Honest Christianity – blessing the new


On Wednesday two Birmingham hospitals, Birmingham Children’s and Birmingham
Women’s, join together to become one hospital Trust. It is our privilege as a chaplaincy team to be asked to do a blessing in our hospital chapel at the end of the day.

One of the challenges is in knowing what to include within the blessing. I know that there has been a lot of hard and good work going on to provide a more effective service to our city and this will continue. But as with every new endeavour there are areas where we hope to both receive and be a blessing. In the lead up to Wednesday I will be praying and reflecting on what it means to ask God’s blessing on this new hospital. Wednesday is the birth of a new hospital, having a blessing as part of it is contributing to the hope for a good birth.

I am currently inspired by this prayer from Mary and Mark Fleeson for a commissioning:
May the blessing of joy be yours today and each new day, the joy of following the call.
May the blessing of peace be yours today, and each new day, the peace of following the call.
May the blessing of confidence be yours today, and each new day, the confidence of embracing the call.
(From A Blessing and Comfort Prayer Book http://www.lindisfarne-scriptorium.co.uk)

Honest Christianity – what we want for those we serve


I was reading through my (Sally’s) research notebook and found that it also contained some other reflections from my ordination training.  I was reflecting on the idea of what we wish for as a way of articulating blessing and lookng at it now realise that I perhaps don’t say some of these things but they are what I hope for people – in all the places I minister.  For me part of exploring honest Christianity is to identify and name what some of these things are.  This is what I wrote…

I wish you…  The Lord bless you with…

Hope like a mustard seed that grows and reproduces…

Honour in your self-image…

The delight God has in you…

Heart knowledge of being loved…

A sense of gratitude in the little things…

Peace in your heart…

Life in all its fulness…

Seeing the abundance of God’s blessings…

Shalom – a wholeness of life…

A sense of belonging to God’s community…

What should I add to this list?

Wondering Wednesdays – praying for the adorable nephew

South Hams-20130810-01476

Last Wednesday the adorable nephew stayed with us and we made pancakes, ate pizza and laughed lots!  As well as being his auntie I am also godmother to the adorable nephew.  Sometimes it is hard to know how to pray but when I came across this blessing from John O’Donohue it seemed so apt:

May you recognize in your life the presence,

Power and light of your soul.

May you realize that you are never alone,

That your soul in its brightness and belonging

Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

May you have respect for your individuality and difference.

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,

That you have a special destiny here,

That behind the façade of your life

There is something beautiful and eternal happening.

May you learn to see your self

With the same delight,

Pride and expectation

With which God sees you in every moment. 

Clearly this is a blessing which we can pray for anyone, not just young people.  I have met people near the end of their lives where I would want to pray this and depending on the day it is something I need to remind myself of.  Tiredness can sap perspective and a negative experience can knock self-esteem.  One of my hopes in ministry is that I can mediate something of this delight as so often we can experience something of God through one another.

Reference:  John O’Donohue  Benedictus  London:  Bantam Press, 2007, p127.

A Blessing for Leaders – not just those in the church!


We often begin our CYM Executive Team meetings with some liturgy, Sam Richards Director of Oxford CYM often brings something creative and apt.  One time it was this blessing from John O’Donohue for leaders or as he calls it, those who have power.  There has been a bit of discussion over recent days over the nature of being a priest today and our politicians constantly provoke debate about what leadership means.  I am blessed in that most of the leaders I know and work with are humble, gracious and seeking to serve and follow Christ.  As we start a new year I want to pray this for them remembering particularly all those who are leaders in places outside of the church as they also need our prayers and grace to live out their Christ given vocation wherever that may be.

A Blessing for One who Holds Power

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,

Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,

May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance,

May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.

When thirst burns in times of drought,

May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly

And know when the seed of change will flourish.

In your heart may there be a sanctuary

For the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity

And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness

To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell

Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability

As the ground where healing and truth join.

 May integrity of soul be your first ideal,

The source that will guide and bless your work.

Reference:  John O’Donohue  Benedictus – a book of blessings Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers) London  2007 p161.

Wondering Wednesdays – unexpected blessings

Blackberry Oct 2010 1599I love it when something really good happens that I wasn’t expecting.  I can be a little bit of a glass half empty person rather than half full and sometimes it feels that this isn’t very honouring of God. So today I want to express gratitude for some of those things but perhaps also that I have noticed them when some days they must just pass me by…

Yesterday our new car arrived – a three year old new car. The person who delivered the car was showing us where everything was and pointing out some of the things we may not have thought about. He searched absolutely everywhere for one thing and had to resort to the manual and then he had a moment of enlightenment – a car that usually only has an inflation kit actually had a spare tyre! We had given up even asking for a car with one as none of the models we looked at had one but with the number of miles we do not having one seemed to be a bit risky.

On Sunday we talked about our church retreat on Holy Island. I was rustling in a bag beside me trying to find the peanuts for the wine and nibbles bit of the evening and suddenly realised that the person next to me was talking to me – I thought she was explaining where the card was we all needed to sign! I was presented with the most gorgeous, generous gift of some glass representing Cuthbert’s island and the sea – it seemed so disproportionate to what I had done. It was such an unexpected blessing and I tried hard to be gracious in receipt as sometimes I find it hard to be the centre of attention and to accept appreciation of what I have done.

I went on a training course a couple of weeks ago and it helped me explore something which was just the right concept for a situation I faced on the retreat. I was prepared in advance for something that was going to occur and that was a blessing too.

Someone sent me an email with some information we discussed but quite unlinked made a comment about something I had done which was really encouraging – unsolicited blessing.

Saying the blessing is one of my favourite parts of the Eucharist, I want to reflect more about being a blessing and well as talking about blessing and how I can perhaps facilitate unexpected blessings to others.

Wondering Wednesdays – celebrating for the first time

I was ordained priest on Saturday and presided at the Eucharist for the first time on Sunday. I put together a lot of the service although it is based on the framework we use at this time of year but I have been reflecting on the roots of my choices and wondering whether there are things I may want to think about a bit more regarding formation.

The service booklet has one of my favourite pictures on it – the Jesus window in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at Buckfast Abbey – you can just make out the communion table in front of it. As it is a Roman Catholic Chapel I will never be able to preside there but it is one of my favourite sacred spaces and I often picture the Jesus of the window as I pray. The service it self had the title Love God, love your neighbour and love yourself – fundamentally virtually every time I preach I hope I communicate an element of this message – they really are the greatest commandments for me. Three different people spoke taking one of the themes each – I love the idea of multivoiced church and know how different personalities and styles resonate with different people and they contrasted well but were all deeply profound. Paul did love yourself – I have learnt so much about that from him.

The hymns were a mixture of fitting the theme and significant to me. The first was Here is love, vast as the ocean… I first sang this song at the funeral of a wonderful young man of God tragically killed in a car accident on the way home from a Christian camp – Chris Morgan. The other very significant song was I the Lord of sea and sky. I first sang this as I was licensed as a Reader in 1996, again in Birmingham Cathedral. My Grandma was there, a faithful Christian who I imagine had prayed for me for many years. I was also wearing the earrings I wore on that day. This was my first step in licensed ministry in the Church of England. The words are still so significant as I look to see how God’s calling to me will continue to develop in this next phase of ministry.

I chose to use the second of the new Eucharistic prayers for children where three questions are asked echoing the Passover. The three questions are Why is it right to give thanks and praise?, Why do we share bread and wine? and Why do we follow Jesus? Tow of our Godchildren asked the questions along with a young person from church. It was such a blessing to see them contribute.

I finished with a blessing from the Northumbria Community – I am a Companion and that Celtic spirituality has been significant for me on my spiritual journey so it was important for me to acknowledge that in a service that was of such great importance to me.

I sometimes find like I have a jigsaw spirituality with all sorts of pieces fitting together to make a picture that is unique to me. I value both the structure of Anglican liturgy but also the opportunity to shape it a little too.

This weekend felt like another important marker post in the journey and I feel so encouraged by the support, love and blessings I have received over this past week.

The delight on God’s face

Num 6

I love the way how with very young children their feelings are obvious in their face,  If you see them catch a glimpse of Mum or Dad, or Grandma or Grandad or another significant adult their faces are transformed, they beam with delight, they shine with love.  That is how I tried to describe what it might have been like seeing Moses come down from the mountain having spent time with God or Jesus at the transfiguration, shining faces reflecting God’s love.  I (Sally) preached today on these passages and made the connection with what is known as the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you peace.

My childhood impressions of God were not always of a God who beamed with delight and love at his precious child.  I sometimes got the idea that God would be scowling at me, particularly if I had been naughty!  It has taken quite a few years to accept that God looks upon me with love, with delight, with joy, that the look I see in little children is how God looks at me.  When people come up for a blessing at communion these are the words I use.  If I am aware of nothing else to pray for people these are words I can pray with confidence knowing that whatever the situation God’s blessing, grace and peace can speak into it.

Most times I preach I come back to this core message, that God loves you, and each time at least one person comes and talks to me about it.  We are blessed with a lovely group of young children at church so I often get to see shining faces and each time it reminds me that God delights in me too.