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.

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.

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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.

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