Closing Message

New pathwayLeaving Service

So I want to begin by reminding us of the promises I made when I arrived here, these were;

  1. I would be useless at admin, and
  2. I would take you on a profoundly deep journey of discovery of God within you if you would chose to come along.

With the first one  I think I possibly even exceeded your expectations …For your part, you  have been entirely gracious and supportive in this – thank you

With the second one… well you exceeded my expectations with numbers who did sign up, and attended the sessions every fortnight for almost 3 years,  or who came on the retreats, or who engaged in the countless one to one or small group informal conversations, or our celtic circles that have unfolded through the journey, or those who were challenged through my preaching and teaching to look again, to think outside of the box that the institution so often puts around our faith.

You also exceeded my expectations with the commitment, depth, wisdom and discernment in which you have grown and with the leadership emerging from amongst you to ensure  this ongoing spiritual unfolding.

Our work together has been an incredible journey of mutual learning and growing in The mystery of God that inspired the psalmist to write.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour.

As a natural introvert and contemplative,  the evangelistic, outward facing, publicly engaging ministry is not my natural style, it doesn’t come easily at all. I have to work at it and in some ways I feel a lesser minister for those reasons especially when I see the brilliance of my extroverted and profoundly gifted colleagues.

But 2 weeks ago on ordination Sunday in which 2 of those amazing colleagues were ordained, both the  President and vice president  spoke during the morning service and it was something our president, Lorraine Mellor  said that struck a chord. She said that she and the vice president Jill Baker were very different people so much so that she wondered how it would work between them. She herself was an evangelist  with a broad engaging, outward facing ministry whereas  Jill Baker was to be found quietly leading retreats and pilgrimages. Lorraine said that she would spend the evenings at conference gathering and socialising with people in the bar whereas Jill would retreat to her room in search of the peace and silence (which is precisely how we introverts must recharge our batteries).

The distinction that Lorraine made in her address reminded me of Paul’s words in Ephesians:

‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’
It struck me that ministry is vast and God gives his people many different qualities so that collectively our gifts can portray something of those different dimensions. Length and Depth and Height and width of the love of God.

My own ministry I think, is rather like pot holing, going into the deep, deep places of the soul and discovering hidden treasures, peace and beauty beyond measure as we begin to realise that the spring from which we drink, that promises we will never be thirsty again, was there within us all along.

Now there is a huge amount of discussion at the moment at connexion, districts, circuits and local churches about what we can do about our declining numbers and empty buildings and there are many exciting new and multi dimensional initiatives in this circuit and beyond that are addressing the issues but I want to say this…

All that we do must be underpinned by a strong, congruent, and deep knowledge of who we are in Christ, and who Christ is in us, in the depths of our own soul.

Christ came that we can have life to the full but so often we wear our religion like a straight jacket… with all our oughts and musts and  shoulds and institutional habits and religious language so that we have learnt, quite wrongly,  that what we do (and indeed don’t do) is far more important than who we are in Christ.  ‘Doing’ has become more important than ‘Being’…And that is completely the wrong way round.
As you know I have a great love for Celtic Spirituality which is at the heart and soul of our Heart and Soul sessions on a monday evening.  For the Celts, Christ was in everything, through everything in the stars and the moon and each blade of grass, the cycles of nature, in the silence, in their encounters with each other, and in whomever they came across. Christ was at the core of who they were! Immanent in every moment of life. It was this way of being that attracted the world want to know this Christ. Nobody needed to meet to discuss what they must do to gain followers of Christ. Christ was immediately palpable in the very fabric and daily lives of those who followed him.

But one can hardly wonder why engaging the world in the good news  today is so difficult when the major church headlines of the last week have included things like the pope banning gluten free bread at communion on theological grounds and another mainstream denomination publicly tearing itself apart over gay conversion therapy….

These are symptoms of a religion that has lost all sight of the breadth and height and depth and length of the love of God and instead is wearing a straightjacket of human making….

So my deeply soul focused, celtic and monastic,  style of ministry – that challenges institutional norms at every opportunity is not perhaps what you were expecting when I arrived here  but is absolutely  who I am called to be with a passion, as you now well know, and I have sought to live that calling with integrity during my 3 years here.

I can’t tell you how sad I am to be going so soon, there was much more that I wanted to do and yet I know that, within my decision as within this circuit  the transformational power of the Spirit is at work. And sometimes it takes a change in circumstance to release the Spirit. The burning platform we call it. It is far easier to let the Spirit to flow and for transformation to happen when you are on that platform than when you are stuck in the rut of doing things because that’s the institution has always done them.  

This circuit has some of the most gifted people lay and ordained, that I have ever met whose ministry and leadership lives and breathes the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God. Right now you are in a position. Rather like the disciples locked in a room. A bit fearful as there is a significant change in circumstances, you are maybe wondering what the future will hold  and yet you are more equipped than you can even begin to imagine to go where the Spirit is leading you. You are rich beyond measure in your personal and corporate spirituality and are set free to be magnificent. The rest is just about  perspective. If you see this as an opportunity – you will entirely flow with and be transformed by the Spirit.

It has been a joy and a privilege for me have been a minister in this circuit. I have learnt so much and my new churches will receive a better minister because of everyone of you here. There has been much laughter, love and friendship shared between us, the occasional tussle but nothing that the grace of God, shared with each other,  did not sort out.  There is inevitably much left undone when a term of ministry is cut short and I would want to say that I am sorry for the expectations left unfulfilled  yet as I  said, these often make way for new  opportunities when the Spirit is free to do her work.

But in the end words can’t say how much I will miss you nor express my gratitude for all that you are.

So my heartfelt thanks to you all and now a blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

Show me the way to go home

fullsizerender

I found this little chappie in the Church car park last night. He was hard to spot, being well camouflaged among the leaves and stones but he was definitely heading somewhere with determination.  He came to a stop at a covered drain where he was still sitting there some 1.30 hours later when we came out of our meeting. I had great concern that he had lost his way home, perhaps becoming confused by not being able to access the drain.

Frogs have a homing instinct for their own patch. They are born in water but live on land close to ponds and lakes which are important to their survival as water helps them to keep moist. As amphibians they can they can live below the surface of the water when the land environment is not conducive to their survival, such as in extreme cold (they can hibernate in the depths of a lake or pond) or in extreme heat. They also return to their ponds to breed.

These few facts about the life of these creatures reminded of me our own instinct for home and though I don’t believe we ever lose it the distractions of our worldly lives can certainly interfere with our ability to find our way home.

For us our home is Eden, which I always think of a state of consciousness where we are in communion with God, a oneness of consciousness might be a good way of describing it. In order to acclimatise to our worldly lives though we must take on a dualistic consciouness, this helps us navigate this external world in which we live and mostly we are so good at this we forget that this is not our natural state. We come to believe that this state of separation from God and from each other is real, and in essence this is the cause of all our unhappiness, distress, wars, oppression, fear of death and all inequality on the face of this earth.  Oh we feel a deep yearning from time to time that causes us to call out to God for help – even those who claim to have no faith will naturally do this in times of trouble, but in essence, seemingly like the poor frog in the church car park we are confused by the vagaries of modern life, deep down we know there is a better life, a life we once knew as home but struggle to find our way there.

The problem is that as long as we see external solutions as the ultimate answer to life we will always be in a state of dualistic or worldly consciousness. It is only when we turn our attention inwards and seek the silence that is below the surface of our  wordy, dualistic mind chatter that we begin to rediscover that homing instinct. Regular time in inner silence, even if only momentarily found in the early stages, will reset our device intended to get us home. As the moments of that blissful silence grow, overtime we return to the consciousness of unity as our natural living and waking experience here on earth. This is the path  to the garden we love most of all, the one we have always unconsciously known as home and though we might search all over the earth for it, that way is barred! The truth is the gate is to be found within you, is accessible to all who would simply let go of the external need for control of life and seek instead the rose at the center of the soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observing ourselves

 

 During our earlier Heart and Soul sessions we studied the  concept of the meta position. This is the perceptual position we adopt when we disassociate from our thoughts, feelings and actions and observe them as if we were a detached bystander. From this position we can watch our selves responding to others, observe our own thoughts and how they rise and fall and even how we experience those thoughts whether that be in pictures or sounds or some internal conversation.  We can also observe how our feelings are engaged by certain thoughts and even the link between our thoughts and feelings and physiology.

 This meta position offers a very different perspective from the associated perceptual position. When we are associated with our thoughts and feelings we are directly engaged with them, responding in the moment, as it were. We may be completely engrossed in the brain chatter or swept up in an emotional high (or low), our physiology and feelings can be blown about by whatever is happening in our external world before and without our even noticing the effects upon our body and mind. Effectively we are not in control of our inner world when we are in the associated perceptual position.

 Part of the mystic journey is to begin to control our feelings and physiology, to learn to manage our thoughts as they rise and to choose which we allow to form and those which we discern will be opposed to the intention of aligning ourselves with the God energy. To do this then we must develop within our selves the ability to adopt the meta position. To become the fly on the wall of our own thoughts, feelings, actions, intentions and physiology so that we are in a position to choose our responses to the world around us. In this way our external ‘reality’ ceases to control us and we become liberated, free to decide our internal responses. This position of observer offers us more choices about how to respond. We need not be impatient in the queue of traffic or descend into a negative spiral when something goes wrong. This awareness, or watchfulness we might say, is a key factor in our awakening and ongoing spiritual growth towards an ever deepening communion with God. Once we understand  that there is such a thing as the meta position then creating the observer within becomes a relatively simple yet crucial process.

Douai Retreat for Heart and Soul members

Last May we all went off to Douai Abbey for our retreat. Our theme for the day was ‘wisdom’ which we  explored through scripture, nature, poetry and in meditation. We were incredibly blessed with wonderful weather which gave us opportunity to spend time in the beautiful grounds of Douai.

We had intended to spend another day at Douai this coming Spring, maybe just after Easter though I am aware that this will fall close to the date of the away weekend…So, your thoughts please on what you would like to do!  Perhaps a day in June would work better. We’ll discuss this at our next meeting but if you want to let me know your thoughts via the contact page then please do…

Blessings, Jayne

A new for look Soul Space

tumblr_n68qd8qndw1rsmd6ho1_540

 

Those of you who are Soul Space regulars will already know that the name is changing in line with a whole new online launch. We are now called Heart and Soul and this is the new blog which aims to share news, events, reflections and themes for the fortnightly sessions.  As you are aware, I will be moving on in the summer to pastures new but am committed to offering support to all Heart and Soul members old or new.The new look Heart and Soul will offer;

  • An online space where all members can connect and follow the themes.
  • News of our regular retreats which will be available to all Heart & Soul members
  • Reflections on a variety of Heart and Soul themes
  • A place to share

Watch out also for a new facebook page which you should  follow in order to get the latest news and also share with your friends those pearls of wisdom that Heart and Soul is always digging for.

 

Two Natures

fullsizerender

 Above is a picture of my dog Blu, as a puppy and as he is now as a 4 year old.. He is a bit strange looking which is down to him being a cross between a Rottweiler and a Husky. But the oddness does not stop at his looks. He also has two very distinct natures. The Rottie side of him is silent, protective, solid, loyal, gentle and loving within the family pack. The Husky side of him is playful in the pack, boisterous, needs lots of exercise and needs to know who is pack leader.

So there are definitely two natures to this dog and sometimes those natures really compete…such as when he want to guard the house when the postman walks up the path but at the same time his Husky tail is wagging like mad wanting to play.

So why am I telling you this? Well one of the main points I want to explore is that we as human beings are ourselves creatures with two very distinct and sometimes competing natures. What I mean by that is that as humans we are both both divine and earthy in nature…No matter who we are.

 Here are verses concerning our heavenly and earthly natures:

 Genesis 1:27

‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’

 Psalm 8

‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour.’

 Genesis 2:7

‘Then the lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.’

 Our earthly and heavenly natures within have been described as kindred and contrary natures. I quite like that description, it’s easy to relate to!

 Our earthly nature is designed to help us function in the world, it is egocentric, it is concerned with survival, with meeting our basic needs for food and water and shelter. And of course we need it because without it we would struggle to survive.  But the downside of our earthly nature can make us territorial. We want to know who we can trust and who we need to defend ourselves from. And defend ourselves we do!  We build barriers and fences. We create all sorts of divisions based on creed, culture ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation,education and so on. And very often we fight each other based on these differences and our perceived threat they bring to our sense of safety. Ultimately this side of us causes us to look after ourselves and those closest to us. Some of this nature is driven by instinct; in the same way that Blu instinctively guards his home and family.. Such survival instinct is  in built into all creatures whether dog or human or anything else.

 But  we humans are different from other creatures because hidden within us, in the deepest portion of our soul is our heavenly nature, like a precious diamond hidden in the depths of the earth’s carbon layers. Some writers describe this nature as our true self that emerges when we trust God enough to be able to let go of our earthly egotistical selves.

 From time to time its radiance shines through and beyond our basic earthly instincts such as in our acts of kindness and grace, or in our offering forgiveness and unconditional  love. It shines through in those times when we build bridges instead of defences and when we see our differences as something to be celebrated rather than deplored. This is our heavenly nature lifting us up above our worldly self to focus on something both within and beyond. A higher purpose if you like….

 Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live solely according to this divine nature. Mainly we don’t because the influence of our earthly nature is so strong like a gravitational pull – that rising above our worldly ways is really hard.

 Yet Jesus shows us precisely what it is to be fully human, but at the same time living according to the fully divine nature. Not only does Jesus do this but he also calls us to the same way of life. To live according to that divine nature. This living the divine nature is what Paul was describing when he said ‘It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me’.  

 But it’s not an easy call!

 We only have to watch the disciples struggle with their earthly natures as they betray and deny, as they falter and blame, accuse and battle to be seen to be better than the rest of them, to know that  their  battle to live out their divine nature was every bit as tough as ours.  But Jesus never doubted that it was possible for the human soul to raise above the earthly nature and everything he teaches is precisely geared towards this – to enabling that deep treasure within to surface and to shine radiantly in every part of our lives.

 One thing we should understand though is that this is not about morality, it is not about acting out a set of social and behavioural rules designed to make us fit the religious system.

 Rather it is about an inner spiritual transformation that, by grace,  changes us from the soul outwards rather than from the law inwards. But we must understand that we are not passive in this work. Undoubtedly God initiates our growth towards the emergence of the true self but we do play our part in aspiring to live according to our divine nature. It requires our active participation. It is a decision that we make!

 Living as earthly beings is not a decision,  we can do it without thinking about it. Indeed we go about our lives on automatic pilot a lot of the time, reacting to the world without even thinking about our actions and the effect they have on others. If someone upsets us we can retaliate without even thinking about it. But to offer grace to that  person instead is an active decision that we make. Forgiving someone is an active decision that we make, loving the unlovable is an active decision that we make…ignoring them is not a decision it is the default position of the ego!

 Do you see what I mean?

 Now one of the features that is unique to human beings is our ability to be self conscious, to think and to decide for ourselves how we will act. Dogs can’t do that! If Blu has a piece of sirloin steak in his bowl he can’t think to himself  ‘Oh, the poor dog next door never gets much to eat I think I’ll give this steak to him’, Blu has no  capacity to make that decision….his automatic pilot would wolf it down before his bowl touched the ground!

 We do though! We can look at those in need and decide whether to act from our self center or from our divine centre. We have the capacity to make that decision and this is critical in shifting towards living according to our true self…Living as conscious decision makers instead of on automatic pilot.

 Now in many passages in the gospels we hear Jesus telling us to keep awake. What he means by this is for us to be alert to our own reactions, intentions and decisions. To choose to live according to the divine nature at every moment. This is what he calls being prepared. It demands that we are self aware, self observant and ready to choose in the moment. The alternative is to be asleep, not really consciously deciding anything but letting our base instincts choose for us.

 So let us then think about the importance of being intentional in how we live our lives. We are called to raise our conscious awareness in the direction of our divine nature and as we realise this we also notice how God offers us, in every moment of our waking lives, in all our dealings with others and even in the silence, opportunities to become imitators of Christ that this true calling may be fulfilled.

The True Light

 Reading John 1:1-14 made me think  about stories of light and the snippets of information about light which have captured my attention over the years.

 And the first one has to be the very opening verses of the Bible, the story of creation.

Of course if we start at the beginning, the very beginning, the opening stages of the drama of creation when all is in darkness, we hear that the very first words that God speaks are.

 “Let there be light”

 That’s how the whole thing kicks off – God speaks into the darkness and commands that light comes into being, and it does and the first thing that we hear about this light is that it is good. This light is a good thing;

 This light pushed back the darkness, it provided the energy on which all other life forms in the whole of creation would be supported, it provided the measurement of time in that it gave us day and night, it would contribute to our well being and it gave aesthetic qualities to this new creation, light made things pleasing and beautiful and so Light, the very first thing in Gods creation was indeed good.

 Now here is a fascinating snippet of information about light

 Did you know that in darkness the flame from a candle can be seen with the naked eye from 15 miles away. I think that that is a truly astonishing if not profound. It tells us that when all is dark around us, no matter how tiny or distant the light seems to be there is something about the way in which we are constructed as human beings that equips us to us to search out the light.

 Yet another light story that has fascinated me over the years is the story of Albert Einstein who defined the theory of relativity which changed our entire notion about the construction of space and time.

But it is the story of how Einstein came up with the theory that fascinates me.

It all began as he imagined himself to be travelling on a beam of light, literally! He wondered how it would be to sit on such a beam and travel around the universe at the speed of light. And from these adventures of imagination the whole theory of relativity unfolded.

 So not only is there physical eyesight that enables us to see a candle at 15 miles, but there is also the vision that comes with our imagination. We have the ability to wonder and create within us all sorts of thoughts and transformational ideas for our unfolding lives.  And sometimes we will do that in bright and hope filled ways and sometimes  our pictures and thoughts and feelings and imaginings for the future are difficult and even frightening, so much so that a vision of hope is hard to grasp….. and we are left to wonder where the light is.

 My fourth reflection about light concerns someone who had known a very difficult time, a time when hope was hard to imagine. His name was Phillips Brooks born in 1835 in Boston. As a graduate of Harvard University he went on to become a teacher and this was a truly disastrous career choice for him, this time in his life has been variously described as humiliating and a complete failure. Quite stung by his experience he then hesitatingly went on to train for ministry and was ordained in 1860. He became Rector of a church in Philadelphia and it was whilst there that he asked for leave of absence for a year to reflect and to sort out his life. During that year he toured Europe and the holy land.

 It was Christmas Eve of that year, when on horseback he rode from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and by nightfall he found himself at the site known to be where the angels visited the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. At ten O Clock on that same evening he went to the church of the nativity and standing close to the spot where Jesus was born became very deeply moved, emotionally and spiritually. It was on his return home having reflected on that special moment that he wrote the hymn

 O little town of Bethlehem,

 How still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by:

 But it is the next stanza that I want to draw our attention to, the verse continues with this;

 Yet in thy dark streets shineth

 The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee to-night.

 They are beautiful words to reflect upon and there is something about the way that Pillips writes that really captures that moment in the unfolding story of the journey of  humankind.

It is the moment of Christ’s birth, the moment when a very special light came into the world, a light with some pretty amazing qualities which the first chapter of John’s gospel is quire specific about.

  • It is a light that darkness not able to put out.

  • It is a light that gives light to everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed or circumstances.

  • It is a life giving light that offers real hope when all around seems dark

 Such a light is wrapped in mystery, it is deeply metaphysical and hard for us to understand……How can such an inextinguishable light be? And since it is not a light that we see with the naked eye how can it give light to everyone?

 This light of Christ, there though all eternity, in each and everyone of us calls us all to a way of life that defies all that our lower, egotistical selves could even imagine and has the potential to transform even those who, to our human minds have little prospect of finding hope or forgiveness.

Yet  it is in this light that heaven on earth becomes a real possibility for all of us. Yes even in these dark times in which  we seem to be living, that light cannot be extinguished.

But here is the rub. If you really want to live according to the light of Christ, and if you really want to see this world change then it has to begin with you. There is no use in pointing out another’s darkness and bemoaning how bad they are. Every time you do that you are not focused on allowing the light within YOU to shine, you are simply focused on someone else’s darkness…..

 You, see living in the Light of Christ is a decision, a minute by minute choice, being forgiving is a decision, loving others is a decision, refusing to make value judgements is a decision, being a peacemaker is a decision, dealing graciously with others is a decision. This is what it is to be awake, to be conscious, to live in light and to be ready to decide in each moment how we will respond to the world until living in the light becomes our default position..

 Many people don’t realise they have this choice, instead they respond to the world as if on automatic pilot – living in fear, filled with negative thoughts,  believing the media junk that so often seems to have our our remaining in darkness as the number one agenda; and that kind of darkness can be scary and disempowering…… but it can never overcome the light in you or in the world at large.

 So if you want to see the world change it starts with you!!! What choices will you make then? How will you keep watch over your thoughts and decisions to ensure that you are attuning yourself to that light within instead of succumbing to the fear and discouragement that abounds in the world?

 Let us just imagine for a moment that on that night in a stable in Bethlehem this light really did enter this world in the form of a tiny baby. Imagine it to be a light so profound that the darkness in our lives, or even all the darkness in the world simply cannot extinguish it.

What if we were to believe in the hope that such a light would bring!

 We would of course have to remember that this is not the human version of hope that so easily can be shattered – rather it is an eternal hope – beyond our comprehension. Even Einstein with all his logical prowess and soaring imagination could not begin to fathom a nanosliver of the hope of this light…

 (Nanosliver; a measurement I have just made up to denote something infinitesimally small)

 Yet it is there, it is there in scripture, it is there in human kind, it has changed lives, it has brought light into the darkest of places…..But above all it is in you and so, if you want to see this world transformed begin with the light that is in you and the decisions you will take from now to bear the Christ light for the hope of the world.