Year C, 3rd of Lent – Prayer before dismissal

Just a quickie as I prep for Holy Communion at St. Barnabas Darby Green this weekend.

I was trying to find something suitable as a dismissal prayer that went with Luke 13:1-9 and couldn’t find anything that quite worked, so I’ve ended up writing this. Not sure it’s much really, but it might help someone.

Not remotely a fig tree, but cheerful spring blossom as a wallhanging.

Lord God, we yearn to be like the fig tree
Which bears fruit throughout the year.
Feed and nurture our faith in Jesus this week,
That through the power of your Holy Spirit,
We might be strengthened to grow in acts of love and service,
To the glory of your holy name.

Valuing livestreamed prayers – with resource links.

Probably the greatest spiritual joy to come from lockdown, and we have and we will continue with it into the future, are the prayers that we’ve livestreamed daily at 10am from the Facebook pages of St Barnabas Darby Green and St Mary’s Eversley.

On the days I lead them (currently Mondays and Thursdays, though it can vary a bit) I try and download the recording from Facebook, and then upload it to my YouTube channel. This is because social media can become very excluding to those who don’t engage that way, but do have computer access. In this way I know I’ve extended our praying community to those whose lifestyles don’t mean they’re online at 10am!

Livestreaming prayers from my office

The community that connects and engages in prayerful support of each others , and those we name in our intercessions, is drawn predominantly from those communities, and the town of Yateley which connects them. I am well aware that people sometimes dip in from far further afield, either because of friendship networks, or because of their own need to be nurtured in their faith.

Praying from my garden (or my Dad’s) in the summer was lovely, and once I’d purchased a microphone for my mobile phone (that cut out some traffic noise but not the birdsong) of real value. Sometimes I’ve even managed to lead prayers remotely, from the churchyard or the hill above St Mary’s Eversley one glorious morning in early autumn, from my car, with the phone afixed to the car door, and from the churchyard of All Saints Minstead, (where I grew up) when the need to support our wider family meant we were there during the school holidays.

It can mystify passers-by when you turn your car into a studio, and start ‘talking to yourself’!

This outdoor worship is always appreciated, I think because it gives people a lens into our lives as ministers and is an example of fitting our prayer lives into our ordinary lives. For those with mobility issues, it also takes people who can’t always manage it for themselves out ‘into the countryside’. I hope it creates a more holistic environment for those who are watching, though the opportunities through the wet autumn and winter is more limited, so it is an occasional treat rather than the norm!

On Mondays I tend to use parts of Common Worship Morning Prayer. In the middle of the week I kept with the local tradition of using prayers from the Ffald-y-Brenin Community in Wales that they’ve now also made free (download or paper versions) for the situation in which we are all living. Wednesday and Friday prayers are now led by lay colleagues, sometimes from church, sometimes from home, and sometimes whilst fishing!

Initially I was also leading prayers on a Friday and for that I adapted prayers from the Iona Abbey Worship Book (available as a book or download). I was particularly struck by their prayers for a Friday that places people in a church building, and affirm that even if the walls were to crumble God still dwells within us. This seemed particularly for the context of lockdowns where people can’t pray in church, which some find particularly difficult to accept. So whilst my pattern of online prayer has moved from Friday to Thursday, I’ve kept with that liturgy as both the tradition from which it comes, and the words themselves are appreciated and seem so pertinent to the context of our restricted lives during the pandamic. Perhaps when this is all over, I may offer something else. If you want to experience it for yourself, an example of the livestream recording is here, and the liturgy here:

So, if you want to join us, on Facebook at 10am daily and get a reminder when we go live, do ‘like’ our pages. If you’d prefer to stay off social media, then this is my YouTube feed (also comes with wildlife videos!) Feel free to avial yourself of the liturgies we use via the links above, and join us. It’s always good to know who is with us, so do please use the appropriate comment facilities so we know where you are, and if appropraite, what your prayer needs are, so that we can pray not just with, but for you.
Go well and God bless.

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.

2020-03-27 14.25.56 HDR
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!


Service for the Celebration of Pentecost

Pentecost candle and holders

On Pentecost Sunday I had the privilege of leading and preaching at the church of All Saints, Minstead (at the invitation of the incumbent Revd Dr James Bruce). This was the church in which I was baptised, confirmed and married. It is also the church that my Dad has attended for the last 60 years, and the occasion also marked his 80th birthday.

In the next post is my sermon, which built on my long association with and knowledge of the community and it’s people and in particular with Furzey Gardens which lies at the top of the village, and last week won Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for their garden created by members of the Minstead Training Project for people with learning disabilities. (BBC South news coverage here.)

The liturgy for the service I adapted from that in Common Worship especially the Times and Seasons section for Pentecost, to create something that was simple but meaningful. I used the word DARE that appears repeatedly in the “commissioning” that forms the conclusion of that service as the mnemonic that I also hinged the sermon on, producing a over-arching theme that started from the light from the Pascal Candle and the Easter story, and hopefully took them into the future daring to carry the flame of the Holy Spirit. You are welcome to see, use and comment on the form the final liturgy took by downloading this: A Pentecost Celebration

Liturgical Notes:

  • I deliberately asked for the Gospel to be read immediately before the Pentecost Reading, so that the flow of the readings was chronologically correct and drawn together into the one story;
  • I created candle holders that used four of the DAREs in the closing liturgy, and a variety of flame coloured card, so that people had something symbolic to receive and take home (see photo). The master copy for the candle holder is here: CandleHoldersForPentecostDARE
  • The ‘commissioning of people of the Spirit’ at the end of the service was adapted from the original to take account of the fact that we didn’t in fact want people to go outside the church, and I no longer live in the community. They also used the liturgical and historic spaces within the church to guide where I asked local individuals to read the individual DAREs from. These could be adapted to use in any other church and community.

Footnote: I can thoroughly recommend The Trusty Servant pub in Minstead where my family continued Dad’s celebrations at lunch!

Under the gaze of God: Confession for Pentecost – Acts 2:1-12

Altar Frontal - Winchester Cathedral

We normally have an awesome open-air service for Pentecost out in the blazing sunshine. This year we had what I’m told was an awesome service… inside!

It fell to me to lead this year, with a Reader colleague preaching using the ideas of fire, wind and water. Part of his focus for fire was as a purifyer, so it seemed obvious to follow into a time of confession after this part of his talk.

Yet, when I came to peruse the options of Common Worship I found, that even with the help of James Ogley (a fellow member of the Twurch Of England also from my Diocese) I couldn’t find anything from Common Worship Times and Seasons (starting p483), or New Patterns for Worship, that I felt was suitable for the service (All Age format), and linked with what the reading and talk ideas suggested.

I love the creative act of putting together liturgy from different resources, but it has to be just right, and if I can’t find what I think will help people meet with God, I tend to write it myself! This may or may not get me drummed out of the Church of England 🙂

So here’s the prayer of confession I came up with. It came with a sort of free-form introduction. Feel free to use it, or comment, or point me in the direction of something else or authorised!

Do you ever get the feeling your being watched?
Someone who’s looking at you like they know what you’ve done, what you’re thinking?

Well God does… I sure that as the disciples tried not to run away and hide, but waited and prayed in Jerusalem, God was watching them, willing them to be strong and faithful to Jesus’ command to ‘wait for the gift my Father promised’.

God knows how faithful to him we are; as we feel his gaze we’ll know ourselves as he sees us, and know where we fall short.

Dear God,

We feel your loving gaze upon us,
and know our fears, our doubts and our lack of faith.
As we notice the trust that others have placed in your promises,
we recognise our own lack of trust in your faithfulness to us.
As we see and hear your word proclaimed for all to hear,
we remember the times when we have not told your story.

We are not just sorry,
but ask that you might purify us,
so that we might be found whole in your presence.

But God’s gaze is not destructive, he wants to leave us whole, and renewed in our relationship with him so that we can be recognised in the world as people who love him.

He pours out his love over us so that only what is wrong is burnt away through his forgiveness, to leave us whole.

(I concluded with Absolution B77 from New Patterns For Worship)


I ‘discovered’ this Affirmation of Faith at Mothers’ Union National Marketing Conference last month, where it was part of our final morning’s worship. This was led by one of our Welsh committee members, therefore I suspect it could be attributable in the Church of Wales liturgy, but I may be wrong… it also has strong celtic overtones I would say. If you can tell me the attribution I would be most grateful.

It seems strangely appropriate at this time as I start to reflect on being a licensed minister… more of which later:

We believe in God whose Word calls us into being, whose breath brings us to life and goes on breathing new life into all things. We believe in Jesus Christ who as sent into the world and walks with us still, sharing in our unknown journey. We believe in the Holy Spirit who call s on to truth and light, stirring within our being, like the movement of music on the wind, dancing on before us and beckoning us into freedom and new life.

Evolution in Liturgy

A 'Forest Station' from Lincoln Cathedral

The way I understand it “liturgy” is a collective noun for the prayers, actions, songs etc that make up an act of worship. But it also seems to be used as a noun in the singular, with people referring to a specific prayer as a piece of liturgy.

‘Common Worship’ has been developed for the CofE as a breadth of material that gives those that lead worship flexibility to respond to themes in the lectionary, the directed topics chosen by church leaders, or the need of specific day or congregation. It has given ‘permission’ to be creative within a set of losely defined boundaries (which depend on the type of service).

But for me, liturgy (both collective and singular) is also an organic thing, with a piece of liturgy being able to evolve from use in one situation, to another and another. This seems to be rather an Iona-ish thing to do, and perhaps I have gained something from my forays into their styles of worship.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from stuff I’ve found, used, adapted, and finally re-created. Whether any of it is any good is for you to decide.

This piece of liturgy started life (with me) as a Creed – Costa Rica (click the title to download), that was handed out by Fleur Dorrell (Head of Mothers’ Union’s Faith and Policy Unit) at a meeting I attended several years ago. I liked it and filed it, its obvious roots in liberation theology speaking into services I might one day create on the theme of justice. That was before I thought of training as a Reader/Lay Minister, but I think it was the year of MakePovertyHistory and Micah 6:8 was becoming the most used verse in the Old Testament.

Then in my first training module I chose an assignment that was an order of service for Christian Aid Week. Out came the file, and used it was. Next I seem to remember it struck me that it could be adapted and used to create responsive intercessions, and so it was used in the format below.

Finally, for a family service one day I wanted to create a creed-like sequence of slides that all-ages could understand, and so was became this Simple Visual Affirmation of Faith (.ppt 5629KB). At the time it was criticised for not including a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that has been added in since it was last used.

Over these iterations I believe it has lost something – the original asks more questions of us than does the visual – but both were no doubt created with a specific purpose in mind, and hopefully met the need.

Responsive Intercessions adapted from Costa Rican Creed:
(insert your own intercessions at *)

We believe in God the Father, who created the world for us.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s own son, sent into our world to mend relationships and to proclaim peace.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who works in and through everyone who accepts God as part of their lives.

We believe that as part of one church among many worldwide, we are called by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, to serve all people whatever their need.*

We believe war, terrorism, racism and the slavery of one group of people by another through fear and the misuse of money, laws and privileges is wrong.

We believe that Jesus taught us to respect human rights, comfort and help those who suffer and confront what is evil and wrong in the world without using violence.*

We believe that the whole world is our home, and that what we do and how we live here has an impact not only in our community but around the world.

We believe that we can set an example in our own community by seeking to stop injustice, to help our neighbour and to share our faith.*

We believe that we should show the love og God who brings healing and comfort and who in Jesus, opened his arms on the cross to embrace everyone.

We believe that death is not the end, but that God will draw those who die in faith to be with him for ever.*

We believe that whatever our circumstances we can take steps to change our actions so that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God each day.