Holy Ground

This is Holy Ground

I came across this sign whilst walking near a memorial in a local park…it made me wonder, what is more holy about the ground where we memorialise compared with the ground which we tread each day…? Last summer I went to a conference for people from a more catholic tradition who wanted to craft worship opportunities in a more creative way. Over the days that we were there the worship space had a sandpit in the middle of it. The sand was used in a variety of ways to illustrate or provoke thought. On one occasion we were invited to take a small jar of the sand away with us, as our little bit of ‘holy ground’. The jar lid did not stay firmly in place and in no time I had bits of holy ground everywhere…but that was the joy of it! All ground is holy, or space where God dwells, surely? How often do we notice it though? How often do we act like it is?

Community Snake

Signs of hope and building community

We were quite intrigued to hear that a snake had been put in the wood where we regularly walk…I almost tried to find somewhere else to walk, as for a few seconds I wasn’t quite sure whether it was real and alive! When we came across Samson the snake, though, it seemed to be such a message of hope and solidarity. That was even more keenly felt as we passed a young boy with his mum, clutching a newly painted stone, and excited to add this to the snake.

I had meant to post about this yesterday, after we had found the snake, but we were both saddened to hear that the beautiful head of the snake and some other stones had been taken away. The original artist had been very quick to create another ‘head’ and this evening that was again found to be missing, with other stones strewn around. Samson has now been moved to another, less prominent, location, where I hope that he will remain for others’ enjoyment for longer.

It is difficult not to feel jaded about these unpleasant developments, but to avoid losing heart, I want to focus on the thought that inspired, and the spirit that perseveres in, building community and bringing shared joy. Long live Samson; in spirit, if not in body!

A Hidden Community

Tree of life

Some time ago now I was really inspired by Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees within which he explains what happens out of sight, how trees form community, how the stronger look after the weaker trees – even when they are different species.

I find myself drawn back to some of these ideas as I observe quieter streets, towns and cities. A foodbank operates in my local area, and is working so hard behind the scenes to source food for, and distribute it to, those who cannot, or should not be making themselves more vulnerable by going to the shops.

The question I am left with is how this sense of community continues into the new issues many face around being forced or ‘encouraged’ to return to work yet have no one to look after their children. They are called to use their ‘common sense’ but I am unsure how helpful that is when there is an expectation that people return to work and, despite there being no childcare arrangements, failure to do so will result in them not being paid, or worse losing their jobs…?

Surely ‘common sense’ would bring people to an understanding that our economy, or wealth, has a higher importance than our wellbeing. This realisation alone does nothing to help this situation though. For some, this time of lockdown has brought opportunities to reconnect, to slow down, to live more simply. I’ve had many conversations, or read articles, where people are hoping that these benefits will shape our futures as we move out of lockdown; how can they when economic division, and power, shape those ‘baby steps’ out of lockdown? It seems that we are more likely to leave some to stand alone, as this tree appears to, with no others around who are able to offer support.

Eye for detail…

I am really loving how a shift in focus is revealing so much beauty in ways that I would usually ignore completely…I am practising the art, or discipline, of attentiveness and am finding it truly gratifying. #TheSacramentofNow

Balance

The visibility of ‘Church’

I’ve read and watched with interest as so many have grappled with, or tried to make sense of, this season of lockdown, where we are absent from our churches. I’ve very much felt the presence of pray-ers in the walls in some churches, and have loved the sense of God’s presence that that has brought. I’ve also been really encouraged by the inventive ways that the people of God have found to be ‘church’ or the ‘body of Christ’ in their communities over these last weeks. I’ve loved the ‘shop window’ opportunity that has come from an internet/social media presence, and I’m encouraged by the ways in which people have engaged. I’ve even been surprised by how energising I have found ‘creating’ worship, or God encounter opportunities.

I’ve also heard snippets of dialogue about how much easier and cheaper it would be to have more people work from home, even after the lockdown is lifted. Some people would welcome the idea and some would really not. I’ve been working from home since I became a curate, but I currently miss getting out of the house, and away from the screen, and having people to bounce ideas off. I was sent an article this week by Roger Cohen, who was musing on what moving away from the ‘old dispensation’ might begin to look like. He refreshingly called for ‘balance’ in the ‘something new’…how do we get more balance as Church so that the ‘shop window’ approach continues, as do worship possibilities for those who are housebound?

We’re in this together!

Sense of community!

Loneliness and its effects upon individuals is always significant, but it feels like it is so much more at the moment. It seems to creep up in some way on most of my encounters and conversations. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, and it can be anxiety inducing to think too much about that. I read an interesting article in The Guardian today which explores the effects of isolation on our bodies as well as the social body which we belong to. It ends with a call to remind ourselves of what it means to be human…together.

“Let’s embrace the complexity of what it means to be human in this time of sorrow as we think and feel our way to come out of this, wiser, humbler and more connected.”

Susie Orbach, The Guardian: The Long Read, Patterns of Pain: What COVID-19 can teach us about how to be human, Thurs 7th May, 2020.

Simplicity

Simplicity of life…

In a meeting today I became aware of the importance of simplicity. These are difficult times and many of us are expected, or expecting of ourselves, to be operating at full capacity; that ‘self-actualisation’ as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need terms it. A colleague reminded me though, that we are seeking to survive a pandemic, and actually, rather than even trying to meet our self-fulfilment needs, we should really only be focusing on our basic needs: food, water, warmth, rest, security and safety. Many of the people I have spoken to, and I myself, have been struggling with ‘rest’ out of all of these. A phrase often repeated to me through theological college keeps coming back; “be kind to yourself.” It doesn’t always feel possible, especially with multiple competing pressures, and yet it feels important to try….

Curiosity

Some days I feel like there’s nothing to spark curiosity, interest or excitement…today is one of those days. Surely I’m not the only one to have a bad day in lockdown?!

Share your stories of glimmers of hope/God…?

Book Club

The escapism of reading…

Today was Book Club, which I love! I have always enjoyed reading, and I regularly get lost in a book. I’m really struck by how difficult it is at the moment to concentrate long enough to actually pick up the thread of a book – both fiction and non-fiction!

Reading poetry has been a little easier, but I’m wondering whether anyone has any short-story recommendations? #booksofhope

Gathering…

How do we gather the people we love together, to share, to lament and to laugh with one another? Over the last few weeks we’ve been video-calling those we love, sharing coffee together as well as laughing and crying about the highs and lows of lock-down. This gathering, or drawing together as community, as family is more important than ever! God is a God of relationship, of community; God works through each of us for each of us. Gathering in creative ways is more important than ever…and it is a powerful form of prayer!