Advent Gatherings

Eco-Church?

I write on a strange day. The sun is shining, it’s warm, yet muggy – an autumn day that suggests summer is still in the air. Yet earlier, the clouds were grey blue, the sun peering through – red and eery, warm wind gusting. In the west, Storm Ophelia is hitting Ireland in a great Atlantic storm; here, sand and warm air from the Sahara leaves all still and calm. By the time you read this you will know the impact, but at the moment we seem a million miles from whatever storm is coming.

Ophelia is the 16th Tropical storm of an hyperactive year in which there have been the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes in the satellite era. Ophelia is the easternmost major hurricane on record. Tropical cyclones form over large bodies of warm water, deriving energy from evaporation and forming into cyclones by the earths rotation. Whilst they are often devastating for human populations they also bring benefits by carrying heat energy away from the tropics and bringing it into our temperate latitudes.

Whilst some argue that there is little evidence that human activity has created the conditions that fuel such storms, as stewards of God’s creation, I believe that we need to act on the assumption that our lifestyle causes global warming and encourage ways in which alternative sources of energy are used. That will not always be easy or straight-forward. Sometimes it may seem to be more expensive in the short term but on the way we will create a cleaner, more sustainable space for future generations to thrive in. If the global-warming deniers are wrong and we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate then a catastrophe awaits.

So could we explore becoming an Eco-church? It would encourage us to examine our individual and collective lifestyle and discover ways in which together we can make a difference. And if we were to be an Eco-Church would someone be keen enough to take a lead on this for us and help all of us to have a concern for the integrity of creation?

be blessed

Craig

Coventry Winter Night Shelter

Over the summer I was please to help induct Bernardo Cortes as the new project co-ordinator for Coventry Winter Night Shelter. We talked about the past and the future; the changing shape of homelessness in the city and he began learning about the ways that people begin sleeping rough.

At the same time we have seen the numbers coming to Wednesday Kitchen growing. Many are homeless, or housed in hostels, B&B’s or inadequate housing. I can’t quote you figures, but anecdotally I would suggest that the need for Night Shelter, alongside the provision of food and safe places is growing as austerity bites at the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. It may well give us opportunities to serve – but I really wish we did not have to do so.

So, Coventry Winter Night Shelter is getting ready to open in December. St. Columba’s will again provide the venue for Saturday Nights and we are seeking volunteers, money and prayers.

  • We hope that many who volunteered in previous years will return, but inevitably there is a turnover. So, if you feel that you can help please let me know and submit your details via here We especially struggle for men to cover the Night Shift.
  • It costs us about £1200 per year to host. I’m pleased that has been covered from around the United Reformed Churches and would ask people and churches to contribute once again.
  • Prayer matters. Some of you will not be able to volunteer – but that does not stop you praying. If, you let me know that you are committing to pray then I can also give you particular prayer points. At the moment pray for Bernardo as he settles in; for the recruitment of an Assistant; for the recruitment and training of volunteers; for Natalie as she puts together the shift rota for St. Columba’s; and for all who find themselves sleeping rough and seeking shelter.

Jesus may have said that the poor will always be with us – but that does not means we have to accept the fact, or shrug our shoulders and do nothing. He also said, “When I was hungry you gave me food … when I was a stranger you welcomed me.”

be blessed

Craig

Redevelopment

July’s Church Meeting agreed to seek funding to redevelop the building. It is a brave step. As a congregation we are increasingly vulnerable but we serve vulnerable people. We hope that setting out on such a path will bring newcomers into the church, but there are no guarantees. It was good that some felt that we should close down now, and that others felt that we have to see whether the redevelopment can happen – but from everyone there seemed to be a view that if we can not raise the money for redevelopment, then it will be time to leave. Thank you for this faithful step – lets see where it ends.

The Meeting also agreed to ask members and friends to make a significant donation. We want to be able to show potential funders that we are committed and one way to do that is by being prepared to put hands in our own pockets. Donation can be made by cheque or by a promise and will be different for different people so we would ask you to give what you can – but we are not setting any targets. If we get to a point where we realise that this project is not going to happen we will return the donations so long as you have given it in a way that means we can record the gift. So we would ask you to make any donations or promises via Moira Hill. We can delay making the Gift Aid claim on these donations for 4 years, so will only do so when we know the work is going ahead. You can use the attached form to make a donation or record a pledge to be redeemed in future.Building Fund Promise – 1

So we invite you to join the adventure. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” It is time to Ask, Seek and Knock we are looking for money and for people who want to join a brave, faithful church and serve a whole range of vulnerable people in the way God calls each who follows Christ.

Learning Habits

Last month I wrote about the Holy Habits of discipleship. This month I want to focus on the key habit of learning. At Ministers Summer School we looked at discipleship and were reminded that “A disciple is learning to live the way of Jesus in their context at this moment”

The first disciples of Jesus learnt at his feet – remember Jesus telling Martha that sister Mary had chosen the better part by choosing to learn from him (Lk 10:42). On another day she learnt of his compassion as she fell at his feet grieving her brother (Jn 11:32). Those disciples shared the stories and sayings of Jesus so that later generations could continue to learn and be identified as disciples.

Our learning takes the experience of first century Israel and translates that into our own context – sometimes we discover that human experience changes little across times and cultures, other times we discover that modern life creates its own questions to be explored in this moment. Thats why we continue to explore the bible on a Sunday, or in small groups and should be doing so in our individual lives – not as some strange add-on to church life but as a normal holy habit that is shared with those around us.

So what was the last thing your learnt about Jesus? How did that impact on your 21st Century life? How can we enable each other to learn? What help do you need with your own learning? Speak to you your Elders, let us know and help us to find ways to support your discipleship.

Another thing I learnt this week was the idea of TTT – it’s a question to be asked each Sunday – what will you de doing This Time Tomorrow (or Tuesday or Thursday)? In answering it, we hear about the challenges of being disciples Monday to Saturday and get an insight into the ways we can prayerfully support and encourage one another in our daily lives. So, be ready with a response when I ask, “What will you be doing TTT?” And receive the prayers we offer.

be blessed

Craig

Easter Hope

I’ve just come home from an AGM that focused on hope, it told inspirational stories whilst knowing the harsh reality of human life, yet looked forward to the future; that spoke of hope as part of the human condition, as a partner that walks through life with us; that throws open its arms and welcomes; that transforms our lives and speaks our language.

This is the hope that we speak about at Easter with death overcome, love conquering hate, the opportunity to begin life afresh, to tell inspirational stories, to be overcome by God’s spirit bursting into tired, frightened lives – the language of transformation that creates a culture of hope even where we struggle to believe that such things can happen.

The inspirational AGM was hosted by Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, looking back at the work of the last year, listening to refugee stories that burst with emotion. That reminded us of human inhumanity, whether in the places they flee or within the bureaucracies to which they come. They spoke of communities torn apart and of people piecing life back together. They gave us hope and they looked to the future as a hope-filled journey. For CRMC that journey is going to take them into a new centre, this year they will move from Bishop Street to Norton House, renovating a tired building, creating modern office space and a community hub that will welcome those in need and encourage integration into this city which has such a long history of welcoming the stranger. To do that they will need financial help and have launched an appeal which can be found at http://covrefugee.org. The theme of the appeal and the years ahead is Hope.

In this Easter season it was good to remember that hope comes in many forms, to many people. That where we engender hope then we build new lives. As we tell this Easter story we do so in the love of Christ who transforms lives by opening our capacity to hope and calls us to speak the language of hope.

be blessed

Craig

Silent Garden

In the silent garden,

we stood with graves laid out

as if disbelief could turn back time.

 

Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;

awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,

silent as the grave.

 

In the hushed corner plot,

woeful folk quietly plant raised beds

as if peace could descend with new blooms.

 

Sometimes, silence sings collusions victory dance;

soft, scented, scared, scarred,

hushed with inaction.

 

In the secret terrace,

weans play a raucous hide ’n seek

as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.

 

Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –

caught, caressed, carried, carved,

gleeful Easter’s fête.

 

In festival garden,

world-weary ones feast on merriment,

as if lament will be heard no more.

 

Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,

plaited, pretty, presented, pricey

fanfare of rebirth.

 

Craig Muir  March 2017

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

I wanted to write something that viewed Jesus’ burial site as a garden – as that would be the natural place for Mary to meet with “the Gardener”  But I found myself imagining a park where different activities go on alongside one another and yet still told a story that takes a community from despair to delight.

In one corner is a burial area, – so often there is little to be said  after the formal words – we say little but are reluctant to move away.

in another corner people are gardening – finding some healing in doing so – but it also contrasts the way silence can be companionable with the times when our failure to speak out colludes with injustice.

In another corner the children (heard but not seen) play (weans is not a natural world for me but it allows the part rhyme of we/wo/we/wo to begin each second line) children really allow life to remain quiet for long – they are the reminder to us that life goes on – that so many moments that seem like a full stop – are really just a comma, as the story unfolds. (And couldn’t resist the homophone of fête with fate) 

In another corner, it’s time to party, parade, feast, festival – Easter time!

Feasts & Festivals: A Lent Gathering

“So if Lent is a fast, why is our Lent Theme all about Feasts and Festivals?” Well, partly because the United Reformed Church is following that theme in various guises throughout the year, but also because Lent is as much about feasting as it is about fasting. Each Sunday is a feast day, and not counted in the 40 fast days of Lent. Our Lent Gatherings will be a time to reflect on the way our journeys can take various turns, that some are feasts and others fasts but all take us towards the greatest festival of all … Easter.

The sessions have been inspired by the wonderful prayers in this years Prayer Handbook, for example

We pick up the stones

of the hurts of the world

violence and poverty,

disaster, and starvation

wanting you to turn them into bread;

Carol Dixon, URC Prayer Handbook 2017

 

God so loved …

this home for humanity,

rich varieties of shape, colour, language, identity, story

that God sent his son not to condemn but to save.

May we value all of humanity with the same love,

share the same willingness for sacrifice

and make the same risks

that God makes for us

                  Vaughan Jones,  URC Prayer Handbook 2017

In the midst of a fast, we will enjoy a feast of poetry, song, prayer and discovery. We will touch, look, taste and imagine. We will roam from wilderness to garden, pausing at a well as darkness falls and we catch our breath. Come and join in

be blessed, Craig

Let Them Eat Chaos

I used some Christmas Book Tokens to buy a poem called “Let Them Eat Chaos” by Kate Tempest. she takes us to one street in the early hours of the morning – 4:18 to be precise and tells the moment for 7 people awake in the night; their thoughts, fears, worries, concerns, confusion. It’s a brilliant poem wonderfully portraying the way we live parallel disconnected lives – lost in our own thoughts, emotions and experiences, perceiving life in very different ways.

For these seven people there is a brief moment  – a passing storm draws them into the street,

Strangely dressed, one shoe and one slipper, socks falling off, smiling,

gathering slowly, tentatively in the middle of the road.

Shielding their eyes at first

but then

tipping their necks back, unhunching their shoulders

opening their bodies up to

the storm

And their hair is flattened against their heads

or puffed madly outwards

And their hands

slip off their chins and cheeks

as they clutch their faces

open mouthed

Amazing! they shout

You seen?! they shout ….

And in the morning when it’s over and they start their days as usual

They will be aware of this baptism in a distant way.

It will become a thing they carry close like the photo of a dead parent

tucked away in the inside pocket

Fading like the heartbeat.

It is in such shared moments that communities are formed and grow together. It is why it is so important to come together to share the storms and the sunshine. When Jesus calls disciples, they are not called into isolation – but into community with one another, they are not called to be separate from the world, but in and of and part of the world – eating the chaos together.

Kate Tempest concludes;

The myth of the individual

Has left us disconnected     lost

and pitiful.

I’m out in the rain

it’s a cold night in London

Screaming at my loved ones

to wake up and love more.

Pleading with my loved ones to

wake up

and love more.

Amen to that, Craig

Remember November

November: Remembrance month – All Saints Day, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday swiftly following. Each bringing their own memories and rituals. Memory is an important part of who we think we are, hence, when we are unable to remember, or we are faced with someone who seems to have forgotten themselves, life is painful.

At Greenbelt I heard Professor John Swinton ask “Who Am I When I Forget Who I Am?” He was presenting his book, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.

He talked about a three-fold self in which firstly we bring our experiences of living, secondly we bring the stories our social roles tell and thirdly we have an identity given by our community. Hence, the difficulty of dementia is we lose personhood when the community loses us. He argues that the problem is not that people become forgetful but that they are forgotten. Hence it is important that someone holds our memories well. If Mum seems to have forgotten who you are, don’t forget who she is and things she has always enjoyed. Remember that our bodies hold our memories just as much as our minds – so a song. a smell, a ritual takes us into emotion and open hearts just as much as an ability to still tell our stories. For all of us memories change over time, we live in the present tense and the future is before us all, still with a sense of call and vocation. If we struggle to articulate our past so be it, we are still experiencing this moment.

So our memories are held by those who remember us and amongst those who remember is God. Even if we seem to forget God, God does not forget us. None of which negates the difficulties of dementia, but it is a reminder that we must not define people by their condition. Each person still knows the experience of living, still have social roles, are still part of the communities that hold them close and are still beautiful children of God. The task for each of us is to participate in the stories we have been given,

Remember in November and be blessed
Craig