Flower Power: sugar pots and Rudolf’s summer garland

I can’t quite believe I’ve only been crocheting since my first lesson on 24th January. As I suspect so many have found before me – it’s an addictive hobby.

One of the easy little projects that I can pick up and do a few of in an evening, is making flowers. So far I’ve made flowers to decorate tiny jam jars (recycled from eating Lidl’s pate). The catalyst for this was creating decorative little sugar pots for the tables of the Make and Mend Community Cafe that was meant to open at the end of April, but of course ‘lockdown’ has put paid to that, at least for the moment. However, there’s a set of sugar pots waiting with the coffee samples, and I can knock-up a few more in an evening if it looks like we’re going to open. I fear though, that it may be September before that happens.

Then as a silly one day, I made one for Rudolf. You might remember that we bought my mother-in-law a wicker Rudolf for her garden and I knitted him a red string scarf in time for he and his scarf to be her Christmas present.

But of course, it’s too hot for him to wear it in summer, so it had to be taken off, and as a silly thing to do, I crocheted a pair of red string flowers of the same pattern as I’d used on the sugar pots. I thought these could be tied to his antlers… and initially they were. But between us, we got carried away, and I got some jute string of different colours from E-Bay and I made a whole series of them. When we gave them to Marion (my mother-in-law) for her birthday, she instantly garlanded them together round Rudolf’s neck, and he will remain so adorned for the rest of the summer!

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Rudolf with his summer garland!

By the way: I wouldn’t however recommend crocheting (or knitting for that matter) with string. It’s very hard on the fingers, and some natural jute string is easier to mould to shape than others!

Residents old and new: Garden wildlife in lockdown

In amongst the ‘madness’ that has been learning to minister in lockdown, we’ve discovered that the local wildlife is no respecter of social isolation rules!

2020-03-26 hedgehogFirstly we discovered that the Hedgehog we’ve been encouraging for two years had over-wintered! Great excitement, especially as my husband snuck a peek in our hog-houses late one afternoon to confirm that ‘the Hogfather’ as I’ve knick-named him or her, was truly resident – apparently with a preference for the left hand of our two hog-houses. There is a short video of it’s nocturnal wanderings HERE. We do have a hedghog-diner which it likes, but it’s also rather partial to the remains of the sunflower hearts left by the Goldfinches!

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Cock House Sparrow taking nesting material into the swift-box 10th April 2020

 

Then this Holy Week, as we’ve been pottering around the garden trying to make the most of our limited growing space and a collection of out-of-date seeds (anything to get away from the video and computer screen) we heard scrabbling above us. In 2018 we’d also had members of the Blackwater Valley Swift group install a 4 story swift box on our expansive north wall, as we knew that in summer we get a small group calling near the house, and lodging in the neighbouring street. Despite using the ‘swift-caller’ they lent us near the swift-box, we’ve had no joy at attracting returning juvenilles (which is what the idea was) nor any other resident Swifts. However, on looking up this week, we noted that whilst the ‘flats’ as I call them had warped a little, blocking one entrance completely, the scrabbling I heard Good Friday proved to be…. House Sparrows! There are edited highlights HERE of some (fairly shoddy) video and stills, including an extended view of sparrows doing ‘what comes naturally’ when it’s nesting season!

[It was also a chance to practice some very basic video editing skills for ministry, so please excuse the naff header/footer etc.]

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Blue-Tit bringing moss to our Birch nest-box 12th April 2020

 

2018 must have been a good year for our intentions toward wildlife, as we were also given and installed by the north-facing kitchen window, a Birch nest-box – that has likewise remained empty until now. We’d been aware from inside our kitchen over the last few days of an irregular tap-tap-tapping that we couldn’t attribute to anything inside. Yesterday, we discovered that we’ve also got Blue-tits nesting. This morning before our online service, they proved a little camera-shy, so no video to accompany the photos yet! Creation it seems believes in generating the new life of the Easter Season.

So all in all, we’re delighted to have other couples moving in to share our social isolation. In fact, couldn’t be happier… unless the Swifts move in, but they could find it crowded!

Reflections on ministry in lockdown – Good Friday 2020

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First attempts at set up for Sunday Worship for 29th March 2020

Over a month since I last posted!
Somehow life isn’t quite the same… and I’m not sure anyone saw it coming.
40 days on, and things have become very strange indeed.
But you’re living it too, so you know that.

So this is by way of a memorandum and reflection to myself, as to a few of the things I’ve learnt and needed to be creative about, to maintain ministry in the lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Technical support and a ‘behind the scenes’ view of that first attempt at recording services in the garden. Glad I was that I’d liberated a couple of necessary props from church before locking up the last time, and that I have horded an interesting selection of useful heirlooms.

As a minister I think I’d become too reliant on contact with parishioners on a Sunday morning in the physical spaces that are our church buildings. Those are special times (especially in memory, when you can’t stand round and have coffee), but actually I’ve spent more time talking to people, and talked to more people more meaningfully, one-to-one, particularly the phone, than I ever have, at any stage of my ministry. I feel embarrassed that people have been surprised that I’ve rung, and depending on their circumstances, more than once. Without exception, everyone has been positive, understanding and supportive, as my colleague and I have grappled with the new needs of ministry in lockdown. If by any chance, you’re one of them, reading this… thank you, it has been hugely appreciated.

Jesus walked, and talked, and met people, and talked and taught some more. My husband and I took what should have been our statutory one-hour walk one day last week, on a route we know takes us about that, one hour. It took us 2.5 hours, as the socially-distanced conversations flowed! We’ve lived here over 20 years, so many familiar faces crossed our paths, parochially related and otherwise. I had a strong sense of healing in what at times was some fairly black humour, of words becoming the new sense of touch, of gift that God was providing in these days of glorious weather. As is so often the case, it is in looking back at your footsteps that you see where it was that Christ carries you.

Christ has a such weight to be bear now – and his burden gets heavier each day; and there should be no irony in the fact that I say that on Good Friday, as we acknowledge most particularly his sacrifice on the cross. A few months ago, I’d wondered whether I ought to change my pattern of ministry to take in some connection with our Foodbank. Not unusually I’d done nothing about it, distracting myself with other things, and probably appropriately getting excited about growing a fresh community project. But the cafe plans are of necessity on hold, though I must make sure they’re ‘oven-ready’ at a week’s notice, for when we’re free to fraternise again.

2020-03-22 22.29.51Instead, I find myself giving significant support to that previously noted Foodbank – not least because so many of the regular volunteers are now forced to protect themselves in isolation. Whilst it is horrible that we live in a society where one is needed, and tragic that the economic impact of the Coronavirus have brought so many more people to the crisis-point of needing one, there is a (slightly exhausting) joy in being able to deliver those shopping bags to socially distanced doorsteps – it’s not just food, it’s hope and a sign that people care. The same goes for the donations that have come flooding in, in particular through Eversley’s Centre Stores (who have carefully stocked the Foodbank to people’s cash donations) but also to our doorstep – one of the benefits of having lived here for a while. People’s generosity has been great, and the Foodbank is so grateful for it. No, making such things happen is not without anxiety and risk, and yes there is a cost in that, but after all, being a herald of hope is one of our diaconal responsibilities in ordination. Once again, perhaps I’m fulfilling more ordination vows more fully than before.

So, where’s the creative Rachel been? Lost, literally, frequently and for long periods, in an open source video editor (OpenShot), Facebook ‘live’ and otherwise, Zoom for Messy Church (less messy and calmer than it’s cousin, at least if you’re not ‘hosting’), and Zoom for PCC and other meetings; all via computer, phone, iPad and camera! I’ve ended up looking at myself in a way that I really would prefer not to. Perhaps, I’m seeing myself as Christ sees me, more than I do normally – flaws and all – but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

My first recorded Morning Prayer, was a spur of the moment experiment outside St. Mary’s, but received an encouraging response. My colleague also took up the challenge and ‘went live’, and we were glad we’d started promptly, as within the week we were on lockdown, and leading worship purely from home. Bless him, he’d done a little video editing before – I am a complete newbie. I am grateful he’s putting together the really complicated Sunday Services like our first attempt. There has at times been some distinctly un-clerical language; “purely pastoral” as a past spiritual director would have it. There are also unhealthy strains associated with so much screen-time, on the eyes, the back and on the anxiety levels.

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Cuckoo-pint… or do you know it as Lords and Ladies? Photographed in a nearby lane, 8th April 2020 on our less than daily constitutional.

But once again, there is a strong sense of fulfilling my calling in not only a different way, but in a way that is reaching more people and encouraging them in their discipleship somehow in a way that may have a greater long-term significance of them, then perhaps our regular church-based worship does. I’m not sure that says much for our regular services, but I do find myself wondering what of all these skills and forms of worship need to be kept when we find a new way of post-lockdown living and liturgy?

There have been times to relax… there’s a crochet blanket for a loved-one slowly taking shape, an activity that can prove a prayerful Compline of sorts at the end of a long day, and there have been some gems of moments around the home and on our walks. More of the former in other posts, but if happen to have read this far (bless you) enjoy some Pipistrelle bats at late dusk – another use for my mobile phone which has resulted in interesting pastoral, and wildlife related conversations!

 

Making and Mending – self-care and creating community

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The mending pile, before this afternoon.

Anyone else got a mending pile?

This afternoon I’ve done the simple things: a button on my husband’s shirt, and a new neck strap on a favourite cooking apron using some webbing inherited from my Mum; she’s been dead 24 years (who says I never through anything away?)!

There’s two pairs of trousers to be turned up after purchases in the sales, and a favourite skirt that needs a new elastic, but those are for another day.

In recent weeks I’ve also been learning new skills. I had a favourite ‘honorary’ aunt who could crochet, and I still have the shawl she made me, but I never learnt – until about 6 weeks ago. So, I’ve been working on my doubles, and triples, made a granny square, and guess what… a scarf!

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The first granny square, with a remnant bit of vari-coloured yarn from a knitting project

Crochet seems quicker than knitting to pick up, and easier put down instantly in my busy, interruptable life – and I’m enjoying it. I’m very grateful to the lovely lady at Pack Lane Wool in Basingstoke for teaching me the basics (after some failed solo attempts), to Bella Coco’s YouTube video’s, to the encouragement of my husband and knowledgeable friends who’ve introduced me to Ravelry and Attic24. I’ve even gone back and now have the yarn for a larger project.

Mending and making. Making… and … mending. There’s something really important about both skills for community life, and for Christians for their faith life. As a Christian I believe we are made to be creative – our creator God gave us creative skills to be used to enhance the beauty of his world, to give to and grace the lives of others, and to build community.

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Starting to sort out the ‘stash’, inherited tools, and the products of sale bins as I begin to set up some small activities that could be picked up off a cafe table and tried. (Photo credits to my husband – he wanted to show his Mum what I was up to!)

As I’ve alluded to previously, getting my creative streak back has become important to my post-training self, mending my state of mind, drawing me into a more positive place. There’s God in this too, the idea of reconciling us to be the very best of who God created us to be, being healed to a place of peace. If we’re in a better place in our selves, we’re more likely to have the mental resources to be there for others too – so it’s important to my calling too!

2020-02-12 Make & Mend, initial advertWithin all this, there is something else being created too, something that might create a space in one of the communities I serve (Eversley), in which people can not only make and mend in a practical sense, but also come together across generations to create a stronger community. I hope the opportunity to work with and in Eversley Village Hall will produce something of value to a community that boasts nothing similar by way of meeting places.

It will be interesting to see the results of both a larger crochet project, and this community project turn out as we move through the spring.

A warm winter – scarf-tastic!

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Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer – scarf knitted (and nose badly crocheted) in red string with added bells.

So I may have gone a bit overboard with the scarf knitting in the last few months.

The most notable were probably the red string (jute twine) scarf with bells on, that I knitted for the reindeer we gave my in-laws for Christmas (which also got a botched crochet red nose), and the Pride scarf I knitted for my God-daughter!

 

But there were others, by request and otherwise. So if you’re not into knitting, yarn, scarfs and crafts etc. I’d probably skip this, as it’s largely going to be a photo-log of scarves I’ve knitted in recent months.

As I mentioned previously, this all started with the need to rest my leg. There ended up being three scarves combining old Colinette mohair yarn with variously, Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo that I bought in Wyoming, and some other Colinette chunky pure wool, that I’ve long since lost the label for.

 

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Colinette mohair and one of their old chunkies of variable thickness – scarf the second.

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Colinette mohair and Malabrigo Rios scarf 1

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Scarf 3 – again Colinette mohair and variable chunky

 

October half-term in a fairly damp Exmoor saw me work on two, one for a child in Sirdar Wild (with tiny bells in the tassles), and one being my first foray into something other than plain and purl combinations – feather and fan stitch using Sirdar’s Hayfield Chunky Bonanza.

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Left: Sirdar Wild (which no longer appears in their collection) and the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ in feather and fan stitch. 

 

 

 

We also went to the wonderful Pannier Market in South Molton and picked up some Stylecraft Cosy Delight Chunky ‘Blue Mist’ which went on to produce another feather-and-fan-stitch scarf (which I appear to have forgotten to photograph before giving it to my lovely Mother-in-Law!)

Other scarves over the winter have included:

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Irish Moss Stitch ‘Pride’ scarf using Hayfield Bonus Chunky

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Dark Grey scarf in basket-weave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finishing the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ with a candle-flame pattern

There was also another Sirdar Wild scarf in a deep purple, for the friend who bought me the wool for the Pride scarf as a Christmas present… what goes round comes round!

I still regard myself as a beginner (you note, no clothing yet) and as I’ve started to use Pinterest more to expand my repertoire of stitch patterns, I’ve come across the concept of ‘blocking’ – not something I’ve ever met before. I don’t remember either my knitting grandmothers or my Mum ever pinning out damp knitting! But many crafty social media friends have advised that this is a thing to do, to give it a smoother more even finish, so I guess I need to locate the appropriate pins, and get soggy with the candle-flame scarf, and one of the early mohair/wool mix scarves, neither of which have yet to find homes!

Next up? Some mending, and a first proper foray into crochet.

Update: Hopefully below is the ‘Blue Mist’ feather and fan stitch scarf I knitted for my Mother-in-law – though obviously the photo below is not of her!

Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

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Greenfinch catching the sunlight – yes, there was some!

This morning I took the annual hour out to count the garden birds for the Big Garden Birdwatch.

Now obviously I watch the garden birds more often than once year, possibly a little too much, especially when I have other things I ought to be doing! But doing it for citizen science can bring surprises, as it did with last year’s Redpolls.

Sadly however, there wasn’t so much to excitement me this year – though it was good to get our local Dunnocks on the list. As yet there are no Redpolls, nor the Siskin, but the latter don’t usually materialise until late February, for reasons I don’t know.

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A split second of peace between squabbling Greenfinch and Goldfinch – probably because they’ve both got their mouths full! 

Anyway, this years list is as follows with some notes – as always the numbers are the maximum number of birds viewed at any one time within the hour:
Goldfinches 13 (quarrelsome bunch)
Greenfinches 3 (don’t always win their battles with the Goldfinches despite their relative bulk!)
Dunnock 2 (I think there’s a romance going on, they follow each other faithfully)
Blue Tit 2 (I really wish they’d use the lovely birch bird-box on their regular flight-path at the corner of the house.)
Wood Pigeon 2 (who spent most the hour at either end of the fence, like bookends.)
Feral Pigeon 4 (about a third of the actual number, which continually rises.)
Robin 1 (as territorial as always, and particularly fond of seeing off the Dunnocks.)

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A very poor photo of the resident love-birds – sorry Dunnocks. They are also one of the best songsters in the garden which might be why our Robin doesn’t like the competition!

Blackbird 1 (briefly, high in his vantage point in the apple tree)
Chaffinch 1 (briefly identifiable among the Goldfinches but didn’t fight for space to feed, which is sad when they used to be far the most numerous finch in the garden.)
Starling 2 (numbers are down locally, they used to be almost a nuisance on the fat balls.)

The best bit of bird-watching in the day came immediately after I stopped watching the feeders – as I washed up yesterday’s dishes I watched the corvids mobbing a Sparrowhawk over the houses opposite! Typical.

Falling back into craftiness!

What is it that brings you alive, or helps you to a point of healing?

For me, over the last 6 months, it has been… knitting.

In the last two years since I concluded my curacy, it has been wonderful not to be writing essays, reflections or other proofs of my theological understanding and knowledge! In the years since I started Reader Training in 2006, I’ve spent 11 of them doing some sort of training that required essays – and I hate essays. It left me somehow injured, unable to settle to a healthier approach to life. To put no fine a point on it, the academic toll of training sucked the life out of me.

With brief and sporadic exceptions in holidays, I had little opportunity to do the various crafts that I’d previously enjoyed trying at various points in the previous 30+ years of my life; knitting, tapestry, cross-stitch, silk painting, stone and leather painting. Yes, I’ve gardened when I could and I’ve made the most of encounters with wildlife, but inside the house my hands had been focused on the keypad of the computer.

In August 2019 – a couple of days after my last wildlife blog post – at the beginning of a holiday in Wyoming USA, we visited Jackson and needing to find something to reduce the anxiety I’d encountered flying long-haul from the UK in time for the return flight, and a delightful little yarn shop called Knit on Pearl. Having checked with the airline first, I bought 1 set of wooden, circular knitting needles and some yarn. Not any old yard – it wasn’t that sort of shop – but some lovely autumnal coloured Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo. I could knit my way back to the UK. I spotted a few lovely shawl kits too, made with several different yarns, but out of my price range – their importance came later.

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When the yarn matches the bruises!

Buying yarn and needles was a prophetic move, which found me knitting far sooner than expected. That afternoon on Mount Rendezvous, one of the Teton Mountains, I slipped whilst photographing a grasshopper (yes really), something went ‘pop’ in my left shin, and to cut a very long story short, I spent the rest of the holiday (including around Yellowstone) in a wheelchair, on crutches…. or with my foot up, knitting! Thank you Lord.

 

I still saw some amazing wildlife though – but that’s for another post.

Whilst the yarn I bought matched the bruises nicely (as you can see), and though I wasn’t happy with what I created from my rusty knitting technique, it did re-engage the craftiness in my fingers. On my return home, I unpicked the initial attempt at a scarf. Then I found some Colinette mohair yarn I’d bought in their old factory shop by the WLR Station in Llanfair Caereignion about 15 years before. It went with the Rios yarn brilliantly, and I remembered the amazing multi-yarn shawl I’d seen in Knit on Pearl. So I came up with a random 225 stitch scarf creation of my own!

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Matching my new malabrigo yarn, to some old Colinette mohair bought many years ago!

 

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Deciding to convert from my grandmother’s stiff old circular needles to the new KnitPro one’s in interchangable lengths!

Knitting has moved on since my grandfather taught me squares before I was 10, and my grandmother knitted me numerous jumpers through my youth. I love the KnitPro laminated birchwood needles I’d discovered in the US, and that they’re available here too, and then discovered circular needles can now have interchangable lengths too!

 

I have to say that as the ruptured ligament has all too slowly healed in the months since, so my enthusiasm for craft, specifically knitting has increased. With busy hands, my ‘down time’ has been more creative, healing my soul of all those years of essays. I’ve made numerous scarfs, creating several Christmas presents in doing so, am learning knew stitches, and yesterday I attended my first crochet class!

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Merino/Mohair scarf – the first step to healing my craftiness!

With this has come to life an idea for a community project (revealed 1st March) that might yet form part of my parochial ministry – truly creative healing!!

 

But the detail of all that is for the future, because it might just be it’s brought my blogging back to life too!!!

And writing this blog post has meant I’ve tracked back to that first yarn, found the name of it in my photos, and found it’s available in the UK! Tonight, I’m a happy crafter.

August Hedgehog update

Since early July we’ve been monitoring the hedgehogs using the garden more regularly, and discovered that at best we now have 3 hedgehogs in the garden – which could be a mother and a couple of babies. Typically the only night we had a photo of three, we’d knocked the settings on the trail-cam and there were no videos triggered! (Grrrr…)

A conversation with a new neighbour (next-door but one changed hands around Easter) produced the news that she has a family of three under the wooden playhouse in the garden. Apparently they steal the food left for her two cats… which might be why the cats were stealing the hedgehog food in our garden when we weren’t using the feeding box as a way of monitoring how many hedgehogs we actually had!

It also explains why our hedgehog houses never got used over the winter – they were hidden under the playhouse two-doors up!

For those who don’t see what we post on the ‘book of face’ and want to see more, I’ve included a couple of photos, and there’s a video here for you to enjoy.

If you look really carefully, there’s a small hog top right of ‘Mum’ and another further away top left of here, near the herbaceous border!
‘Mum’ and one hoglet

Kingsley, Questions, Controversies and Children – a reflection for Trinity Sunday in Eversley

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The grave of Charles Kingsley, with flowers laid by the students of the school he founded, Eversley, June 2019

One of the two churches I serve, St. Mary’s Eversley, has the author of the ‘Water Babies’ buried in it’s churchyard; hardly surprising given Charles Kingsley was the Rector in this quiet corner of Hampshire for over 30 years! He also founded the local school that bears his name, and of which I happen to be a governor. 

The school are very good and every year they celebrate their Founders Day, laying flowers at his grave and remembering to root themselves in Kingsley’s work as a social reformer, natural scientist, and author. But this year, in fact last week, was the bicentenary of his birth, which meant some of the locals had also thought it worth celebrating Kingsley’s gifts, so they put on a ‘thing’ – a mini literary festival if you like.

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Clergy present and ‘past’… with Peter Duncan in the role of Charles Kingsley, outside St. Mary’s Eversley, June 2019 (Photo courtesy of the producer of a short play ‘resurrecting’ Kingsley, Denise Silvey)

Yes, I fully expected to attend particularly to support the school, but the little matter of my colleagues over-enthusiastic Pentecost children’s talk last Sunday (which landed him in plaster) meant that I was a busier than I had anticipated. This had downsides; I missed a talk by Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser I really wanted to hear. But also upsides; like the school children I met Charles Kingsley his very self – or more accurately Peter Duncan who I remember as a Blue Peter presenter in my teens! I also got to relive my Greenbelt visits in the Tiny Tea Tent, but that’s another story…

It also meant I had to preach this morning, and link the life of Charles Kingsley with the fact it is Trinity Sunday – giving me a chance to reflect on what I’d seen and heard in the previous couple of days. So here, for what little a fear it’s worth, is my stab at doing that… and no, I didn’t forget it was also Father’s Day – at the end of the service each gentleman attending got both chocolate and a sequoia cone! Read on, to find out why:

Readings: Psalm 8 (NIV rendering) and John 16:12-15

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The sequoia in the churchyard at St. Mary’s Everlsey, planted by Rose Kingsley from seed collected by Charles Kingsley. It has a ‘twin’ on The Mount adjacent where the Kingsley 200 Festival took place.

 

On Friday afternoon I shared in the joy of witnessing Charles Kingsley get very excited about the cones and seeds of a certain conifer, the sequoia. Our sequoia. No, his sequoia. Sorry, God’s sequoia, a tree that I humbly suggest like the moon and the stars, shows the majesty of God.

As he was with Tim (the churchwarden) and I, sharing a quiet cuppa after school ‘out of role’, Peter Duncan (who has been playing Charles Kingsley) read the display about Kingsley on the hall wall. He suddenly became very animated. It appears that a couple of years ago, Peter had visited the very same sequoia forests of western America that Kingsley visited. Like Kingsley, he had brought home a cone to dry. Like Rose Kingsley went on to do, he sowed the seeds, of which some germinated and one survives. Peter now has it growing in his garden. The producer Denise and I now have photos of Peter, or should that be Kingsley, excitedly scavenging for more cones under the sequoia here, so that he could take them home to keep alive the personal connection he’s made with Kingsley.

This weekend has been all about keeping connections alive, and specifically the connection between Charles Kingsley, this village and our school, between Kingsley, social reform and science. I was busy here, but Giles Fraser hopefully made some connection between Kingsley as a man of faith, called by God to serve this place and community and Kingsley as a polemicist, someone not averse to pushing the boundaries of what we as Christians believe, and therefore having to be comfortable with controversy.

Questions and controversies exist within the Christian community, because our faith is a living thing. Just as much as the sequoia outside, our Christian faith is a living thing because God has been revealed to and has a relationship with us in ways so complex that we struggle to find terminology, or a name, that does God full justice. The closest we’ve so far come is the name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the term Trinity. Yet, those in themselves still leave us with age-old controversies over which ‘person’ of the Trinity proceeds from which, and more modern questions over whether we should apply gender-specific identities to any element of our creator, redeemer and sanctifier in whose image each and everyone one of us is made.

Our Gospel today, makes it as clear as it’s ever going to be why such questions and controversies exist. Jesus was never meant to reveal to us during his earthly ministry, everything about God’s character and will for his people, because quite simply, we wouldn’t be able to bear it (John 16v12). They are only revealed to us on a need to know basis, through the power of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit or sanctifier, that at all times will point us back to Jesus the redeemer, and thence to his creator, and ours. Individuals will only grow in faith, and communities will only grow in service to each other if they share a living faith that constantly turns over different questions and ideas in seeking a way forward that glorifies Jesus and his example.

For the same purpose, Psalm 8 (by far and away my favourite Psalm) reminds us that we have been made by God as creatures capable of awe, wonder, and humility before God. Awe, wonder and humility that is often proclaimed best by our young people, but they are not possible without questions, and children are always full of questions. Questions also by their very nature create controversy, because the answers and explanations are not always simple; and yes, questions and controversy create change, because change is life – if we are not changing and growing, we are not alive.

I have one sadness about this weekend, as I have experienced it. My sadness is that we have not adequately heard the voices of our children and our young people, the very people that Kingsley worked so hard to offer a future to. Yes, our children have been dressed up and paraded across a field to be photographed re-enacting the past. Yes they have created written reflections on elements of Kingsley’s story and ours, that their exhausted teachers have used for wonderful displays which only a few visiting dignitaries and parents will see – unless we can find a way to change that. But have we let the children speak? And have we listened?

The example of Greta Thunburg and Malala Yousafzai are surely showing the world, that as humanity struggles to combat the climate change it has inflicted on God’s creation, and in the area of human rights, God is using the children and young people of the world to silence the selfishness of humanity toward God’s creation, and establish a stronghold of justice, mercy and humility between and within communities. They may or may not be Christians but surely they are a living testimony to the God-given ability of young people to protect us from the enemy within ourselves (as Psalm 8 suggests), and create change; the sort of change that is in keeping with the Spirit of truth that is Jesus. And it’s just possible that we might be harbouring a Greta or Malala in Eversley, if we could build on the education principles Kingsley and others started, and hear our children speak for their future, rather than dwell on our past.

In Kingsley’s era, this community and society at large, needed to know that children of all sectors of society should be educated, that they shouldn’t be enslaved up chimneys, in fields or anywhere else for that matter, and that it is perfectly possible to be both a scientist that believes in evolution, and a Christian who believes God created the world. No, he wasn’t a child, but much of Kingsley’s attention was on children, and since he died at 56 he was younger than me when he did most of that work, indeed younger than many of us when he made his voice heard in the world.

We are reminded today by both our belief in a Trinitarian God, and by Charles Kingsley, that ours is a living faith, precisely because there is stuff we still don’t know and can’t explain about God and about the world around us. Recognising that should help us to be humble before God.  But awe and wonder at what we see, isn’t always a positive emotion, it can be one of horror, as we are reminded of the things in society that need changing because of the mess we’ve made of them up to now.

Like a sequoia tree, we need to be allowed to grow, and we need space to grow, however old we are. If we are to understand the purposes and nature of God better, we need to listen to our children, for in them God’s Spirit of Truth is revealed, and they might just have some answers that will change the world.

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A wonder of ‘festival season’ – and a great example of sustainable living!

Greenbelt ‘Clapping Creed’ (‘We Will Rock You’ rhythm) and Lego Easter Garden

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Lego Easter Garden at St. Barnabas, 2019 (photo credit: Graham Hartland)

During Palm Sunday and Easter Day family services, Graham and I have taught St. Barnabas a form of the Creed that involves clapping to the rhythm of ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. We also built a Lego Easter Garden to illustrate the Easter story from Luke 24:1-12 for the children, so some photos are here too.

We came across this ‘Affirmation of Faith’ via the livestream/video of the Sunday worship Greenbelt Festival in 2018, which was based around the 70th Anniversary off the Windrush migration and more recent scandals. You can enjoy the whole service at https://youtu.be/JJGxA9S0U6k but to watch specifically what we’ve called the ‘clapping creed’ you need to watch at 38.42 to 40.24.

This morning we’ve woken to a request from one of our young children for the words so they can learn it, as they ‘can’t find them online’. We couldn’t find them either, but at the time I’d written them down – so they are now. If anyone at Greenbelt knows who we can credit for this please let us know! [Edit: It’s great what tweeting a blog post can teach you – apparently Andrew Graystone is the one to be credited with this! Hopefully Andrew is happy that this is written down and shared to enthuse children in their faith.]

Apparently we’re going to be asked to do it at Messy Church soon, and obviously we need to teach it to St. Mary’s Eversley too!

We believe that God Creator (‘We will rock you’ Creed)

Rhythm: Thighs, thighs, clap, get this going first – and then keep the rhythm whilst doing the actions!

We believe that God Creator
Spoke and brought the world to birth.

Christ has died (arms out like a cross),
Christ is risen (raise arms up over heads),
Christ will come again (jazz hands).

We believe that Jesus Saviour,
Lived and died with us on earth.

Christ has died (arms out like a cross),
Christ is risen (raise arms up over heads),
Christ will come again (jazz hands).

We believe the Holy Spirit,
Soaks the world with love and grace.

Christ has died (arms out like a cross),
Christ is risen (raise arms up over heads),
Christ will come again (jazz hands).

This we share with every Christian,
Throughout time in every place.

Christ has died (arms out like a cross),
Christ is risen (raise arms up over heads),
Christ will come again (jazz hands).

 

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Close-up of our Lego Easter Garden, based on Luke 24:1-12 (photo credit Graham Hartland)… those are definitely NOT fairies, they’re angels!!!!