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Deep Thought

Random thoughts on subjects such as youth work, God, the Church of England, films and occasional peeks at Latin, Medieval history, Merovingians and bishops along with a healthy smattering of children's television, books, cooking and other oddities!

Updated: 2017-10-15T14:43:44.422+01:00


What I would have said in synod today


As a member of the house of clergy, I was reticent about contributing to this debate (and after a time stopped standing to speak so this is now posted here)

As a curate in my third year, it’s not that long ago, that I was a member of the laity who was not also a member of the clergy.

As a diocese I’m proud that Worcester has a diocesan children’s and youth council that can produce committed young Christians like Sarah Maxfield-Phillips who spoke earlier in this debate and wish we had such youth councils in every diocese and indeed in every parish.

I welcome the enthusiasm behind this report, I only wish it attended more closely not only to young people but to the many lay people in our churches who work with them.

As a former church youthworker, you might expect me to be proudest of one member of our youth group who is currently training for ordination but the primary goal of work with children and young people is not to make them all into clergyMbut to develop an:
“engaged, whole-life, robust lay discipleship” as the report puts it.
to follow the call that God places on their lives in whatever field that might be.
So therefore, I am so proud that former members of our youth group now include artists, designers,
an IT project manager, a photographer with the Norwegian Refugee Council, an app designer, an engineer in the merchant navy, a social care worker, an equal access rights campaigner an English language teacher with the British Council, a research scientist and I could go on as I’m sure could anyone who has worked with young people in the church.

Seven years ago in GS1769, for Growth, we called the church at national, diocesan and parish level to
“transformationMboth in the church and the world, and to recognise and enable the capacity of children and young people to be agents of change both for themselves and for others.”

Lasy year our Rooted in the Church research told us that young people in our churches want “positions of responsibility and leadership.”and a “greater “voice and vote” on decision-making bodies such as PCCs and Synods.

Today’s report says
“The needs and perspectives  of  lay  people  are  not  well  heard, listened to, understood or acted  on”

Those of young people are even less so.

When are we going to set them free?

For those of you who didn't make it to the hustings


Sunday’s Gospel warned us all against the error of competition amongst disciples. I’m sure my fellow candidates will agree that this is not such a competition to be the greatest but to offer ourselves for service. There are three positions open and I for one am happy to work with any of my fellow candidates here so we can represent you all.In my written election address I covered the experience I’d bring to the role of representing the clergy of Worcester diocese on General synod both from my work in the grassroots of a team parish in the north of the diocese and from my previous role as Diocesan Youth Officer. In my speech today I want to turn to what I would do as your representative on synod.There are some issues which we might well expect to arise during the next five years of synod. These include issues arising from the Reform and Renewal documents - put forward by small think tank groups co-ordinated by the archbishops. As some of you, I also have some reservations about the way some of these documents have come about both the lack of wider consultation and in some cases the theological foundations for them but I’m committed to working towards them having a positive impact on the church; preserving those historical aspects of the church which are central to our roots yet pruning areas which could be more fruitful. I have particular interest in the reforms to ministerial training and education. My work in theological education and my current participation in IME years 4-7 enable me to speak from personal experience on this matter.Another issue which is likely to come before synod is the matter of same-sex partnerships particularly with respect to those in ordained ministry as well as to the theology of marriage. I want to help the church to be a place of inclusion. I believe strongly that mutually supportive committed partnerships are fundamental to building community: “Those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them.” I believe the church should be encouraging people who wish to live in committed partnerships, whatever their sexuality. I am also conscious that many of our churches nationally, and indeed some of our interfaith brothers and sisters and our Anglican partners in some parts around the world, may not yet be ready to accept the change that has already happened in our culture and we need to travel forwards together with grace.Balanced with these internal issues for the church, synod will also need to continue to demonstrate that the church is interested in the wider world. The current austerity means that the church is already at the forefront of supporting people in local communities affected by welfare cuts and this role will continue and perhaps even increase. I think the church also has an important voice to share on issues including the environment, ethics and education.  Whatever business comes before synod, if elected, I intend to suggest to my fellow representatives that we communicate news of synod business with all those clergy who wish to be informed about it prior to and following each meeting via a self-selecting group email using the same or similar system used by diocesan news. Because being on Synod for me is about two way empowerment between our parishes and our national church. I want to both represent and inform parish clergy in Worcester diocese.[...]

Standing for General Synod


My election address is in a post below.

Tomorrow the hustings for the election take place at the Old Palace and I will publish the text of my speech to those hustings later in the day here.

If you would like to see the addresses from other candidates in the Worcester diocese, see this link here.

If you would like to contact me directly with any questions with reference to the General Synod election please email me.

General Synod Election Address


Revd Dr Sarah Brush - General Synod Election AddressHaving served in the Diocese of Worcester for six years as Diocesan Youth Officer, I feel I have got to know a good number of the clergy of the diocese well and would be honoured to represent you all in General Synod.   I have been involved at the national level of the church in a number of ways. I was a member of the National Executive of the Diocesan Youth Officers network from 2009-2014. Bishop John Pritchard asked me to join the National Board of Education in 2011 and I served on the board until I moved into ordained ministry in 2014. I also served as chaplain to the Church of England Youth Council at their residential meetings from 2009-2013. Although I’ve never been on Synod before, I have keenly followed the business of synod not only to hear the fantastic contributions which synod reps from CEYC have made to key discussions in recent years but also to keep myself informed. Through my work as Diocesan Youth Officer I have experience of work with many parishes as well as schools, colleges and universities, particularly supporting the work of chaplains in education, serving on the West Midlands Churches Further Education Council and helping plan the national conference for Further Education chaplains with particular responsibility for worship. I have also been a passionate supporter of the YMCA, particularly our local YMCA Worcestershire in recent years.I trained at Queen’s Theological Foundation and was privileged to be asked to teach sessions on ministry with children and young people and also to design and lead the new Church History module during my last two years of training. My Master’s dissertation focussed on Faith Development and I presented part of it at the recent International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry Conference at the London School of Theology (January 2015). I have also published on the topic of “Confirmation as Theological Education” in the Journal for Adult Theological Education, written for the Church Times and The Children’s Society and published a confirmation resource through Church House Publishing. Last year I was invited to join the team of writers for the CofE projects team for baptisms, weddings and funerals.Conscious as I am that some people may think it strange that a curate is standing for synod, in addition to the skills and experience I have already described, I believe my recent experience of Theological training will be beneficial in the forthcoming synod where there are some key decisions to be made about models of training for ministry as well as for the shaping of the whole church as part of the Reform and Renewal programme. As a Medieval historian who has spent much of her working life engaged with young people, you will not be surprised to hear that I am passionate about celebrating and learning from the tradition of the church as well as listening to newer voices so that we can “proclaim afresh in each generation” the faith passed on to us. I believe the church should be a place which is open to and inclusive of everyone.I grew up in a liberal catholic church and through my work with young people have valued time with charismatic and evangelical Christians both Anglican and from other denominations. In my broad experience of the Anglican Church I have drawn much spiritual encouragement from many places, particularly the Taizé Community, Iona, Greenbelt and our partner diocese in Peru which I was privileged to visit five years ago. It was an incredible experience and taught me a great deal about Anglicanism in the wider world.  As your synod representative I would be honoured to hear your views and concerns so that I could represent Worcester clergy at the grassroots of parish life in discussions at a national level. [...]

Brother Roger of Taize 16th August


Nine Years ago today I was leading a youth holiday with young people from our church when a friend telephoned me with the news that Brother Roger had been killed during the prayers at Taize. It was devastating news as I had only been there the week before and he had been such an inspiring man to me and may other young people since he founded the community in 1940.

Next year it will be not only the 10th anniversary of his death but the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Taize Community. I didn't sit down and intend to do this today but I seem to be (re)starting a campaign to get Br Roger of Taize recognised in the Church of England on 16th August.

No doubt there are official ways of doing this (and people may suggest all kinds of other people who should be recognised - please do!) and some people may already be working on it but given the significance of 2015, I think it might be a good year to start it!

The Taize Community  is marking the year with various events including a gathering of young theologians which I am thinking about attending and prayers on 16th August and 12th May (the centenary of Brother Roger's birth)

Perhaps if Anglicans across the country simply all commemorated Br Roger on 16th August it might then become official one day?

Here's my starting proposal of readings and collect which I've based on his final letter, one of his prayers and a psalm which is the source of at least two Taize chants:

Suggested Readings
Isaiah 43.1-7
1 John 4.7-21
John 14.18-27
Psalm 27

A Collect for Brother Roger 

O God the Father of all,
who called your servant Roger to a life of love and service,
and ask every one of us to spread love and reconciliation
where people are divided.
Open this way for us,
so that the wounded body of Jesus Christ, your church,
may be leaven of communion for the poor of the earth
and in the whole human family.
So that, our whole life long, the Holy Spirit will enable us to set out again and again, going from one beginning to another towards a future of peace.

Clearly, to reflect the usual Church of England Lectionary it needs a post communion prayer and perhaps further readings for evening prayer but it's a start - any supporters?

For your information the Anglican Church in New Zealand already includes a commemoration to Brother Roger on this day (thanks to the proposal of Bosco Peters to their synod) and offers the following:

Brother Roger of Taize: Encourager of Youth, 2005 (Gr)
Isa 32:1,2,14-18
Ps 85; 108:1-6
2 Cor 5:16 – 6:2
Matt 5:21-24

Donkey Latin...not pig Latin


I wouldn't exactly call it a "request" from the front at chapel last night but a joke that Little Donkey was "translated from the Medieval Latin text" was just too much temptation for me. So here's a little Christmas treat: Asinine, asinine in itinerepulvereaambulandaonerate Diuturnus, asinine hiberno nocte perge te nunc, asinine ecce Bethlehem   Sonate campanasBethlehem, Bethlehemstella sequere Bethlehem, Bethlehem Asinine, asininedie ardueasinine fer Mariam via secura.[...]

Artistic reflection on Kingdom People Characteristics


Recently, I was asked to talk to our Readers about using the Visual Arts in worship. As part of the sessions, the archdeacon spoke about the Kingdom People priorities for the diocese, so in our concluding worship I pulled together the two themes into this short reflection.

This weekend we’ve been reflecting on our use of Visual Arts in Worship. This morning we’ve been joining with the creator in the act of creation. God calls us to be co-creators of the kingdom. Yet what is it we seek to create?

Most beautiful works of art rely upon a well-balanced palette. That’s what I see in the Kingdom People priorities; a palette from which each church can create the kingdom in their local community.

We need the PURPLE which is the prayer and study of the scriptures. In my paintings I use purple for shadows – for that which is always there but not always noticed. The result of our interplay with the light.

The GREEN of regular worship is not just ordinary time; the time of the church is green because it is then when we grow and our worship should be that which is a sign of growth.

The witness of the gospel of Love, Compassion, Justice and Freedom is RED. It’s a bright colour which stands out and symbolises the passion of our faith. If used alone can seem too much but tempered with others can be beautiful.

YELLOW is our dedication to helping children and young people to belong and be nurtured in the faith. Without that bright and light colour of yellow which is young and joyful, the paintings of our kingdom can become dull and lifeless.

Growing deeply in discipleship is WHITE; the willingness to be a blank canvas for God, to allow space for God’s call in us.

BLUE represents being resourced and released to minister to others, like the blue water of the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision, in which growth is most vibrant the further the river goes, not in a stagnant pool gathered around the church.

The ORANGE of serving our community with love compassion justice and freedom is that passion mixed with the vitality of yellow.

The BLACK of our buildings being fit for purpose is not for the gloom of the buildings hanging over us but for the that which stands out and defines and outlines our work. 

All our churches will create something different in their painting of Kingdom People in their communities as we choose the blend those colours from our palette. The palette is there for us and we need to make choices. But there is one most important choice. As we seek to be Kingdom People let us remember to be co-creators with our God and to do any of that we must have the courage to make a choice – to pick up the paint brush and create something beautiful.

Evensong Sermon - Just War


I preached at BCP evensong on Sunday evening and oddly I focussed on the PsalmPsalm 119.81-9681 My soul is pining for your salvation; • I have hoped in your word.82 My eyes fail with watching for your word, • while I say, ‘O when will you comfort me?’ 83 I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, • yet I do not forget your statutes.84 How many are the days of your servant? • When will you bring judgement on those who persecute me?85 The proud have dug pits for me • in defiance of your law.86 All your commandments are true; • help me, for they persecute me with falsehood.87 They had almost made an end of me on earth, • but I have not forsaken your commandments.88 Give me life according to your loving-kindness; • so shall I keep the testimonies of your mouth.89 O Lord, your word is everlasting; • it ever stands firm in the heavens.Turning to this evening’s readings I was captured most, somewhat unusually by the text of the Psalm, particularly the psalmists words of lament:84 How many are the days of your servant? • When will you bring judgement on those who persecute me?As I feel these words reflect how many in Syria might be feeling right now. The reading we heard from Isaiah too talks about the way you might view others either as those who are unfamiliar or those who are part of God’s creation:No longer will you see the insolent people, the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend, stammering in a language that you cannot understand. Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, (Isaiah 33)At the time of first writing this sermon, the vote in the Houses of Parliament was yet to be taken. We were on the brink of a decision. Now we know that the commons voted against approving future military action by UK troops in Syria. I don’t know how you feel about that decision and most of us are probably fortunate enough that we will never have to make a decision which would affect so many thousands of people yet if we were called to make that decision, how as Christians would we do so?I’m sure like me you have been disturbed by the images of those injured by what sources strongly suggest are chemical weapons, you may have been aching with compassion at the idea of 1 million child refugees fleeing from Syria so far. We may feel compelled that we or the government and international authorities should do SOMETHING. Yet what should that something be? Should this lead to war?Fortunately for us, many wise Christians over the years have thought about war and the moral decisions involved with it. Even in the very early years of the church, St Augustine of Hippo spoke about the idea of a just war. He argued that war is something fought for the sake of securing peace, saying: “Better, I say, is war with the hope of peace everlasting than captivity without any thought of deliverance.” Augustine went on to talk about the justification of war for the sake of safety or honour. He goes on to explore the alternative to feeling the need to wage war: “But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars. For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars; and this wrong-doing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrong-doing. Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling.” The City of God (Book XIX) chapter 7Thomas Aquinas wr[...]

Faith and Art research


This post is specifically related to some research I am doing as part of my MA. This is not the final survey but a part-trial of some of the questions I hope to be using. If you would like to take part in this survey (click to open in another window/tab) and help me hone my survey to perfection for the final research please open this survey in another page or tab alongside this page.





Rock the Priory


For more information about the bands who will be playing at Rock the Priory this year, check out their websites

Sounds of Salvation
The Damage
Jacob Lloyd

More news later this year about the great pre-booking deals we have for groups coming from our churches! It'll be £5 on the door but we can offer you much better deals for groups booking ahead.

The Infamous Penguin Sermon


Sermon St Mary’s 25th February 2013Psalm 27 Genesis 15.1-13 Luke 13:31-35  This very short Gospel reading which we heard this morning is a curious text. It is brief yet contains so many possibilities. We have Pharisees asking Jesus to go away because of Herod’s desire to kill him. Are these good Pharisees concerned for Jesus or is this a polite form of threat? We have Jesus’ description of Jerusalem as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” sadly an image that is still apt today as Bishop John’s reflection on his recent visit to the Holy Land, in his Lent Message makes clear. (Check out the video on the diocesan website if you’ve not seen it) and then there is this curious talk of the fox and the chicken.Jesus expression of his desire to care for the people of Israel “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” was brought to life for me this week as I was watching the penguin programme on BBC1 – I don’t know if anyone else has been watching this Penguins, Spy in the Huddle, filmed using cameras disguised as penguins, eggs and rocks so that they get intimate shots of the penguins in their natural state and behaviour. It’s been a beautiful, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking series with images of care given by mother and father penguin alike and the care the adult penguins offer each other either through the large group or most poignantly when a female penguin placed her head on the shoulder of a fellow female who had been too late in finding her lost chick. The huddle of the title is the closely knit group which the penguins form, with their eggs or their young chicks carefully balanced on their feet, to become one large mass against the bitterly cold winds – gathered together as if under one great wing.This image which Jesus uses of a hen gathering her brood under her wings is a powerful expression of God’s love for his creation, for the people of Israel and for the church. God as loving mother and father; loving hen against the threatening fox of the empire, seeking to protect the children of God and sorrowed when we refuse the protection of the motherly wing. The other element of this short dense Gospel is the surety of Jesus. Jesus seems so very sure of himself and of his course. Something I imagine few of us feel all - if any - of the time. Even though this group of Pharisees come and tell him of a very good reason why he should be afraid, he sticks to his decided path which he know leads to his destiny in Jerusalem. How does he maintain this surety? I can identify much more clearly with Abram, in our first reading. He shows a more human lack of surety. God needed to assure him not to be afraid. Jesus refuses to give in to the fear the Pharisees seem to want to instil in him.How did Jesus maintain such surety? Obviously he was human and yet also divine so he had something more than the rest of us but I think also he would have turned to those Hebrew Scriptures he knew so well. The gospels show us that the book of psalms is one of the key scriptures for Jesus in supporting his ministry. On Good Friday I’m going to be leading the three hours service and we’ll be taking a journey to the cross through the book of psalms. It is a book he quoted and one which, as all young Jewish boys, he would have learned by heart. As a foretaste, this morning, I’d like to explore this passage we heard today through the psalm set for this morning. Psalm 27.Psalm 27 is one which might well have given Jesus strength and assurance. Like Jesus’ own words, it too is a psalm of certainty, of great faith.1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Many of the psalms are words of lament or words of praise[...]

Merry Christmas One and All


As some of you know I was never very good at being organised enough to do Christmas cards and a few years back I decided to give up completely in preference for a special Christmas blog post.

So Merry Christmas everyone with love from me and Michael! I hope you've all managed to celebrate as you wished despite the weather. 

As traditional I've got a video for you. This one uses a song by the wonderful Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies who play at the Performance Cafe at Greenbelt, where I volunteer each year.

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This year I also offer you a poem I wrote as part of a workshop at Queen's Theological College and which was featured as part of a performance of The Virgin Monologues in early December.

Everything I ever had
was handmade; 
Everything I ever had 
except him. 

cups and bowls;

Now I am Handmaid, 

of the One; 
of the begotten
not made. 
                       Sarah Brush November 2012

Sermon on Mark 13


The Readings for the morning are: Daniel 12:1-13 & Mark 13:1-8When I saw that the gospel reading for this morning when I would be preaching for you was the beginning of this chapter of Mark, I had one of those moments when God made me stop in my tracks. It was one of those moments when things seem to fit into place and a little part of me knew my placement with you would be something special. Not so much because of the content of this passage but because I journeyed with this passage during Lent this year.Just before I was filling in a form to help chose where my placement church would be I was part of a parish challenge which our vicar organised. She challenged members of the congregation to learn, by heart, a chapter of Mark’s Gospel for “performance” on two Sunday evening in the run up to Easter. So 16 members of the church, me included set about trying to learn a chapter and I was given chapter 13. This meant that I focussed far more on this particular passage than I might ever have done otherwise as it’s not really one of my favourite passages.It wouldn’t have been my first choice to be thinking about the end of the world. I might have preferred some stories of healing or a familiar parable. Not many of us would be naturally inclined to pick this passage or any of the others which talk about the end of the world but I know some of the church have been looking at this kind of passage in the series of evenings looking at Heaven. The evenings have been focussed on things we rarely talk or think about, angels, heaven and hell, funerals and death.Of course our outlook on this kind of thing is not so different from the disciples. I don’t suspect that the awestruck disciple who points out to Jesus the grandeur of the temple was thinking it would prompt Jesus to begin a speech about the end of days. How shocking it must have been to this disciple who stared in wonder at the great stones that made up the temple which was so central to their life and faith then to hear Jesus say that it would all be torn down. All that was familiar would be destroyed and then he goes on to talk about the challenges that they would all face:"When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” Indeed the disciples were clearly so disturbed and shocked by Jesus’ comment on the temple that later when they are sat on the Mount of Olives looking down at the temple they privately ask Jesus for more information and of course the reality of the destruction would have been all to clear for those reading the gospel at the time of its composition. After four years of the Judean revolution the Roman generals Vespasian and Titus finally put down the rebels in AD 70 and destroyed the Jewish temple mentioned in the story.We might be inclined to focus on the positive stories of the kingdom not the ones about the end or the difficult times but Jesus isn’t shy about talking about it so I don’t think we should be. Our first reading shows us that the sorts of things Jesus is talking about were not new but deeply rooted in Jewish tradition:“There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.” And I think a word which Jesus uses towards the end of the passage gives us some insight into how we can approach passages such as this one. Jesus describes all these things as just “the beginning of the birthpangs.”These things are like the great pains (so I’m told) that [...]

Growing out of God


I've been struck lately by various "famous" people talking in interview about how they "grew out" of believing in God. Derren Brown talking to Chris Addison on Radio 4's Chain Reaction about how he used to be a "real happy clappy" evangelical and Jonathan Edwards on some piece of interview about the Olympics talking about how he was "over-zealous" about his faith when he was younger but how he got over it when he gave up serious sport.

Now of course the whole idea of maturing and going through stages of spirituality is not new, I'm hoping to look at ideas about faith development by the likes of James Fowler in a piece of research I'm doing for my ordination training and part of me is inclined to change the course of it slightly to look at this issue. If you don't know much about some of these theories, the Church of England has recently published a report on Faith Development (with particular reference to older believers) called Going on Growing which has a good summary of the various schools of faith development in its appendix.

I suppose these comments made me think about how we are preparing new Christians to progress to more mature levels of faith and spirituality without losing faith. Dealing with those inevitably difficult and imponderable questions to which there are no easy answers can cause many people (as Derren Brown himself discussed) to rationalise yourself out of faith. This time of questioning can begin in teenage or early adulthood or even later. How are we doing at helping people live with difficult questions or even how are we seeking engage them in exploring responses with depth rather than offering easy answers. 

I think perhaps we need to be more open about doubt. Remember when Mother Theresa's private papers revealed that she had extended periods of doubting? Some people saw this as undermining her position as an example of a strong Christian and yet others drew a sigh of relief to hear that it wasn't "just me". I think Rowan Williams' very mature approach to faith, offering deep theological reflections on issues has help offer wider society a view of Christianity as something more than "blind faith" and perhaps we need more of that.

Many new Christians come to faith by being convinced of a strong certainty about God - yet how do we KEEP these people on track when doubts assail them? Of course it's difficult to come to faith without some sense of certainty but those of more mature years perhaps come to faith for different reasons. How are we doing at helping those beyond the certainty phase come to faith?

No answers at yet but I'd be interested to hear any other thoughts!

Sermon 12th August 2012


This morning's sermon. The readings wereEphesians 4:25 - 5:2 John 6:35& 41-51 (see below) In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul sets us a challenge about how we should live and act and of course challenges are all over our televisions at the moment. Heading one of these challenges about not speaking negative I need to say this carefully but I’m not a great sports’ fan and so the Olympics is not something which generally inspires me. To be honest I’m really looking forward to the closing ceremony this evening more than much of the sport. My favourite bit of the Olympics so far as been the opening ceremony.I loved its recognition of history (well a history of sorts) for its celebration of many things which reflect this country in literature and technology, in music and dance, in honouring those who have achieved great things and in upholding those who demonstrate great potential. For me the lighting of the Olympic torch by a group of young people who might one day be great Olympians was particularly special. The way each of those individual petals came together to be one was such a powerful symbol. I’m sure most of you won’t have failed to notice in the opening ceremony that it reflected the words of Jerusalem with its green and pleasant land, the dark satanic mills and the building of a kind of new Jerusalem symbolized by Glastonbury Tor (where Joseph of Arimathea is alleged to have planted his staff which then grew into a tree marking where he buried the Holy Grail) where all the flags of the world were placed together. There were also two hymns included in the music Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer sung by a choir of Welsh children and a beautiful rendition of Abide with Me by Emily Sandé accompanied by a juxtaposed energetic dance troupe to commemorate the victims of the July 7th bombings the day after London was awarded the Olympics for 2012. A bizarre element was the revealing of the inventor of the internet Tim Berners Lee and the words THIS IS FOR EVERYONE. It was not a very overtly expressed theology. There was not explicit mention of the centrality of the Christian faith to our heritage as a nation but to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, the heart of the Christian faith beat through that opening ceremony. For me that remains the highlight of the Olympics so far. As I said, I’m not much of a sports fan.There is a tiny exception to that. One which I think I can safely say none of you will guess. I’ve always rather enjoyed watching a rather peculiar sport, namely the pole vault. Now when I was younger I watched it out of sheer fascination that ANYBODY would pick up a long pole, run very fast, plant the pole in the ground and try to launch themselves over a bar. Later, I rather grew to enjoy watching people hopelessly flinging themselves off this pole and then falling haphazardly on the ready mat beneath. It seemed so much like some form of slapstick comedy. This year, I sat down to watch it (as there is little else on the TV but the Olympics) and I found it a rather different experience.Instead of finding it comical I found myself unable to distance myself from the experience of the women who were jumping. Now as it is such an obscure sport, I’m going to dare to suggest it might need a slight explanation. Each competitor may choose at what height of bar they start competing. So there might be four or five who start trying to get over a bar set at 4.3m and trust me that looks pretty high (14’) and if they succeed at that height they move on to the next and some people might only start trying at 4.5 or 4.6 m. Each contestant attempts a height and CAN FAIL twice in a row at one height or fail at one he[...]

Jelly Church


A somewhat delayed blog post about my Jelly Church talk from Yellow Braces as I was off poorly last week (nothing to do with eating jelly I promise!)So what is the Jelly Church anyway?Well I was looking for a way to explain to a group of young people what being part of the church fels like and what church is like and I wanted a way to demonstrate that people who go to church ARE the church, are made of the same STUFF as the church and are in fact little pieces of the church out in the world. For some reason I thought about the way that Jelly Babies are made of jelly and the idea just popped in there: Why not make a Jelly church full of jelly babies?The idea grew - Jelly church is a place which no matter what it looks like has a certain kind of feel. It needs a firm foundation (FAITH) and which is exciting and comforting. Jelly church is somewhere which lets the light shine through and the people of Jelly Church are open about their faith and their lives living with honesty and according to the the teachings of their church.I got the young people to use some jelly babies to create their own image of what the church should be like and they were pretty creative!The group we worked with seemed to engage well with the idea and the challenge of course is to be that little bit of the church in the world no matter what  your personal shape of faith might be. We're not all the same (just like jelly babies) and the way we express our faith will not be the same but we can all do our part as long as we stay in touch with the church and other people of faith so that we continue to be energised. I managed to find some fabulous jelly baby shaped beads which we got the young people to write a message on for someone else in the group to remind them of their calling to be that little me-shaped piece of the church in the world.In practical terms, I'm guessing you might be wondering how it was made!After some initial trials, the final method ended up fairly simple. I got a plastic garden trough and 13 packets of lemon jelly (yes - THIRTEEN!) You need to make it not long before you use the jelly church as the jelly babies do grow (something to do with sugar densities so I'm told by an eminent biologist called KT!). You make it in three basic stages.Stage one: Melt 8 packets of lemon jelly and make up to 3.6 litres (not ADD 3.6 litres but make the mixture up to that in total - which is less than the packet tells you - this is to make it more solid) and leave to setStage two: Melt the remaining 5 packets and make up to 1.25 litres and leave in a jug until cool but not set. Meanwhile poke some litte jelly baby head sized holes in the set jelly and insert the jelly babies HEAD FIRST until half set in to secure them. Be sure to leave one end (about a THIRD of the trough) clear of jelly babies. Then when the jelly in the jug is COLD pour it in and it should cover the feet of the jelly babies with about 3cm clear jelly above their feet. Leave to set.Stage three: Now you need to construct your church. Loosen the jelly in the trough bu sitting it in a sink of warm water until it appears to come away from the sides easily. Then place a large wooden board on top and flip it over. remove the trough to reveal your now upright jelly babies in their church. Slice of the clear third and set aside. Now carefully cut DOWN and ACROSS to remove two thirds of the remaining of the top to create a tower and nave. Using the pieces you have taken off you can create a porch and even an apse or side aisles plus turrets for the tower.Please note: Transporting the jelly pre construction can be nerve racking but the tray can be used as a lid to the troug[...]

Transfiguring the Bible


The readings for this morning were 2 Kings 2:1-14 & Mark 9:2-10 2 and I preached on both combined as follows: Recently the Bishop invited a theologian from London to come and speak to the clergy about the imaginative use of the Bible and among some fascinating ideas to enrich our understanding of scripture he suggested that we look at the Bible not as merely a collection of books stacked on an imaginary shelf and ordered as they are or in some quasi dewey decimal system by type but as a city to be explored. This idea brings a three dimensional concept to how the Bible is understood as a whole. The Bible is not one long A road from Genesis to Malachi and a new motorway extension from Matthew to Revelation. It can be seen as a city with districts: The Legal district, The left bank where poems, songs and wisdom abide, the historic quarter with museums filled with stories of the past, the residential areas where letters are exchanged, the edges of the city where prophets challenge the establishment and speak up for those whose voices which are not heard.For me it was such a captivating idea that I am using it as my Lenten discipline this year. I am spending lent building a model city of the Bible (with a little help from my husband and his woodworking tools!) so that I can set it all out before me and explore. How would that image change the way we might explore this bestselling book? What might be round the corner of a passage? What might be linked by the same underground line? What might we see in the background of a book and what might be in the same vista or over the horizon? Sometimes when we hear two passages from different parts of the Scriptures we can struggle to see why these two have been put side by side. But with this city idea, we can imagine how it is natural for passages to be related, perhaps even constructed to be viewed alongside each other.Today we have two stories that seem very clearly located in the same landscape. The Story of Elijah and his disciple Elisha is mirrored by the story of Jesus and his three closest disciples. Yet more than just a simple comparison, these stories help illuminate each other when considered together in partnership. For read together a third key biblical figure also becomes visible – that of Moses as it reminds us of that passage from Exodus 24 when Moses and Aaron go up the mountain covered with cloud and meet with God. These echoes are not just about mountains not just because these two prophets appear on the mountain with Jesus but also in the figure of Elijah himself in the passage from KingsWhere does this story come in the life of Elijah? “Elijah heroically opposed the subversion of Israel's authentic faith and called the nation to a decision, but the earthly life of this majestic prophet, the Moses of his generation, was coming to an end. Was the mission of Elijah also to end? How could Israel carry on without his great spirit?” Likewise Jesus has been calling the Israelites back to the spirit of God’s commandments to them and calling others to follow him in that mission. Just before this passage he has warned the disciples to “beware the yeast of the Pharisees” For Elisha and the disciples, it has been abundantly clear that the man they are following is out of the ordinary. The disciples have just seen a large crowd fed by a small amount of food and Elisha has seen Elijah, form a rod with his mantle and, with Moses-like authority and power, strike the water of the Jordan; he’d seen the water part; and walked across with Elijah on dry ground. Yet the stories we have here demonstrate even more clearly the special im[...]

Christmas Card


As regular blog readers will know, I am never organised enough to do cards and gave in a few years ago. Instead I once again offer a video Greetings card to you all.

allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />In this one, there are various images of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary as described in Luke 1.26-38.

It has made me think too of the great poem by Nicola Slee (available in The Book of Mary - recommended purchase!):

Fiat (Luke 1:38)

I uttered myself
I claimed my voice
I was not afraid to question

I held my ground
I made my yes
looking straight into the angel's eyes
(any slave girl could have been beaten or raped for less)

There was no mastery here
Nothing was taken from me
Everything was given

Here I am:
See me


Consider it, if you will as an invitation to listen out for God this Christmas and an encouragement to find your YES.

Merry Christmas!

Preaching on John the Baptist take 5


You would have thought that having preached on John the Baptist no less than four times (which begins too look less than it did when I had been in ministry only five years now I've clocked up nearly ten!) that I would have a John the Baptist sermon for every eventuality but as it transpired the sermon I had forgotten to write for this morning (until yesterday afternoon) was on John the Baptist but NOT on the readings I had preached on before. So it was that the sermon below came into existence in only a couple of hours. I didn't have high hopes for it but in the end was rather pleased with it.(readings below) Our readings this morning talk to us a little about the Nature of God but rather more about what the nature of those who are called to follow him should be. This is apt as those words addressed to John the Baptist "What do you say about yourself?"We heard about the Nature of God as light. As our Gospel reading said, John “came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Light is an important part of Christmas - very much if the lights on one of the houses in my street are anything to go by - but also in the original Christmas story – the star leads the magi, we light a candle each Sunday on our advent wreath and of course, as we heard in the Gospel, Jesus coming into the world is described as lightYou might think of that famous painting The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt with the figure of Christ knocking at a door – an old wooden door with no handle and with weeds growing up in front of it. It’s a beautiful painting rich with imagery – a fallen apple at Christ’s feet, his lamp cut with small stars looking much like a Christmas lantern his golden crown also interwoven with thorns. Hunt when asked said of the painting"The closed door was the obstinately shut mind. The weeds the cumber of daily neglect, the accumulated hindrance of our spiritual idleness. ...It is the door of the human heart, and that can only be opened from the inside." Hopefully we are those who have had the courage to open that door and let the light of Christ into our lives. Because our readings today also talk about our role. Like John, We’re NOT the light but we’re here to show the light – a bit like a film or slide projector, projecting light onto the wall. The projector may be a very complicated piece of equipment – it may need special skill to set it up and get it just right but the projector is not the thing we want people to look at but the image it projects.We, like John, need to testify to the light through our lives. We’re not saying we have to be perfect but the way we Christians live says something about the God we believe in. Paul was writing to the people at Thessalonica about how their lives should be shaped.“to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” I’ve been leading assemblies this week with our CE secondary school at Wolverley and talked to the students about the importance of peace in our faith and in many f[...]

Young Minds


Worth watching this video then head over to young minds website to read the manifesto.

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How are you waiting?


Ok so it's been a while ...I preached this morning at  a small family community church in our team who are so warm and friendly - a place where EVERYONE shares the peace with EVERYONE else!The Readings were:1 Corinthians 1:1-9 1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Mark 13:24-37 24“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”• Two different ways of telling the same story• Bible all about stories & reflecting on its own story – Mark’s use of Isaiah in Rabbinic tradition & Paul talking about Jesus• Different stories of Christmaso Fluffy o John Lewis o Sad o Scrooge• Juggling Stories & finding Christ• ChallengesWe seem to be getting slightly different stories from Mark and from Paul in our readings this morning. Mark tells us that we won’t know the hour and that we must be alert:“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. He talks of the signs of the end times and a blustery day like today seems quite suited to his theme of“the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Paul tells us that we have been enriched with all knowledge through Christ and that we should wait eagerly.“for [...]

Dreams of Hope and Home


Fantastic time at Greenbelt again this year. Fabulous friends to camp with and an awesome team of friends new and rediscovered at the Performance Cafe. Yet again I focussed on the things I could experience then and there which I couldn't anywhere else so I failed to get to any talks - thinking instead that I can download those later. Couldn't possibly get that experience of the witty and awesome Duke Special, the divine Edwina Hayes, the liltingly lovely Yvonne Lyon, the delightful Gentry Morris, the blissful Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies, the hilarious Folk On... and so many more. So I spent a lot of time in the Performance Cafe or catching up with friends here and there. Apparently a new member of the team commented to another "Sarah knows a lot of people doesn't she?" and it was wonderful to meet and chat with so many people I do know and, as ever, chat to people I had never met in queues for loos, pies and gigs! I spent a lot of time looking out at the gathered crowd either during worship, from inside the Performance Cafe tent, from the grandstand across the site or from the tented warmth of the tiny tea tent and thinking that Greenbelt really is a small taste of heaven. It is a foretaste of what the Kingdom could be like. It is the world if it were made up of people who follow the Way of Christ. Mark Thomas has tweeted that he was surprised by how much he liked Greenbelt (ranking it only behind Glastonbury as his favourite festival of the year) and I think those of all faiths and none can see that Greenbelt is a great place of loving community. A place of the Kingdom. A place of Love, Compassion, Justice, Freedom (as our diocesan 2020 Vision group has it). So my spiritual tanks are re-fuelled by some awesome music, some experience of community, a LOT of laughter, some peaceful worship, some uplifting worship, takign part in The People's Bible, viewing some artwork (officially in the Methodist Art collection and unofficially in some glowing robot sculptures and painted feet). I've returned home with a signed Dave Walker Tshirt, a few scrapes and bruises (and some welly rub!), three new CDs, a peace of heart, some deeper friends, a commitment to keeping in touch more with some of my once a year friends and a readiness for all which this term has to offer, with the beginning of my training for ordination, a new school year which will include the Worcester Diocese Clergy Conference, Gloucester's Rock the Cathedral, The schools weeks at Taize, The Midlands DYOs hosting the DYO conference and so many more unanticipated delights! My favourite lyrics of the weekend from Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies* "they said Jesus shouldn’t heal a man on Sunday he shouldn’t eat with sinners and he shouldn’t have fun well some rules are just waiting to be broken I guess so I think it’s time I started breaking some" *unlike someone else who loved I feel like Popeye with a mouth full of spinach [...]

Sermon at Malvern Priory


Just back from Malvern where I was presenting a Worcester Spirit Mark Bronze Award (a sign that the church is welcoming to children and young people) as well as preaching and running some creative prayers. It was a great morning and the text of the sermon is below. As they are fully digitized you can also have a listen when they pop it up on the website here. The text was Matthew 15 21-28 Jesus and the Canaanite woman who asks for her daughter to be healed and FOR ONCE I did what we always joked about in training for preaching - I began with an anecdote about a dog! It might be useful to know that I took a stuff "puppy" toy with me but this picture of Peggy should pretty much have the same effect! This is our dog Peggy. She is a bouncy frolicking dog who bounds up to people she’s never met and gets very excited when she sees people she has met and yet when we sit down to a meal she is a model of good behaviour – sitting perfectly with eyes that say “I’m the best behaved dog in all the world” as she watches eagerly to see if anybody drops a tiny bit of food on the floor and then she rushes in to gobble it up. When our nieces who are 4 and 1 are at the table Peggy thinks that the little one is her best friend in all the world as she is very good at dropping food. Even though Peggy knows that she gets a lovely bowl of dog food after we’ve finished eating every evening, she still waits for those little crumbs that fall like a dog that gets no other food In our gospel today this image of the dog sitting under the table waiting for the scraps is used in rather a shocking way. What’s most shocking is that it’s Jesus who seems to be referring to this woman as like a dog “It’s not right to take the children’s food and feed it to the dogs” on the surface I’m sure many of us would agree with that statement but Jesus is not just talking about children and dogs. The conversation with this woman is about the preconceptions, the prejudices that were around in those days that Jewish people and Jewish Rabbis would not waste their time on non Jews they only looked after their own and, out of character for Jesus, he seems to take this position saying in effect you’re not one of us so I’m not helping you but of course he doesn’t mean what he says instead he’s testing out the prejudice of the woman and those around him – even of his disciples. He is bringing all this prejudice into the light. Jesus’ message at the end of this passage and throughout the Gospels is clear – his love is freely offered for all. Jesus calls us to love our neighbours, to love our enemies even. God’s love is for all – not just for the Jews and that’s still true – God’s love is not just for those who are “in” – who go to church regularly, who call themselves Christians but for all people. That’s why it’s so wonderful to have people here together – some who have been to this church every Sunday for many years some who have been only a few times and some who are here for the first time. ALL of us part of God’s family. As we know family is about so much more than the people we are related to and the baptism today is all about family. Baby X has got new Godparents and more than that has been welcomed into the family of the church, into God’s family – a family that welcomes and loves everyone – all those who are in the church, those who have only stepped into this church for the first or second time today and[...]



Great video which a few people have flagged up lately. It's one of those best viewed twice (when you've seen it once, you'll understand why!)

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"Rights" of Passage


Well this would have been a useful book a few years back!

The Journey of Christian Initiation

by Paul Avis, Martin Davie, Harriet Harris, Christopher Hill & Stephen Platten

It's described as:
This helpful volume sets out to clarify the Church of England’s thinking about baptism, confirmation and admission to communion, and addresses some very practical questions in relation to ministry in this area.

Discussion of the topic is grounded in the New Testament and the early Church, and is traced through the development of the Church’s theology and practice of initiation from the mediaeval and Reformation periods up to the present. Drawing on the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the Thirty-nine Articles and Common Worship, as well as on Scripture and the Church’s tradition, it sheds light on contemporary practice and understanding, which can – and do - vary locally.

Anglican approaches to Christian initiation are also explored in relation to those of other churches.

Hopefully a useful read now for churches thinking about admission to holy communion before confirmation and considering that age old question of "what age confirmation?"

Not read it yet as it's just out but hope to get hold of a copy soon.