Wondering Wednesdays – how is this understood – reflecting on shame

I am immensely grateful to Daniel Corcoran, a fellow clergy person, for suggesting how important it is to ask ‘how is this understood?’ in relation to shame and church. It is a key question to ask in many contexts, not just church.

Despite having been to church for most of my life I can go to some places and not have a clue what to do. Others seem to know when to sit, kneel or stand but not always me. Shame is about feeling I am a bad or worthless or flawed person and for those of us who are shame prone it is not difficult to make us want to disappear and hide because we feel stupid and out of place. There are so many contexts where unwritten rules or mores exist where we don’t know what to do if we come new to a situation and when we get it wrong others can be very condemning or dismissive and this can impact how we see ourselves.

If you are planning an activity, an event, welcoming a new person into a family or group of friends then consider what it is you need to ask of ‘how is this understood?’ and be aware of what you need to explain to people, warn them of or prepare them for. Shame can be immensely debilitating, it can often be avoided if we consciously think about how we can be less shaming.

My book Shame and the Church is available from a range of places and I am doing a series of talks in different places applying my PhD research into varying contexts. Contact me if interested drsallynash@gmail.com.

Friday photo – shame and the church

This book represents 10 years work, 6 on researching and writing a PhD and a further 4 doing a little more research and making it accessible for anyone to read. Shame is horrible, it is a global perception that who you are is flawed or unworthy and so often we are made to feel this over things we shouldn’t. This book largely addresses this issue and contains my experiences as well as those of many others who shares their story with me, often anonymously in response to an email or social media post with a link to a questionnaire. I am also very grateful to those who contributed liturgy for the book. It was hard and painful to write but one of those messages I felt compelled to share. It is available from the publisher and bookshops, online or real!

Sally Nash (2020) Shame and the church: exploring and transforming practice. London:. SCM Press.

Wondering Wednesdays – what would you draw?


While we were in New Zealand we walked past this church notice board and it got me thinking what pictures would we draw for our church? Or taking it more widely, what would I draw for my work or my life or our recent trip. For many people a picture communicates so much more than words – I spend a lot of time with words and far less time with pictures – I may need to change that…

Honest Christianity – lost sale


At half term we were wandering around Padstow and I walked into a shop and picked up something in the window. “Please don’t touch” as quickly said in a curt tone, there were no signs and it wasn’t one of those artistically arranged windows where moving something by a centimeter would spoil the display! It was the first thing the shop assistant said and was decidedly unwelcoming!

I wonder if it is the sort of spirit and attitude received by visitors to church sometimes. I have seen facial expressions say exactly the same as the words the shop assistant said to me. Now other times shops are helpful – “Please pick it up”, “Do you want to try it?”, “Can I give you a sample to taste?”, “How can I help?”, “Just ask if you need anything…”. That’s what I have seen in church too, a welcoming, hospitable space makes all the difference.

Wondering Wednesdays – being church

year 3 leaving

Every year I have at least one book of readings that sits by my prayer chair. I was taken with this reading from Oscar Romero in one of Ray Simpson’s books – Waymarks for the journey. This was Sunday’s reading:
A Church that doesn’t provoke any crisis,
a gospel that doesn’t unsettle,
a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin,
a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin
of the society around it
what gospel is that?
Very nice, pious considerations
that don’t bother anyone;
that’s the way many would like preaching to be.
Yet does such a gospel light the world we live in?
The gospel of Christ is courageous;
it is the good news of him who came to transform
and take away the world’s sins.
Christmas seems a good time to remember what it might mean to be the light of the world.

Honest Christianity – enter as if…


This past week we have been on holiday in Bruges. We visited several churches and most were very welcoming to visitors. The photo above was taken as we went in to a large baroque oratory, a church founded by Jesuits – St Walburga’s.

In some ways it could be heard as a poetic way to say “you’re in church, be quiet”. I read it and was inspired by it as a timely reminder that we were in a church not a museum. I also am going to pinch the words for my visiting of patients and their families. The idea of a patient’s room being holy ground is well established and practiced by some, but this little poem seems to me to take it to the next level. It encourages me to realise and acknowledge that God is already present before I get there and stays when I leave.

This is a positive way to perceive all of our encounters.

Wondering Wednesday – a student dreaming


I taught the MCYM third years for the last time on Monday.  It was their penultimate teaching day for their entire degree.  I finished by giving them time individually to craft a piece of theological reflection on social policy and their practice.  The range of offerings was so encouraging reflecting deep thinking, creativity, diversity and passion.  It is so encouraging to remember where they started and see where students have got to on their journey of faith and vocation.  Today, with her permission, I am sharing Lisa’s piece which was also in part triggered by an exercise Paul did earlier in the year reframing Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.  This is what she wrote:

God has a dream, a dream that I will follow him until my dying days and beyond.

God has a dream, a dream that I will listen and serve him.

God has a dream, that we will all use our talents.

God has a dream, that we will encourage each other and build each other up.

I have a dream that is rooted in God’s dream.

God gave me a dream for Churches and institutes to become more inclusive.

It is my dream, to serve Him and encourage others to make His dreams come true.

God gave me a dream that all people are treated as individuals and their needs provided for.

I have a dream to ensure that God’s dream becomes a reality and will provide training so that there is more knowledge, understanding and love regarding people with disabilities, both physical, emotional and learning.

God gave me a dream for more people with to have opportunities to participate.

I have a dream to ensure that people with additional needs are encouraged to be part of the PCC and have a voice in decisions that are made.

God has a dream that people are liberated and set free.

I have a dream through the last image of Jesus, that it is one of a disabled God, but we do not see the disability, we see the love, grace and mercy of Him.

What is God’s dream for you?  What is your dream?  What are you going to do about your dream?

Lisa Buckley 27.4.15

Friday photo – if the tide goes out, they will come…

looe people

On Sunday we witnessed an amazing phenomenon – the tide was due to be extraordinarily low which meant it would be possible to walk from the mainland to Looe Island. It was like the end of my favourite film, Field of Dreams where you see all the car headlights coming from miles around – people just kept on walking past us, usually in wellies and often in shorts! It was obviously a well publicized event – it may even have been a fundraiser but there were all sorts of people from young to old, with and without their dogs!

Hopefully you can spot the people on the picture, I only had my phone and it doesn’t do zoom well! It was a Sunday and I couldn’t help have the fleeting thought of what would we need to do for people to turn up to church like that – but then it was a once in a long time event whereas church is a weekly thing. I have long been persuaded that we need to celebrate more and be clear about our celebrations – reading Tom Sine taught me that and that perhaps if there were more opportunities to come and join an accessible event more would come – certainly Christingle seems to function a bit like that at some of the churches I have been at. I didn’t join the long line – I have walked across twice and we visited the island in the summer by boat. I wasn’t prepared – I had the wrong clothes and shoes on – that made me think too – what do people think they need in order just to walk into church on the spur of the moment – I am writing my thesis on shame in the church this week and it is amazing the breadth of things that are problems!

How would you complete the phrase If…. they will come…?!

Honest Christianity – chaplaincy and the local church


This week I was invited to speak at what was a reasonably unique event in my experience. Itwas not the theme that was unusual – I often get asked to speak about bereavement. It was not even the group – volunteer chaplains. It was that the training session on bereavement for volunteer chaplains was being run by a local church as a part of a wider training programme.

It is the vision of Renewal Church in Solihull to develop their members to reach out in their
local community. Chaplaincy is perceived as an effective way to serve the local community and is part of the mission strategy of the church. Church members care, listen, serve people where they are to be found in places they have gone to willingly or unwillingly – GP surgeries, playing sports, hospitals and hospices, schools… The training is helping them to be intentional and purposeful in what they doing and offering appropriate support in the context.

Not every church is big enough to run its own course, but every Honest Christianity Church
is committed to creative community service.

Honest Christianity – what do the church and Waitrose have in common?

Waitrose ad

I think my favourite Christmas advert this year is the gingerbread one by Waitrose, see the advert here.

As they say in the ad: “everyone who works at Waitrose, owns Waitrose, so they care more”

(Waitrose is part of the John Lewis group which is legally a partnership and partners share in the profits as opposed to being run for the benefit of shareholders)

This is a lovely advert about a teacher who sees something in a child and the journey the child goes on to show this faith is well founded as she perseveres to make gingerbread shapes for a school fair…  As usual it got me thinking…

What could it look like if those of us who go to church, viewed our attendance or membership in this way? How much have I got invested in my local church?  Would I view my denomination in the same way if I thought that I owned them?  How might I act, speak about, and promote them if I felt like this?  The other question of course is the other way around. Should my local church and denomination relate to us and treat us as if we were more than pew fillers but as those who between us own it.  I would hope so, so perhaps we should?

I would like to point out that one thing my church and Waitrose have in common is free good coffee!