“Where did you come to know me?”

This year I have joined 52 Frames as a way to both stretch my photography, but also to further my own discipline to see differently. As soon as the New Year turned I found myself reading and writing for an essay, and I was completely inspired by ZoĆ« Bennett’s Using the Bible in Practical Theology within which she drew out John Ruskin’s wisdom from his own writings. I was particularly struck by the following:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, and religion, all in one.”

John Ruskin

Ruskin speaks into my own passion for seeing differently, and drawing attention to what I find…God at work in our world. At the moment that may feel a little more difficult to glimpse – it felt like the darkness of January closed in quickly with the announcement of national lockdown in Britain…but I do believe God is at work in each of us. I have dedicated a page in my journal to ‘Glimpses of God’ and add different situations or words from others which have encouraged me to lift my eyes up to the hills; it has really helped!

Photography though, contemplative or otherwise, is not just a discipline which encourages a different seeing of the world. The first challenge of the year posed by 52 Frames was a self-portrait. My first question in response to this was ‘Who am I?’ These difficult times seem to have enabled me to lose sight of my sense of self slightly in the groundhog day of lockdown. It was really restorative to spend time reminding myself of who I am, who God has created me to be, and what gifts God has given me as I pondered on crafting a self-portrait, which included some of those aspect of my identity that are important.

Week 1/2021 Self-portrait

Extra credit on the challenge was given for using light, but those close to me who I consulted said they just didn’t see me in it….

This process was a reminder of how easily we can get distracted!

The gospel passage for this week in the Church of England lectionary is John 1:43-end, where Jesus asks Philip to follow him. Philip, in turn, invited Nathanael to come and see Jesus. Jesus recognised Nathanael as ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’ (John 1:47b). I love the obvious surprise of Nathanael when he is recognised by Jesus when he asks “Where did you come to know me?” It is that recognising that confirms to Nathanael exactly who Jesus is. This passage makes me wonder how often we really see one another. There are so many distractions in life, I know I can be preoccupied with what is on my to do list rather than being totally present in the sacrament of this moment…a sacrament because God is here with us, working through those around us, if only we have eyes to see. When I am disciplined enough to focus on this God-given moment, that is when I truly see the person in front of me through God’s eyes – and I am truly blessed by that.

In these challenging times, I encourage you to slow down, to pray that God would allow you to see those around you through God’s eyes, and to be blessed by encountering God through them, and that you would come to know God better through them. Amen.

Advent 2

In the second week of our photography challenge I was aiming to see the world through God’s lens – I often try this prayerfully, and get captivated by small details, rather than overly concerned with aspects which frustrate or dishearten me…my heart has been absolutely gladdened by the simple things this week!

Advent 1

These photographs represent the first week of our Advent Photography Challenge – where is God in these photographs? Where is the anticipation of Advent? What words do they make you think of?

Watching and waiting…

Today is the first Sunday of Advent…a time where we begin to watch and wait for the light and hope that the Christ-child brings as God with us. It’s a time of anticipation and expectation; a time of journey with change around the corner…these themes seem to be important for such times as these.

Watching and waiting

As part of the Advent journey we have set an Advent Photography Challenge in our benefice. Each day there is a word which will people will hopefully inspire people to be attentive throughout the day, and take a photograph which visualises the theme around the word for the day. Day one is PATH…

Paths, which do not always reveal the end at the beginning….
Paths which include the familiar and well trodden, as well as the unfamiliar….
Paths which, in this case, lead us closer to God with us….
Light of the world

This Advent, amidst so much difficulty and uncertainty, I invite you to take time to journey and anticipate God with us as hope and light…something which we desperately need during these times.

Remembering, Re-membered and Remembrance

Remembering

This week I have been reminded of the importance of stopping and being attentive, noticing the echoes of God in the world around. The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic as I have tried to get settled into my new parishes, and get to know people, amidst the strange times of social distancing. Amongst many other things, one of my tasks was to think with a few others about what we might be able to ‘do’ over the coming months. A number of conversations and penned plans later, I watched the unfolding announcement of a second national lockdown.

I’m not sure why the news of this discombobulated me so much…perhaps it was a greater awareness, compared to March, of the great many losses that lockdown seemed to claim, whilst also recognising that it seemed that we had reached the point where it was, once again, necessary.

Re-membered

After that news we witnessed the US presidential elections, more aware than ever perhaps, of the importance of one decision for the lives of so many.

As I watched this unfold, in the midst of the leaves falling, I have become aware of our fragility…we have to shed in order to grow. As I led a Burial of Ashes service last week I heard the words of 1 Corinthians 15:36 for the first time, it seemed: “Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”

I always love autumn, watching as the leaves turn and fall, but I have been really struck by the colour that the leaves seem to turn, or the colour of their veins – the red of hurt, pain, blood, conflict…and yet there will also come a time to notice the budding of new growth, green shoots, and a vibrancy of life. It is my hope and prayer that this will be the time to recollect all that we share, rather than to concentrate on what divides us.

Remembrance

This year Remembrance has taken such a different form. Those we wish never to forget have been remembered through online services, or with very small numbers gathered….

“We will remember”

And yet, “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

I have been reminded this week of the importance of dwelling in God’s world, of taking time to be aware of God’s presence among us, and yielding to that, rather than the pressures we so often put on ourselves. It has been a re-membering of who I am called to be…and what I am, along with all of God’s people, called to do…in all things, and at all times; be bearers of light and hope!

Endings, Beginnings, Time Between…

In the spring, after being signed off as a curate and given permission to discern where God was calling me to next, my partner and I found ourselves driving round the villages of Yardley Hastings, Denton, Castle Ashby, Whiston and Grendon. This was surprising on a number of levels, not least because I had not expected to be embarking on rural ministry within a multi-parish benefice…I’m not sure what I had expected, and I definitely should have learned, by now, to expect the unexpected!

St Andrew’s, Yardley Hastings

A few weeks later I walked around three of the villages, and I became a little more confident that this may well be where God was calling me to be.

Walking towards Castle Ashby

In order to invite others from the diocese and local area into the process, I applied for the post, and some time later was interviewed for, and offered the post of, Rector of the Benefice of Yardley Hastings. It was such an affirming experience and I was, and still am, ecstatic to be embarking on serving these communities.

St Mary the Virgin, Whiston

As we look to the future, and indeed begin to move towards it, the need to shed – or move away from – something in order to make room for the next step becomes more and more apparent. As I prepared for my last services in the Holy Spirit parish in Leicester, it felt pertinent that the leaves were beginning to fall.

Castle Hill Country Park, Leicester

Just as leaves fall gradually, so were these endings gradual. I felt the celebration with me of the many wonderful people who I have had the very great privilege of walking alongside, as well as the lament of loss. Parting is painful, even when we know it is right. I was truly humbled by the kind words of so many who have shared a part of their journeys with me.

St Andrew’s, Jarrom Street, Leicester

The pain of parting gave way to a flurry of activity related to moving house – packing and unpacking. This Sunday, after getting settled in the Benefice of Yardley Hastings, I was licensed as Rector via Zoom. In these strange times much of this discernment process has been conducted on line, and being physically present at various stages has affirmed God’s call on my life now. Clarity of God’s voice has been so important, yet I have wondered how patient life allows us to be to wait on God, to listen for God’s still small voice…? As I look to these parishes, in these strange times, I hope and pray that we can wait on God, notice where God guides us, in order that we can best be God with skin on in our small corner of the world.

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near; wait for the Lord, keep watch and pray…

Sometimes seeing through God’s lens means that we need to take time to discern where the focus needs to be…I guess it’s about being comfortable with seeing things a little out of focus, and yet still looking again to see what lies beyond the blur!

Missiological Reflection

This seems like so long ago that I spent a little over a month with a church in Tokyo, but my missiological reflection on the experience has been published, and is now available here.

Signs of Hope

I blogged about arid land back in April, which I had found on a walk near my house and been somewhat captivated by.

Aridity

I have walked through this field on countless occasions during lockdown, and semi lockdown, and been surprised when I saw something beginning to grow…this field has reminded me of hope in times of real struggle and pain through pandemic life….

Signs of hope

I am reminded of God’s presence, provision and abundance….

Abundance

I am also aware that sometimes God works through us in order to provide for those in need. How is God calling you to be God’s agent of hope this week?