirits freed. God’s spirit alone dwell within these walls we call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this place, this day, and every day.
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of the front door (or front porch step) as follows: 20 + C + M + B + 16 while saying: 

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and sixteen years ago. May Christ bless this building and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.


In the entrance

May all be welcomed here, Friend and stranger, from near and far.

May each be blessed and honoured as they enter. There is a friend’s love in the gentle heart of the Saviour. For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest


Outside the offices 

May God the Father be the guardian of this place and bring His peace.

May His love be shared, and His will be found here, and peace between all people.

May the Spirit bring lightness and laughter here. May He be the strengthener and comforter in times of difficulty. May the Lord give peace but never complacency. Here may encouragement be found and relationships strengthened. Each day, every day, each going out, and each returning, The Lord bless you and keep you.


Outside the chapel/kitchen

I would welcome the poor and honour them. I would welcome the sick in the presence of angels and ask God to bless and embrace us all.

Seeing a stranger approach, I would put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and look with joy for the blessing of God, who often comes to this place in the blessing of a stranger.

We call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this place, this day, and every day.


Closing prayer

Visit, O blessed Lord, this place with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who work or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen

We then returned into the Chapel and were given the cards that had been made for us to take and put in the place that we wanted God to Bless.




3 11 2015

Sunday was All Saints day, so our attention turned to remembering the Saints (obvious really)

Anthea had prepared our evening and started us off with a series of questions that we could choose to discuss in a group, or just to reflect on personally. The questions were pretty diverse from ‘if you were going to have a tattoo what would it be’ to ‘do you have a hero’ to ‘do you have a good memory’ and ‘what happens after we die’.

When we’d enjoyed talking about superheros, and tattoos and saints and a whole range of other things we were given a short bible passage to read and think about. The passage Revelation 21: 1-6 got us talking about our ideas of heaven

After this we moved into the Chapel which was lit with candles. A short presentation was streaming on the screen. You can see it by clicking here or download it by clicking this link Cafe church – Remembering

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We sat and watched it. Some of us cried. Some of us went and lit candles. We all remembered and gave thanks.

Face to Face

27 10 2015

This week Christine helped us continue exploring identity.

To begin she asked us to draw something to represent us and then something to represent God.  Those of us who are more artistically challenged struggled to start, but soon realised that it wasn’t about creating a portrait but more about asking questions about how we see ourselves and God. There was lots of discussion as people shared their drawings and the ideas that they contained.

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Christine then showed us a series of photographs that she had taken on her walk from home to the University. They were all of small details that she had not really noticed before – a feature on a building, an image on a shop sign.

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It was interesting to see how somewhere familiar to many of us had so many hidden things, or rather things that we simply did not notice day to day. A series of Bible passages were then read out that that explored the idea of seeing face-to-face. This led us into discussing a series of questions that got us thinking about how we see ourselves and God.

  • What things do you find it difficult to see/explain/understand when thinking ……of yourself?  …..about God?
  • How do you like to think of yourself? how do you like to think of God?
  • Do you find certain ways of thinking necessary?

The masks we wear…

19 10 2015

IMG_2928This week we moved to thinking about identity. Starting at university for some people is a chance to reinvent themselves. You’re in a new place, no one knows you, there is a possibility of being whoever you want to be. Some of us don’t reinvent ourselves, we just never really reveal who we are. There are things about us that we keep hidden behind masks that we create.

To explore these themes we spent an evening making masks and thinking about ourselves, others and God.

Sarah had made a set of masks in advance and these were in the chapel when we arrived. Tables were set out with scissors and glue and templates to make humanoid masks (from the brilliant Wintercroft). As we cut and stuck there were a whole series of questions on the table for us to think about and, if we felt bold, to talk with others about.

  • Do you wear a mask to hide yourself? Why?
  • What are we trying to achieve when we hide parts of ourselves from others?
  • Who are we masking ourselves from? Friends? Family? God?
  • Are we trying to protect ourselves? Hide emotions? Project strength?
  • Does hiding our true selves protect others or ourselves?
  • Should we reveal our true self to God?
  • Does God already know the ‘behind the mask’ anyway?
  • What would it look like if I never wore a mask?
  • Would it make the world a better place if everyone was to reveal their true self?
  • Does God need us to reveal our true self?
  • Does God love us the same with or in absence to wearing a mask?
  • What is stopping me from putting the mask down? Fear of judgement? Being different to others?

(thanks to Soul Circus for inspiration)

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After about an hour everyone had managed to make a mask. we moved into the chapel wearing our masks and reflected on the idea that God sees the real us, and knows us whatever mask we wear, and accepts us as we truly are. We were invited to take our masks off knowing God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. We then shared communion together – an opportunity truly to meet with God face-to-face.

Dust and the Universe (where have you come from?)

13 10 2015

As the last session in our ‘Where have you come from?’ series at Café church, this week we looked into what that question might imply in a more broad, theological sense. Emma led us in some reflective activities around a quote from Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa:

Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: “The universe was created for me.”

6a01287711c281970c0133ecfe8750970bBut when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I come from the dust.”

This looks at two ways in which we have been created; we are both from God, and from the Earth. In the first half of the session, we looked at what the first phrase might mean, reflecting on Psalm 139 v. 13-16:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the Earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

We had some interesting discussions around what it might mean to say that the universe was created for me – some people felt uncomfortable with that idea, feeling like it would be big-headed, which led to some reflections on how things like being British and being raised as a woman in our society leads us to be uncomfortable with acknowledging and accepting praise; however, it is important for us always to remember that we are divinely created from God. We also had some interesting discussions about the qualities we value in ourselves, and finding balance on the spectrum of qualities like diplomacy and assertiveness, being determined or easy-going, and humility and confidence.

In the second half of the session we moved into the chapel to reflect on our place in the world as beings from the Earth. We used a reflection from Ian Adams’ book ‘Running Over Rocks’ with pebbles to reflect on the physically created world, our connection to it, and the network of life-cycles of which we are all a part. After a time of silence reflecting how we can best embody our role as ‘Earth-People’, we placed our pebbles on the altar, giving our reflections to the God who created them

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.


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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.


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